SD52 superintendent Sandy Jones will be retiring this summer.

SD52 superintendent Sandy Jones will be retiring this summer.

Superintendent Jones retiring; highlights from February school board meeting

Province initiates crosswalk review, board wrestles with second break, fun with coding, final public consultation

SD52 superintendent Sandy Jones submitted her retirement letter to the board that was accepted with regret in early February.

Jones will carry out the school year as superintendent and her retirement will take effect July 31, 2017. Since joining the district in 1982, Jones has served as a teacher teaching on call, a teacher, counsellor, vice-principal, principal, director of instruction, assistant superintendent and as superintendent since July 2013.

Assistant superintendent Ken Minette will take over Jones’ position effective Aug. 1, 2017. Minette joined SD52 in 1989 and has also been a teacher, counsellor, vice-principal, principal and director of instruction with Charles Hays Secondary School and Prince Rupert Middle School.

“The school district has thrived under Sandy’s leadership. We thank her for serving this district throughout her career and wish her all the best in her retirement,” said board chair Tina Last.

“We are also thrilled to have developed an internal candidate with the leadership skills needed for this position. The board has every confidence in the future of the district in Ken’s capable hands.”

Province initiates crosswalk review

The Prince Rupert School District (SD52) received a letter from Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone on Feb. 3 regarding their request to evaluate a new crosswalk at Eleventh Street and Park Avenue.

Stone noted that the decision to implement a new crosswalk will be based on “sound traffic engineering principles that are uniformly applied on all provincial roads.” Feedback from the district on children needing to walk to Pineridge in the area, due to the cancellation of school buses, provides valuable information to the ministry on helping workers understand the need for improvements, Stone added.

Skeena district manager Darrell Gunn has contacted the school district and is working with officials to evaluate the proposition.

Local ministry staff and a regional traffic engineer have started an initial review on the area and will keep school staff updated on their progress.

Parents raised the issue after bussing was removed due to budget cuts, and children now need to double back and forth to cross Park Avenue safely.

Board wrestles with second break

After some debate amongst the school board trustee members, the board decided to approve a 2017-18 school calendar with a two week spring break, contingent upon later approval from a teachers’ union vote to be held late March.

Trustee Terri-Lynne Huddlestone asked the board to delay their decision until after stakeholders have all experienced their first two week spring break introduced this year, and gather feedback from that, while trustee Janet Beil and board chair Tina Last encouraged the board to take the feedback given from a month-long online survey, which resulted in an 83.2 per cent preference for a  two week break instead of one.

“If we did due diligence to the process and we’re going to be making a vote determining [the length for next year] and we haven’t actually gone through the spring break, then we haven’t, in my opinion, done due diligence to that process,” Huddlestone said, adding that this year’s break was meant to be a trial run, and there is no opportunity to review it after it’s been approved.

Beil noted that with the district’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers, and with absenteeism high the week after a one week break, it would behoove the board to approve the two weeks off.

“With our limitations with staff and with what we’ve uncovered with TTOS not being able to recruit, we just lost our human resources person … what would be the point of having [students] in school if we don’t have people teaching them?” Beil said.

The board chair added that the teachers were no longer to blame when telling parents their students couldn’t have a two week break, when the teachers responded last year in favour of it.

“I’m a firm believer if you’re not going to use the information you gather in a survey, don’t you bloody well do the survey, because all that does is tell people … we’re going to do what we want anyway – which we did last year and do I need to remind anyone of the firestorm that created?” Last said, adding that attracting teachers to the district is made all the more difficult if the board keeps flip-flopping on the length of the break, and the one or two days’ time the board would have in late March to gather feedback would not be enough time to properly gauge how it went.

Fun with coding

Conrad Street Elementary School principal Kerri Levelton, vice-principal Jit Khaira and Grades 4 and 5 students Hailey Helin, Aiden Brown, Tyson Tran, Alexis Hill, Kevin Phan and Ava Coveyduck-Edwards taught computer coding to the board of education and SD52 staff at the February board meeting.

Armed with iPads and a Sphero programming ball, the students showed off their new skills they learned as part of their independent study group at Conrad.

The students created ebooks on topics like Minecraft and the North Pacific Cannery and programmed the robotic Sphero’s distance, speed, velocity and angle to take it through an obstacle course.

“These are students reading at grade level and beyond and we decided instead of enhancing their reading skills, why not do something totally different and with the new B.C. curriculum, it’s all to do with applied skill design and technology – we decided we’re going to do coding,” said Khaira.

“The sky’s the limit and they push themselves and they do really well.”

Final public consultation

The last public consultation meeting with SD52 staff and the public will take place on Thursday, March 9 at 7 p.m. in the Charles Hays Secondary School’s multi-purpose room. It’s the last chance for the public to provide the board of education with input on any changes desired. Updates on the budget will also be provided.