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Under the Northern Lights - October 4, 2023

Good News Items

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated Taylor Martin from Glendon School on being selected to serve on the Education Minister's Youth Council for 2023-2024.

  • Board Chair Packard also thanked NLPS staff for celebrating the start of the 2023-2024 school year at pancake breakfasts held at the end of August.

  • Board Chair Packard thanked the Bonnyville and District Fine Arts Society for their donation to the Clayton Bellamy Foundation for the Arts for the Strathcona Performing Arts Centre that is being constructed in the former Bonnyville Centralized High School gymnasium. Packard and Trustee Cheryl Edwards attended the recent cheque presentation from the Society and "groundbreaking" ceremony.

  • Trustee Roy Ripkens also congratulated the Clayton Bellamy Foundation for the Arts on a successful gala and celebrity golf tournament held on Sept. 1 and 2nd. The event exceeded all expectations and fundraising targets.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards commended the staff and school councils at Duclos School and H.E. Bourgoin School on their meet the teacher night events. The Duclos event included wellness activities and the HEB event included a colour run. Both were well attended.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards also appreciated the opportunity to make pancakes with volunteers at HEB to kick off the school's Terry Fox Run.

  • Trustee Debra Lozinski thanked Lac La Biche County Council for confirming a site for a replacement school for Vera M. Welsh Elementary. Council's approval of a site was needed for NLPS to progress in the design phase of the project.

  • Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, shared that NLPS has met its enrolment projects for 2023-2024, which is slightly above last year's total enrolment.

  • Trustee Garry Kissel complimented Glendon School on an excellent welcome back barbecue held in conjunction with the community's registration night. He was also able to attend the school's recent Grandparents' Day.

  • Trustee Lois Phillips was honoured to attend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremonies hosted by Lac La Biche County FCSS. 

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented Good News highlights from schools throughout the division. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - October 4, 2023.

Transportation Update

Matt Richter, Director of Transportation, provided the Board with an update on the Student Transportation System. This year's start up went more smoothly than last year with all routes having drivers for the first day of school. A deadline for bus registrations helped with communication.

A shortage of spare bus drivers is presenting challenges when drivers are sick, have appointments, or otherwise are unavailable to complete their routes. Several routes have not operated for a day or two or sometimes longer because a driver is temporarily unavailable and there is no one to fill in for them.

Richter reported that the funding increase provided for student transportation has addressed some of the pressures contractors were experiencing, but inflationary costs continue to be an issue, particularly with replacement buses. 

The division's driving school has been steadily training drivers and has adapted its training program following the removal of MELT requirements in the spring. Drivers are still averaging over 40 hours of training. The driving school will also be offering a post driver training program with details still being confirmed. 

Summer School Accountability Report

Karen Draycott, Director of Learning - Grades 7-12 Instructional Support, shared highlights from Summer School 2023. A total of 117 students successfully completed courses in July, which was an increase of 60 from the previous summer. Draycott noted students had the option of in-person, hybrid or virtual and that helped generate interest for the program. NLPS Summer School was also able to offer work experince, Registered Apprenticeship Program, CALM 20 and CTS HCS 300 this year. 

Draycott noted that NLPS continues to look at ways to enhance Summer School programming and is planning to offer dual credit course options in 2024.

Quarterly Budget Report

The Board reviewed the quarterly budget report. Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock noted that the division is on track to meet its budget projections for 2023-2024.

The Board noted that operations and maintenance continues to record a deficit of $750,000 to $1 million annually. Elock explained that the budget shows the funding the division is specifically given for operations and maintenance. She pointed out that the division has taken steps to reduce costs in operations and maintenance such as reviewing utility contracts and insurance, but costs continue to increase. As well, last year the Board received feedback from students that resulted in custodial time being increased this year to address cleanliness issues. 

Superintendent Rick Cusson said the level of funding provided for operations and maintenance is not keeping up with inflation. Elock noted that the division has the option to supplement the funding that is provided by pulling it from instructional funding, but that impacts other things in the classroom. 

Annual Fees Report

The Board reviewed a report detailing what fees are charged by schools in the division. Board Chair Karen Packard noted that the Board's current policy is due to be updated and that would be an opportunity for the Board to address some of the questions it had. That update is scheduled to take place later this year.

Board Priorities

The Board agreed to have administration conduct a stakeholder consultation process to establish priorities for the Board's Three-Year Education Plan. The process will be similar to what was done in 2018-2019 and will include consultations with students, staff, parents and community members. The previous consultation led to the establishment of student mental health and wellness, and numeracy as division priorities.

Consultations will be held later this school year. All feedback collected will be shared with the Board to help them determine what the division's priorities should be moving forward.

LLB County Update

Board Chair Karen Packard reported that the Board was successful with its request for Lac La Biche County council to rescind a previous motion made in relation to designating land for a replacement school for Vera M. Welsh Elementary School. Council has now approved a site for the school so the design phase of the project can continue. 

Superintendent Rick Cusson noted that the project has not received full approval. It was approved for design project funding in March. Work on that phase of the project needs to be completed in order for the project to be eligible for construction funding.