Burton Elementary School was packed with teachers, custodians, staff, bus drivers, trustees, early childhood educators and invitees from neighbouring School District 8 the week before classes started in District 10. The convergence was for a special day-long conference put on by UVic Leadership Studies faculty members Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert.
The education researcher-lecturer’s presentation focused on education as taking place from the moment kids get on the bus in the morning until they get home at night, and involving everyone they meet in the school environment.
From this perspective, bus drivers are as much a part of learning the respectful relationships which are the foundation for good education.
“It may not seem as significant as increasing science results,” said Linda Kaser to the packed auditorium, “but it is a learning opportunity.”
This holistic approach was the theme for the day, with all parts of the school system seen as integral to education.
When the group broke for lunch, details about what this meant for kids in classes this year came out.
District Principal Terry Taylor told the Arrow Lakes News that higher achievements can be reached through this kind of lateral co-operation, and said this year students from Mt Sentinel, Lucerne, Nakusp Secondary and Distance Learning will be working together on a cross-collaborative project called “Making the world a better place.” The project will involve disciplines of the students’ choosing, and will take place from September to December of this year.
New Superintendent/Treasurer for School District 10 (SD10) Denise Perry was very impressed with the calibre of presentation and what it meant for the schools in the area.
“It’s encouraging them to take risks and create a different learning environment,” she said. The last time something of this magnitude was done that included everyone was back in the 1990s.
The new SD10 Superintendent has made the move here from the Queen Charlotte Islands, where she says there are similar struggles with unemployment and remote access, although the cultures are quite different.
Perry has faced her own challenges since moving here from Bella Coola.
“It’s been incredible, the last three months. I’ve been to all schools and met a lot of students,” she said.
As for her sense of life in the Kootenays, she said “there’s a real sense of exciting peacefulness here.”
Perry was also pleased to see the Burton Elementary School getting used, even though it is currently going through the formal process of being decommissioned as a public school.
“It’s great to see Burton School being used for other options, like this conference,” Perry remarked, who would like to see it used for future functions as well.
As for the teachers and staff that were working at the school, every one has either retired or found a position at another school, said Perry.
The Superintendent has been thrilled to see that schools in the area embrace change and take the initiative with new programs. She cited the environmental program at the Edgewood School as an example of innovative educational programming.
Changes to staffing this year include Sally McLean taking on prep relief throughout the district, as well as taking on Acting Principalship in Edgewood.
Nakusp Elementary principal George Harding is making plans to retire next June, and will be vetting head teacher Leslie Leitch for his position, helping her into the leadership role, said Perry. Ashley Barker will be working as a counsellor at NES, Edgewood and Lucerne this year.
In terms of longer-range plans, Perry would like to see a move toward specialty academies in the district’s future, as well as more trades and pre-trades programs.
After lunch was over, Kaser and Halbert asked what different people in their roles around the schools would do to encourage deeper educational engagement.
“Gordon, what are you going to do?” Kaser asked Gord Hogaboam.
“Nothing,” joked Hogaboam, drawing chuckles from the post-prandial crowd. His second and real answer was far more instructive: “improve listening.” Sounds like a good strategy for both learning and teaching.