Schools superintendent strikes committee to help implement new secondary school model

A new community committee is starting this week to work out details on the new secondary school model for Williams Lake.

School District 27 Superintendent Mark Thiessen is facilitating a new District Implementation Committee starting this week to help with implementing the new one school two campus secondary school in Williams Lake.

“This committee will include administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents,” Thiessen says. “The committee will be working together on some foundational elements for the new secondary school in Williams Lake.”

He says initial discussions will include:

• What the Grade 7 program will look like (elementary, middle school, or secondary school model?).

• Grades 8-9 program (middle school or secondary school model).

• Graduation program.

• Timetable options.

School trustees recently confirmed plans to make Williams Lake and Columneetza secondary schools into one grades 7 to 12 secondary school operated on two campuses. Columneetza would become the predominantly grades 7 to 9 campus and WLSS would become the predominantly grades 10 to 12 campus.

He says the district is currently advertising for a principal to oversee the two campuses and the plan is to have two vice-principals working at each campus.

At this point, he says it has not been decided if all of the vice-principals will be full-time administrators or if they will also have a teaching load.

“While it’s true that we will have more administrators in the secondary schools than we have presently, we will also have 230 more students than we have now as the Grade 7 students become part of the high school system,” Thiessen says.

At various times in the past when enrolment numbers warranted it, he says both Columneetza and WLSS have each had one principal and two-vice-principals.

“As enrolment has declined at the two schools, administration time has also declined. With 230 more students and a major transition happening next year, it’s reasonable to look at a total staff of five administrators overseeing 1,500 students located at two campuses.”

At this point, Thiessen says the district is not looking to hire an external consultant  to help with the transition as proposed previously.

“The idea was not just that this consultant would be helping with course planning but would be helping with the entire transition planning” Thiessen says. “We have chosen instead to hire the principal for the new (secondary) school and have the principal begin their assignment at the beginning of April.  The new principal and district staff will then be working together to facilitate the transition process.”

He says it is also possible that some extra administration time will be needed at other schools in the district during the transition phase.

Overall, however, he says administrative costs will be going down in the district with the closure and reconfiguration of schools in the district.

In Williams Lake the transition will also include the closure of Glendale and Kwaleen elementary schools at the end of this school year.

Students from those schools have been reassigned to Cataline, Nesika and Chilcotin Road elementary schools, but school of choice provisions will also play a part in the transition.

Thiessen says the district is also working with teachers and support staff to come up with a plan for the transition, which in addition to accommodating the transition from a seven to 12 one school on two campuses, needs to address the closure of Kwaleen and Glendale elementary schools in Williams Lake. Nesika, Cataline and Chilcotin Road elementary schools are expected to take the majority of students in the schools that are closing, but school of choice provisions will also play a role in the transition.

“The district is presently in Section 54 negotiations with both teachers and support staff,” Thiessen says. “Because this is an unusual year with many employees being displaced, it’s possible that we are able to come to agreements with our unions that would see different processes in place for this year only.  As we are in the middle of these negotiations, I can’t yet comment further on what the processes might look like.”





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