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Archive for the ‘April’ Category

The other morning as I was wandering around outside on supervision, it struck me how nice it was to hear the laughter and screams of the students.  Call me crazy, but yes after the cold of February, even the screams were welcome.  It was encouraging to see the differing types of play going on around me:  a couple of tag games on the playground, wall ball on the side of the school, students running around in the field and quite a few students practicing their skipping.  With the coming of the nice weather there are many things to look forward to in April.

As we progress through the season of Lent, our staff and students are putting on amazing celebrations. There are many liturgical traditions that have stayed the same since I was last here.  The playing of Holy Ground, having the grade six lantern bearers lead the classes into the gym, and the processional for each celebration set the tone for each week.  The highlight of the Lenten season is always the Passion Play performance by the grade sixes and I am looking forward to seeing this again on Thursday the 18th at 2:00 pm. I am also looking forward to a few upcoming events.  Our grade 5 and 6 classes are off on Tuesday the 2nd to the Enmax Centre to see the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championships.  I am a huge advocate of fine arts in schools and am excited that on the 3rd all of our students will get to experience the Evergreen Theatre performance of The Three Little Pigs & B.B Wolfe.  Some of our students will also get the opportunity to take part in this show where the wolf is a climate change scientist trying to encourage the pigs to embrace better building practices. Then on the 10th, the grades 4-6 students are off the University of Lethbridge Theatre to see FLVT’s original student written musical production of  Cursed Through Time. Having worked for many years on these productions it is going to be different to just be an audience member. Another event I am looking forward to is the Jump Rope for Heart Kickoff Assembly on the 11th at noon.  It is impressive to note that this school has been supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation for 37 years.  It definitely explains the numerous enthusiastic skippers that are constantly practicing their skills. I cannot wait to see the routines that the students will perform at the assembly as what I have seen so far tells me that it will be of a high quality with some difficult tricks thrown in.

Spring may be one of my favorite times of year as it is a time of renewal and new growth. This not only happens physically, but also occurs spiritually through spiritual retreats. One of the marks of a Catholic school is that is sustained by Gospel witness and that the staff are living witnesses to the Gospel and are intentional disciples of Christ. We were blessed to have an amazing speaker, Sarah Hart, for our Divisional Spiritual Development Day a few weeks ago who really made us think differently about the fruits of the spirit. On April 1st we have our annual staff retreat that is based around our namesake, Mary. The retreat committee has been working hard to plan our activities for the day which will culminate in a living rosary.

Finally, as living witnesses of Christ and the Church, we need to advocate for the gift of publicly funded Catholic education.  Currently in Alberta, it is under attack so it is essential that its supporters come together to advocate for our constitutional right.  As a result, our school division is creating a GrACE (Grateful Advocates for Catholic Education) group.  The mission of GrACE is to unite the spirit of Catholic education in order to educate and communicate with one voice.  It is a platform for those committed to Catholic education to be advocates and witnesses for our schools’ successes and their future. Committee members of GrACE may be employees of the division, parent or Catholic parishioners.  The time commitment will not be excessive but it is important that all committee members are passionate about Catholic education.  The Board Chair and Superintendent will make the decision on representation from those names submitted. Please contact me by April 7 if you are interested in putting your name forward. 

May the blessing of Christ be with during the Lenten and the Easter Season.

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At Convention in February I attended a session presented by Rocky View Schools titled Combating Student Absenteeism: Enhancing Systems to Improve Educational Outcomes. It was of particular interest to me as we had recently had conversations about attendance at our Learning Leadership meetings. At this session I learned about their Attendance Innovation Campaign and the practices they undertook to improve attendance at pilot schools and across their division. Their campaign focused on three main areas:  Educate, Empower, and Eliminate. You may have noticed over the past month a variety of messages from the school on Facebook and Remind as our Education Campaign on attendance kicked off.

Attendance is critical for success in school.  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. Here are some attendance facts from the presentation by Rocky View Schools:

  • Absences are a problem if they are excused or unexcused.
  • Sporadic and consecutive absences negatively impact learning.
  • Parents signing off on school absences does not minimize the impact.
  • Attendance patterns matter in all grades, including Kindergarten.
  • Children find it difficult to catch up on missed work.
  • Parents underestimate their child’s absences by 50%.

The second phase of the attendance campaign is Empower and we have been working through the data using PowerSchool to find out what the attendance trends are for FLVT. What are the attendance facts for our school community?  One piece of data we have access to shows the attendance rate for each day of the week. The following chart illustrates the attendance rate for the students from September to March for all students. It is interesting to note the lower attendance rate for Friday and how close it is to being under 90%. A goal for the next couple of months would be to try to bring the Friday attendance rate a little closer to the rest of the averages

weekday attendance

Another piece of data shows student attendance broken down into percentages. The chart below summarizes attendance trends for this school year up to the end of March.  I think it is great to celebrate that 460 or 85% of our students are on track to be at or above the 90% attendance rate.

attendance pie chart

We still have work to do as 83 or 15% of our students are at risk for negative outcomes. As a result, we are currently piloting phase three Eliminate with a small group of students.  We have developed plans to target individual students and identify their attendance barriers. At our PD Day in April, we will be looking at developing an recognition program for the coming school year. We all want our students to be successful which goes hand in hand with good attendance. Let’s finish the year strong and aim for at least 90% attendance after the Easter break. 

Attendance Facts courtesy of Attendance Works

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I have been checking out my flower bed every day for the past couple of week to see if the tulips that I planted in the fall, have sprouted.  Today I finally saw some green peeking out of the ground.  I’m pretty excited because these tulips were specially created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and are white with a red maple leaf design.  canada tulipTo celebrate at FLVT some of our classes are participating in the Canada Games Activity Challenge where students complete a variety of activities.  Speaking of activities, our elementary marathon club kicked off last week and will continue to train and put in the required 40 kilometers so that students can complete the Little Souls Kids Marathon on May 31.

There are lots of other events to celebrate this month at FLVT.  Our grade 9 students will culminate their three years of studying French by heading off to Quebec for five days.  This is a great experience for our students to see another part of Canada and to put their French skills into practice.

Badminton is winding down and students in grades 6-9 will head off the City Championships in early April.  Good luck to all our teams. After the Easter break, our grade two students will take part in a First Communion retreat at the Church. Our students receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time is a definite milestone to celebrate. We are blessed to have such a wonderful partnership with St. Martha’s Parish.

I’d like to highlight the work and achievements of our Health and Wellness Advisory Team.  After attending the Healthy Active Schools Symposia in the fall, the students identified four priorities with a focus on mental health. Students decided to create calm down kits to help reduce student stress and anxiety.  They spent time researching items to go in each kit, and they have created kits for the rooms in the office and are in the process of creating a kit for each classroom.  One item for the kits are fidgets which help to improve concentration and attention to classroom tasks.  green foodsStudents spent time repainting the canteen and the canteen now plays calming music at lunch time. Their “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” program is currently in place.  Students can earn entries for weekly prizes by showing they are eating a healthy food item of a specific color. March was red and now green is the focus for April. The students still have a goal of creating a quiet room in the school before the school year ends.  Congratulations on a job well done Team!

Finally, I’d like to celebrate the work that our teachers have been doing in their weekly Learning Team meetings.  One of our goals in our Continuous Improvement Plan this year, is to improve basic fact fluency.  Basic facts are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts from 0 – 9 and students should be able to give a quick response in about three seconds. Teachers have been working with the resource teaching math develElementary and Middle School Mathematics Teaching Developmentally by Van de Walle, Karp, Bay-William, McGarvey, and Folk (2015). Teachers have been working on specific strategies that can improve number sense and basic fact fluency. One important skill for students is to anchor numbers to 5 and 10 where students can easily recall which numbers make a 5 and once they have that they should move on to making 10. Teachers have also been working on finding engaging games that allow students to practice their skills.  We shared what we learned with one another at our PD Day in March.  Teachers each brought a game they used in their classroom and played it with their group and then the group discussed ways the game could be adapted for their grade level. It was an amazing day of learning from one another and we had some fantastic dialogue on teaching strategies.  We are blessed to have a staff who are not only committed to, but are also role models for lifelong learning.

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For me, spring is a wonderful time of year as it is a time of new growth and renewal.  My favorite flowers, tulips and daffodils, emerge from their winter’s sleep and I love seeing the trees gradually turn to that special shade I call “spring green”.  Its feels like we also emerge from our winter’s sleep at the school as the warm temperatures allow us to shed our heavy coats and we change from the dark colors of winter to the bright pinks and yellows of spring.

Spring is also a time of renewal at FLVT as people have had the chance to relax over Easter and are refreshed for the last three months of school.  Currently, the production team is busy gearing up preparations for our Spring Production Get a Clue which takes place at the University of Lethbridge Theatre during the first week of May. April is busy with rehearsals: singing from Mondays to Wednesdays, dancing on Thursdays, and acting on Fridays. Full dress rehearsals for the entire cast take place from 10:00 – 4:00 at the school on Saturday April 16 and 23. On Monday May 2 the entire cast is at the University of Lethbridge Theatre all day for a final dress rehearsal.  From Tuesday to Thursday the students will perform a matinee at 11:00 for our Holy Spirit Schools and an evening performance for the general public starting at 7:00 pm.  Tickets for the evening shows can be purchased at the office or at the door and are $10 for adults and $8 for students. I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of all the hard work our students have put into the production. Hope to see you there!

We are also in the midst of new growth as we are planning for the 2016-2017 school year. We are working on timetabling options for our junior high classes and have changed the registration process to a two round electronic format.  In the next week students will be completing an electronic form whereby they choose their top choices.  Once students have listed their choices we will tabulate them and then schedule courses based on student choice.  After we have the schedule made then we will then have students choose their options based on the schedule.  The process takes some time and should be completed in early May.  We are also going to be gathering feedback on junior high core course redesign.  Last year, we looked at research on best practices for scheduling and grouping and we made a shift in philosophy on how we teach our cores. We moved from a single teacher with static class configurations to a team teaching approach with flexible groupings and units. The benefits of the approach is that over the course of three years, students would be exposed to a richer curriculum as teachers are familiar with students’ learning needs and they would build closer relationships with students and parents. Students also have a team of teachers that they can go to for help and could have the opportunity to have a concept explained in different ways. As with every gear change we make, there have been positives and negatives, and we are looking at collecting feedback to incorporate into our planning for next year.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Mr. Parr as he will be moving on to the Associate Principal position at the Children of St. Martha School. A search is currently underway for Mr. Parr’s replacement. I would like to wish him well in his new position and to thank him for sharing his gifts, talents, and leadership with us.

Get A Clue poster22

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