Recently, Wolf Creek Public Schools released the results of their Thought Exchange Survey, which outlines the successes and areas to improve of schools throughout the region.
Eckville Elementary School received the following summarized results:
Continue to improve:
– Supports in the classroom
– Smaller Classroom sizes
– Reinstatement of music and arts programs
– Financial access to resources
– Support of inclusion
At our best:
– Community involvement
– Continuing to bring in fine arts programs
– Celebrating student achievements
– Learning through literacy
– Mental health week
– Equality of Opportunity
– Life Experience
– Smaller Class Sizes
– Field Trips
Principal Ian McLaren had a pretty good idea of these suggestions before receiving them.
“There wasn’t much that surprised us here,” he said. “As a small school we always want more music and fine arts programs. The teachers are doing everything they can and some of them are doing really amazing things. I am the most proud of the strides we have made in professional development as well as the strides we have made in the area of literacy.”
McLaren pointed out the introduction of a new literacy program which has improved the reading skill of many of Eckville Elementary’s students.
“We brought in a program which is called Love of Literacy Intervention where we have small groups of three or four students with a teacher that happens every day for 30-40 minutes,” he said. “It’s a large commitment and required a lot of training but the results have been worth it.”
These programs are the result of feedback, which McLaren believes is vital to a school.
“When I came here five years ago, what I needed to do was to listen to the community, the parents and the staff to find out what are we doing well, what we absolutely cannot lose and what needs to change,” he said. “I did that my first month and as much as I can ever since. The needs of the curriculum are very clearly laid out by Alberta Education but there is flexibility on delivery and teaching styles. The outcomes are set in stone by the Province of Alberta.”
Fine arts and music continues to be a request for the elementary. McLaren recognized the value of having a separate instructor, however budget constraints do limit what can be done.
“The year before I came here, we had a teacher that was just music and fine arts,” he said. “Given the budget situation, it wasn’t sustainable anymore. That was a lot to put on my teachers, however if you walk down the hallways of the school – the fine arts are incredible. Music has been a little tougher but we have brought in artists and we also brought in a band that taught kids how to write songs. That’s how we are achieving this.”
He added, “We may not have the specialization that we would like to have but we can bring that in from the community.”
Part of being able to reach out to the community has been accomplished through the work of the Eckville Elementary Parent Council. “Parent Council has been fantastic in supporting us and providing financially the means to bring in those groups,” McLaren said. McLaren encourages more parents to provide feedback to their school so staff can properly apply the collected data.
“The big thing is Alberta Education does the Accountability Pillar Survey and that’s something that is mailed to the parents,” he said. “I would love to see a lot more parents fill those out and send them back then we have seen. If I have 40 parents fill out that survey, it’s something I can work with rather then just eight or nine parents.”