WEYBURN – The board of trustees for the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division endorsed the province’s long-term education plan, but have a lot of questions about its implementation and funding.
The board went through the plan at their meeting on Wednesday night, as the ministry of Education has asked all school boards in the province if they will endorse the plan, and if not, what concerns or points they want to raise about it.
As education director Gwen Keith explained, there are four main pillars to the long-term plan, and an endorsement was sought for each one.
The plan seeks to improve student outcomes overall in the province’s schools; provide early opportunities for learners up until graduation, along with determining a life pathway; enriching and encouraging mental health and well-being capacity in students, including increasing access to mental health supports; and to actualize gils and a vision for Indigenous education, including creating and implementing an inclusive workforce strategy.
In asking the trustees if they endorse this plan, trustee Karen Melle responded that she feels they’re all attainable, but there are questions.
Keith noted one part she had questions about was the statement that schools should help students determine their life pathway.
“The selection of a life path is a very different task. It just doesn’t work. We don’t follow these kids to employment,” she pointed out, noting later that the word “determine” a life pathway was a pretty strong term to use.
Trustee Kate Williams noted that the schools aren’t limiting conversations on this topic, but they’re directing it as schools provide enhanced opportunities to learn.
“We have to determine what we’re doing as a school division,” said Keith, adding a concern she has is that as a school division, they don’t want to wait until April to determine what the plans are, as the school division has to make their plans for the next school year.
Another part of the education plan, she noted, is “the government clearly wants a provincial assessment plan. They exist in other provinces, and in all fairness, they want to know how we’re doing compared to other provinces.”
For an assessment of how students are doing to be effective, the results have to be immediately available so adjustments can be made to teachers’ plans to address any shortfalls. In a provincial assessment program, the results would not be available until later when it won’t help teachers know where the needs are.
“We’re still going to do assessments anyway to carry on,” said Keith.
Ultimately, the board of trustees endorsed the provincial plan, but they made note in their response to the ministry there are questions, such as where the funding is going to be for implementing the plan.
“The division needs ministry accountability for each of the areas,” said Keith, noting the school division has to make plans for the next school year and can’t wait for all the details to come down.
On mental health and well-being, Keith said, “We just want to make sure that school divisions aren’t doing this alone. We need real partners on that. We ca’t do this all alone. We would hope that connections will be in place.”
The trustees want to know if, for example, Education will cut a deal with Social Services for funding for psychologists or psychiatrists to help school divisions ensure the mental health and well-being of their students is looked after properly.
“We don’t want to be holding the bag on mental health and well-being,” said Keith.