Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta Grants

School Projects in Westwind School Division have been selected as successful applicants by the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta. The projects are:

MOUNTAIN VIEW SCHOOL: 

  • Projects: Morning Bookworms, $1,000. Book Box, $500
  • Details: Over the coming summer, the school library will be opened up so students have access to books. A recognition event will take place in September for participants in the summer reading program. As well, students will also build a little free library, fill it with books and install it at a community store.

SPRING GLEN JUNIOR HIGH

  • Project: Track and Field Equipment
  • Details: The school will purchase a new high jump pit and additional track and field equipment.

We would like to extnd our sincere appreciation to the Community Foundation of Lethrbidge and Southern Alberta for supporting our students and communities with these grants.

Cardston Junior High and Raymond High School Administrator Appointments

 Mr. Salmon (left) and Mr. Payne (right)

Mr. Salmon (left) and Mr. Payne (right)

Westwind School Division is pleased to announce that two new principals have been appointed effective the 2016-2017 school year. Mr. Jeremy Payne has been appointed as the new principal at Cardston Junior High School, and Mr. Jerry Salmon has been appointed as the new vice principal at Raymond High School.

Jeremy Payne earned a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Alberta, majoring in secondary education and Biological Sciences and Chemistry. He completed a Master of Arts in Leadership and Administration from Gonzaga University. The area of specialty in his Masters program was assessment for learning and professional learning communities. He has taught a wide range of subjects at Centennial High School in Calgary, Rolling Hills School K-9 in Rolling HIlls, and Duchess School K-12 in Duchess. He has been the principal in Rolling Hills School and Duchess School, and an AISI Learning Leader for the Calgary Board of Education.

Mr. Payne’s areas of focus as an administrator include implementing effective professional learning communities in schools and across divisions, focusing on mastery learning for students, focusing on rigorous and relevant curriculum and assessment to support teachers and designers of learning, and using data to drive interventions and increasing teacher efficacy through interventions that build success in literacy and numeracy to support diverse student learners. We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Payne as principal of Cardston Junior High School.

Mr. Salmon earned a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Science Degree through the University of Lethbridge, majoring in biological sciences. He also studied psychology at Athabasca University and completed the Advancing Adolescent Reading Initiative through the University of Alberta. He earned a Master of Education Degree specializing in Educational Leadership at the University of Calgary. He has taught a variety of subjects at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in Lethbridge, Magrath High School, Bowden-Grandview School in Bowden, River Valley School in Sundre, and Westglen School in Didsbury. He also served as the Learning Services Coordinator for Chinook’s Edge School Division, and the Vice Principal for Westglen School. 

Mr. Salmon’s areas of focus include developing and engaging highly effective school collaborative teams, guiding student-data driven conversations to focus planning and reflection, mapping teacher actions to work toward a quality learning environment, focusing on improving teacher understanding of theory of reading instruction and support for literacy in all subject areas, Ensuring supports for all students and creating an inclusive education environment.  We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Salmon as the vice principal for Raymond High School.

We value the expertise, experience, and the deep commitment that both of these administrators have displayed over their careers across the Province of Alberta. We are sure that they will advance the Division’s vision and mission of empowering the human potential of all learners. We want to thank all of the applicants to these positions. We have had a pool of very qualified candidates for all the positions that have come open through the past months. Each time it is heartening to have such a broad pool of candidates that display a firm commitment to fostering excellence in students, excellence in the teaching profession, and excellence in school communities.

Policies Submitted to Alberta Education

We have now submitted three policies to Alberta Education regarding the changes legislated by the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, formerly Bill 10. These include:

Our process has been to fully engage our stakeholders to ensure that our policies also align with community values and expectations. We are committed ensuring the rights, dignity, safety, and privacy of all our students. Through this process we held a town hall meeting for members of our public, especially parents, to come and voice their opinions. We have met in smaller groups with parents, school councils, and students to discuss an appropriate and reasoned response to these issues. The Board has been engaged throughout these past months in understanding the issues, and crafting an appropriate policy that is in the best interest of our students, schools, families, and communities. Throughout this process, we have received much support and much constructive feedback regarding the direction and content of this policy.

The School Board and Division Administration have engaged with our communities, parents, students, teachers, staff, and school administration in this important work. We feel confident that this policy reflects the values of our communities and complies with current legislation. We remain committed to ensuring that all of our students and their families feel welcome, safe, cared for, and respected throughout our Division. We will continue to work with government to ensure that all of our students are protected and well prepared for their future.

If you have any questions or comments about this or other issues for the School Board, please write to board@westwind.ab.ca

Minister Eggen's Letter to Westwind School Division

Click here to see the original

Mar 23, 2016

Mr. Ron Fromm
Board Chairman
Westwind School Division #74
Box 10
445 Main Street
Cardston, AB, T0K 0K0

Dear Mr. Fromm:

I want to thank you for speaking with me on February 25, 2016, about our work to support students by ensuring all Alberta schools are welcoming, caring, respectful, and safe. It became so clear to me that you and your fellow trustees with Westwind School Division are dedicated to supporting students. 

I also appreciate you offering me the opportunity to communicate directly with Westwind families to provide some reassurance of the direction our government has taken when it comes to developing policies to support students. 

First, let me state that our government values and respects the religious freedoms enjoyed by Albertans. We also fully support the rights of parents and the critical role they play in their children’s education. 

The Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions, developed and released by Alberta Education, came in response to requests from school boards seeking some guidance in an area that was unfamiliar to many of them. The guidelines are not legally binding and intend only to provide examples of best practices in supporting students with diverse gender identities and gender expressions.

While the guidelines are not legally binding, school authorities, such as yours, are required to comply with applicable legislation, including the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the School Act, which was recently amended as a result of the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, formerly Bill 10. The guidelines are intended to support your boards developing policies that comply with this legislation.

Students themselves have told us the legislative changes made in these areas to support LGBTQ students have the potential to save lives. The stakes are very high.

Still, I can appreciate the concerns raised by many of your parents that have emerged out of the work we have undertaken. 

By and large, we know that parents will support their children regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. In some cases, however, students may prefer to turn to their teachers to discuss these matters first. The guidelines suggest that those teachers seek the permission of the student before consulting with their parents. 

It is important to consider that some LGBTQ students may not have disclosed their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression beyond the school community for a variety of reasons, including safety. For this reason, school authorities may make decisions on a case-by-case basis about what is in the best interest of the student. 

Student safety will remain a top priority and, ultimately, we will rely heavily on our teachers and principals to accommodate all students. The Alberta Teachers’ Association has endorsed the guidelines as a valuable tool for frontline teachers. Again, it’s a tool, not a legal document.

The guidelines also address the matter of washrooms, which I know has been an important topic of discussion in your community and others. School authorities are advised to have multiple strategies in place for accommodating washroom requests from students. Safety and privacy for all students will always be top priorities. 

As you know, I have asked all school authorities to submit a policy to Alberta Education for review by March 31; however, I should note that our conversations will continue on this important file in the weeks and months ahead. 

Mr. Fromm, I am a student of history and have read a great deal on past struggles to attain human rights. This is a moment in time when we can all stand together to support our students and staff in our schools. 

I ask that both you and the families of Westwind School Division continue to discuss these important matters in a positive manner in the weeks ahead. As school authorities such as yours develop policy, I believe each will reflect the community you represent and afford students all the support they need. 

Sincerely, 

David Eggen
Minister

Cardston and Raymond High School Principal Announcements

Westwind School Division is pleased to announce that two new principals have been appointed effective the 2016-2017 school year. Mr. Austin Nunn has been appointed as the new principal at Cardston High School, and Mr. Todd Heggie has been appointed as the new principal at Raymond High School. 

Mr. Nunn grew up in Vanderhoof, British Columbia. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and a Masters of Education at Utah State University. He has taught a variety of subjects at a Youth Correction Facility and a Junior High School. He was a Vice Principal for four years at the South Cache 8th and 9th Grade Centre and has been the principal at Cardston Junior High School since 2010. 

His areas of focus as an administrator include developing and evaluating teacher growth, focusing on assessment for learning, using effective instructional strategies in the classroom, focusing on student-led activities and student centred celebrations, and implementing effective professional learning communities. We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Nunn into his new roll at Cardston High School, just as we are sad to see him leave the community he has fostered at Cardston Junior High School. 

Mr. Heggie grew up in Raymond, Alberta. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education with a Minor in Health Education from Utah State University, and completed a Masters of Science from Walden University. He has taught at Magrath Jr/Sr High School and Raymond High School. He has been a Vice Principal and Academic Counsellor at Raymond High School since 2010. 

He has served on the Policy and Literacy Committees in Westwind School Division. His areas of focus as an administrator include incorporating assessment practices in the classroom, using effective instructional strategies in the classroom, implementing effective professional learning communities, and implementing High School Redesign. We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Heggie into his new role at Raymond

Response to the Fox-Seaborn Letter

On March 18, 2016, a number of letters were delivered to local post office boxes. These letters contained opinions regarding the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, previously known as Bill 10 until it was passed in March 2015 by the Jim Prentice Progressive Conservative government

The way that the letter was formatted has led some people to believe that Mr. Sommerfeldt or Westwind School Division may have had a hand in writing or disseminating the letter. 

We would like to completely disavow any connection with this letter. 

Westwind School Division’s position on the the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, previously known as Bill 10 until it was passed in March 2015 by the Jim Prentice Progressive Conservative government, has been and will remain that the human rights, dignity, and safety of every student and every person will be ensured and protected. This is clear in all of our publications and statements on this topic. 

If you have questions or comments regarding the letter, we would encourage you to direct those to Mr. Rene Seaborn, Mrs. Barbara Fox, and Mr. Lloyd Fox respectively. Westwind School Division is not connected in any way with this letter and is not able to provide public comment on it except to completely disavow any connection to, or support for, this communication. 

The Board wants to keep the dialogue and conversation in our communities as positive as possible to help keep our schools a welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful environment for all people. The emotional nature of the discussions surrounding these issues over the past months has created a tense atmosphere for people. We have heard from individuals who feel less welcome at school, less accepted at school, and less comfortable with their self-identity because of these emotional responses. We would ask that everyone make an effort to express acceptance and appreciation for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religious creed, race, culture, physical or mental disability. We are all part of creating a charitable and accepting community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed; empowering the human potential of ALL.

We can promise that the Westwind School Board is committed to ensuring that all our students are welcomed, safe, cared for, and respected in every way, including respect for human rights such as religious beliefs, gender identity, and all other human rights. We hope that all our students, parents, and community members will share and pursue that lofty goal. We hope that the citizens of Alberta and Canada will continue to engage effectively in the political and democratic process to ensure that the government passes laws that consistently reflect the country’s values and that are in the best interest of its citizens.

FAQ on LGBTQ Issues

At the February 22 meeting a number of questions were asked and issues were raised. We have taken to time to go through those, research the issues more closely, and craft responses. Please take a close look at this FAQ as we feel that it will address many of the misconceptions and concerns in our communities. If you have any questions about this document or these issues, please write those to board@westwind.ab.ca.

Student Safety and School Procedures Issues

How will schools prevent visiting adults from using student washrooms?

Each school will be designating a washroom as a public washroom. During the school day, visiting adults, including parents, coaches, and people attending public events, will be required to use the public washrooms. 

Will there be clarification on the rule that all students are to use the washroom and change room that corresponds with their biological gender, or they can use the universal washroom and change room?

This is an issue that will be addressed in school procedures. Principals and School Council’s will be encouraged (but not required) to adopt a procedure similar to the draft ones below, but adapted to best suit their students, school, and community. We anticipate that principals and school councils will implement a procedure of this type in order to clarify the rules and behavioural expectations in regards to these issues and to ensure the safety, privacy, dignity, and rights of every student.

Gender segregated washrooms have been provided for all students to use in our school. If a student is uncomfortable using the washroom that corresponds with their biological gender, for any reason, a universal washroom is available for their voluntary use. The universal washroom is located at [insert location]. It is a private washroom that any student may use. (Possible School Procedures, Student Washroom Use, February 22, 2016)

Will schools be redoing their washroom and change room facilities? Where will the funding for those projects come from?

In the short term, we will be redesignating one or two washrooms in each school as a universal student washroom and a private public washroom. Schools may choose and apply to redo some of their washroom and change room facilities to address issues such as increased privacy, single occupant spaces, etc., as time and resources allow. We do not expect that there will be funds coming from the province that are designated specifically for these types of projects. The School Division will work in consultation with schools to determine which projects will be pursued when, and to what extent.

Who is the correct body to address the issue of gender self-identification in physical impact sports? How can comments be sent to that group? 

The Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) is the body that governs issues like gender self-identification in sports participation for high school students. Junior high school athletics in Westwind will also be defaulting to the ASAA policies. The ASAA is in the process of determining their stance and policies on these issues. If you would like to submit your thoughts and comments on this or other related issues, you can write to them at info@asaa.ca.

What are the procedures for rooming accommodations on school trips? 

The procedures for rooming with on school trips will be determined on a case by case basis. The preference is to have all students subject to the same kind of rules, but as issues arise the Division will work with Principals, teachers, parents, and students to arrive at an acceptable accommodation that will ensure the safety, privacy, dignity, and rights of every student are respected. 

Parental Rights and Involvement Issues

Why does your document acknowledge parents only as partners in educating their children, not as the primary educators? 

Our communications have consistently identified parents as partners in educating their children, just as teachers, administrators, coaches, and the educational system as a whole are partners in educating their children. There was no intent to relegate parents to a secondary role or responsibility in this regard. We want to emphasize that we recognize that parents have the responsibility to be the primary educator and caregiver of their children. We encourage parents to exercise and fulfill those responsibilities and to keep school staff informed of essential issues facing their children so that we can know how best help them succeed in school.

How can parents be involved in finding solutions for these issues that work for their schools? What will the role of the School Council be in shaping school procedures around these issues? 

All schools need to set procedures that will address the issues of washroom and change room usage and other issues. These need to be crafted to best suit the students, school, and community. Parents should play a vital role in this process with the School Council. The School Division will work with the principals to develop draft procedures that can be shaped by school councils and principals in consultation with their parents and community members. Please be involved with your school council, that is how you can have your voice heard as these procedures are drafted and implemented. You can find out when your school council meetings are scheduled for by calling your school. 

Will Westwind schools be holding combined Human Sexuality or Sexual Education classes? If yes, how will that affect students’ learning and participation in those classes?

The current practice of holding gender segregated classes on the topic of human sexuality, also known as Theme V, will not change as there is no pressing need to consider any changes.  

What changes will be made to the Division’s policy and practice surrounding parental opt-out for Human Sexuality or Theme V in the curriculum?

The current policy, 442.0 - Theme V Human Sexuality, which states that parents will be informed and can opt out of having their students participate in the Human Sexuality curriculum, will not change. The Minister of Education himself has indicated in correspondence to parents writing him on these issues and in personal conversation with Board Chair Ron Fromm that this will not change at the provincial level.

Division Direction Issues

Where are the Division and School policies and procedures at? What are the changes to Policy to conform with the legislation?

The School Division has redrafted their Safe and Caring Schools Policy to reflect the changes to the Human Rights Act and the School Act. The new policy is now called the Welcoming, Safe, Caring, and Respectful Schools Policy. The changes to the policy include a recognition of the rights granted to all Albertans in the amended Human Rights Act, including sexual orientation, religion, sexual identity, and sexual expression. The School Board has been very attentive to the feedback from the public that they have received at board@westwind.ab.ca and at the public meeting held on February 22, 2016. You can see the updated draft of the policy here

How will policy and procedure be enforced?

Schools are expected to set and enforce rules and procedures on these and many other issues. We encourage principals to be circumspect and inclusive in their drafting of rules and procedures. As they communicate these rules, procedures, and expectations clearly in their schools, we expect to see them uniformly and consistently applied and enforced to ensure that all students’ safety, privacy, dignity, and rights are equally guaranteed. The Division will support Principals in these measures. 

Why are the Division’s Policy and Procedures so vague?

School Division policies must be global in nature. They are designed to include issues that we currently face, and be broad enough that they can cover a multitude of unforeseen issues that may arise. For this reason, Division policies and procedures provide general guidance that enables people to act reasonably. School Procedures are generally more specific since school facilities, programs, the age of students, and situations are varied. In reviewing the draft policy with legal counsel, the Board was encouraged to hear that the policy has been well crafted up to this point and that it is legally sound. We will be working with Principals and School Councils to craft rules and procedures that address these issues more specifically and in the way that best suits each school’s students and community. If you would like to be part of this process, please participate in and engage with your School Council. 

Why is the Division not taking a public stance supporting the Catholic Schools’ and Fort Vermillion’s hard stance against the Ministry’s Guidelines for Best Practice?

The School Board has been closely watching the actions and reactions of other school divisions to the Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect Our Children, previously known as Bill 10, and the Guidelines for Best Practice. As we have observed the actions of other divisions, and as we have considered how we have dealt with the issues raised by the amended legislation, we see no large incompatibility between our current practice and what the legislation requires. Recommendations of the “Guidelines for Best Practice Document”  are beyond what the Board felt comfortable drafting into policy and have therefore not been included in Westwind policy.   Since the Guidelines have been declared not legally binding by the Minister, the Board has chosen to simply not include any part of the Guidelines in their policy. The Board is committed to ensuring that our schools remain a safe place for all students, including those who are LGBTQ or who are friends, family, or allies of LGBTQ persons. 

Parents and community members have called on the Westwind School Board to speak out and defy the Ministry of Education and the Government of Alberta. The School Board has reviewed and carefully considered these requests. The Board has decided that political advocacy on these issues is better left in the hands of individual citizens and in public advocacy groups, which can be formed by anyone. 

There are a number of steps that can be taken including seeking a judgment by the Human Rights Tribunal and petitioning the Provincial Government. We would be happy to provide what information and statistics we have and are appropriate to share publicly, but the Board feels that these efforts are better undertaken as private ventures and that they will be most effective as such. 

The Board wants to keep the dialogue and conversation in our school communities as positive as possible to help keep our schools a welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful environment for all people. The emotional nature of the discussions surrounding these issues over the past months has created a tense atmosphere for these people. We have heard from individuals who feel less welcome at school, less accepted at school, and less comfortable with their self-identity because of these emotional responses. We would ask that everyone make an effort to express acceptance and appreciation for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religious creed, race, culture, physical or mental disability. We are all part of creating a charitable and accepting community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed; empowering the human potential of all.

Why are school counselors not explaining sexual orientation change options to students?

There are a number of blog posts circulating which purport to demonstrate the success of different therapies and treatment options in addressing transgender feelings or issues. All professional counseling and therapy organizations consider treatments that seek to alter the sexuality of clients to be unethical. For this reason, school counselors and private counselors and therapists alike do not recommend, direct, carry out or facilitate entry into therapy programs that seek to alter client sexuality. If they do, they are in violation of the ethical standards of the counseling and therapy professional organizations (American Psychological Association, Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, page 86)

Are we ‘letting the camel’s nose in the tent?’

One common concern that we have heard from many parents, community members, and news sources, is that Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practice are first steps of a larger nefarious agenda that seeks to promote a particular sexual philosophy and to undermine family values. Since there is no document published by the Alberta Government that outlines such a deliberate agenda, we can’t comment on that. 

We can promise that the Westwind School Board is committed to ensuring that all our students are welcomed, safe, cared for, and respected in every way, including respect for human rights such as religious beliefs, gender identity, and all other human rights. We hope that all our students, parents, and community members will share and pursue that lofty goal. We hope that the citizens of Alberta and Canada will continue to engage effectively in the political and democratic process to ensure that the government passes laws that consistently reflect the country’s values and that are in the best interest of its citizens. 

Why was the meeting not designed as a Q&A session?

This meeting was designed with three main portions. Education, Feedback, and Response. We wanted to ensure that we gave attendees reliable background information on these issues, that we heard important comments and feedback from the public, and that we had an opportunity to answer and respond to the feedback and questions that were posed to the Board by the attendees. This was a difficult task, and we felt that it would be best accomplished by delineating a clear separation between Education, Feedback, and Response. We also wanted to ensure that the meeting would be an engaging and respectful experience for everyone in attendance; from administrators and Board Members to speakers and observers. We feel that the meeting largely accomplished those goals, and we will fine tune our approach to meeting management in future engagement processes.

Leadership for ALL Students

When it comes to Leadership from the Westwind School Division on behalf of ALL students, parents and community members, there is much we do that may not reach the front page of the paper or get the most play on Facebook and other social media, but which has a great impact.

In his role as Chair of the Westwind School School Boar, Mr. Ron Fromm had a personal telephone conversation with Minister Eggen on Thursday, February 25. This call was to discuss the concerns of our community about the rights of ALL students as the Board develops policy in the area of welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful school environments.

The Minister commended Mr. Fromm for the leadership he and the Westwind Board have provided in this area. Minister Eggen acknowledged the strong feelings of some members of the Westwind community who are lobbying to have recent changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act and the School Act reversed.

Mr. Fromm was very forthright in letting the Minister know that the Guidelines for Best Practice have not been helpful. He informed the Minister that they have created considerable confusion and consternation in the minds of some parents. Mr. Fromm also indicated that there were two areas of greatest concern. One was the issue of parental rights, especially wanting full disclosure from teachers to parents about their children while at school. The other was the issue of guaranteeing the rights of those who feel unsafe, uncared for, unwelcome and disrespected if placed in circumstances where they are expected to share segregated washrooms or change rooms with biologically dissimilar gendered individuals. Mr. Fromm emphasized the point that this is about ensuring that the rights of ALL people are respected and fairly addressed. It has to be a situation where ALL the rights listed in the Alberta Human Rights Act have equal status and some are not privileged over others.

In response, Minister Eggen assured Mr. Fromm that he never had any intention of seeing any rights marginalized. He reiterated that the Guidelines for Best Practice were intended to be a resource for boards, but if they are not helping then don't use them in your policies. Minister Eggen also indicated that if anyone thinks that their religious rights or parental rights are being diminished that they should be reassured that that is not the case. That was never intended. Minister Eggen said that the Westwind Board has his support in addressing these concerns.

Both the Minister and Board Chair Ron Fromm acknowledged that the directions taken in the Human Rights Act and the School Act were intended to help students. They were intended to address and eliminate the very real causes of suicide attempts and sense of alienation that transgendered students feel in our schools. They were intended to give these students a chance to feel secure and have a sense of belonging that they currently do not have. Mr. Fromm again asserted the commitment to provide leadership that benefits ALL students. He explained that the Westwind policy will provide a framework and direction for the Division that seeks to achieve a culture where everyone, not only feels they belong but that ALL are in very deed welcomed, cared for, safe and respected.

Minister Eggen also indicated that he felt it was unfortunate that some communities were really putting pressure on Boards to simply dismiss the legal and moral obligation to create policies that include all children. He told Mr. Fromm that he felt the Westwind Board was providing excellent leadership. He indicated he would provide a letter to hopefully provide greater clarity and assurance to the Westwind Board and community.

You can see the latest draft of Policy #310.0 Welcoming, Safe, Caring, and Respectful Schools at this link. This draft was reviewed and approved by the Board at their March Board meeting. 

Bill 10 Policy Survey

Thank you to everyone who attended last nights' meeting about the Bill 10 Policy. We were thrilled with the turnout and very happy with the level of participation and engagement at the meeting. We were also very pleased to see that many people took advantage of the opportunity to watch the meeting live last night. If you would like to watch the meeting, you can see it at this link

There were about 300 people in attendance at the meeting, and about another 200 who watched the event live on YouTube. We had about 20 people stand and address the Board with comments, questions, concerns, and suggestions. While we tried to collect and respond to those at the end of the meeting, we will be providing more detailed responses in the days and weeks to come. We want to thank those who spoke with us afterwards and expressed their appreciation and support. The Board and Administration have been working hard on this draft of the Policy and will now work hard on amending the policy at the next Board meeting to reflect some of the feedback we received at this meeting.

We have put out an exit survey that we would appreciate everyone to fill out about the policy and about the issues leading up to and surrounding this dialogue. You can find the survey at this link. The survey will close on Friday, February 26, at noon, so that the results can be compiled and presented to the Board at their March Board Meeting. The results of the survey will also help to inform the Board's policy process. 

The survey is now closed.

LGBTQ Policy Public Meeting

Westwind School Division will be holding a public meeting on February 22 at 7:00 PM. The meeting will be held in the Magrath Junior Senior High School’s Tom Karren Gym. The Board wants to hear the questions, concerns, and comments of parents and community members about the Division’s draft Policy 310.0 - Welcoming, Safe, Caring, and Respectful Schools Policy, which addresses Bill 10 and the recently released Policy Guidelines. You can also watch our LGBTQ Policy Issues video series, which may answer some questions. 

We encourage everyone who is interested in these issues to attend and participate. For those who are not able to be there in person, we will be live streaming the meeting on our Youtube channel.

The purpose of this meeting is to listen to the public’s thoughts and suggestions regarding the Board’s draft of their Welcoming, Safe, Caring, and Respectful Schools Policy 310.0. We want to make sure that this meeting is productive, respectful, and efficient. The meeting will be in the following format to meet these goals. The meeting will be in two parts: Public Comments and Division Summary and Response.

The public comment section will allow the most people to present their comments, concerns, and views to the Board. There will be a two minute time limit per speaker to encourage many people to speak. There will be a moderator to ensure that everyone respects the two minute time limit. The Board will only listen during this time.

There will be a tool for people to text comments and feedback to a screen. This will be there for those who support a comment or who are not comfortable with public speaking. We will also be handing out surveys that people may fill out at the meeting. 

After the public comments, the Division will summarize the public feedback. Then they will address some of the biggest points.

The Board and the Policy Committee will use the feedback given by the public at this meeting. It will inform the next steps in the policy development process. We hope welcome everyone to the meeting and to participate in this engagement process.

If you have comments or concerns for the Board on this or other issues, you can email those to board@westwind.ab.ca. 

LGBTQ Policy Videos

This is a short series of videos intended to help explain the Westwind School Board's position regarding the required policy on LGBTQ issues. We know there are a lot of concerns and questions on this topic. We hope that these video can help answer some of those questions and concerns. We also hope that these videos help encourage informed and productive conversations about these issues.

 
 

Westwind will be hosting a Public Meeting on these issues on February 22 at 7:00 PM at the Magrath High School's Tom Karren Gym.

To see Westwind's draft policy that addresses these issues, go here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5dffv7WFCJPa1RnSm1FUkZTbDQ/view?usp=sharing

Draft Bill 10 Policy Release

The Board has revised their Safe and Caring Schools Policy to comply with the specifications of Bill 10. Some of the changes to the draft policy include:

  • An enhanced focus on ensuring the rights, dignity, and safety of all students.
  • Providing support for all minority groups, including the formation of clubs.
  • An enhanced awareness of the need for confidentiality among teachers and counsellors.

We realize that there are many questions and concerns that parents and community members have around these issues. We will be releasing a set of videos about specific areas of concern in the next weeks. If you would like to submit your concerns or questions to the Board, you can write to Board@westwind.ab.ca

If you have comments that would be better suited for the Minister of Education, you can send those to:

Phone: 780-427-5010

Mail: 228 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB, T5K 2B6

Email: edmonton.calder@assembly.ab.ca

School Calendar and Bill 10 Policies Progress

On Monday, January 25, the Westwind Board of Trustees held a meeting with Principals, School Council Members, to review the latest draft of the 2016-2017 School Calendar prepared by the School Board. This was done in keeping with the Board’s promise to follow through on the consultation process outlined before Christmas.

Another major topic of discussion was Bill 10 and the policy guidelines released last week by the Minister of Education,  entitled, Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions. We would like to take this opportunity to give an update on our progress on both these areas, as well as the next steps we will be taking. 

Calendar

Background

At the January Board Meeting, the Board reviewed the survey responses from Staff and from the public about the proposed calendar. The responses and comments were valuable information to the Board. They took them into account and revised the draft calendar significantly as a result. 

This revised draft was then presented to Principals for their feedback and response the next week. Principals offered their suggestions to further improve the calendar.

The Board reviewed the feedback from Principals and the survey data at their Board Planning Meeting in January. They discussed many possibilities for the calendar over two days. At the end of the planning session, the Board had a crafted a calendar which reflected the feedback they received. 

Special School Council Meeting

The Board called a special meeting on January 25 with Principals and School Council members. The latest draft of the 2016-2017 School Calendar was presented there. This meeting showed that there was general support for the draft calendar from both administrators and school council members. 

You can see the latest draft of the calendar here.

The current draft of the calendar includes features like:

  • Dismissal for all students on Fridays will be at noon.   

  • Teachers will be expected to invest two hours per week outside the student timetable but embedded in the teacher work week to increase their skills and understandings of best practice.  This time will be under the direction of the principal in each school to determine with staff those matters to be addressed.  These may include literacy, numeracy, assessment, curriculum implementation, professional reading, self-directed professional development, understanding and implementing policy, student focused discussions about learning and intervention and etc.

    • This increases the number of times that students get to be with their teachers and keeps family schedules more consistent. 

    • It decreases the number of full-day professional development activities throughout the year.

    • This also gives principals more time to work with teachers on issues that affect their students. This includes things like literacy, numeracy, assessment, and many other issues.

  • Elementary School Students start after Labour Day.

    • This provides two more days of preparation and development for elementary principals and teachers.

Next Steps

The Board will review the draft calendar again at their next Board Meeting. They will discuss any other feedback they have received about the calendar at that meeting. They will then pass the Calendar at the Board Meeting in March. If you still have concerns, questions, or comments about the Calendar, you can send those to the Board at board@westwind.ab.ca. 

Bill 10 and LGBTQ Policies

Background

There has been widespread concern about the Ministerial directive that all School Divisions develop a policy about Bill 10 and the recently released Guidelines for Best Practices. There has also been concern that the Board will not be able to ensure the safety of students under the guidelines. The Board would like to reassure all parents that they will ensure the care and safety of every student in our schools.

Special Divisional School Council Meeting

Because of this public concern, we felt that it was appropriate to spend time in the Special Divisional School Council Meeting on this topic. While the Board is concerned about the potential impact of some of the Guidelines, they are absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of all students. We reviewed how Westwind would consider the Guidelines in their policy development process and listened carefully to the thoughts, questions, and feelings of everyone involved. 

We reviewed some concerns of parents. These included:

‘Boys or men will be able to walk into girls washrooms or change-rooms at will with impunity. Girls or women will be able to walk into boys washrooms or change-rooms at will with impunity.’

The purpose of Guideline #7: Providing safe access to washroom and change-room facilities, does not appear to be to make all washroom and change-room facilities available to anyone at any moment. It seems to focus on having clear policies and procedures in place for providing accommodations to gender diverse persons on an as needed basis. Westwind has always tried to come to workable accommodations in these situations in the past. The Board will not be allowing just anyone access to any washroom or change-room in their policy.

We remain committed to ensuring our schools are safe and welcoming places for all students. If individuals feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome in a particular washroom or change-room for any reason, we feel confident that we can accommodate them in a more private area that is suitable for any person of any gender; a non-gendered washroom or change room.

The Board will investigate pursuing some of the best practices from the guidelines as future renovation projects arise. These include increasing the privacy of all change-room facilities, creating more private washroom facilities, and clearly designating washrooms for the public and for students. 

‘Providing non-gendered washrooms and change rooms will be expensive and impossible to achieve by the implementation date set by Minister Eggen.’

In our preliminary discussions, the Board and Administration have developed ways to accommodate non-gendered washroom and change-room options for the time being with no additional construction or renovation needed. As renovation projects arise, we will look at providing more privacy-enhanced options for all students. 

A misunderstanding has been spreading in some areas of the Division that we will be removing the gender signs on washroom doors within the week. That is simply not true. No such changes are pending. Other changes, such as redesignating staff washrooms as non-gendered washrooms, may be implemented in March if the Board decides to pursue that route. All such changes will be clearly communicated by the Division to our schools and to the public. There won’t be a sudden or surprise change. We will clearly communicate any changes to these policies and procedures to everyone. 

‘Parents can’t be called mothers and fathers anymore.’

The Board and all staff in Westwind understand the importance of providing accommodations for individuals who would prefer different forms of address. This is in keeping with the common practice of teachers and administrators in Westwind and across the province for decades. 

In general communications, Westwind and many other Divisions, have used language like “Dear parent/guardian” for decades. We will simply be asking our schools to ensure that all communications going out to parents, guardians, and families have this type of general language.

In individual communications with students and parents, we will be instructing staff to ask for clarification on preferred forms of address. This does not mean that staff can no longer refer to a particular student’s parents as their ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or as ‘Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so’. It means that the staff member will ask the family for guidance first. Many of our parents and teachers have been sensitive to these types of issues for years and will continue to do their best. 

‘Parents can’t be informed of their child’s gender identity.’

We understand that many people are concerned that the Guidelines prohibit staff from ever disclosing a student’s self-identification as LGBTQ to parents. However, the guidelines, simply appear to reinforce that staff should work with students to find the best way to inform parents in most cases. The guidelines also reinforce the common sense principle that divulging sensitive information about students could have significant negative impact on their home life. These are principles that teachers, counsellors, and youth workers across Canada are aware of and have to negotiate regularly. These principles aren’t new. They are simply being standardized in relation to sexual self-identification and related issues in a school setting. 

We realize that many parents view this confidentiality as a move by the government to remove the parent’s rights, responsibilities, and voice from the educational sphere. Westwind will always respect and call on parents to have a voice and a roll in the education of their children. 

Next Steps

We were able to have a good dialogue with those present about these issues. We realize that there are many people who continue to harbor concerns about how these and other issues will impact them, their families, and their communities. We want to assure everyone that we are trying to understand and deal with these concerns. We value and encourage the emails, phone calls, and messages that we have received so far. If you would like to send your thoughts to the Board for their consideration as they formulate policy, please send your thoughts to board@westwind.ab.ca.

We have been in direct communication with the Ministry of Education about these issues. We will forward them a summary of the communications we have received from the public, but we would encourage you to send your correspondence to them directly. If you would like to contact representatives from the Ministry of Education to have your voice heard there, the Minister can be contacted at:

Your opinion and your voice matters. 

The process we will be following for our policy formulation is as follows. We will have a Board Meeting next Tuesday at which we will review the correspondence we have received so far on this issue. The Board will then review the policies we have been working on to deal with our legislated responsibilities. After that Board Meeting, we will review the policies with principals, and with the Policy Committee once more before submitting them to the Minister for review. It is a tight deadline, but we are confident that we can craft policy that protects the rights, dignity, and safety of all students.

Westwind LGBTQ Policy Development

Westwind School Division is currently developing a policy about LGBTQ issues and bullying. The focus of this policy is to ensure that our schools are excellent, safe, and caring learning environments for everyone. Westwind has had an excellent Safe and Caring Schools policy for many years. We are committed to serving the best interests of every student in all our schools. 

The Provincial Government has recently made changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Alberta School Act. Westwind is working hard to develop a policy that addresses our updated legislated responsibilities. We will ensure that the new policy respects the basis of human dignity of all people. 

There is strong concern about these issues across the province. We want to assure our students, staff, parents, and community members that we are aware of these concerns. We will create a policy that meets the new legislated requirements and responsibly addresses the needs of all students. 

Historically, when an identifiable group receives specific legal rights or protections, other people become concerned. They question what rights they may have lost, if their rights have been infringed upon, and what impact the changes may have on their lives. Each one of us is responsible for our beliefs and behaviours relating to the laws of the land, whether we agree or disagree with them. We want to encourage everyone to engage in respectful dialogue that seeks understanding and to maintain the human rights of all students and citizens.

Westwind Trustees and Administration are very attuned to these principles. We are committed to assessing, planning for, creating, and sustaining exceptional learning environments for all students. 

Please use the following information to support your understanding and discussions

Westwind Document

External Resources

News Articles

Allison Groenenboom, Edwin Parr Nominee

 A photo of Westwind's 2015 Edwin Parr Nominee, Allison Groenenboom, reading a book to her students. 

A photo of Westwind's 2015 Edwin Parr Nominee, Allison Groenenboom, reading a book to her students. 

IN OUR SCHOOLS – When colleagues describe Allison Groenenboom they talk about how natural teaching seems to come to her. On the other hand, they also speak about the extra mile she goes to meet her students’ varying needs.

That combination of instinct and a healthy work ethic seems to have paid off as the Grade 3 teacher at Raymond Elementary School has earned Westwind School Division’s nomination for the Edwin Parr Award.

The award goes each year to the top first-year teacher. Each school division forwards its nominee and the Zone 6 winner will be announced this week at an Alberta School Boards Association banquet in Taber. A video highlighting Groenenboom's noteworthy rookie year will be posted on our Division website May 14.

Groenenboom admits she was surprised and a little nervous to learn she was first the school’s nominee and then Westwind School Division’s choice for the award, which was named in the memory of the longtime trustee from the Athabasca area.

"They said ‘don’t worry about it, we have a lot of faith in you,” she says of the supportive staff at RES. “I was blown away and really honored.”

Heather Bisschop, Groenenboom’s mentor teacher at RES, says she and fellow staff members often comment how the recent University of Lethbridge graduate seems to have a natural rapport with students and parents.

She notes, however, how hard Groenenboom works to try and meet the varied needs of every one of her students. That includes seeking the advice of her more veteran counterparts.

“That’s what makes you a better teacher – using the experience and advice of other teachers to become the best teacher you can,” says Bisschop. “Working together we can meet the needs of our students much better than we ever could on our own.”

Her principal at Raymond Elementary School, Marlin Hogg, says it was evident early on that Groenenboom had a passion for teaching and the drive necessary.

“In her (job) interview she came in, she was confident and well prepared,” he says of the graduate of Nobleford School. “She just kind of had it all together. As she came in the next time after her hiring, she continued with the same kind of, ‘I am here and I am ready. Bring it on!’ ”

Hogg says students at Raymond Elementary School benefit from a great team of teachers and support staff. A great team, he points out, is made up of great individuals and Groenenboom certainly shows she’s not out of place in that regard

2015 Excellence in Teaching Semi-Finalist - Austin Nunn

 2015 Excellence in Teaching Semi-Finalist, Principal Austin Nunn, holding moccasins presented at an event at Cardston Junior High School with a member of the Blood Tribe.

2015 Excellence in Teaching Semi-Finalist, Principal Austin Nunn, holding moccasins presented at an event at Cardston Junior High School with a member of the Blood Tribe.

The individual recognition is “humbling,” but Austin Nunn says being honored as one of the top 30 educators in Alberta is more an endorsement of all those who support his goals.

The principal of Cardston Junior High School was recently named a semi-finalist for the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award.

“I guess what it means to me is that our school is doing good things and our teaching staff has worked hard to accomplish lots of good things,” says Nunn, adding the accolades also reflect the work being done across the Westwind School Division. “I’ve had awesome mentorship from other administrators in the Division and other principals that I look up to and I’ll even steal ideas from and incorporate them in our school.”

He’s made a name for himself, but it’s CJHS that Nunn wants to put on the map. When he was hired as principal in 2010 he set a goal – to make the school “world famous.” That lofty objective was inspired by the ‘FISH! Philosophy’ born out of the incredible energy and commitment to service shown by the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

“I want Cardston Junior High School to stand out on a map as a school that is innovative, creative and unique, where we educate every child that comes through the door and help them reach their maximum potential,” he says.

Alberta Education received nominations for almost 300 worthy candidates this year from parents, school jurisdictions and staff.  Thirty semi-finalists were then named, with 20 eventual award winners recognized at a special banquet.

Among the criteria for the award is fostering the development of students, involving parents in student learning and working collaboratively with colleagues.

Lisa Comin has had many opportunities to see Nunn interact with teachers, parents and students as the chair of the CJHS School Council.

“In every interaction, it is clear to me that his first priority is to ensure the intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth and well-being of his students,” she wrote in nominating Nunn for the award. “It is during this time that Austin has served as principal of Cardston Junior High School, the school has become a place where students want to be, teachers love their job, and parents feel both welcome and informed.”

The source of Nunn’s nomination is not lost on him. Parental support – which comes from being informed as well as interested – is a must in his books.

“They are the voice of the community, and the voice of the students and they really should help drive education,” he says.

A supportive family also helps. The school environment is a family affair for Nunn, wife Kaylynn and their four daughters, who range from elementary to high school age.

“They’re awesome. Our most cultural events together are school plays and band concerts,” he says, pointing out his wife is a member of the CJHS School Council.

“She gives me lots of input on school. Not ‘hey, you’re doing a good job,’ but ‘you might want to look at this – this might be a concern.’ ”

Westwind School Superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt says when Comin approached him about nominating her principal for the award he was totally supportive and delighted.

“I recall the day we decide to hire Austin. He made a very favorable impression on the Board and administration, and he has lived up to those impressions from day one,” he says. “He has a natural blend of vision and capacity to inspire that makes him a truly outstanding educator.” 

Staff also praised Nunn in the nomination package, noting how he inspires students and shows true educational leadership by trying innovative and new techniques to improve the school’s learning and teaching.

“In all my years of being in education, if I was to put together an all-star team of educators, Austin would be a top pick and I would be hard pressed to find anymore more deserving of being the team captain,” they wrote.

Nunn would like to describe himself a ‘servant leader’ for his staff, a philosophy outlined in James Hunter’s ‘The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership.’

“Some people might think that just means you serve others, but you still have to step out and lead ahead and show love,” he explains. “In the professional world that means really stepping out of your way and making somebody else’s job easier and giving them the tools they need to be successful and then let them run with it.”

For Nunn leadership also extends to his students. He doesn’t want to be the principal students only see when they’re in trouble. He relishes opportunity for positive interactions like shaving his head for a Christmas fundraiser or kissing a goat for another. More importantly, it means encouraging trusting relationships with his students.

“I want to greet them with a smile. I don’t know what their life has been like outside of school – when they go home at night – so I want this to be a happy, healthy, safe place for them to be and I need to be included in that,” says Nunn.

A number of his students get to see him in another light, as Nunn teaches junior roping classes and is involved with high school rodeo and a winter rodeo series.

“His background in rodeo allowed him to reach out to many First Nations students and it was clear that the foundation of trust and genuine concern for each student steadily grew,” wrote Sommerfeldt, in the nomination package.

As for his lofty goal for Cardston Junior High School, Nunn believes they’ve made some significant strides in student learning but knows it’s a life-long quest.

“I think the school was well on its way there before I arrived. I’ve just tried to take the horse by the reins and go on with the ride,” he says.