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Bremner weighs in on state of Catholic education

Posted on January 17, 2018 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division’s main focus for the area in 2018 remains the ongoing modernization of St. Patrick’s Elementary School.

“It’s going remarkably well, but the kudos go to the staff of both St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s, who have worked together and built a very strong team to support the St. Pat’s kids while they’re in the modulars,” said Ward 5 trustee Pat Bremner about the project scheduled for a September 2018 completion. “St. Mary’s has opened the gym, rearranged their schedule, the little kids go over at different times to use the gym. They’re welcome in the big school, and the modulars — that were viewed with some apprehension by parents before they came — are very successful. There’s huge sunlight, huge natural light coming in, we’ve got a lot of space. Kids and teachers love their area, and parents are amazed at how functional and warm the environment is. It’s running smoothly. The biggest thing — the word is ‘decanting’ — the kids while the construction is underway.”

Looking back over 2017 for the division, Bremner was encouraged by the hiring of more support staff for First Nations-Metis-Inuit students.

“One of the things we did was hire Dr. Maurice Manyfingers. We hired a First Nations person to work directly with our learning team to build relationships, and work with our First Nations-Metis-Inuit support team. We hope — although we’ve done a lot of work building relationships and building bridges with our two reserves that are nearby, and many of their young people come to our schools — we think that he will deepen those relationships.”

Bremner noted one of the more important events in 2017 was the re-opening of St. Michael’s Elementary School in Pincher Creek, which had undergone a two-year, two-phased modernization.

Moving into 2018, the division’s academic focus hasn’t shifted but remains with a strong emphasis on core subjects.

“I think we’re doing remarkably well. Our focus will continue to be literacy and numeracy. I think the approach with the senior administration team and the principals, associate principals, to be extremely collaborative. Their approach has reaped incredible rewards, both collaboratively with how they teach, and supporting each other.”

Evaluating the board of trustee’s performance over the past year, Bremner highlighted the collaborative nature of the group.

“The board is remarkable. We have sometimes very lively discussion, and we don’t suffer from group-think. We come from a variety of backgrounds. Many are educators, or were educators, some like me came out of manufacturing. And our ability to speak with one voice after the debate is done is quite remarkable. I have yet to hear of any board member that has said I don’t support something that the board has decided. I think that’s our biggest strength.”

Holy Spirit’s board of trustees saw some turnover and shifting of position following the October 2017 municipal election. Ward 4 (Pincher Creek) trustee Judy Lane has taken over as chair, while Ward 2 (Lethbridge) trustee Bob Spitzig has moved into the vice chair position. Former trustee Terry O’Donnell has stepped down, and newcomers include Ward 3 (Picture Butte) trustee Philip Mack and Ward 2 trustee Keith McDonald. Bremner herself is the new board representative to the Alberta Catholic School Trustee Association.

Bremner reports the division is moving into year two of their three-year faith plan, with this year’s focus centered on ‘Growing in Spirit.’

“Throughout the entire division, there’s three main areas where all of us are working together. One is the second year of our faith plan, which is ‘Growing in Spirit’. The first year was ‘Rooted in Christ’. So the visual is a tree with roots. This year we are supporting the trunk, and it will ‘blossom’ next year. The focus is on prayer, and teaching the kids that prayer is more than just asking God for things. Praying is being in relationship. Another ‘fruit’ of this year’s faith program is recognizing the gifts of others, that we are all gifted.”

Trying to illuminate some of the nation’s history with a focus on aboriginal issues is a goal for the division, according to Bremner.

“The second thing — and we are leaders in this, because we started a relationship with Kainai some years ago — we were the first to have a grad coach at CCH for all students, not just First Nations. That program has expanded to St. Francis. We’re leaders in understanding and support for our First Nations-Metis-Inuit learners, and we are teaching, and we are ourselves learning, the non-colonial history of this country, so young people have an empathetic understanding of what really happened, and also we’re teaching about residential schools. We’re finding there will be discussion on how do we go forward — we’re not doing this to mar the past, we’re doing it because reconciliation cannot happen until the truth is spoken. It’s a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

A strong defender of Catholic education’s value to wider society in Alberta, Bremner highlighted the division takes fiscal responsibility seriously through working to achieve efficiencies.

“Lastly, we’re trying to highlight the value of publicly-funded Catholic education in our society. So we are talking more loudly, and more proudly about our rankings — which are very high — about the economies, and the ways we share efficiencies with other divisions, such as transportation. And our high success rate of graduates.”

Bremner hopes to help engender a faith-oriented approach to success for the division in 2018.

“To help everyone involved with Holy Spirit — students, staff, parents, boards, guardians, and administrators — to be all that God created them to be.”

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