County Central parent receives provincial award

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Principal Ken Garinger presents Jodie Gateman were ASCA Parent of Distinction Award.

In only her second year on school council, and her first as chairperson, Jodie Gateman has earned an Alberta School Councils' Association Parent of Distinction Award.

Gateman, who has two children attending County Central High School in Vulcan, says she feels her work on school council is just part of her responsibility as a parent.

"If you're a parent. . . you want to be a part of what's going on at school," she said Thursday, minutes before receiving her award in a ceremony at CCHS. "They're in this building for eight hours a day. The more you're involved in your child's education, the better it is."

Her efforts have encouraged other parents to join council as well. This year, under Gateman's leadership, the council focused heavily on improving communication and in encouraging more involvement in council and school activities.

She created a Facebook page for school council, and encouraged use of a free mobile app called Remind101. Parents can subscribe through the app to receive text messages from the school.

The council has gone from just having enough members for a quorum to having a more stable number of parents attending every meeting, she said.

Principal Ken Garinger, who nominated Gateman for the award, said her embrace of technology includes her creation of a school council website, which can be accessed from the school's site. The site offers meeting agendas and minutes, event information and even a countdown to the next council meeting.

In his nomination letter, Garinger also sang Gateman's praises for the free professional development session she provided teachers regarding student engagement.

Another highlight of the year was school council's sponsorship of a student-led initiative to bring Canadian pop rockers Faber Drive to Vulcan in May. Gateman said the concert was an "amazing event" that gave students in the audience a rare chance to get close to a band in their own town. For students working behind the scenes, the organizational and promotional experience proved unique and unforgettable.

"The dedication she has shown toward increasing parental involvement, the impact she is having on our education within our building, and the exceptional leadership she has shown on parent council put her at the top of the list of parent council members I have personally worked with in my 14-year tenure as school principal," Garinger wrote in his submission.

Next year, as she completes her two-year term as chairperson, Gateman says she hopes council will work even more closely with the school's sports council and increase fundraising in support of CCHS.

This is the third consecutive year the ASCA has recognized a Palliser parent or school council. In 2012, Calgary Christian School Council received an award of merit, while in 2011 Parent of Distinction Awards were presented to a parent at Jennie Emery Elementary in Coaldale and two parents at Coalhurst Elementary School. Congratulations, Jodie Gateman!