ᕛᔨᒐᕐ ᑳ ᐃᔥᐹᒡ ᒋᔅᑯᑕᒫᒉᐅᑲᒥᒄ
This year, at Voyageur Memorial High School, we had a clear focus on getting our three concentration programs off the ground: Mikw Chiyâm, hockey and youth aboriginal entrepreneurship. The school leadership, along with teachers, staff and partners, have successfully implemented the three programs, as well as an after school activity—the Drones Club. This contributed to ensuring that every child had a place at VMS, whether through arts, sports, entrepreneurship, music or science.
School Governance and Shared Leadership
Our vision, which is to provide knowledge that respects our past to help us deal with today and prepare us for tomorrow, was carried out by pedagogical activities led by teachers. Historical issues were presented by distinguished guests, such as Ms. Kathleen J. Wootton, Ms. Bella Petawabano, Mr. Matthew Coon Come, Dr. Georges Blacksmith and Mr. Jimmy Etapp. We also received visits from elders Minnie Awashish and Willie Loon in the SFA and Cree culture classes, in order to make the content culturally relevant for students.
We also collaborated this year with our school commissioner, Mr. Clifford Loon, and school committee chairperson, Mr. Noah Cheechoo, to build a common vision of our school, as well as to report to them on the initiatives the school has put in place. We also worked together to present some projects to the Cree Nation of Mistissini that we would like to develop partnerships for, such as a breakfast club, daycare services for students who are also young parents, and purchasing Cree culture equipment.
Local School Improvement Plan
The leadership team met on a regular basis, and led a public consultation on February 5, 2016 to build the 2016-2017 LSIP. The feedback gathered allowed us to develop a LSIP that is aligned with the board’s Strategic Action Plan, as well as the vision of the community.
Part of our school-wide improvement goal was to improve our language and math scores. These core subjects were also the main focus areas in our LSIP. One initiative was to have regular component meetings to set smaller targets to help reach our long-term goals.
For language arts, we had bi-weekly team meetings where we created a hotlist of students who were very close to being at-grade level in reading. Each term we met our goal. Our end result surpassed our initial goal, and we also saw many gains across the board. For a couple of years now, we have set our goal for reading at 60% and each year we come very close but this year we went over. In total, 67% of our students are reading at or above grade level.
For math, our objective was to have all of our students learn the CUBES method from Secondary I to Secondary V. This method of learning helped students succeed in the area where they struggled the most, which was problem solving. We measured their improvements through common assessments every three weeks, which started in February. The math team created a video on how to use the method, and it was shown to students in their classrooms. Future plans for improvement and engagement in certain subject areas include creating ties with one of our community partners, Stornoway. The administration met with a group called Mining Matters, which presented different programs that the school could also implement in the curriculum or offer as after school activities.
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
At VMS High School, the GVC was fully implemented in math and language at the Secondary I and II levels in both sectors. To support consistent implementation and cross level coordination, we held bi-weekly subject team meetings. This allowed those who taught with the GVC to coordinate with each other, and also allowed the upper level teachers to become familiar with the implementation. For our English GVC implementation, through the assistance of our dedicated SFA facilitator, we also connected our Success For All (SFA) reading program with all the GVC components.
Professional Learning Communities
School collaboration is key when you strive for success in your school. At VMS, we had several PLCs that consisted of teachers and staff who committed themselves to at least two areas where they contributed time and expertise. Collectively, we had Cycle Teams, Subject Teams, LSIP Teams, a Study Group, Leadership Team and other committees. To ensure that the whole school communicated, we shared minutes of our meetings. Then, at the end of each term, we held Network Meetings, where a member of each team presented their term goals, celebrated their successes and shared their upcoming plans for the following term.
We have conducted Network Meetings for three years, and we feel this is the most positive way of communicating ideas within our school. This year we invited other managers, school committee members, and school board members to our school. The feedback we received was positive. A newly added PLC this year was our Study Group. This group consisted of six members who followed the work of John Hattie, author of “Visible Learning”. Members discussed what they felt were the key elements of Hattie’s findings; and the group prepared and hosted three workshops. The workshops covered areas in teacher feedback, mindset, and collaboration.
Attendance has not improved at the High School; in fact, it has decreased by 4%. Many factors played into this decrease, including the high teacher turnover throughout the year. We also see from the data that students missed the two first periods of the morning. However, we also noticed an influx in the number of students who attended 90% of the time or more. Some of the initiatives put in place to impact student attendance included weekly attendance stars, the end of term celebration for students missing less than 10% of classes, and sharing the attendance stars with their parents on our Facebook page. The attendance committee also met regularly and looked at best practices in education to encourage student attendance, and they took steps to communicate with parents and students about attendance.
Our school sees bullying as a problem that needs to be addressed not only by the school, but also by the community, parents, the school board and other entities. Therefore, we developed partnerships that allowed us to put in place prevention initiatives such as Diamond Girls and Challenge Day, in which the Justice Department was greatly involved. We also organized interventions with students involving the fire department and Mistissini police detachment to sensitize the students and parents. Finally, we implemented alternative suspensions and we referred about 20 students.
VMS High School is dedicated to ensuring that all our students feel they have a place at our school and that their abilities are celebrated and welcomed. One such initiative was the implementation of three concentrations (arts, hockey, and entrepreneurship). These concentrations allowed students to delve deeper into something they were passionate about, and created a sense of community amongst peers. The Mikw Chiyâm arts concentration held two community open houses to showcase work they created, and the year ended with the Regional N’we Jinan Festival in Mistissini. The Paul Martin Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program was introduced at VMS, which was the first of its kind in Quebec. This elective, which was offered to our Secondary V students, was so successful that they won Coup de Coeur en Defi OSEntreprendre at the regional level for Nord du Québec in their business venture with the Bears Apparel Partnership.
We also introduced the successful after school Drones Club, which allowed students to intertwine their scientific, artistic, and engineering skills. Mistissini also hosted the Provincial Aboriginal Science Fair, and though we did not take away the grand prize, our students proudly represented both VMS and the CSB in many grade levels and impressed the judges with their proficiency. One of those students, Anna-Lysia Swallow, attended the National First Nations Science Camp as a result. We also rejuvenated our Student Council and continued with much-loved after school activities, such as basketball. It is integral to us that all of our students be given the opportunity to succeed. This year we introduced the use of stationary bike desks in some of our classrooms to help students with concentration difficulties.
Parents are the most important partners that a school can have, and VMS has established positive communications with community members. Activities that took place in our school included a spaghetti supper at the start of the year to welcome parents and introduce them to teachers and staff. As well, this was year two of having our Second Cup of Coffee on the first Wednesday of each month, where administration and members of the Parent and Family Involvement Committee served cups of coffee and homemade baked goods to parents who dropped off their children. Our Volunteer Stars was something new this year, which allowed parents to donate healthy snacks to the school to help make sure that our students have water or something to eat. In addition, in conjunction with the Cree Board of Health, we invited parents to participate with their children during Family Challenge Day. We also had two Report Card nights, which had great attendance. Finally, in terms of communication we shared notices, upcoming events, pictures, celebrations, attendance stars, and other school-related items via radio, Facebook, Remind 101, and memos.