Notes from the April 21, 2021 Regular (Public) Meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) Board of Education
Return to Level 2 – In Class Learning
During the April 21 public board meeting Director of Education Lynn Little reported, "We are very pleased to be returning to in person learning next week and are thankful to everybody as we have come through these past two weeks." Communication went out to staff, parents and the media on the morning of April 21 announcing the return to in class learning for all but three schools. The Director explained that with several staff having to self-isolate and a shortage of substitute teachers at Spruce Ridge School in Estevan, students and staff at that school will remain remote with at home learning for one more week, with an anticipated return to in person learning on May 3. In addition, Estevan Comprehensive School and Weyburn Comprehensive School, both traditionally having larger groups of students and more frequent movement between classes, will see grade 9-12 students return on April 26 to level 3 with alternate daily attendance, and an anticipated return to an everyday attendance regime on May 10. It is hoped that the two weeks will help get to a place where there are fewer positive cases of COVID-19 in both communities, resulting in a return to a full schedule.
With SECPSD consisting of 27 distinct communities spread out across 31,000 square kms, the division plans to respond by class, school and community if the need should arise due to positive cases that are infectious while in the schools. Little noted that the division continues to work very closely with Health to respond locally to all situations and as expeditiously as possible.
Board Vice-Chair Carol Flynn, also Chair of the Student Citizenship Awards Committee with Public Schools of Saskatchewan, was excited to announce that at the close of the awards application period (April 15) for six citizenship awards being offered, 28 phenomenal applications, including four from SECPSD schools (Alameda, MacLeod in Moosomin, Rocanville and Queen Elizabeth in Weyburn) had been received. She expressed kudos to staff and students "who are doing wonderful work in citizenship, democracy, helping out their communities, schools and each other." In June at the Public Schools' annual general (virtual) meeting, three $1,000 awards for grade 1 to 8 students and three $1,000 awards for grades 9 to 12 students will be announced and celebrated. For further information on these annual awards visit: https://saskpublicschools.ca.
Instructional Technology Report
While sharing with the Board a departmental report going back to spring 2020, Jeff Walters, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, began by outlining the top priorities or "big rocks" pertaining to work across the school division, being 1) to work with education and teachers in providing leadership and vision into educational technology and the global competencies, while following the ISTE standards, 2) support curriculum and educational technology into teaching and into the classroom, 3) collaborate with teachers and students through classroom visits with one of the main focuses being different ways for students to "show what they know" using technology, working on the triangulation of evidence (observations, conversations and products), and student engagement through instructional technology practices (i.e. robotics, devices, software), 4) train teachers with electronic grade book, division services offered and other edtech practices, and 5) participate in MySchoolSask, a provincial student information system, "the one student record" that the division will move to this fall.
Walters explained that when COVID-19 struck in March 2020 and education went on pause across the province, instructional technology and information systems staff were tasked by the Senior Leadership Team to find a system-wide common communication hub. Referring to the work of Walters and his team of three consultants in rapidly implementing the selected solution of Microsoft Teams for staff, students and families, a communication platform which to that point had primarily been utilized by the four of them, Jim Vermeersch, board member for subdivision 2, commented on the value of instructional technology resources, "What you and your team have done here has been amazing! I don't think a lot of people recognized your importance until online learning took place."
Walters was quick to acknowledge that it was a collaborative problem-solving effort with schools, staff, partners and families, and that from the very first day that an online meeting was held with 600 staff, the lifelong learners' adage was put to the test. As well, he credited the work of Manager of Information Systems, Brian Belinsky, and his team who work with computers, and backend systems, making sure everything is working with the network and providing that information and support to schools.
Further, Walters stated that it was a "situation where we didn't have the roadmap and we all had to pull together in the same direction in order to continue to do what we do and that is to educate students and getting the business of education done." Everyone rose to the occasion and now MS Teams is broadly used by class teams for face to face and virtual classrooms, Cyber Stone Virtual School, webinars, meetings between school administration and division staff, school staff meetings, consultants' visits with schools, student-led conferences, counselling sessions, professional learning communities, conversations with parents and families, and for various training initiatives. Utilizing the SAMUR Model for Technology Integration (substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition), the Coordinator emphasized that using one platform for staff, students and families creates capacity across the division.
New this school year is Edsby, "a next generation learning management system for K-12" which thus far has had a successful launch. The Board was given a brief, snappy video glimpse into capabilities of the new student achievement and family communication program. The Coordinator summarized, "Edsby gives you what you need in one place with one login any place any time." The program rollout includes accounts for staff, students and parents, attendance tracking, entering assessments with outcomes and percentages, reporting marks and comments as well as student achievement messaging between teachers and parents with learning discussions between staff and parents flowing back and forth easily, keeping families informed. Next staff will look into the management of student-led conferences for all schools, continued work with respect to online report cards and the exploration of student portfolios and learning stories. Walters stated that Edsby is a much more modern program than was previously used and was chosen in order to apply the division's philosophy on assessment. It replaces TLXE and StudentsAchieve which have been sunset.
The educator explained another departmental undertaking, saying, "We are starting down the road for MySchoolSask training" which is being done through MS Teams. The first administrative assistant staff session was conducted last week with over 40 participants and the next session is scheduled for this week, with the training being recorded and archived for future reference. MySchoolSask is a provincial unified student data system for safely and securely hosting and managing student data, which will replace the Student Information Record System (SIRS) in the fall of 2021. The system will house the demographics and information that school administrative assistants deal with on an everyday basis.
A spotlight was shone on the work of four Weldon School students who utilized digital lego to create a world in Minecraft to showcase what they have learned through treaty education. Walters said he was impressed with how the children spoke as they explained their project, "The information was part of them."
The division's four system goals were evident throughout the instructional technology presentation: Students have opportunities to learn and succeed in every school; students achieve at high levels; the division and its school effectively use information to measure, monitor and report continuous improvement; and the division systemically builds, strengthens and maintains two-way communication with internal and external stakeholders. View the PowerPoint presentation here.
Articles by Norm Park
Articles submitted by Norm Park, contracted reporter for SECPSD, are available at these links:
Instructional Technology, Procedures Updated
|Thursdays||Board Chairs RPT Update|
|May 5/21||Board Strategic Planning Meeting|
|May 19/21||Committee-of-the-Whole Board Meeting|
|May 19/21||Regular (Public) Board Meeting|
For more information, please contact:
South East Cornerstone Public School Division
80A-18th Street N.E., Weyburn, SK S4H 2W4
Telephone: (306) 848-0080