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Education Minister visits Fort Vermilion School Division

March 12, 2020
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Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange paid a visit to the Fort Vermilion School Division this week, giving FVSD an “A” – for “Awesome.”

“It’s an awesome School Division,” she said Wednesday afternoon during a visit to St. Mary’s Elementary School. “Very collaborative, very open to working together. Really looking to utilize the resources they have and put them to best use for children.  I commend them for the excellent work they are doing.”

LaGrange is winding down a province-wide tour of school divisions, giving her an opportunity to have an on-the-ground, personal view of what is happening in schools around the province. It has also been an opportunity to develop relationships with the people who are at the frontline of education from the school boards, to the divisions – including staff, teachers, and even students themselves – to gain a good, wholesome understanding of what the successes and challenges are.

“To me, it is really important to have that on-the-ground, personal ability to see what is here and really understand it,” LaGrange said. “Not from a conceptual view, or from reading a report, but really seeing it for myself.”

FVSD Superintendent, Michael McMann welcomed the Education Minister to the northernmost school division in the province, stating it was an opportunity to show her the successes and challenges that come with rural northern schooling.

“We want the Minister to understand that in the north, we are a little bit different, and we have challenges around recruitment and we have challenges around MELT (Mandatory Entry-Level Training), but we’re also willing to work with government to find efficiencies” said McMann.

The visit provided two opportunities for the Education Minister regarding major projects underway in the FVSD. The first was to bring news that the Blue Hills high school project will be fully funded – allowing FVSD the opportunity to define that project in greater detail.

The second opportunity was the amalgamation of Fort Vermilion Public School and St. Mary’s Elementary School in Fort Vermilion. The move would provide opportunities for a number of efficiencies, improve programming, and provide better resources for students. The amalgamation is currently the number one project on the FVSD Capital Plan. LaGrange toured both schools and had an opportunity to speak directly to staff, teachers, and students during each tour.

"Anytime you have a chance to showcase the importance of education and continued programming to the Minister, it is a great opportunity," said FVPS Principal Grant Charles.

"When the Minister takes the time to tour our school and see students and staff in action, it is a positive for all,” added SMES Principal Bonnie Hunley.

“It’s really nice that the Education Minister came up here to see our jurisdiction,” said McMann. “I think it gives a lot of local context when ministers have their feet on the ground and see what we are about. They can understand us from a different perspective up here.”

McMann noted how changes in education funding announced this year would benefit the Division.

“We’re very excited to work with the Minister, who is engaging and allowing us to have some flexibility in funding to fit our needs – rather than being pocketed in a way that we can’t really do much with” he said. “The stability, flexibility, and predictability in the funding will serve this jurisdiction well. We are a growing jurisdiction, and we know there are implications with that, but this allows us to plan much more diligently when we have a budget five months before school starts rather than getting it so late in the year – as has happened in the past.”

LaGrange said she has heard similar challenges and priorities in a number of rural school divisions.

“I hear many of the same things, particularly in our rural remote areas – the need for sustained infrastructure,” she said. “The need to develop ideas on how we can recruit and retain quality teachers in these areas is also something I hear about."

“I also hear that school divisions here are very resilient. They have visions of what we can do better. So I am always happy to hear the suggestions, and what opportunities we can do as government and school divisions working together for the betterment of students."

“Regardless of where they live or what their background, everyone deserves a chance to have the absolute best education.”