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Importance of communication emphasized at Cornerstone board meeting

Three presenters discussed the importance of communication in presentations to Cornerstone board.
Aaron Hiske
Cornerstone superintendent of education Aaron Hiske. File photo

WEYBURN - A comprehensive presentation on the South East Cornerstone Public School Division’s System Goal 4 was delivered to board members on May 18.

The presentation was made during the board’s monthly meeting held in the conference room in the division’s head office in Weyburn.

Three presenters made their way to the front of the conference room to describe various aspects of System Goal 4 they were representing that afternoon.

System Goal 4 states: "Our `division systematically builds, strengthens and maintains two-way communication with internal and external stakeholders."

Director of education Lynn Little opened the presentation session by outlining the various forms of communication that needed to transition into action plans to enable the division to live up to its stated targets.

She said the division stays in contact with their provincial political partners; the sister school division in the southeast, which is the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division; the South East Cornerstone Teachers’ Association executive; as well as with student groups, the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and school community councils.

They also connect at school levels with parents, student and teacher conferences, along with local advisory councils for schools serving First Nations students.

Little provided examples of engagement at all levels. 

Dion Hrynewich, a vice-principal at Weyburn Comprehensive School, was first up and he guided board members through the school-based communications system deployed there.

That system engages in communication and celebration of educational activities, events and various experiences with students, families and staff members, using a variety of communication technologies such as an official WCS website, Facebook, news river (Edsby) daily announcements, texts, phone calls, video sessions and team posts as well as digital signage and live streaming of certain events and use of a YouTube channel.

Hrynewich said the school based system “evolved in many ways” but the core goal was “to communicate and celebrate in timely fashion,” and to provide access.

The school vetted all communications through the vice-principals’ office and the communication tree. He added that a new website format is coming soon and it is acknowledged that texts are brief since it is understood those who pick up on them are, at that point, seeking basic information, not details.

The vice-principals do the editing of content and he noted the students “love the visuals and are visually motivated.”

“It’s endless as to what can be done. We just have to find the time and the tools just get better and better,” Hrynewich said near the end of his part of the presentation.

Next up was Calli Cugnet, the division’s communications officer who brought some facts and figures to the table while explaining how SECPSD uses four major social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with varying degrees of success, and all indicated fairly healthy growth in pick up.

She said the communications office was a handy tool to use “to connect with parents to get the word out.”

She also ran through some statistics regarding school-based accounts, led by Facebook and Instagram, with just two schools also engaging Twitter.

Cugnet explained how posts are created from questions posed to the divisions, such as the safe school plans and medical masking protocols at various stages. 

The communications office is used for recruitment and special events such as Mental Health Mondays, early learning programs and special educational activities, as well as French Immersion and Cyber Stone video projects.

She said mental health postings are “getting more eyes on it.”

The video portion of the presentation also included a few testimonials from students and staff who are engaged in the communication processes.

The third presenter was Aaron Hiske, the superintendent of education, who reported on a fairly recent teacher and parent survey conducted by SECPSD and his office.

He suggested the expanded survey format was welcomed as the division began to emerge from pandemic shutdowns and different protocols that had to be introduced at various times.

The teacher survey he said was a self-evaluation tool for educators and schools that focused on the eight most important drivers of student learning such as leadership, establishing a learning culture, teaching strategies, parental involvement, data collection, technology et al.

The graphs shown by Hiske informed the group that inclusive schools had strength within SECPSD, as were such things as learning cultures.

Hiske said 327 of the division’s more than 500 educators participated in the surveys that asked them to respond on a scale of zero to 10.

“We have worked our way back to pre-pandemic level. There is quality feedback as teachers are overcoming obstacles to learning and show positive reactions,” he said.

The parent part of the survey saw 1,371 respondents, which he suggested was very promising. “We were happy with that number. It represents about 12 per cent of the parent group,” he said.

The survey indicated there were some weaknesses regarding the support of learning in the homes, so “we’re finding out what kind of tools can we provide,” to assist parents and students on the home front in the learning circle.

“They were ready to have their students get back into schools,” Hiske said.

The board members were in agreement with that statement and vice-chairwoman Carol Flynn who was directing the meeting in the absence of chairwoman Audrey Trombley, thanked all presenters for their input and time.