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Under the Northern Lights - November 30, 2021

2020-2021 Audited Financial Statement

Jeff Alliston from Metrix Group provided the Board with an overview on the division's 2020-2021 Audited Financial Statement. The division finished 2020-2021 school year with a $1.8 million surplus, which was $1.4 million more than the division had budgeted. The difference is due to slightly higher than anticipated revenues from the provincial government and reduced spending due to COVID. Alliston noted that many of the boards he has worked with this year have recorded a surplus due in part to COVID.

The Board's operating reserves currently sit at $3.18 million, with another $1.37 million in school generated funds being held on behalf of school groups in the division. 

The 2020-2021 Audited Financial Statement was approved by the Board and can be viewed on our website: 2020-2021 Audited Financial Statement.


Good News Items

  • Superintendent Rick Cusson shared that senior administration had received a lot of positive feedback about the Board's decision to designate Monday, December 6 as a Mental Health Day for staff.

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented the Board with Good News from schools throughout the division. The full presentation can be viewed on our website: Good News - November 30, 2021


Fall Budget Update

Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock highlighted changes made to the division's original budget for 2021-2022 which was approved in the spring.

NLPS had originally projected enrolments of 5,646 and then revised those projections to 5,410 provincially funded students for the spring budget. The fall budget update shows actual enrolments at 5,364 provincially funded students and 5, 608 students overall attending the division's schools. 

Additions to the budget included funding for Jordan's Principle which was unknown in the spring and is now at $500,000. The Learning Disruption Grant that was just confirmed has also been added. In expenditures, there were some staffing changes that were accounted for as well as adjustments to fees, fundraising, donations and sales due to how COVID has been impacting those areas. 

Elock explained that in the spring, it was unclear if Alberta Education would claw back funds for boards whose enrolments were less than what had been projected. She explained that the fall budget update estimates around $1 million may need to be returned to the government due to enrolments being less than projected.

The fall budget predicts a $1.187 million operating deficit.

The Fall Budget update was approved by the Board and can be viewed on our website: 2021-2022 Fall Budget Update.


Annual Education Results Report (AERR)

Superintendent Rick Cusson reviewed the 2020-2021 Annual Education Results Report with the Board. This is the first year for the division using the new assurance model and the government's new assurance measures.

The Assurance Model covers four domains: Student Growth and Achievement, Teaching and Leading, Learning Supports, and Governance. The AERR outlines what strategies the division has implemented in each of these areas and includes measures to determine how the division is performing.

Cusson noted that it was challenging to complete the report this year due to a lack of available data. For instance, there is no data on Provincial Achievement Tests as NLPS opted out of those exams for students, and no data on Provincial Diploma Exams for high school students as they were optional and very few students participated.

The Board commended division and school administration on the significant gains made in high school completion. In 2020-2021 the 3-year high school completion rate increased by 9.4% and the 5-year completion rate increased by almost 4%. The increases for First Nations, Metis and Inuit students were even more significant, with the 3-year high school completion rate increasing by 17.6% and the 5-year rate increasing by 7%.

In Teaching and Leading, Cusson noted one of the benefits of COVID was that many professional development opportunities shifted online and this made it easier for staff to access sessions that normally wouldn't be available to them or would be more difficult or costly to participate. The division also partnered  with outside agencies to provide learning opportunities such as Conversational Cree Language Course with Portage College, and Educational Assistant training through the Learning Network. 

In the area of learning supports, NLPS created a health pathways team to help meet the needs of students after experiencing a change in service delivery of inclusive education services. The division also ensured all high school students had access to academic counselling time, introduced the Learning Together Anywhere program, and continued to operate its outreach schools in the same manner even though the funding model changed significantly. 

Stakeholder engagement was impacted by COVID-19 significantly, but the division sought new ways to connect and build relationships with stakeholders. Meetings were held virtually instead of in-person and the Cold Lake Configuration consultation also shifted online to gather feedback from the community. 

The 2020-2021 AERR was approved by the Board and can be viewed on our website: 2020-2021 Annual Education Results Report.


COVID Update

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, updated the Board on how COVID is impacting the division and its schools. Since the last board meeting, outbreaks of COVID-19 were declared at three schools. One is no longer in outbreak, but the other two remain in outbreak status.

Driedger expressed frustration with the way the government is reporting outbreaks on its COVID-19 School Status website as it uses different criteria than that used by the AHS branch that declares and lifts outbreaks in schools. For instance, one school that was in outbreak was removed from outbreak status on the website, but the outbreak had not been lifted. This has caused confusion with parents and the public who then have questions about why the school does not appear on the list if it is in an outbreak.

With the holidays approaching, the division has been receiving questions from staff and parents about travelling and isolation/quarantine requirements related to travel. NLPS will be sharing information with staff and parents shortly with links to the federal regulations that are currently in place and will need to be followed.


Curriculum Update

Terry Moghrabi, Associate Superintendent, provided the Board with an update on the new provincial K-6 curriculum. The curriculum is still in the draft stage and the government has been seeking input from stakeholders. NLPS staff were given an opportunity to provide feedback through a survey. Phase 2 of consultations with teachers on the new curriculum will start shortly through online discussion forums. This will allow teachers to provide more specific feedback about subjects and grade levels in specific areas. Moghrabi said stage 3 of the consultation will be a round table discussion with up to 20 teachers from the division's elementary and middle schools.


Learning Disruption Grant

Terry Moghrabi, Associate Superintendent, reported that the division was approved for a $348,000 Learning Disruption Grant to provide literacy and numeracy interventions for students in grades 2 and 3. Teachers will be using assessments, including the CAT 4 numeracy assessment to determine what intervention is needed. Moghrabi said the next step is to meet with elementary school administrator to discuss what a successful intervention program will look like.

Moghrabi noted the division will also be applying for funds to address the needs of Grade 1 students in the new year.

Administrative Procedure 131 - Inclement Weather Disruptions to Transportation and Classroom Schedules

Superintendent Rick Cusson reviewed the changes that were made to AP 131, as well as new changes made since the AP was sent out to stakeholders for feedback last year.

Trustees suggested some changes they would like to see before the AP is finalized. The updated AP will be shared with all stakeholders once those changes have been made.