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We have been working on re-entry plans and I know parents have many questions as to what school may look like in the fall.  Our plan is a draft form of our June discussions with staff and information that has since come out from the Government.  As more information becomes available our plans may be subject to change and a finalized version will come out closer to the start of the school year after we have had discussions with staff.  As we try out our plans, we may also decide to change them to improve the effectiveness of them.  I’m going into this year with the mindset of “Failing Forward”. What I mean by this is that we are beginning with the end in mind.  We have a plan in place to ensure that school is going to be a safe place with meaningful learning activities but we will make changes if things don’t go as planned.  If our plan fails, then we will learn from it and be flexible to make the necessary pivot steps that are needed to make it more effective.  I know it may not answer all the questions you may have, but I hope this plan will help so that it doesn’t seem so uncertain.

St. Teresa of Calcutta School Re-Entry Plan for September 2020

Our Faith theme this year is Transformed by the Journey with our calls to Action to be grateful and to be gracious.  I think it’s so important that with everything going on in our world right now that we focus on gratitude. One way to express gratitude is to turn a negative into a positive. Ask yourself if there is a silver lining or what can you be thankful for in a situation. For myself, I am grateful for all the time I got to spend with my family.  Usually everyone’s schedule is so busy that we are running all over but with the pandemic, we have got to experience more togetherness than normal.  For that I am extremely grateful to God as my two sons are getting to the age where they will be moving out on their own soon.  Last fall our family was devastated when we lost our 11-year-old dog, Trinity.  Our family Christmas gift was Dexter, a two month old Cavapoo (King Charles Cavalier Poodle mix). Dexter has also brought us closer together as a family as he is so cute that we all want to be around him all the time.  His love of socks (and chewing in general) knows no bounds as nobody’s socks are safe from him. We have shared many laughs over his antics and he has kept our spirits up during this pandemic. Take some time in the next couple of days to think about any negatives that you can turn into a positive and then say a prayer of gratitude to God. After all, gratitude is the open door through which God sends his blessings.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we do our best to adapt to the pandemic scenarios while still providing high quality student learning opportunities for our students. We all need to keep Habit 1 – Be Proactive in the forefront. We all must  take responsibility for doing our own part in keeping our school community safe by following our new procedures. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks and please email me if you have any questions or require clarification. The office opens on August 24 at 8:30 am.

June 2 Update

Although the fall situation is unknown, we are working with the division in planning for September. The calendar for the 2020 – 2021 school year is available on the Holy Spirit Website. As more information becomes available we will be sending it out.  Please check our website (https://stc.holyspirit.ab.ca) as we will be updating it regularly with featured news and calendar information.  I’d like to share three updates with you regarding information for June.

June Learning Timeline

June 19th will be the last day for instruction for students.  The final week of June will be time for families to return any learning materials to the school like chrome books, library books, classroom books, whiteboards, etc. The office will be open all week and we would appreciate items returned on either Monday the 22nd or Tuesday the 23rd.  We ask that chrome books be returned to the office and all other items can be returned to the tables in the gathering space.

Report Cards

Report Cards will be going out electronically to parents through Fresh Grade and we will be reporting on Literacy, Numeracy and Religion with anecdotal comments and descriptive feedback. If you would like to receive a paper copy of your child’s report card, please let your homeroom teacher know by June 15th so we can mail out a paper copy.

Staffing Information and Homeroom Lists

One exciting piece of news to share is that we will have an additional teacher and will have four Grade 5/6 homerooms next year. I do not know who the person will be as we have advertised the position which closes this Thursday.

Next week we will looking at creating homeroom lists and we need to know if your family is returning as this will help us with our planning process for next year.  Please complete your electronic registration update to confirm your return. With our multiage philosophy, students remain the same “home base” for two consecutive years.  For the most part, our grade 1, 3 and 5 students will not be changing home base.  When it comes to finding the right placement for those students who will be changing classes, we consider the following:

  • Student learning needs and abilities
  • Male/female ratio
  • Behaviour needs
  • Class size
  • Student relationships with other students
  • New students to the grade level

I will also continue the school’s policy of not accepting specific teacher requests as all our teachers work collaboratively as a team so your child will have the privilege of instruction from various teachers on staff. As I am new to the school, if you feel there are other factors that should be taken into consideration when placing your child in a specific class, please contact me by Monday June 8th.  You can reach me by email at kobzad@holyspirit.ab.ca, phone at 587-787-1490.  I am open to any form of communication and we can even set up an online meeting to discus your student. 

Each year at this time the government sends home survey information to parents for the Accountability Pillar so you may have already received your envelope in the mail.  This survey provides an opportunity for Alberta Education and school authorities to ensure that we are equipping students for success. The Accountability Pillar uses a set of 16 indicators consisting of Surveys of students, parents and teachers on various aspects of quality; Provincial Achievement Tests, and measures like High School Completion, Drop-Out and Transition to Pose-secondary Rates. All surveys are anonymous and ask questions about experiences with the school.  We only see the overall results at the school and not any individual responses. Students and teachers will be completing their surveys at school before the end of February.  Your participation in the survey helps provide important information on the quality of education your child is receiving, so we encourage you to complete your survey.

Here is some information for you about the survey that we hope will make it easier to complete:

  1. In addition to English and French, the parent survey is available in Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic, Blackfoot, Cree, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog.  Please come see us at the office if you would like to do your survey in a different language.
  2. All surveys can be completed either through paper or online.  You can drop off your paper copy at the office and we will send it off for you.
  3. We have put a link to the online survey on our website under Resources and Publications:  Accountability Pillar Survey
  4. The library is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays with computers if you want to stop in and complete a survey before or after picking up your child.
  5. Previously only parents in grade 4 received the survey and this year parents in grades 4-6 will receive it. We are encouraging parents to complete the survey as our average response over the past years is 20 parents.  We have generated 90 codes and we want to hear from as many parents as possible.
  6. You do not have to answer every question.  If you come across one that does not apply to you, you can leave it blank.  An example is that we see a lot of “Don’t know” for the high school preparing students for careers questions.  If you do not have a child in high school, you can leave that question blank.
  7. We have put together some information about the pillar areas for parents to help you in completing the survey. We are posting them on our social media pages, around the school and in the newsletter.
  8. Before the end of the year, we will receive a report with a color coded snapshot that details the responses from parents, students and teachers. Each year we create an Annual Educational Results Report from this information.
  9. Every year we review the data from the responses and use that information to create our school’s improvement plan.
  10. If you want to learn more about the survey, check out the Fact Sheet.

We appreciate you taking the time to complete the survey as we want to hear as many voices as possible to give us a true snapshot on what is happening at OLA.  The survey is open until the end of February.  My door is always open if you have further questions about the survey or anything else you want to chat about.

During Advent and all the preparations for Christmas we generally hear many Christmas carols being sung. One popular song is the Twelve Days of Christmas. Every year on the radio I hear how much it would cost to purchase all the gifts mentioned in the songs. As great as a partridge in a pear tree is or twelve drummers drumming are they don’t reflect the true meaning of the song.  First of all, The Twelve Days of Christmas are not in the Advent season leading up to Christmas but are the Church’s celebration of the Christmas season starting with Christmas Day on December 25 and ending twelve days later with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6.

I did some research on the song and found out that it was written in England during the time when they changed to the Church of England and Catholics were persecuted. During the 16th and 17th centuries it was a crime to be a Catholic. The song was written as a method for Catholics to secretly learn the teachings of the faith.  The “true love” in the song who is giving the gifts is God while the “me” receiving the gifts are every baptized person. 

The meaning given to the gifts each day are as follows:

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree = Jesus Christ, Son of God

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments

3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”

6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation

7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes

9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles

12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

As we leave Christmas season and move back into ordinary time, we are starting a new calendar year.  Think of it as a second beginning in the middle of the school year: a priceless gift of time and an opportunity for growth.  Take a moment to look at ourselves and our world, to be mindful of God’s presence and to make decisions about the way we live.  How will we try to reflect more perfectly the loving kindness of our God and follow the example of Jesus and Mary? This January, make a resolution that is not so ordinary.  Spend time every single day giving thanks for the gifts that God has given us by developing an attitude of gratitude. Each day say “Thank you God for the gift of life. Today I am especially grateful for _____________________________.”  Give it a try and by the end of the year you will have 365 things that you are grateful for. A good place to start might be with the Catholic teachings in the Twelve Days of Christmas

Source for the Article: Catholic Online (The Origin of the 12 Days of Christmas)

Hail the Advent Season at OLA

Mary is an important person in the Advent season. She was open to and mindful of God’s presence.  Through our book study of Walking with Mary by Edward Sri, we have come to better understand her open heart. When the angel Gabriel greets Mary to tell her that she is going to be the mother of Jesus, he says, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). No one in the history of the Bible has ever been addressed like this before. “Hail” is more than a simple hello. It means rejoice! Gabriel does not call her Mary; instead he says “full of Grace”. This is Mary’s new title or name which reveals the mission that God is entrusting to her. Finally, Gabriel assure her “the Lord is with you”. These words have been used throughout the Bible as God’s greeting to people he calls and it lets them know He will be there to guide, strengthen and protect them.

Our challenge for our students and our school community this month is to mimic this by rejoicing and greeting people they come across in the halls. We want them to Hail one another and rejoice by looking at the person.  Mary was given a new name as Full of Grace and we want our students to smile and say the person’s name if they know it.  Finally, the Lord is with You is a reminder that God is always there with us so we smile and say hello to the person.  We acknowledge the presence of God by responding with a smile and a greeting to the person. We are challenging our students to try to be the first person to say hello. Parents, we welcome you to join in our challenge when you are in the building. Good luck in Acting Like Mary by opening our hearts to God’s will and presence within each of us.

The Advent Sock Drive kicked off on Crazy Sock day on November 28. Socks that are collected will go to support Harbour House, Salvation Army, Homeless Shelter and Woods Homes. Last year we brought in 1,977 pairs of socks and hopefully we can surpass that effort this year. The final day to bring in socks is December 12 which is when we have our Advent mass at the Church followed by our Christmas Event.  This year we are having a Snowball dance at the school.  The dance with feature hot chocolate and cookies, a family photo booth, a quiet coloring area, and numeracy and literacy dice and card games that you can learn and play with your family over the holidays. I will be sharing our family Christmas favorite card game, 7 Up, that my children started playing when they were around 5 and that we still play every year at Christmas.

The cake walk is back by popular demand, but will only run from 6pm – 7pm.  To stick to the hour time limit, we will be giving away multiple cakes for each round. The cost of entry is 1$ which will go to cover the expenses for the evening and any leftover funds will be donated to the sock drive. Thank you to a parent for a generous donation of hot chocolate for the evening! We are gratefully accepting donations of cakes for the evening. I look forward to seeing you at our Christmas dance on the 12th.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Remembrance and Memories

November is a month that is associated with remembrance and memories.  According to the Cambridge Dictionary, remembrance is the act of remembering and showing respect for someone who has died or an event.  It is also a memory of something that has happened in the past.

As we move into November we have three celebrations that take place right away.  On the first is the Solemnity of All Saints Day. It is celebrated by Catholics all around the world and connects us to the communion of saints.  We look to the Saints, we celebrate their lives and ask them to pray for us. Mary, also known as St. Mary the Virgin, is our patron Saint and on this day we can ask for her help in bringing our prayers to God. The next day, the second, is All Souls Day where we remember all those who have died but may not yet be in heaven.  We pray for them and ask God to take them to heaven. On that day please take a moment and say a prayer in memory of a friend or loved one or say the prayers on the prayer cards below.

On November 3rd, we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday in Alberta.  The theme from our Bishops this year is to be “United in Prayer and Grateful for Catholic Schools”. It is a reminder for us to celebrate Catholic Schools in the province and to be grateful for the gift of publicly funded Catholic education. Archbishop Smith, on behalf of all Alberta Bishops has shared a short, three-minute video message regarding Catholic Education Sunday. Please click on the Video Link to view the message.

On November 11th we remember our veterans from the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War who sacrificed for us so we could enjoy our freedoms and live in peace. To honour these men and women, we wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance and freedom. As we pause in our minute of remembrance on the 11th day of the 11th hour of the 11th month, let us not forget to pray for the men and women who have served, those who have died in service and those who are currently serving in our armed forces.  Please come join us for our Remembrance Day Celebration on the 8th at 11:00 in the gym.

Sometimes our lives can become so busy that we do not take the time to think about those who have gone before us.  Take some time on the 1,2,3 and 11 to pray, reflect and remember.

With the crazy snowfall of the weekend, it feels more like December than it does October.  Both May and October are dedicated as Marian months. At our PD Day on Friday, staff started our book study of Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross by Edward Sri.  We learned many new things, such as, Nazareth was a lowly city and did not seem to have a good reputation, and that Joseph and Mary were betrothed which meant they had said vows and were considered married but were not yet living together as man and wife. On the surface Mary is not living an extraordinary life but God has been preparing her for her most important mission. Through studying this book, we are going to learn more about her life which will help us to better understand her and to further develop Mary as our Model.  So far we have developed three guiding statements about Mary. 

Open Heart – We want our students to be open to God’s presence in their lives as Mary did.  Even when she knew it was not going to be easy, she said yes to God.

Love Everyone – We are asking our students to love like Mary did.  She put God first, others second and herself third.

Act Like Mary – Finally, we want our students to follow Mary’s example in all that they do.  We want our students to be a servant of the Lord like Mary and to be willing let Jesus act through them.

We want students to be knowledgeable about Mary, to come to understand her as our model of behaviour and then, to put that into practice by making wise choices as she did.

This month is not only a celebration of Mary, but also the month of the Rosary. On October 7, we celebrate the yearly feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Mary is a powerful intercessor and praying the rosary is a way for her to intercede to Jesus on our behalf. When we pray the rosary, we meditate on the events in Jesus’ life: the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.  According the Edward Sri (who wrote Praying the Rosary Like Never Before) in his article “Why Pray the Rosary” we can pray the rosary in many different ways and that it can be two and a half minutes that can change your day. If you want to try out praying the rosary this month, the Knights of Columbus have A Guide to Praying the Rosary that can get you started. We will be praying the rosary throughout the month at school and I challenge you to give two and a half minutes to God every day this month: One decade of the rosary = one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and one Glory Be

How to pray the rosary

What a difference a year makes! It is so nice going into this school year with familiarity instead of uncertainty.  Last year was a time to get to know the culture of the school, the staff and the families.  I want to talk about some of the exciting things that are going on this year.

To start with, the school division has a new Three Year Faith Plan with the theme of Making our Mark:  The Journey of an Intentional Disciple.  The theme for year one is Starting our Journey with a focus on being mindful of God’s presence and being prayerful. This theme goes well with our focus on Mary as our Model.  Mary had an open heart and she was mindful of God’s presence in her life. When God asked something of her, she said yes.  Staff is going to be going on a journey to discover more about Mary as we will be reading and studying the book Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross by Edward Sri. I started reading this book this summer and found that there is so much about Mary that I did not know and that there is so much in the book that will help us to develop and ground our school in the example of Mary.

As we our working on our conduct being modeled after Mary, we have changed our incentive programs.  We will no longer be recognizing HELP coupons and Acts of Kindness, but will instead be recognizing students for Acting like Mary.  As before, we will recognize students from both divisions each month and with a year-end award. Bishop McGrattan in his homily at our Divisional Mass told us “me third”.  What that means is that we must put God first, others second and yourself is third.  Putting God and others before yourself is exactly what Mary did and will earn students recognition.

Attendance continues to be an important issue that we are committed to bringing awareness to due to the critical role it plays in student success. According to Alberta Education, students who attend under 90% are considered to be chronically absent.  While that may seem to be high, it means that with a school year of 180 days, students should miss no more than 18 days which equals out to 2 days per month.  Missing this many days puts student at risk of negative academic, economic, mental health and legal outcomes. Last year we started recognizing students who had a 90% or higher attendance rate.  We will continue to do this again and will also set a limit on lates at 90%.  We are so excited that Ascent Cycle is going to be supporting us with our year end incentives of two Norco Storm bikes and helmets. Students who have a 90% or higher rate for absences and lates will be eligible for the draw. Each month students are at that rate their names will be entered.  We will also be having 10 draws of $10 at the end of the year for students who had the 90% or higher rate for at least one month throughout the year. Last year we improved our attendance rates in all categories.  Thanks for all your help in encouraging good attendance behaviours and let’s continue to improve again this year

Improved attendance percentages in each category in 2018 – 2019

Our attendance awareness campaign kicks off with the following five facts courtesy of Attendance Works:

  1. Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the work place.  It matters for school success, starting as early as prekindergarten and throughout elementary school, and helps students stay on the path to academic success. Absences represent lost opportunities to learn in the classroom.
  2. Attendance patterns matter in all grades, including Kindergarten. Preschoolers build skills and develop habits for showing up every day on time. Elementary students learn to read in the early grades.
  3. Students are at academic risk if they miss 10 percent or more of the school year, or about 18 days a year.  Once too many absences occur, they can affect learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. Sporadic and consecutive absences negatively impact learning. Some absences are unavoidable, for example, due to serious or contagious illness but they should be prevented whenever possible.
  4. Chronic absence does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction as teachers are likely to repeat material for students who have missed school.  This makes it harder for students to learn and stay engaged, and for teachers to teach.
  5. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole community works together.  We can all make a difference by encouraging good attendance both at home and at school.  We can also work together to help solve any attendance barriers.

Have you ever had events happen and then, when you reflect back on them, you realize that God was working in your life and things turned out the way they were meant to be? I have experienced this numerous times in my life; the most recent being with this message.  I had great intentions of being early and having it ready to start the week, but that did not happen.  As I sit down to write it on the last day of May, I think that God intended it to be that way so I could talk about World Catholic Education Day which we celebrated on the 30th. Each Thursday in May we have been praying together as a division for Catholic Education which culminated with a staff led Liturgy of the Word where the whole division was praying together around 11:00 am.  As I walked through the halls yesterday, I saw a bulletin board celebrating World Catholic Education Day where the students shared their thoughts about the blessings inherent in Catholic Education.  In the words of our students, I love my Catholic school because

  • I can talk about how much I love God and Jesus at school and at home.
  • We learn about God almost every day.
  • Our relationship with God can grow.
  • We can talk about God.
  • We can pray and able to talk about God.
  • We get to learn about Jesus and his many miracles.
  • We go to Church, have Religion and we learn about all of the saints.
  • We get to learn about God and strengthen my Catholic skills.
  • I am able to pray.

On World Catholic Education day, the school division and the ATA local premiered a video that they worked together to create that celebrates Catholic Education.  If you have not already seen the video Public Education:  The Catholic Way I do recommend watching it. The video is approximately twenty minutes in length and was a great way to cap off the month long celebrations.

Now that May is finished we are looking ahead to June and it is a busy nineteen days.  Teachers have been busy planning year end field trips and I am sure that the students are sure to enjoy the wide range of activities that fit in the science, social and physical education curriculum. On the 6th at 6:30 we have a parent meeting to discuss preparations for grade six camp in September. Our Kindergarten students will celebrate their accomplishments with a family celebration on the 12th at 5:30. We are also celebrating First Nations, Metis and Inuit culture with our Division Pow Wow at CCH West on the 5th at 5:30pm.  All families are invited to attend.  Our school celebration will be on the 21st where we are lining up story tellers, traditional games, dancing and smudge activities.  The last week is jam packed as we go to Henderson Pool on Monday, have sports day on Tuesday, celebrate our grade sixes at our year end Mass on Wednesday and finish the week with an assembly, slide show and talent show.

In addition to all these activities, we will be planning for next year.  We are currently working on our class configurations and teaching assignments for the fall.  Once we have this information confirmed, we will communicate it to parents and then we will start working on class lists. I will be meeting with the teachers to place students in classrooms this month.  Much deliberation goes into these assignments, such as, student needs, male/female ratio, academic balance, behaviour needs, class size, student relationships, educational assistant assignments and students new to OLA.  Parents have a wealth of knowledge about their children and if there is any information you would like to share with me about your child that will help the staff to place him or her in the best education environment possible, please contact me, stop in at the office to make an appointment or just drop in as my door is always open. Thank you for trusting us in making sound educational decisions in the placement of your child. 

To our families that are leaving us at the end of the year and to those who we are welcoming in the fall, we wish God’s blessings on you. We pray that our school community has a blessed summer vacation, and we look forward to seeing you in September.

Mary our Model

May is the month of Mary, a woman of not only grace and love, but also of patience and charity. Throughout the year, the staff has been working on changing our code of conduct to use Mary as our model.  Our goal is to have our community aim to live like Mary who followed Jesus’ teachings. First, we looked at Mary’s life and her qualities that would set a good example for our students.

Mary’s life was full of difficulties and uncertainty, but she bore them with patience and faith in God’s will.  Mary did not know what being the mother of Jesus would mean. She had to face her betrothed when she was found to be pregnant then, after Jesus was born, she fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. The fear of every mother is losing a child and Mary must have been anxious when Jesus went missing for three days and was then found in the Temple.  What must she have had to endure as she stood by the cross while Jesus was crucified?  Despite all these hardships, Mary trusted in God even when she did not understand or when things looked impossible.

Mary also listened to God, was open to His will and obeyed Him.  Even though she was unmarried and pregnant and could be stoned, she said yes to being the Mother of Jesus.  She presented Jesus in the Temple to the religious authorities. She obeyed the government and went to Bethlehem for the census even though she was heavily pregnant.  Mary was also a disciple of Jesus and told the servants at Cana to do as Jesus tells them. Mary was the first to hear that Jesus was the Savior and she lived with Him for many years and follows his example.

Mary also loved God and other people.  When Mary learned that Elizabeth was pregnant and needed help, Mary went to help her even though she was pregnant herself.  It was not an easy journey as she travelled about ninety miles on a rocky, hilly road. At the wedding feast of Cana, she saw that the family was running out of wine and went to Jesus for help and he performed his first public miracle.  Mary was an active problem solver and is someone who will intercede to Jesus on our behalf.

Second, we decided that we were going to use the OLA as a guide for Mary’s qualities. From the stories we looked at we came up with the following ideas:

O Ownership – your attitude.  Obey God.  Openness to God’s word.

L Loving.  Love like Mary.  Loves God and others.  Listen to God.  Leadership – lead with a humble heart. Lives as Jesus teaches.

A Accepting and caring for others differences.  Attitude is everything.  Assists others – selfless love to help others.  Acts on God’s word. Aware of a problem and Acts to solve it. 

Thirdly, staff worked together to look at the words and to pick words that encompass the faith, behavioural, social and academic areas of the school.  For each word, they listed gave a description of what that word meant to their group.  The chart below is a summary of the group notes:

Thirdly, staff worked together to look at the words and to pick words that encompass the faith, behavioural, social and academic areas of the school.  For each word, they listed gave a description of what that word meant to their group.  The chart below is a summary of the group notes:

Finally, this information will be going out to the school community.  It was presented to school council at the April meeting.  A survey is going to be created and sent out for parents to give their input into the words that will define our code of conduct.  Please look for the survey to come out through email this month. As we progress through May, let us start trying to imitate Mary who endured suffering with patience.  Let us bear our crosses without becoming upset or annoyed, forgive those who wrong us, follow God’s commandments, solve our conflicts peacefully and always be there to assist others.

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