Upper Canada School District team visits Palliser

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Brenda Beaudette and Terry Davies, from Upper Canada School District, meet with students at Arrowwood Community School.

A two-day visit to Palliser Regional Schools by a delegation from Upper Canada School District in Ontario marks the start of what may be the first interprovincial professional learning community in Canada.

Representatives from both school jurisdictions say they’re keen to learn from each other’s best practices.

Brenda Beaudette, USCD’s principal of continuous school improvement, and Terry Davies, accountability and alignment officer, spent Monday, April 15, observing a school review of Arrowwood Community School, visiting a Hutterian colony school, and meeting  the principal of Heritage Christian Academy to hear about that school’s goals for improvement.

On Tuesday, April 16, they were joined by Director of Education and CEO David Thomas and Planning and Research Officer Phil Dawes to attend part of the Palliser board meeting where they observed the presentation of data collected during a recent review of Master’s College. They also had opportunity to participate in presentations by students at Huntsville School, which played host to Palliser’s board meeting, before visiting Coalhurst Elementary and Calgary Christian Elementary schools.

“If we aren’t looking outside of what we’re currently doing well, then how do we continue to grow and mature as a board?” Beaudette explained. “So that’s where we’re wanting to see how others are doing it.”

The relationship between USCD and Palliser was encouraged by Wayne Hulley, president of Canadian Effective Schools and an educational consultant recognized across North America.

USCD serves about 29,000 students across an area of about 12,000 square kilometres around Ottawa. Palliser has about 7,200 students.

Despite differences of size, both jurisdictions serve highly diverse student populations and have ambitious programs of improvement.

In USCD, for example, there’s a process similar to Palliser’s school reviews. One key difference is that the results of the reviews are not shared with the board in USCD, as they are in Palliser. Thomas said he sees merit to involving trustees in the process. He said he also appreciated that students from Huntsville shared their work with trustees, reconnecting them with their true purpose – supporting student learning.

Palliser’s student focus was evident, said Davies and Beaudette following their visit to Arrowwood school.

“One of the things we talk about in our board, in our language, is whether a school is adult-centric or student-centric,” Beaudette said. “What I would say about this school just from hearing the adults talk is that this school is absolutely student-centric. From what I heard this morning there is no obstacle that can’t be either stepped over, pushed down or pushed aside to allow us to support the children in this community, which is great.”

USCD has a district goal of achieving a 90 per cent graduate rate with all students and 100 per cent satisfaction rate by 2020.

Palliser Regional Schools Superintendent Kevin Gietz said he’s looking forward to a reciprocal visit to the USCD to learn more about how the district will achieve its goals. USCD’s small school summit is also of particular interest.

“This is a great opportunity to learn from each other,” Gietz said.