Calgary Islamic School toured by trustees

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Teachers at Omar Bin Al-Khattab dressed as their favourite literary character as part of Literacy Day.

After gathering together as members of Palliser Regional Schools for lunch, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Gietz encouraged staff at Omar Bin Al-Khattab to embrace the opportunities available through their new family.

The Calgary Islamic School (CIS) campus played host to Palliser school trustees and senior administration after it was one of four schools across the division to win free lunch on the Board through a draw made at the beginning of the school year.

A tour of the CIS campus at Akram Jomaa was followed by the opportunity for the visitors to be shown around Omar Bin Al-Khattab. After breaking bread together, Gietz told the staff and school administration he looks forward to the day when a former CIS student is honoured as a member of Palliser Regional Schools’ Wall of Fame for their achievements.

Earlier in the luncheon staff spoke of opportunities to share best practices through collaboration days, which began at the same division-wide gathering as the Wall of Fame ceremony on the first day of school for teachers. As the only teacher in her grade at Omar Bin Al-Khattab, one teacher mentioned how beneficial it was to talk with colleagues from across Palliser to confirm she was on the right track, and to share resources with.

Despite Palliser’s extremely diverse student population, Vice-Principal Ousama Kadri said he was happy to find out at monthly administrators meetings that many of his colleagues had already dealt with some of the same issues he was facing and were able to offer possible solutions.

The addition of the two CIS campuses this year also offered the chance for students to join in a division-wide leadership conference for the first time.

Gietz read aloud from comments a CIS student included in a follow-up survey to the conference. The student wrote how the support they received motivated them to stand up and make a change within their school. They also mentioned initial concerns they and their schoolmates had about feeling like a minority were unfounded.

“. . . some of us thought we would be treated and viewed the way the world portrayed us but I guess that we generally had at all wrong. Everyone was so busy having fun and learning that no one really paid attention to who was who,” wrote the student.

“If we can impact one child in that manner, that’s what it’s all about,” said the superintendent.

The reason behind the free lunch draw, said board chair Colleen Deitz, was to not only thank staff for the great work they do to ensure the success of all students, but to learn more about those schools.

Given Palliser’s commitment to literacy, it was fitting that staff and students at Omar Bin Al-Khattab had marked that date as Literacy Day. Both teachers and students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite literary characters, said Principal Raiha Idrees, a Muslim author came in to read to the students and stations were set up to highlight the school’s offering of Arabic as a second language.

Idrees also spoke earlier about some of the exciting initiatives going on including the pending election of the school’s first-ever student council.  Recent upgrades to the kitchen will also allow for the introduction of a cooking club for the students and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Although the board lunch featured Lebanese favourites, the students should have an extensive recipe book to draw from as the school boasts family ties from more than 35 different countries.

Prior to their CIS visit, the trustees had a chance to tour Palliser’s first outreach campus in Calgary, which is set to open in the new year. Alternative educational opportunities offering individualized programs delivering Alberta Education curriculum are already offered through outreach schools in Coaldale, Picture Butte, Vulcan and Carmangay.