In our second Q&A with School District #19 Board of Education candidates, we asked an open-ended question designed to allow candidates explain their priorities. Here are the answers from each of the candidates in their own words. Candidate Doug Hamilton did not provide an answer by press time. We asked:
What new initiatives (if any) would you like to see the school district pursue in the next few years?
* The Ministry of Education has announced a focus on 21st Century Learning or personalized learning. The challenge for School Districts will be to continue to achieve success in what has been regarded as traditional academic skills such as literacy, math, science, social studies while incorporating technology and new skills to ensure learning is relevant for today’s students. Society is changing rapidly and schools need to be able to adapt.
* There has been a stated demand for the introduction of some increased form of French language instruction and work needs to be done on the options and sustainability of programs.
By being a parent, a foster parent, a teacher and by observation, I can tell you that not all students will want or are able to go on to university. All students are capable of achieving a higher education and I would strive to make it “easier” to be able to enter into apprenticeship type programs. Why not take advantage of the numerous opportunities in Revelstoke to work in partnerships with our community?
Although this is not a new initiative, I have had many parents approach me wanting to explore the possibility of French Immersion again. I would be willing to explore this again, but the criteria would remain the same. We would need the appropriate cohort numbers to keep the program viable and sustainable without having a negative impact on the other elementary schools as a first step before considering the next stages toward implementation. I would also be willing to explore other options such as Intensive French, if early Immersion is not viable.
Another new initiative I am interested in is Personalized Learning which is currently being promoted by the BC Ministry of Education. This can empower teachers to provide each student with an education tailored to his or her specific needs, interests and aptitudes without diminishing the importance of foundational skills. This could involve using technology and community based activities to enrich learning experiences to enable students to apply their learning in real-life contexts.
After the new elementary school is operating in the fall of 2012, I would like the Board to explore ways to improve the learning of French. Currently, all students must take French in Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 as one of several subjects. Many students do not gain the ability to carry on a basic conversation in French, even after completing further French classes in high school. There is however, a relatively new program in B.C. (common in eastern Canada) called “Intensive French.” It involves a half-year ‘mini-immersion‘ in grade five or six, using an oral approach. This results in an ability to communicate spontaneously at a basic level, thus overcoming a major frustration when learning a new language. This program might best be compared to the experience of an exchange student going to a country with a different language; except for the guided instruction it offers. After the intensive French experience, better motivation in further French classes is often a result. This program has been implemented in Invermere and Kimberly with reports of good results, thus it appears feasible for a small district like ours.
The ability to communicate in any second language is an asset for a person, both personally and possibly professionally. I believe we should provide the best opportunity possible to achieve this for students in our district.
There are several new initiatives that I feel the Revelstoke School Board should pursue in the near future. I feel that the Board should revisit the possibility of starting French Immersion classes. In my business I have observed an increase in the number of young Francophone families in the past three years. An accurate count of students whose parents will commit them to a French Immersion program should be made early next year.
As I have stated before, I believe a needs assessment of Revelstoke’s major employers should be made so students can make informed career choices. What highly skilled positions will BC Hydro, CPR, RMR, Downie, etc. need in five/ten years? What business skills should future entrepreneurs obtain? Increasing partnerships with the business community of Revelstoke will provide answers to these types of questions.
Also, the Revelstoke School Board needs to create a comprehensive plan for utilizing the three vacant elementary schools in two years time for the benefit of students, parents and the community.
After speaking with the parents that came out to the forum, and a general discussion with the many new parents in our district (whose children will be entering school in the next 4 or 5 years), I believe it is important that we take another look at French Immersion options. The previous survey is several years old and our local population has changed in recent years, with a surge in birthrates and a local interest in French alternatives. Many of the parents are willing to do the legwork and I believe the school board should be able to engage parents who are currently looking into options (early, late, or intense immersion) and facilitate those discussions between parents. From my experience, being fluent in a second language makes a huge difference in the higher education experience, government employability, and expands opportunities from the private sector. I realize that first the district needs to finish opening the new schools and addressing what to do with the closed schools and their respective properties first.
I also would also like to look at models around public use of school theatre models so that we can create a valuable and innovative community space from our new theatre at the high school. I am open to ideas on this and I know a few community members have been doing research on this idea! Please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org, look me up on twitter @jewellessmith or contact me via my school trustee candidate Facebook page!
1. Initiative 1: The most important initiative is to sustain important programming such as the early identification of children with special learning needs. It takes a commitment of ongoing funding to support this programming and we need to focus on finding the funding to meet all of the district’s needs.
2. Initiative 2: We need to work very hard to ensure the neighbourhood learning centres become the rich resource they were intended to be. As an example, in the Early Learning Hub we need to sustain the programming that continues to ensure that our children remain the least vulnerable when they enter kindergarten.
3. Initiative 3: One final initiative that is vitally important to the financial health of our school district is to develop and support a determination of what will be done with surplus schools. Maintenance costs for surplus schools impact our total budget and what monies are available to support important programming for our children.