SD85 sees student improvements.

Report from the last School Board meeting of the year.

In his Report on Achievement, Superintendent Scott Benwell brought the Board up to speed on some of the benchmarks set by students in the previous year.

The report, a requirement under the School Act, is generated each year and submitted to the Ministry to provide an account of student achievement and to provide a basis for future planning efforts.

Some of the highlights Benwell touched on were improvements for all students in the BC First Nations Studies 12 and English 10 First Peoples.

In the Year 12 course, Benwell noted an “across the board increase, it’s a pleasure to report,” while in the Year 10 course, a relatively new course, he announced a good increase in C+ or better grades and a 100% pass rate.

He also noted an improvement in English 12, Apprenticeship and Workplace Math 10, and Pre-Calculus courses.

Benwell also thanked Lori Walker for her technical expertise in assembling the report. “We’re establishing a baseline that we can track, and we’re seeing improvements which is great.”

Some targets laid out included improving the literacy levels of young readers. “our focus on reading is not going away any time soon,” he concluded.

Reading strategy

Assistant Superintendent for the District, Katherine McIntosh, told the Board of the intention to continue the District’s focus on its Reading Strategy.

“We’ve intentionally deepened our focus on a couple of reading goals,” she explained. “We know early readers must be focused on or else each year the gap widens.”

She reiterated the goal of having all readers meeting or exceeding their reading level by Grade 5. A second goal is to narrow the gap in course work marks and exam marks to less than 10%.

As Superintendent Scott Benwell touched on in his Report on Achievement, reading level is seen as a good, reliable indicator of future success in gaining a Dogwood.

Financial planning

Planning for the long-term financial health of the District returned to the table this week as the Board heard again that steps need to be taken to counter the reduced funding that the District faces due to declining enrolment.

The issue was initially raised at the last meeting, when the Board heard that a managed budgeting strategy, reducing spending year-on-year in accordance with certain principles — such as preserving permanent employment positions if viable alternatives for cuts exist — was the best option for maintaining the financial health of the District.

The item was brought to the table by Treasurer John Martin, asking for the Board’s approval to use the principles outlined in preparing a draft budget.

After questions from Trustee Jeff Field seeking clarification on some of the terms used in the document, the motion was carried.

On a separate financial issue, Martin was pleased to announce approval of funding for three new school buses for the District, seeking three readings of Bylaw 113759 for Board approval.

Seeing no opposition to three readings, Chair Leightan Wishart called for and got approval for the Bylaw readings.

Fort Rupert

Trustees enjoyed their visit to Fort Rupert Elementary School last week with Trustee Eric Hunter describing the staff as “very accommodating” and Trustee Danita Schmidt “impressed with the President’s school plann and the energy.”

Trustee Jeff Field said he was “continually amazed by K-teachers’ energy and patience,” with the rest of the trustees unanimous in praising the visit.

WiFi

Trustee Werner Manke informed the Board during Trustee Sharing that he had read reports of electro-magnetic radiation from Wi-Fi sources being a health hazard, and asked if the rest of the Board had heard similar reports and whether the District was aware of any danger posed.

Treasurer John Martin responded to calm Manke’s concerns, telling him that Health Canada sets the standard on these matters, and that they, like other similar health bodies internationally, had found no evidence of any risk from the radio-frequency energy emitted by Wi-Fi equipment.

“I just think it’s something we should keep our radar up for,” argued Manke.

Martin again assured him that Health Canada found the radiation well within tolerable limits, and in any case Wi-Fi was all but ubiquitous in modern society, with many homes having wireless routers broadcasting 24 hours a day in addition to public Hot Spots.

The RF signals used in wireless communications are a form of non-ionizing radiation, he explained, by definition lacking the required energy to cause cellular damage.

“You have a legitimate concern around children’s bodies being more susceptible,” said Martin,”but the research does not back up the dangers.”