Column: STAR Catholic using community input to guide focus

Trustee Dan Svitich speaks to the focus at STAR Catholic schools

When you look to set a direction that serves your school community, it is truly important that focus be one shared, and really something generated, by those you serve.

St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Schools board of trustees strives to do this each year in setting its annual board priorities and indicators. In coming to this critical set of priorities for the school division, STAR Catholic’s Board continues to value the wisdom and experience of its many stakeholders.

The 2018-2019 board priorities were approved at the April board meeting, but the process began long before with a consultation of high school students at STAR Catholic’s three high schools, as well as a comprehensive community consultation day this past February in Wetaskiwin. This annual consultation process brought nearly 70 STAR Catholic stakeholders together, from staff to students, clergy and parishioners to administrators, school council members and parents. All bring a unique perspective to the table, and through the consultation those viewpoints help weave the full picture of the division, what could be better and what is a resounding success. At this consultation, stakeholders along with Trustees dug deeper into the current board priorities.

As a board we were delighted by the passion in the conversation. It was evident that student learning is at the forefront of the minds of our stakeholders, there is a strong connection to faith shown and desired throughout, and a definite want to help equip our educators and staff in the best way we can for the classroom.

The board’s priorities are: Grow and affirm Catholic identity, supporting staff efficacy, and strengthen student learning and wellbeing, and those priorities remained in place following the consultation and the board’s subsequent discussions. But what has changed is some of the indicators; how we achieve or know we are achieving these priorities. This process has been very fruitful for the Board, and there are a few points that stand out.

In Grow and affirm Catholic identity, out of the consultation it was important to reaffirm the connection between the home, school, and parish that exists in Catholic education. That will come through creating opportunities to build those relationships. In supporting staff efficacy, it was important to continue focus and support to assist administration in their capacity as instructional leaders. And, in strengthen student learning and wellbeing, STAR Catholic is focused on supports for mental health, and student anxiety. Additionally, improving First Nations, Metis and Inuit student educational outcomes, as well as a commitment to understanding, knowledge and respect for our First Nations cultures, history and perspectives is critical for STAR Catholic moving forward.

We as a board pass along a heartfelt thank you to those who joined us in February in Wetaskiwin, and to the inspirational high school students we spoke with. These priorities are born out of your expertise and insight.

Our board is committed to listening to the voices of our communities, our partners and those we truly serve in Catholic education. It is these many voices that make these priorities evident, as we collectively journey along this path, always improving as we move forward.

Dan Svitich dan.svitich@starcatholic.ab.ca 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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