(This my original speech which I adapted because our sounds system was not accessible)
I want to tell you how pleased I am that you are here. It is important for us to have the opportunity to meet often. I want to hear about the hopes and dreams you have for your children and how we can work together toward those goals. I appreciate your presence and your attention as I go over some information that I want to share with you.
But first, take a moment look around you at the beautiful gym that we are seated in and think about how beautiful the school looked as you walked through the Eagle Head entrance. This is the result of the intense renovations that have taken place over the past year or more. This gym was unavailable for much of last year, so we are thoroughly enjoying its use and look forward to the eventual completion of the remaining renovations and the replacement of windows in the office area. In all, we are in great shape. Well, the school is in great shape, I personally have a ways to go as you can see (by the air cast on my right ankle).
Let’s reflect for a moment on how we came to be in this beautiful building.
The Bella Bella Community School opened its door to students in Sept. 1977. This was a result of a lot of hard work and lobbying by a small number of visionaries who decided that they no longer wanted to send our children away from our community to attend high school. Students in the previous generation had attended residential school and their children in turn, were sent off to boarding homes in order to go beyond grade 7.
In 1973, these visionaries signed an agreement with the federal government to take control over the education of the children and the next four years were dedicated to building and staffing the school. Children no longer had to leave home in order to attend high school.
The children in our community now attend our school with a dedicated staff and classes small enough that students can receive extra assistance or enrichment if required. I would like to express my gratitude to those individuals who worked on our behalf to get us this beautiful building: Ann Housty, Bradley Hunt, Liz Brown, Esther Innes, Polly Waterfall, and others who also contributed to making this a reality. There were others and if you know who they are, please let me know.
The Bella Bella Community School currently enrols approximately 200 students from K4 to grade 12. Our school follows the BC Ministry of Education School Curricula offering small classes and a wide range of course offering taken in class or by distance education. Our students have every opportunity to receive extra help or enrichment as required. Their success and well-being is our most important priority and we know that is your priority as well.
The class of 2013 was perhaps one of the largest graduating class in the past 27 years. Nineteen students completed grade 12 and several of those students are now enrolled in post-secondary school on Vancouver Island. Please stop by and look at the Wall of Fame that has been installed in our foyer. Their successful completion of high school represents hard work on their behalf and it reflects your encouragement and support from home. It is also the result of the time and effort of a dedicated staff who worked with these students from nursery through to graduation.
Please know that when a child enters school, our expectation is that the child will stay with us long enough to earn a high school diploma which we call a Dogwood or an Evergreen. Please discuss these options in detail with the high school counsellor if you wish to pursue that understanding a bit more.
It is important for parents and grandparents to know that a high school graduation is not what it used to be. Yes, it is an important milestone, but nowadays getting meaningful employment and a job that pays enough to more than just get by, can only be accessed by attending post-secondary school. Our goal is to see students through to graduation, but also to provide them with the opportunity to explore and pursue a post-secondary education. That way we can have community members working in jobs that are currently filled by several outside contractors and professionals. Please spend a few minutes every now and then to discuss with your children, their hopes and dreams and what it might take to get there. This is so important. As well, work with me and my staff by keeping your expectations a weekly conversation about what is going well and what may be on their minds.
“Our mission is to develop in a just, caring, and respectful environment, students who are independent and life-long learners, incorporating our community traditions and culture with the acquisition of skills needed to succeed in both the traditional and the modern world”
The statement addresses areas that will allow students to thrive and progress and be comfortable in our traditional world and the one that they will have to exist within if they move away from this village. This statement was adopted by the Bella Bella School Board and directs us to create learning opportunities that address the needs of the students in our building.
Parents and grandparents, we have three additional goals that will guide staff in a direction that is intended to address student success. They include the following:
A. Increase Parental and Community Involvement
B. Increase Opportunities for Student Engagement
C. Create conditions that will Enhance Student Success and School Climate
We need you as parents and grandparents to help us with this. You can help us by doing the following:
Ensure your child is here regularly. When students are here, we can engage them with rich and diverse learning activities. They can be part of a guided reading group or they can be engaged in a science experiment or in reading literature exploring how others think and get around in their places in the world.
If students are away too often, gaps in learning occur and this inhibits learning. Chronic early absenteeism is a predictor that a child will struggle academically and socially in later grades. If your child is away for illness, of course, this is an exception. In that case, I would like you to call and let us know if your child can do homework or not. When students are present the majority of the time, successes are easier to meet with. The children are happier and staff is happier as a result.
I expect staff to arrive on time and I expect our students to be here on time as well. I expect high school student to arrive equipped with the tools they will need for learning: textbooks, notebooks, binders, pens and pencils. As well, i expect each child from intermediate through to high school to have their agenda books with them at each and every class in order to write down reminders such as homework.
Finally, It is vitally important that parents and teachers communicate regularly to discuss the progress of our students, your children and grandchildren. It is important for you to know that if you have questions or concerns about your child’s progress that you first discuss it with the teacher. That is your first line of communication and the most important one to maintain.
You should have received in the mail, a parent-student handbook. If you did not receive one, please pick one up. It contains information about the policies and school procedures.
Parents and grandparents. I know I can count on you to be our students’ biggest cheerleaders – to recognize their achievements and to encourage them through some challenging times. Encourage them to keep an open mind and to engage in learning activities within and beyond the classroom. We have a wonderful year ahead of us and I look forward to having the opportunity to talk with many of you in the months ahead.