Busy year ahead for Chinook School Division

Students were still enjoying the final few days of their summer holiday this week before returning to school Sept. 3, but Chinook School Division staff have already been preparing since Aug. 27 for the year ahead.

Director of Education Liam Choo-Foo is expecting a busy year as Chinook implements its new five-year strategic plan.
“It’s critical,” he said about the plan. “It becomes the point where we align our resources, our staff and our personnel, the completion of the goals that have been set out before us.”
This will be the third year of the Math Momentum initiative with the goal of a 25 per cent increase in students who are exceeding or attaining grade level expectations by June 2015.
This initiative’s first year of implementation resulted in an 11 per cent increase in students who exceeded or attained grade level expectations and last year’s increase was seven per cent.
“So we’ve seen 18 per cent more of our students at or exceeding expectations in grade levels since we’ve taken on this initiative,” he said. “That leaves us with two years to get that seven per cent and I’m very confident that we will do that in less than two years.”
Another key academic goal in the strategic plan is to maintain the success of the Balanced Literacy initiative. While 81 per cent of students are already meeting or exceeding reading assessment expectations, the goal is to reach 90 per cent by June 2017.
He is also excited about the new Support for Learning pilot project that will initially be implemented at five pilot schools — Maple Creek Composite, Gull Lake, Herbert, Central and O.M. Irwin.
“We got really good at being able to determine which students are meeting or exceeding expectations and as a result we also now know very clearly which students aren’t,” he said. “So we’re going to try a new model to try and provide the extra supports and services to those kids that aren’t learning the way that we would hope them to.”
According to Choo-Foo, the strategic plan will be a key tool to direct Chinook’s limited financial resources.
“In the last two provincial budgets, while there has been an increase to the education sector as a whole, when we got down to the specifics of it in terms of Chinook we saw fewer dollars flowing our way,” he said.
The school division was able to achieve a balanced budget for the 2013/14 school year with the inclusion of capital grants, but operational expenses are higher than operational revenues.
“The work we do at the Ministry of late has been to try to educate them to some of the challenges we face when we have such a dispersed school division,” he said. “Because we carry such a big geography our personnel are stretched thin in providing services to every school.”
He noted Chinook is the most pronounced school division in terms of dispersion.
“What we mean by that is that we are the second largest geographic school division in the province, but our kids are spread out throughout the entire school division,” he said. “We have people spread out across this huge geographic area and it puts a tax on your resources getting the services out to everyone.”
Choo-Foo felt there is a real opportunity for the education sector to move forward after the recent appointment of Dan Florizone as the new deputy minister in the Ministry of Education.
“Dan had already talked about a student-first approach,” Choo-Foo said. “I think that is still a fairly generalized term and I’m looking forward to working with him on it as we start to get a little bit more specific as to what that really means.”

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post http://www.prairiepost.com/news/sw-sask/item/4779-busy-year-ahead-for-chinook-school-division.html

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