Despite unclear signs coming from Edmonton, Superintendent Jayson Lovell expects great things from Wolf Creek Public Schools in 2019/2020.
Recently, the Government of Alberta released the findings of a panel headed by former Saskatchewan Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon that delved into the province’s financial situation.
Among many calls to scale back much of the public sector in Alberta, the report made two recommendations on primary education which including scaling back K-12 administrative and governance funding (25 per cent to 17 per cent) and a complete review/revision of the funding that would be altered to address enrollment growth and provide incentives for sharing services.
None of the MacKinnon report is currently UCP government policy, but it does have the potential to affect provincial budgets going forward.
Lovell said he and the WCPS board of trustees are aware of the document and is currently in a wait-and-see on how the district will be affected. Lovell did point to WCPS strong history of being financially responsible as something that will always work in their favour.
“We have really worked on maximizing efficiency to make sure we are running in a way where we are aware of how we are utilizing our resources,” he said.
Relationship with Alberta Government
Lovell recognized the province is currently facing financial challenges but pointed to positive relationship established with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange as a sign for optimism.
LaGrange had previously visited three WCPS schools in Lacombe last June.
“To have the minister come to Wolf Creek was great to see and so far, in our communication with the ministry, they are continually keeping us apprised of changes and developments — and certainly supporting the work we are doing in Wolf Creek,” Lovell said.
He added conversations with the ministry have been productive in the early days of the UCP government.
Back to school numbers
The coming of the 2019/2020 school year has gone off without a hitch, according to Lovell, with enrollment numbers (7,438) coming in very close to projected numbers (7,413).
This prediction enrollment numbers, along with a summer of strong planning has led to the year launching smoothly.
“It feels great to have the year up and running,” Lovell said.
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Lovell said enrollment has translated to predictable class sizes in the district.
“That is a great opportunity to ensure our students can learn and our teachers can teach in spaces that are going to produce good results,” he said.
Changes, innovations in WCPS
The new year did bring some changes — most notably the introduction of the Education Act — but Lovell said those changes are not major ones in terms of the way WCPS operates.
“Certainly there are some changes we working through,” he said.
Lovell said the major changes in the division have been incoming administrators and staff — with Lacombe specifically seeing the hiring of new teachers and a new principal (Deborah Van Delden) at Terrace Ridge School, who joined the division after previously teaching at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus in Blackfalds.
Lovell also pointed some innovative projects happening throughout the district including the introduction of a new “house system” at Lacombe Junior High School. The program sees students grouped into four different houses, anchored by a specific house teacher.
“It is really a neat model that number of schools across the province have,” Lovell said.
Lovell feels that the equity of opportunity within WCPS is something he and the board of trustees is proud of.
“Equity is extremely important, including equitable opportunities to programs we offer and extracurricular opportunities. We have a balanced approach and it doesn’t matter where you attend in Wolf Creek Public Schools,” he said.
More specifically, Lovell said the primary focuses of the district remain literacy, numeracy and proving a safe and caring environment. He added they continue to expand their career pathways, dual credit programs and international learning opportunities.
“We are really excited for the opportunities for our students and we certainly look forward to another highly successful year. There are great things to come at Wolf Creek Public Schools,” he said.