Stakeholders from across Palliser have A Community Conversation

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Coalhurst High Principal Chris McIntyre served as group facilitator. His table included Kate Andrews High student Kayley Dueck and Trinity Christian School parent Patty Wiebe.

VULCAN --  Nearly 200 people from all across Palliser Regional Schools converged on Vulcan Thursday (May 29) for a division-wide stakeholder meeting.

Trustees, student representatives from grades 9 to 12, teachers, support staff, parents and the public from Coaldale to Calgary met in small group discussions in what was called “A Community Conversation 2015.”

The last time a similar gathering was held was three years ago, and this meeting picked up where the last left off.

Participants discussed the key factors that contribute to school success that emerged from the 2012 deliberations, determining whether any factors had fallen from relevancy or whether new factors had emerged.

A summary of the results of the 2012 conversation, including information on how Palliser has built on those factors in the past three years, was shared with participants as they registered. (For a copy of that summary, click here.)

Palliser Director of Learning Cynthia Gietz provided an overview of literacy research that warns students who stop reading in July and August will lose some of their reading achievement. Called “the summer slide,” it can be avoided if older students read four or five books over the summer. For students in Grade 3, even 15 minutes of reading a day can stop the slide. She then asked the participants to discuss a final question of the day: What can each of us do in our unique roles in our communities to help prevent the summer reading slide?

Ideas from the brainstorming included encouraging students to submit photos of themselves reading to be entered in a draw, holding community book exchanges and the sharing of information on the summer slide with all parents. (For a two-page brochure on the summer slide and a few tips to prevent it, please click here.)

Participants in the discussions included Little Bow MLA-elect Dave Schneider and Dan Ferguson, a senior manager with Alberta Education.

Colleen Deitz, Palliser Board Chair, described the day as “fantastic.”

“It was a great opportunity for us as trustees to hear from students and to hear support from teachers toward the students,” Deitz said. “Everybody was student focused. It was very exciting to hear that.”

In feedback collected at the end of the session, it appears the diversity of the crowd and the involvement of students was especially valued. Several members of Hutterite colonies served by Palliser, Low German-speaking Mennonite parents, and parents from faith-based alternative programs were among those discussing school success. Organizers tried to have at least one student at every table.

“Really enjoyed the diversity which somehow also reinforced all our similarities in regards to what we see as priorities,” wrote one participant.

“The student at our table was every engaged and I would advise to have more student involvement,” wrote another.

Kelso Cross, a Grade 9 student who participated, said she enjoyed being part of the discussion.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it’s been fun,” she said.

Facilitators, who were Central Office staff or school principals, documented comments from each table, which will be analysed and reported publicly by Palliser.