Community schools group prepares for new task

Perry Bergson
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The Saskatchewan Community Schools Association is expanding its role, and the organization will do it with a new name.

The group announced the change to Saskatchewan Association For Community Education (SACE) at a breakfast event in the city on Friday morning. It was part of their three-day annual convention as they celebrated their 35th anniversary in Prince Albert.

SACE president Melinda Brown noted in a speech that the group is moving beyond the current 98 community schools in Saskatchewan into a model where all schools and even facilities outside the education system such as public libraries can play a role.

“We’re very excited about the future and an approach to community education that is a continental approach that includes everyone and goes beyond the classroom,” Brown said.

The convention comes in the shadow of a local decision by the Sask. Rivers School Division earlier this year to remove community school co-ordinators.

The division said that by moving away from dedicated staffing in community schools, it could better serve vulnerable students and families across all of their schools.

“We respect the board,” executive director Delphine Melchert says. “We’ve had extensive discussions and consultations with the board. We respect their decision. We will be following up with meetings in the very near future to look at how we can implement community education principles in their schools, particularly the schools that have the highest vulnerability factors.

“We are prepared to sit down, discuss and move forward with the board.”

The board has the final call on how and where the money is spent. But Melchert notes that it is a big sum across Saskatchewan.

“There is $276 million that goes to school divisions with the expectation that school boards will make the best decisions that they can around those factors,” she says. “We feel the information that we brought forward and the support that we can lend based on our 35 years of experience can be of great assistance to school boards and school divisions moving forward.”

SACE, which is an independent organization that works with the provincial ministry and school divisions, receives no funding from the province. It charges participating schools $50 per year.

During a speech to delegates, Melchert went over the group’s nine community education principles, which include self determination, localization, self help, integrated service delivery, maximum use of resources, inclusiveness, institutional responsiveness, lifelong learning and leadership development.

She also touched on the group’s 12 core practices, which included things like cultural programming, nutrition, parental engagement and after-school programming.

“We’ve laid out the principles that we work by and believe in and we’ve also laid out the practices that people can discuss, learn from, adopt and strategically implement,” she said. “That is our purpose for our announcement today and also to say that community education is supported by the government.”

The group also unveiled its new executive, which consists of president Melinda Brown, acting vice president Dean Brooman, secretary Shelly Fedrau, acting treasurer Jayne Boulet, membership co-ordinator Donna Blunt, e-news co-ordinator Carolynn Arcand, northern region rep Robertine Elliot, central region reps Howard Wieler, Ross Tait and Shannon Peterson (acting) and southern region reps Dianna Kozak and Sean Chase.

The convention began on Wednesday evening with a meet and greet. After a keynote speech on Thursday by psychologist Michelle Hamilton that dealt with the effects on staff of working with people in trauma, the 225 delegates from across Saskatchewan broke off into 18 workshops.

Afterwards, they toured Hope’s Home and the Valley Hill Treatment Centre.

After the announcement on Friday morning, keynote speaker Verna St. Denis explored the state of First Nation education within the public system.

The Friday tours included the Ranch Ehrlo Society and St. Mary High School.

The convention wrapped up on Friday afternoon.

Organizations: SACE, Saskatchewan Community Schools Association, Saskatchewan Association For Community Education Rivers School Division Valley Hill Treatment Centre Ehrlo Society

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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Recent comments

  • Just wondering
    May 16, 2014 - 21:46

    Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Association for Community Education. Their principles and core practices should be admired and implemented through the continuation of the community school coordinators and community school EA's in Sask Rivers School Division. SRSD119 Director of Education, Robert Bratvold, said in a PANOW article, "But if you look at statistics around the province, First Nations and Métis families tend to suffer from low employment and high poverty. And those have negative impacts on academic success." (PANOW - Sask. Rivers working to raise aboriginal grad rates through mentoring, January 30, 2014). These Mentors are basically sub-contractors brought in to do many of the same tasks as Community School coordinators and CSEA's were doing. That is unfair! Now to compound those negative impacts on academic success, the school division has compromised the integrity of the Community School program by eliminating the community school positions. To say that every school should be a community school fails to recognize that many students enter school at a significant disadvantage compared to other students. Community Schools try to level the educational playing field for students who through no fault of their own begin with a disadvantage. One of the many things a Community School coordinator in conjunction with the community school educational associates does is act as advocates between the school and the family and community. This is a very valuable and needed position within community schools. The expertise that the coordinators possess is a wealth of resources that should be multiplied and not cut. Before coming to this decision, did the board actively engage in consultation with those most involved like the coordinators, school staffs, parents and community members? Did the board look at creative ideas to ensure the integrity of the community school program? For example, did the SRSD board of trustees consider the possibility to "share" a coordinator with other schools? Did the board consider keeping coordinators employed on a school year basis rather than a calendar year basis? Did the board consider downsizing their own management team through retirement or redundancy rather than eliminate the coordinators position? No, they did not. Rather they recently posted a 2-year position for an acting Superintendent to fill in for "one of their own" who was seconded to the Ministry of Education. If the goal of SRSD is to share the wealth among schools; perhaps this would be a good place to start. If teachers and support staff will now have to pick up where community school staff has left off, then shouldn't SRSD management have to do the same? Apparently the answer is no. Sadly, SRSD is the only school division in the province to get rid of community school coordinators and their EA's. No one else in the province is doing it. Disappointing for sure!