Happy Summer Everyone!
On behalf of our Board and SLT, I want to thank all of you in our community for your support during this past school year. Your prayers and words of encouragement and thankfulness have sustained us through a season of challenge as we navigated these past many months of Covid.
We set out this year to be an anchor of stability in uncertain times, guided and secure in the faith of our community. Because of our dedicated staff, Board, admin and volunteers we were able to provide some normalcy for kids and families while continuing to improve our teaching and programs. We also played a significant part in our community to keep transmissions low and help keep businesses and schools open.
As we settle into the vacation weeks for our staff, we want to share some updates.
At this time we are planning for and expecting a return to something closer to “normal” for next fall, but realize that there have been many changes which we have embraced as improvements over past practice. High school administrators will be communicating their plans to the community later in the fall, but elementary and middle schedules will remain similar to this past year, except there will be no staggered starts and ends to the day. Our operations staff was exceptional this year in helping us implement the various Covid protocols that were required.
New Admin Teams
We were excited this week to welcome David Jackson (MS assistant principal), Kevin Mirchandani (Director of Learning), Patrick Lee (HS assistant principal) and Anita Wood (ES assistant principal) to our leadership team. Our campus based admin teams spent two days in July reviewing school action plans, setting new goals and refining practices for next year to ensure all students at LCS are successful. We are really excited about the capacity of this team and the range of talents and experiences they’re bringing to our school as we are planning to execute on our Board’s strategic plan in the fall.
This year we had some expected turnover of staff due to leaves, personal reasons, maternity leaves and new opportunities for talented staff in the post-Covid educational sector, but we are thrilled at the quality of educators that are joining our staff in 2021-2022.
Some have already jumped in with two feet teaching in the Summer Program, or joining collaborative planning projects, or working with high school leadership on planning for next year. Our new website will be updated as soon as possible to introduce new staff to the school community. New Director of K-12 Learning, Kevin Mirchandani is developing a very strong new teacher mentorship program in the fall. We welcome any staff who are interested in participating as mentors, and welcome any second-year staff who might want to take advantage of this to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest.
Diversity and Inclusion Working Group
We began some deliberately slow work this spring, with a posture of humility, leaning into the difficult but necessary conversations about inclusion and diversity in our school community. We included a very diverse group of staff, board and parents.
The first step was to draft a welcome statement which communicates hospitality and welcomes those who have historically felt like, or been regarded as outsiders to Christian communities. We collected a lot of feedback and have landed on a draft statement which is now posted on our Vision and Values page. Over the summer we are diving into some reading to ensure our perspectives are informed and that we understand the perspectives of people in our community who have been historically marginalized or are vulnerable as learners. As a school leadership team and Board, our guiding principle is that as a school we should take an educational approach and engage at a high level of care with a focus on student wellness.
In the fall, we are inviting SCSBC to present to the Board and DIWG on some research-based guiding principles that have been adopted by many of our partner Christian schools in BC. This is an area of learning and growth in Christian schools which most have been slow to engage in, and which we also know can be quite divisive due to a range of opinions on who is welcome in Christian schools and what our posture towards difference should be. Surveys and feedback from our students and staff indicate a strong desire to engage courageous in this very relevant topic. As we head into the summer and begin life face-to-face again, we join with many faith leaders urging everyone to find unity in our diversity and unique experiences and perspectives that we all bring to LCS.
Inclusive Education Practices
A key and necessary goal within our strategic planning is to develop a model of inclusive education that is inspirational to other schools and which is sustainable within the funding challenges that all schools and districts face with regards to their Special Education grants. This is no doubt one of the greatest challenges facing local schools. Many schools of choice have responded by academically screening students to ensure they limit the number of students with diverse needs entering their school. Historically we have subsidized Special Education spending at levels which were necessary at the time, but also restricted our ability to direct resources to other areas of the school such as updating our math and literacy teaching materials, capital replacement planning and facility maintenance. This year our school subsidized our Special Education over and above the previous year, while at the same time, we’ve moved in the direction of making our EA and teacher salaries more competitive with other schools.
Why do schools now talk about “inclusive education” and the term “special education” is less common? Inclusive education means we teach to the full range of student diversity and abilities that we have in our classrooms. We know from educational research that there is no such thing as an “average student” and therefore always teaching to the whole group or the middle range of ability misses large numbers of learners, increases the longterm likelihood of students struggling, and creates staffing sustainability problems for schools. Not all students who historically qualified as “special needs” require intensive interventions and support, while many students who do not have designations may have more challenging short-term needs. Moreover, all students in every classroom require support at times or have widely ranging levels of independence as learners. The short of this is that modern classrooms are very complex requiring the teacher to be the primary source of relationship and connection, with a range of skills to support the universal needs of all the students in the classroom. Our learning services teachers partner with the classroom teacher to support those kids with specific needs as well as general needs, while our educational assistants provide additional time, extra practice, and social-emotional support as directed by the teachers. Classroom support is determined by our School-Based-Teams who regularly monitor and make adjustments as needed to support learners who may be struggling.
What is generally described above is referred to as “multiple tiers” of support for all students. It requires that we have a variety of skills and tools as a school, which is why we’ve shifted some staffing FTE over the past year to add positions such as youth care workers who have university-level training in supporting student social emotional learning. We have added a counsellor at elementary school, and have increased our Learning Services Teacher FTE to ensure our staff have more manageable caseloads of students. Strong inclusive education practices remain our highest priority as a leadership team.
It is evident from some conversations in our community that there is some anxiety about this transition and how it might affect your child. We know these shifts will better support all learners and expand and diversify the range of support we offer students. We are working closely with SCSBC and other partners in developing a more sustainable, researched-based and effective model delivered by well-trained staff and administrators. We are also excited about the Learning Services teaching staff who are going to be leading in this area next year, working closely with staff and students to broaden our expertise in differentiated practices, coming from the perspective that all of us are responsible for all learners, and that we have high expectations for what all learners can achieve.
Upon the recommendation of a very talented Task Force of industry professionals in our community, the Board has appointed a small committee of 2 board members with construction management experience, and Frank Wood, to hire an architecture firm and construction management company to design a replacement of the existing Fort.
The new wing will have 8 classrooms, additional washrooms, storage and multipurpose spaces for arts or other uses. We hope to present concept drawings to staff in the early fall and get Society approval to move forward with construction at the earliest possible date with hopeful, anticipated completion sometime in 18-24 months from now. Included in our envisioning are plans for the further development of other areas of the campuses, outdoor spaces and additional parking. Once this process is underway, we will start exploring the range of options to build a new 6-8 campus.
Board Policies & Draft Constitution
As we shared in June, the LCS Board will ask the Society to ratify a new Constitution and Bylaws in November 2021. This is necessary due to changes to the Societies Act in 2015 that we have not captured in our old document. Part of the requirement of all non-profit societies and the Ministry of Education, is to ensure our policies are regularly revised and updated. Over the past few years there has been more and more direction as to what those policies should look like, particularly in the areas of board governance and student safety.
On the Policies and Procedures page you will notice a new policy numbering system. Policies numbered BD100-400 at LCS are Board-Approved policies and can only be changed by authorization of the Board during board meetings. All other policies (HR and administrative procedures) are updated and maintained by the SLT with some oversight from the Policy Review Committee to ensure they remain consistent with the school values and mission.
In the updated Board policies there are two significant policy and procedural changes which the Board modified in June. One, is a modification to the Admissions Policy which blended the old policy and the Waitlist Policy into a single policy outlining the admissions and enrollment process. The change of note here is an attempt to align the admissions procedures more closely with practice, especially since the onset of Covid, and to outline our “priority-based” enrolment process. One, among many, advantages of this change is that by having a less rigid enrolment process, we will now be permitted by the Teacher Regulation Branch to host final practicum students which gives us a considerable advantage in recruiting outstanding, new Christian teachers who want to learn their craft here. We are partnering with TWU next year to host a number of student teachers. The modification also more authentically recognizes our desire to provide Christian education for those students and families who authentically desire it, and whom God brings to our school.
The other change of note is a change to the dispute resolution process which in the past positioned the Board as a mediator in most disputes. In the past, the Board was an operational Board whereas now most disputes should be mediated at the campus administration level where we have trained and qualified staff who can deal with conflict in a professional and confidential process.The new process is specific to who is involved in the dispute or conflict, and outlines the appropriate steps and procedures for dealing with disagreement, whether it is operational or related to policy.
As we are able, we will upload our policies to our new website to ensure we are compliant with Ministry of Education requirements when we have a monitoring inspection next fall. Inquiries about policies can be forwarded to email@example.com
Bible Curriculum Review
Attached is our draft Learner DNA. We want to acknowledge the great work and collaboration that produced this document which gathered input from Amy Stromgren, Josh Withrow, Bruce Wergeland, Julia Eckert, Hayden MacKinnon, Karen Vlieg, Kevin Mirchandani, and Regan Davis. The DNA answers the question, what is an LCS K-12 education designed to encourage in students? What competencies will they develop?
We will continue working with this in the fall to refine it and start developing teaching practices to support it. We are hopeful that those teaching practices will also provide some guidance for us in how to teach theologically divisive topics in a thoughtful way that promotes dialogue and deep Biblical thinking. If you have feedback, please share with either Regan (MS), Kevin (HS) or Karen (ES) who have formed the core team in leading this project. Moving forward, we hope to have a robust curriculum that we place in front of all new parents and families to show what they are committing to, and how we define “Christian education.” We have shared this draft with the Education Committee and some parents and so far the reception is very positive.
Instructional Guidelines & Teacher Evaluations
Two years ago we began a process across each campus of describing what teaching and learning should look like in all LCS classrooms K-12. We continued to refine it and revisit it over the past year, whild Meena Sangha, Pam Marissen, Lori Carpenter and Val Jarvie collaborated on creating a new teacher evaluation and growth document to support its implementation. These guidelines are essentially our “brand guarantee” for parents and caregivers describing how we teach and learn. We will begin our implementation process in collaboration with teachers during the PLC times in the fall.
Summer Office Hours
We are closed July 10 and will be open again on August 23. Summer office hours are from 9:00-3:00pm when our administrative staff returns.
We wish you a wonderful and safe summer.
Eric Paquette, LCS Board Chair
Adam Woelders, LCS Head of Schools