SASKATOON — The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) annual meeting of electors was held Feb. 2, providing an overview of the 2013 - 14 school year.
With some 16,000 students and 2,000 staff, GSCS operates 45 schools, serving the communities of Saskatoon, Biggar, Humboldt, Martensville and Warman, as well as several rural subdivisions southeast of Saskatoon. GSCS also jointly governs Humboldt Collegiate Institute with Horizon School Division.
The noon-hour annual meeting was held at Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School in Saskatoon — one of the GSCS schools that is presently undergoing renovations — with students leading O Canada and an opening prayer.
GSCS board chair Diane Boyko presented a report on behalf of the board of education, which also includes trustees Debbie Berscheid, Tom Fortosky, Tim Jelinski, Alice Risling, Ron Boechler, Jim Carriere, Todd Hawkins, Lisa Lambert and Wayne Stus.
“In looking back on the 2013 - 2014 school year there is much to be proud of, thanks to the wonderful committed staff in our schools and the relationships we have built with our students and our families,” said Boyko.
“Our division mission statement truly does come to life each day. Our schools are welcoming communities where we nurture faith, encourage excellence in learning and inspire students to make a difference in the world. We love because he first loved us (John 4:19).”
Boyko outlined the Catholic school division’s priorities in a number of key areas, including celebrating and promoting Catholic education, improving student learning and achievements, building relationships and partnerships and promoting stewardship.
“As trustees of the Catholic school division, we must ensure that we are building an environment that supports our students and our staff as they seek to learn more about and deepen their faith,” said Boyko, describing the work of a Together in Faith and Action Committee. Connecting with families and parishes, this committee develops guidelines for school liturgies and masses and focuses on supporting the faith formation of staff.
The committee also strives “to paint a division-wide picture of how our schools reach out to transform the world,” added Boyko. “For example, our schools raised more than $25,000 last year for the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. We want to be sure we celebrate these initiatives with our wider community.”
When it comes to building partnerships, GSCS has close ties with the Diocese of Saskatoon and the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy, and with local school community councils, Boyko described.
GSCS also works in partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the Central Urban Métis Association. “Improving academic outcomes of First Nations and Métis students has been a key goal of our division, and has now become a primary goal of Saskatchewan’s ministry of education.”
Stewardship — including the planning, building and renovating of facilities — is another board priority, Boyko said. During the last school year, renovation work continued at Holy Cross High School, École St Matthew and at Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School. Construction also continues on Holy Family Catholic School in the Willowgrove neighbourhood of Saskatoon.
“And although there are no shovels in the ground, our division has contributed significant time and energy to the P3 planning process for the new schools that are scheduled to be built throughout the province,” Boyko added. The P3 model establishes government and business partnerships to build infrastructure such as schools.
In the announcement last year, GSCS was given the go-ahead for the construction of six new elementary schools: four to be built in Saskatoon, one in Martensville and one in Warman.
Greg Chatlain, GSCS director of education, highlighted a number of educational priorities and achievements in 2013 - 14, the 102nd year of operation for Saskatoon’s Catholic school division.
“In presenting a summary like this, there is always the danger that we lose sight of the face of each child or young person that we serve, and the staff who serve them each day — but it is because of their journey, their growth and their service that we exist,” he said.
It was another year of growth in the school division. “In 2013 - 2014 we served 16,380 pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students, an increase of some 300 students from the previous year. Within that number there were roughly six per cent, or 930 students who had some degree of intensive learning need,” Chatlain reported
An increasingly diverse community means that more students are receiving extra support in English as an Additional Language, he noted. In addition, almost 17 per cent of GSCS students access second language programming such as French immersion, Ukrainian bilingual and Cree bilingual programs.
“Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools believes our role is to support families as primary educators of their children, and developing — to their full potential — the God-given talents of each and every child,” Chatlain described.
“We seek to help develop all facets of the human person: intellectual, emotional, social and physical, while permeating spiritual growth in all areas. Our approach to education is distinct, and as such, that is reflected in the supports and services that we provide.”
He highlighted areas of academic focus in the Catholic school division, including working on the reading skills that enable students to move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” literacy intervention, a web-based Mathletics program that reinforces math concepts taught in class, math coaching initiatives, and changes to the Grade 11 (20 level) science curriculum.
To conclude the meeting, Superintendent of Administrative Services Joel Lloyd presented the financial statement and treasurer’s report for 2013 - 14.
GSCS ended the year with a consolidated deficit of $534,238 — attributed to the progression of capital projects underway in the school division — which was realized on revenues of $177,429,096 and expenditures of $177,963,334. Overall, the school division is in a strong accumulated surplus position, Lloyd said, noting the 2013 - 14 deficit is covered off by an accumulated surplus posted the previous year.