Column: Looking at a busy year at STAR Catholic

STAR Catholic saw many milestones in the 2017-18 school year

St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic (STAR) School Division is getting set to draw another school year to a close.

Every year has its reasons to celebrate, and the 2017-2018 school year had a genuine mix of moments for the school division, that saw traditions continue, new directions taken, and major announcements made.

To begin the school year, STAR Catholic staff from around the division gathered at St. Augustine School in Ponoka for our annual learning day. It’s a professional development day for staff, and this year was centred entirely on First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture, history and understanding. This event was an unbelievable first for STAR Catholic, that furthers reconciliation among our Indigenous communities and partners, but was also an amazing exchange of faith and culture.

Of course this was an election year, and there were a number of changes for STAR Catholic. In the previous school year, the board had moved to reduce its size from nine trustees to seven to better create equitable representation throughout the division.

And following the election there were a few new faces around the board table, including Lacombe trustee Donna Tugwood, Leduc trustee Shaun Meaden, and Beaumont trustee Liz Taylor-Sirois. Returning was Ponoka trustee Dan Svitich, Drayton Valley trustee Sandra Bannard, Wetaskiwin trustee and board vice chair Henry Effon, and Leduc trustee and board chair Michelle Lamer. In addition to the new board, later in the school year we were honoured to appoint Charlie Bouchard as the new superintendent of STAR Catholic, following the departure of Dr. Troy Davies to the CEO position with Catholic Social Services. Charlie served STAR Catholic for a number of years as an assistant superintendent and we are excited by the vision and passion he has for the division.

In Lacombe, we received tremendous news that Father Lacombe Catholic School was approved for a school modernization. This is most welcome news for our school that dutifully serves our students and families in Lacombe, but is in need of modernization.

In Beaumont, we celebrated the opening of STAR Catholic’s latest school École Mother d’Youville School. The addition of this school to Beaumont has been a blessing and speaks to the growth and commitment to STAR Catholic in the Beaumont community.

STAR Catholic continued its traditions of bringing students from around the division together for a host of events. We marked another great STAR Light Day, where junior and senior high students join to hear a message of faith and love. This year’s speaker was Paul J. Kim, whose amazing talents as a beatboxer and storyteller captivated students. Grades 5 and 6 students competed in the fourth annual track STAR Challenge; a day of sportsmanship and community in Leduc. Leduc’s École Notre Dame School won for the second straight year. And introduced this year, for Grades 7 to 9, was the STAR Science Olympics, where students put their science minds to work to complete and solve problems. All these events speak to the larger goal of supporting students in whatever capacity best speaks to them and helping them continue to grow and experience new perspectives and challenges.

A number of other highlights include STAR Catholic’s continued enrollment growth, which we are humbled to see as a continued affirmation of the work of our schools. In addition, our Provincial Achievement Test and diploma results continue to exceed provincial standards. We also see high results on our annual Provincial Accountability Pillar results, most notably in STAR Catholic providing quality education and safe and caring schools.

All this work is testament to our dedicated staff, who are the hands shaping these good works, for their passion we are truly thankful. It is also our students, whose wonder and excitement is why we serve in Catholic education, and our school parents and families who entrust their greatest gift, their children, to our care. We thank you for that relationship we’ve built.

Thank you all for a wonderful year, enjoy and have a blessed summer and we’ll see you in September!

Dan Svitich is a Ponoka Trustee on the STAR Catholic Schools Division Board. STAR Catholic Schools has more than 4,000 students in 12 schools located in Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Lacombe, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin.

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