School tour hits reserve

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Donna Barrett and Leroy Sloan of Northland School Division say they learned a lot from their visits to several South Slave schools last week.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Donna Barrett and Leroy Sloan of Northland School Division say they learned a lot from their visits to several South Slave schools last week.

Students at Chief Sunrise Education Centre were not the only ones there to learn last week.

As part of a week-long tour that took them to several South Slave schools, representatives from the Northland School Division in Alberta visited classes, spoke to teachers, and took in as much as they could about the leadership for literacy program pioneered by the South Slave Divisional Education Council about a decade ago.

“There are some really great things happening in this jurisdiction,” said Northland superintendent Donna Barrett. “We came to learn and pick up some tips. We’re so impressed with the success they’re having.”

Barrett pointed out the two school boards serve similar populations of rural and remote students and their families, which come with their own set of challenges when it comes to education. Northland School consultant Dr. Leroy Sloan said he makes no bones about the hurdles facing the Alberta school board.

“Northland had a crisis four years ago when the board was dissolved due to a lack of achievement in the students,” he said.

Since then, the new board has been working diligently to develop new programs to boost those achievement scores, including the leadership for literacy model implemented by the divisional education council.

“We’re on a similar path, but not quite so far along it,” said Barrett. “Rather than trying to do it all by ourselves, it’s good to follow in the footsteps of people for whom it has already made incredible progress. There’s an urgency to make a difference for the children… we can’t afford to wait.”

While the strangers in their classrooms would be a reasonable cause for distraction, principal at Sunrise Christina Steen said the students have grown used to hosting the visitors over the last few weeks.

“It seems we’ve had a lot of people coming in and out of the school recently, and the kids are really becoming good sports about it,” she said. “They’re becoming more welcoming.”

Otherwise, she said having the group there touring the school was a valuable experience for the staff.

“It helps us to reflect on what we do and both how far we’ve come and where we want to go next,” she said. “Really it just celebrates the work of students, families and staff in creating positive changes.”

-Sarah Ladik