Back to News

Under the Northern Lights - January 23, 2023

Good News Items

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated the Ecole Plamondon School boys and girls senior volleyball teams on receiving the 1A Provincial Sportsmanship banners. She thanked both teams for representing the division well at provincials.

  • Trustee Mandi Skogen complimented Nelson Heights School students and staff on an entertaining Christmas concert that was rescheduled until the New Year due to weather. She noted that the delay did not impact the high quality of the performance.

  • Trustee Lois Phillips congratulated Vera M. Welsh Elementary School on a successful Grade 2/3 concert last week and said she was impressed by the way the school ensured all students were included in the event. She also complimented Aurora Middle School on an "incredible" Christmas concert.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards highlighted the H.E. Bourgoin School Christmas concert which included band performances. She noted that it is not easy to prepare for a concert with students who are new to playing instruments and commended them on their performance.

  • Trustee Garry Kissel complimented Glendon School on a well done and well attended Christmas concert. He noted that many schools had to change their plans at the last minute due to the extremely cold weather the region experienced in the last week before Christmas break and commended schools on their flexibility.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated the following teachers on being nominated by parents and guardians for special recognition on World Teachers' Day:
    • Leanne Jordison - Duclos School
    • Arin Peoples-Jasman - Vera M. Welsh Elementary School
    • Arthi Sarda - Vera M. Welsh Elementary School
    • Krista McMillan - Cold Lake Elementary School
    • Jamie Wilkinson - Cold Lake Elementary School
    • Veronica Montgomery - Nelson Heights School
    • Jennifer Cardinal - Art Smith Aviation Academy
    • Shelley Schapansky - Art Smith Aviation Academy

  • Board Chair Karen Packard also congratulated the following students on winning the division's Kindergarten and Preschool Colouring Contests:
    • Rosalyn Martindale - Iron River School (Preschool)
    • Axton Watchmaker - Duclos School (Preschool)
    • Abaigeal McGrath - Cold Lake Elementary School (Preschool)
    • Anika Kunec - Iron River School (Kindergarten)

  • Board Chair Karen Packard also thanked all of the Bonnyville area school council members who attended the Board's regional school council meeting in January. Trustees were appreciative of the conversations that took place and the information that was shared about what is happening in the area's schools. The Board will meet with Cold Lake and Lac La Biche area school councils in February. 

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented Parent Involvement highlights from the division's schools. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - Parent Involvement - January 23, 2023

Annual Education Results Report

The Board approved the division's Annual Education Results Report (AERR), which it is required to submit to Alberta Education. Normally the report is submitted in November, but due to delays in receiving data from Alberta Education, which is required to complete the report, the submission deadline was rescheduled to Jan. 31. 

Superintendent Rick Cusson commended staff, students, and parents and guardians for working together through a difficult year to provide students with the best learning opportunities possible. He noted the division experienced higher rates of absenteeism and illness amongst students and staff and there were multiple interruptions to instruction. Parent engagement was impacted due to schools being mostly closed to parents and the community and there was a loss of connectedness as a result. This was reflected in the division's Assurance Measures survey results, which saw a decline in satisfaction with parent involvement and education quality.

Despite the challenges of the 2021-2022 school year, Cusson reported that the division was able to make some progress in implementing its strategies to improve students' numeracy skills and understanding. The division hosted a Numeracy Academy for teachers and administrators. Participants completed university-level courses as part of the academy, and around half continued on to a Masters program afterwards. Associate Superintendent Terry Moghrabi noted that the division has been focused on building capacity with administrators and teachers. Administrators are taking part in professional development that focuses on instructional leadership and are sharing that with teachers for implementation in classrooms. He noted that there has already been a tangible difference being made in some schools, but that progress was impacted by COVID. 

Cusson noted that in 2019-2020 the division had planned to implement numeracy assessments in elementary schools to establish a baseline and then measure improvement over time. Currently, there are no standardized assessments done until the Grade 6 Provincial Achievement Tests and earlier assessments are need to assess and positively impact numeracy instruction at the elementary level. Due to COVID, implementation of those assessments was delayed. Moghrabi shared that In 2021-2022 students in grades 1 to 3 throughout the division participated in the CAT numeracy assessment, which provided the division with valuable baseline data, and teachers with data needed to identify areas to focus on. This year, the division's learning consultants are focusing on numeracy with teachers in grades 1 to 4. He noted that now that the division has a benchmark, the expectation is that students will be moving closer to grade level equivalency.

Cusson also commended staff on the implementation of several other strategies that will positively impact students moving forward. This included staff taking part in a Conversational Cree course in partnership with Portage College, introduction of an Indigenous Student Voice initiative, and time invested in applying for student supports through Jordan's Principle. 

Unfortunately, COVID impacted the implementation of Provincial Achievement Tests and Provincial Diploma Exams, resulting in incomplete data for 2021-2022 and making it difficult to compare to previous years, look for trends, and assess growth over time. Cusson noted with those assessments returning going forward in 2022-2023, the division is looking forward to having more reliable data to examine next year. 

The complete 2021-2022 Annual Education Results Report will be posted on the division's website and shared with all stakeholders once it has been shared with Alberta Education. 



Matt Richter, provided the Board with the annual Transportation report. 

Alberta Education provided an increase in funding of 4.6% this year. The division currently receives funding to transport 2,763 rural students and 1,231 urban students on 89 bus routes split between 20 different bus contractors. An additional 359 students are unfunded as they live less than 2.4 kilometres from their designated schools. Fees are charged for most students who are not funded provincially, but those fees do not cover the full cost of providing the service. The longest ride time is on on route that is over 1 hour and 45 minutes in length from first pick up to first school drop off.

The division and its contractors complete a total 16,000 bus runs per year. In 2021-2022, there were 887 times a bus route was not operational due to driver shortages and 53 times a route was shut down due to mechanical issues. In addition, 12 days of instruction were impacted due to buses or classes being cancelled because of inclement weather. 

To help address the driver shortage, NLPS operates a Driving School, which has resulted in 11 driver candidates completing the full MELT Class 2/S course and seven more completing the S Course (School Bus Safety Course) in the last year. More training courses are planned to continue to address vacancies and train spare drivers to fill in when regular drivers are ill, experience a medical or family emergency, or are unable to complete their route.

Fly bys (vehicles passing buses on the right or left when the buses red lights are flashing and students are entering or existing a bus) continue to be an issue throughout the division. NLPS drivers report an average of three fly bys per week, with incidents being more common in the spring. Richter noted that there have been a greater number of fly bys reported in Cold Lake than in other communities in the division. 

Board Chair Karen Packard noted the Board is still waiting for some progress on the recommendations made by the provincial Transportation Task Force. Richter noted that the fuel funding provided to contractors was appreciated and had helped them stay afloat this year. However, contractors are still facing increased costs from insurance, parts and maintenance. In addition, the cost of purchasing new buses has become cost-prohibitive for some contractors.

The Board discussed potential opportunities to partner with local municipalities or businesses to access additional bus drivers. Trustees noted there may be employers willing to free up staff to complete a bus route if they were presented with a proposal. 


2022 Friends of Education: First Nations Health Consortium

The Board presented the First Nations Health Consortium with a 2022 Friends of Education Award. The First Nations Health Consortium is a collaboration between four First Nations health organizations from Treaty areas 6, 7, and 8 in Alberta.Consortium staff work closely with our Student Services Coordinators to identify student needs and help compile the information required to submit applications to Jordan’s Principle to access funding to provide much-needed supports and services for First Nations students attending NLPS schools.

More information about the award is available on our website: 2022 Friends of Education Award - First Nations Health Consortium.


Inclusive Education Summary Report

Associate Superintendent Jimmi Lou Irvine presented the Board with the annual Inclusive Education and Community Supports report.

Irvine noted that the division experienced an increase of 200 students identified with mild/moderate disabilities and a slight decrease in students identified with severe disabilities. There are currently 1,803 students in the division with an Individual Program Plan (IPP) or Support Plan for 2022-2023.

In addition to an increase in the number of First Nations students supported through Jordan's Principle, Irvine highlighted the success NLPS had with applications made provincially through the Specialized Assessment Grant. These grants were made available for students requiring assessments who were unable to access them during COVID. The division was approved for 86 assessments in addition to the approximately 80 that it funds on an annual basis. This will more than double the assessments being completed this year and help determine what supports students need moving forward. Irvine noted that the government has now opened up a second application round and the division will be working on identifying additional students who may need assessments. 

Board Policy 7

The Board reviewed proposed changes to Board Policy 7 - Board Operations and approved it in principle. The amended policy will be shared with all stakeholders for feedback before coming back to the Board for final approval. Details on how to review the document and provide feedback will be shared with all stakeholders shortly.

Board Policy Updates

The Board reviewed and approved proposed changes to Policy 8 - Committees of the Board, Policy 10 - Policy Development, and Policy 15 - School Closure, Reconfiguration, Additions To, and New Construction of Schools.

All current Board policies are available on the Board Policy page on our website.