Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY JAMIE RIEGER— jrieger@prairiepos­

In a late ad­di­tion to the agenda, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Pub­lic School Board As­so­ci­a­tion of Al­berta (PSBAA) at­tended the Nov. 6 Prairie Rose School Di­vi­sion meet­ing in Dun­more to dis­cuss a re­cently launched cam­paign geared to­wards mak­ing a ma­jor over­haul to Al­berta's ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

The cam­paign, To­gether for Stu­dents, was of­fi­cially launched in Oc­to­ber and since then, PSBAA mem­bers have been trav­el­ing the prov­ince to en­cour­age school board mem­bers to start the con­ver­sa­tion about hav­ing an allinclu­sive school sys­tem, rather than pub­lic, Catholic, Fran­co­phone, char­ter, and home-school­ing sys­tems.

Carol Pi­card, PSBAA direc­tor led the Nov. 6 dis­cus­sion in Dun­more.

"We want to get the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing. We have chil­dren with di­verse needs and when we talk about prin­ci­ples and val­ues, this is one sys­tem that can of­fer choice and choice is the buzz word," said Pi­card.

Pi­card told trustees that Al­berta's ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is still based on one that was formed more than a cen­tury ago and it's time to get it up-to-date with cur­rent needs.

"Al­berta has changed since 1905. Women can now vote and in 1905, our sys­tem rec­og­nized only two reli­gions - Catholic and Protes­tant. If you wanted re­li­gion taught, you sent your kids to Catholic schools, but all oth­ers went to the pub­lic schools. We're still hang­ing onto 1905," she said. "We could sit here all day if we were to iden­tify all of the in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the cur­rent sys­tem."

Pat Cochrane, chair of the To­gether for Stu­dents cam­paign added that an in­clu­sive school sys­tem would pro­vide bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents as there would be less du­pli­ca­tion and bet­ter al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources.

"The ed­u­ca­tion his­tory in Al­berta has al­ways been Catholic/Protes­tant. Then, it was Char­ter and Fran­co­phone schools. Then home-school­ing, kids be­ing taught in a build­ing that looks an aw­ful lot like a school be­ing taught by a per­son who looks an aw­ful lot like a teacher," said Cochrane. "The con­ver­sa­tion is all about the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Al­berta is one of the last three prov­inces where the cur­rent sys­tem still ex­ists. We need to get rid of the sep­a­rate and pub­lic school sys­tems al­to­gether. This is not an anti-Catholic cam­paign. Our pub­lic schools wel­come all."

The cam­paign points to a frag­mented sys­tem where de­ci­sions are not nec­es­sar­ily made with the stu­dents best in­ter­ests in the forefront.

"I be­lieve that shar­ing of re­sources will al­low ju­ris­dic­tions to free up money and pro­vide greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for the stu­dents. Frag­ment­ing takes away op­por­tu­ni­ties for the stu­dents," said

Pi­card. "Right now, we have bound­ary driven de­ci­sion-mak­ing, not stu­dent driven de­ci­sion­mak­ing. We need co­op­er­a­tion be­tween ju­ris­dic­tions. We need to work to­gether to be stronger."

Both Pi­card and Cochrane used bus­ing is­sues as a con­cern that could be cor­rected un­der an in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

"We've been run­ning into a brick wall for the last 20 years over bus­ing. We have three buses all go­ing to the same area, but strug­gle to find money for other things," said Pi­card.

Cochrane talked about par­ents who put their kids on the bus 15 min­utes ear­lier than they could for an­other bus, or drive them to school so they have more time in the morn­ing to put on their make-up.

"They choose the ear­lier bus so they have that ex­tra 15 min­utes to do their make-up. It's a con­ve­nience thing for many peo­ple," said Cochrane. "Peo­ple don't un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of how schools work."

Un­der a sin­gle sys­tem, stu­dents who at­tend a school that doesn't have a sports team would be able to join a team at an­other school, for in­stance or schools could share mu­si­cal in­stru­ments amongst each other.

"In­te­gra­tion pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties and it's time to fo­cus on stu­dent needs, not ju­ris­dic­tion needs," said Pi­card. "Elim­i­nate du­pli­ca­tion and di­rect the dol­lars to the class­room. We need to cre­ate one in­clu­sive sys­tem that max­i­mizes our re­sources, and let's build a bet­ter model to­gether."

The PSBAA rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been trav­el­ing to school boards across the prov­ince to start the con­ver­sa­tion about chang­ing to an in­clu­sive school sys­tem in the prov­ince.

"The con­ver­sa­tion be­gins with us," said Pi­card.

Brian Cal­laghan, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of PSBAA was also in at­ten­dance at the meet­ing, not­ing that the cam­paign is in its in­fancy.

"Un­til we talk about things leg­isla­tively, we don't know what the model will look like, but if we were in­clu­sive, faith wouldn't mat­ter," he said.

PRSD su­per­in­ten­dent Roger Clarke asked what the next step would be.

"If you en­vi­sion this cam­paign be­ing suc­cess­ful, what's the next step?" asked Clarke.

"We want ev­ery­body to sign up and regis­ter as a sup­porter of the cam­paign," Pi­card re­sponded.

Cal­laghan said part of that con­ver­sa­tion would be rais­ing aware­ness on so­cial me­dia.

"We need to get the in­for­ma­tion out on so­cial me­dia, but we won't en­gage with peo­ple who swim at the bot­tom of the pool," he said. "This is an op­por­tu­nity to say to fel­low Al­ber­tans, 'it's the 21st cen­tury. What kind of doc­u­ment would you craft?"

Cal­laghan pre­sented trustees with in­for­ma­tion pack­ages that in­cluded a copy of the project char­ter that will not be made pub­lic at this time.

"This is not for the pub­lic. Par­ents will get a one-pager of in­for­ma­tion," he said.

Cochrane noted that in con­ver­sa­tion she has met peo­ple who are not want­ing to change the cur­rent sys­tem.

"We have a lot of adults say­ing, 'nope, we're not chang­ing a thing'. The thing is, if we go to an all-in­clu­sive sys­tem, some­thing will change for ev­ery­body," she said.

The next step for school boards is to raise aware­ness and spread the word.

"We would like school boards to put forth a mo­tion to get the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing. Hold pub­lic meet­ings, en­gage your teach­ers and other staff. Then, go to our web­site and regis­ter your sup­port,"

"Tell us what are your ob­jec­tives and ob­jec­tions in your area," said Cochrane. "In­te­grate our cam­paign into your life. Talk to your com­mu­nity lead­ers. We drop the rock in the pond and watch it rip­ple."

While the cam­paign is still early in the con­ver­sa­tion stage, trustees are also en­cour­aged to talk to their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

"We aren't ask­ing for leg­isla­tive changes or amend­ments. That's a pro­vin­cial con­ver­sa­tion, but talk to your MLAs. There is an elec­tion com­ing up," said Pi­card.

CLASSY PEO­PLE HON­OURED JUSTLY: The Swift Cur­rent United Way's 4th an­nual Foun­da­tion of Hope gala raised $ 60,000 in sup­port of eight non- profit com­mu­nity pro­grams. The el­e­gant evening of din­ing and danc­ing took place at the Liv­ing Sky Casino Event Cen­tre, Nov. 3. The eight grant re­cip­i­ents were rec­og­nized dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony when they re­ceived bene­fac­tor awards. This year's gala fea­tured the launch of a video to raise aware­ness about the is­sue of ad­dic­tions. The funds raised at the gala will ben­e­fit the fol­low­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and projects:

Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion ( Meal pro­gram; Ed­u­ca­tion, life skills and so­cial/ recre­ational pro­gram), Cana­dian Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Blind ( En­hanc­ing qual­ity of life pro­gram­ming - peer sup­port; Sum­mer day camps; Em­ploy­ment boot camp), Fam­ily Re­source Cen­tre (Teen par­ent pro­gram; Sum­mer EAL preschool pro­gram; Messy Fin­gers pro­gram; Let's Play pro­gram), SaskA­bil­i­ties (Com­mu­nity in­clu­sion pro­gram), Swift Cur­rent Com­mu­nity Youth Ini­tia­tive – The Cen­ter (Hot meal pro­gram for youth), South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices (Com­mu­nity out­reach pro­gram), South­west Homes ( Vo­ca­tional trans­porta­tion pro­gram; Ad­di­tional sup­ports pro­gram), United Way Ac­tive Play (Af­ter school pro­gram).

Photo con­trib­uted

TO­GETHER FOR STU­DENTS: Pat Cochrane, chair of the To­gether for Stu­dents Cam­paign (left) and Carol Pi­card, Pub­lic School Board As­so­ci­a­tion of Al­berta direc­tor, dis­cuss tak­ing the first steps and ini­tial­iz­ing con­ver­sa­tion about mov­ing to an in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in the prov­ince. They, along with PSBAA ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, Brian Cal­laghan, held the dis­cus­sion with Prairie Rose School Di­vi­sion trustees at a meet­ing on Nov. 6.

United Way Ac­tive Play re­ceived a bene­fac­tor award at the gala. From left to right, Heath Hol­i­day, Becky Lawn, Craig Men­zies and Tri­cia Hol­i­day (Vi­sion Care), Arthur Ward (Pat­ti­son Agri­cul­ture), Val Choo-Foo (United Way Ac­tive Play), Ryan and Mark Plewis (Stan­dard Mo­tors), and Stacey Schwartz (Swift Cur­rent United Way).

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

Grant re­cip­i­ents and gala spon­sors stand for a group pho­to­graph. Back row, left to right, Craig Men­zies (Vi­sion Care), Kim­berly Fury (SaskA­bil­i­ties), Kim­berly Bi­lan­ski (Fam­ily Re­source Cen­tre), Arthur Ward (Pat­ti­son Agri­cul­ture), Ryan and Mark Plewis (Stan­dard Mo­tors), and Nathan Wiebe (The Cen­ter). At front, from left to right, Stacey Schwartz (Swift Cur­rent United Way), Becky Lawn (Vi­sion Care), Shayna John­son (South­west Homes), Sue Munro (on be­half of CNIB), Val Choo-Foo (United Way Ac­tive Play), Tri­cia and Heath Hol­l­i­day (Vi­sion Care), Brenna Ek­strand (South­west Cri­sis Ser­vices), and Jac­qui Wil­liams (CMHA).

Swift Cur­rent United Way Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Stacey Schwartz speaks dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the bene­fac­tor awards. Stand­ing be­hind her are the pre­sent­ing spon­sors. From left, Mark Plewis (Stan­dard Mo­tors), Arthur Ward (Pat­ti­son Agri­cul­ture) and Ryan Plewis (Stan­dard Mo­tors).

Coun­try mu­si­cian Blake Ber­glund (cen­tre) per­forms at the Foun­da­tion of Hope gala. He is flanked by gui­tarist Bryce Lewis and drum­mer Steve Lei­dal.

Arthur Ward of pre­sent­ing spon­sor Pat­ti­son Agri­cul­ture in­di­cates a bid from the floor dur­ing the live auc­tion by auc­tion­eer Skip Neufeld.

Gala pa­trons watch the video about Mikaela Mamer's strug­gle to over­come her ad­dic­tion to al­co­hol and drugs.

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