Dale Bass – Kamloops This Week
Alison Sidow looked forward to Back to School Day.
The new superintendent for the Kamloops-Thompson school district said she can’t imagine a better time to lead after being promoted in April to succeed Karl DeBruijn, who retired at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
She cited implementation of a new government-mandated curriculum as one of two of the reasons she is positive about the new school year.
Work has also begun on a new strategic plan for the district.
“I truly am encouraged,” she said.
And, while early estimates forecast a decline in enrolment, Sidow expects that by the time Sept. 30 rolls around — the date school districts must confirm enrolment to the Ministry of Education — the tally will be up.
Last year was the first time in 19 years school enrolment provincially increased, she said, meaning for School District 73, 350 more students than projected arrived in classrooms.
Preliminary indications are the city is drawing families from many areas this year — from the Prairies, northern B.C. and across Western Canada.
Sidow, who joined the district four years ago, has held several senior administration positions since then, giving her an opportunity to see the many strengths she said exist in the school district.
Among them, Sidow said, are a willingness to embrace diversity, to personalize the learning experience and to be sensitive to learning students themselves bring into the classroom.
Education has changed since she was a student, with the focus now on learning that is more relevant to the student’s life and future, helping them learn knowledge and skills they can use outside the classroom.
While there is still work to be done, Sidow said the district has a greater understanding of students with special needs and identifying their unique assets and challenges.
Use of technology has also grown in recent years, with smartphones and tablets becoming educational tools.
Most students have at least one, Sidow said; for those who don’t, the district has a supply from which it can lend out.
She remembers the days when similar devices were banned from classrooms. Now, she said, educators “are changing the way we teach these digital citizens.”
Other highlights Sidow discussed include:
• Growth in the district’s international education program, which has seen enrolment increase by 22.5 per cent from last year;
• Opening a kindergarten to Grade 12 Kamloops School of the Arts, a goal that was set more than a decade ago with creation of what was formerly called the Beattie School of the Arts;
• Upgrades to South Kamloops secondary — although that has also required the placement of additional portables. The district has an outstanding request to the ministry for funds to replace the aging school, which was built in the 1950s, and district administrators and trustees will be talking to the city’s two MLAs about its status;
• Moving forward with labour peace, something Sidow’s two predecessors did not always have, as the government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation reached a deal in September 2014 that continues through to May 2019. Sidow said the district has a positive relationship with the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.