Blazing the way for others like him
If anyone had told the Thomas family their son would one day be running and training to make it into the Paralympics, they may not have believed them
The saying goes, it takes a community to raise a child, a strong community that will help foster the child to grow and learn. Andrew Thomas wouldn’t quite be considered a child, but the concept remains true. The support from his family, friends, therapists and mentor Cory Johnson have helped Thomas go from being diagnosed with severe autism to someone who is considered high functioning autistic.
“Last February Lynn (Thomas) contacted me about the possibility of taking Andrew on as a work experience student for my speaking business. So I started working with Andrew a few days a week and Andrew started learning more about what I do and the fact that I was doing all this running,” said Johnson.
“Fast forward a few months and Andrew, I believe, bought a pair of shoes one day and said ‘these shoes are made for marathons’.”
Paul and Lynn Thomas, Andrew’s parents started thinking about the possibility of Andrew running. At first they were exploring two different avenues - one was with the Special Olympics and the other with the Paralympics. In the end they opted for the Paralympics as the Special Olympics is more for people with developmental disabilities and Andrew’s is an intellectual disability.
“I come from the philosophy that in order to push ourselves we need to be able to compare ourselves to all kinds of different abilities and ranges of abilities,” said Johnson.
The Special Olympic philosophy is to keep it at a level where everyone competing has an equal opportunity to win. For the Paralympics it is more of a challenge, you have to be one of the best to win.
“We want Andrew to challenge himself, and for Andrew to challenge himself we want him to compete with everybody,” said Paul.
“I’ve seen Andrew work harder at running then I ever have anything, and working so hard is so rewarding for him.”
On a normal Tuesday or Thursday Andrew gets up, jumps on the bus for school. After a half day at school he is off to Sobeys to work at 11:30 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. Then Johnson picks him up and they head into the city to run at either the Glenmore Athletic Park or the Foothills Athletic Park. He doesn’t get home until late in the evening around 8 p.m., then pretty much heads straight to bed.
“The whole thing we’re trying to achieve here is to get Andrew…we’re trying to make it so that Andrew is category with other people around the world called Teir 20 which is for people with intellectual disabilities, so that he can compete at a level as high as he wants to go, and maybe his ultimate goal could be going to the Paralympics,” said Johnson.
“That’s is definitely something that he talks about, that’s what keeps him moving, that’s what keeps him going because that’s what he wants,” said Lynn.
“Andrew by doing this he’s going to teach a lot of people about autism, overcoming barriers and being the best you can be,” said Johnson.
“In a way Andrew is a trail blazer and it’s going to allow somebody who is in his situation one day to be able to see the possibilities.”
Fulfilling a dream
Rwanda, a place best known for the genocide in the ‘90s, is not usually somewhere people plan to go work for a few months. For Sacred Heart Academy teacher Sarah Watson, who has always wanted to go to Africa, it’s a dream come true. Watson will be in Rwanda from the beginning of August until December.
“Not a specific place, we were focusing on Tanzania because it is considered a little bit of a safer area of Africa, but in my head I wasn’t saying I absolutely have to go here, or I have to go there, it was I want to go to Africa,” said Watson.
“For some people who maybe aren’t religious it will sound corny but I’ve always felt called to go there for whatever reason to do some kind of work.”
She loves volunteering and does quite a bit of it both in Strathmore and Calgary and said opportunities to travel and volunteer are passions of hers.
She will be teaching at the Green Hills Academy, which is a private school.
“My understanding is I won’t have a specific class but who knows I might get there and they might be putting me in a class because that’s what they need at the time. What I have been told is, I am going there as a literacy coach for the teachers and I will be modeling lessons, I will be sharing resources. They have meetings every Wednesday and I will be getting a good chunk of the hour and half time that they have to act as PD for the teachers,” said Watson.
In preparation for her trip she had been speaking to the kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers to find out what sort of tips and strategies they use when teaching language arts.
Her family is in Ontario and they are used to her being away from home. She said they are very excited because they know how much she wanted to do something like this, but they do, of course, have the nerves that come along with seeing your daughter head off to a distant, developeing country for a few months.
Trying to think of everyday things she uses in Canada that might not be available there and then stocking up five months worth has been a little tough. Batteries are supposedly very expensive in Rwanda so she was told to bring a flashlight and batteries.
“I might pack a few things of Alfredo sauce or taco seasoning, just a few things to remind me as I eat the food that I haven’t heard too many good reviews about,” Watson said laughing.
Along with five months of clothing and personal supplies, Watson will also be bringing as many books and learning tools as she can. There are a couple of people from the Christ the Redeemer school board going to Rwanda just before she arrives and staying for a few days after. They are willing to take an extra piece of extra luggage for her.
“I have three pieces of extra luggage of school supplies that I’m taking with me, school supplies and books. So that’s kind of exciting, I could probably take 15 or 20 if I could,” said Watson.
Watson hopes to travel a bit if she can while there but it depends on wheather or not other teachers want to travel. She knows the school has drivers that they can hire, but for safety she will not be travelling by herself.
“It’s just going to be an adventure, it really is. I’m going to be very adaptable and flexible and I’m just going to have to go with the flow and I just have to tell myself that every opportunity is a learning opportunity,” said Watson.
“I know it’s a cliché but it really is, it’s going to challenge me, it’s going to take me out of my comfort zone. What better way to grow as a person then by putting yourself in a situation like that and even just to appreciate (what you have).”
She thinks the more a person travels to countries like Africa and places that don’t have the luxuries and amenities that we have, the more people can appreciate what they do have and see how much they take for granted.
Food issues: out of mind if out of sight
Canadian food banks are non-profit organizations, which are dedicated to providing food to those in need through generous support from volunteers and sponsors.
As the demand for food banks are increasing, the volunteerism and charity given as the basis for the supply is not the solution, according to United Nations (UN) right-to-food envoy, Olivier De Schutter.
“(Food banks) are a symptom of failing social safety nets that the government must address,” he said.
De Schutter visited Canada for 11 days in May, 2012, to analyze the current food situation in Canada. In his findings, De Schutter reported that Canada withheld strong barriers to the poor populace in regards to access to a nutritional diet.
“Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty. Yet today one in 10 families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food needs, people are simply too poor to eat decently,” said Schutter during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 16, 2012.
According to the coordinator of the Alberta Food Bank Network Association, Jessi Evanoff, Alberta has yet to install a poverty action plan in the long-term perspective.
“Do I think (the government) needs to intervene more? Yes. How? That’s a tough one, there’s a variety of areas that would probably help in increasing people’s food security one being minimum wage and affordable housing,” said Evanoff.
Evanoff stated that basic necessities including food and housing can be made unattainable if the minimum wage isn’t up to par with the cost of living, which can draw a line, sometimes forcing people to make a decision.
“Sometimes is it am I going to have a roof over my head or am I going to eat tonight? And a lot of people who access our food banks are seniors, and their pensions don’t always cover the cost of living so they have a tough time,” she said.
Lorraine Fanning, from Wheatland County Food bank agreed that the government should do something about the cost of living so,” people aren’t forced to come to the food banks.”
Evanoff said the demand for food banks is on the rise and views the current food bank system as a quick fix to food shortages.
The debate continues as to whether the government should focus its attention externally to developing countries where food issues are more apparent, or turn its focus internally to the food problems that are more close to home.
Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, made the point that the focus should be external and that the UN’s Olivier De Schutter’s 11 day visit was a waste of time.
“It would be our hope that the contributions we make to the United Nations are used to help starving people in developing countries, not to give lectures to wealthy and developed countries like Canada and I think this is a discredit to the United Nations,” said Kenney.
Evanoff on the other hand, believes that solving Canadian food issues should be made a first priority.
“Of course, global food insecurity is an issue but I think solving our country’s issues is key, we live in an extremely wealthy first world country, and the fact that the people in Canada do not have food does not make any sense because there is plenty to go around, and one, maybe we could short and long term figure that out for our country and extend it elsewhere,” Evanoff said.
Evanoff views the issue as being more complex than simply getting food to the people, and that there are many faucets which contribute one to visiting a food bank.
“We need to reach out to other agencies, we need to figure out why someone is accessing the food bank, it could be addiction, it could be abuse in the family, joblessness or simply not having enough or the cost of living,” she said.
In the meantime, food banks across Canada are still reliant on the generosity of volunteers and from sponsors. Fundraisers will be picking up in the fall to prepare for the hard times during the holidays.
“Am I hopeful that we eventually we will be able to work towards some answers and some solutions. How long and when? That still remains to be seen,” said Evanoff.
Quotes for Olivier De Schutter and Jason Kenney from http://www.ctvnews.ca/feds-dismiss-un-envoy-s-findings-on-hunger-poor-diets-1.824015#ixzz1za3K9yTn
Avoiding boredom this summer: youth programs available
Rollerblading throughout Kinsmen Park, eating ice cream, and simply enjoying the sunshine are a few simple ways to enjoy summer and keep our Strathmore youth occupied.
However, this may not be for everyone. Luckily, there are many youth programs offered throughout Strathmore, making it nearly impossible for the summer of 2012 to be anything but uneventful.
Jump House Gymnastics is offering an array of summer programs and camps including: weekly gymnastics camps from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a couple of cheerleading camps from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Gymnastic camps are for ages three and a half to 16 and cheer camps are for ages six to 18. Drop-ins are available for any age and one-on-one tumbling sessions can be made available as well.
“I think we are getting better, there is quite a few summer camps and summer programs for kids but it’s always about variety, so I think that we can offer the gymnastics which is something a little different than the other camps that are in Strathmore,” said Jump House summer coordinator, Cassi Knopf.
The following week, the Jump House Gymnastics will be having it’s first ever boys only camp, which hasn’t been able to happen in the past due to lack of male intest in a female dominated sport.
“It’s active, fun and finding something for everyone to be active in because it’s not really a team sport, they can grow on their own and develop their skills on their own.”
Spots are still available and more information can be found by calling 403-934-4900
The Strathmore Before & After School Care will be hosting summer camps throughout July and August. The camps are four days long, some including activities like visiting the Calgary Zoo, Sunridge Movie Theatre, Heritage Park, Bassano Outdoor pool etc. Every Tuesday the kids will be headed to the Kinsmen Lake Spray Park and every Friday, the kids will get a chance to go swimming at Strathmore’s Aquatic Centre.
More information can be found at http://www.strathmorekids.com/
The Strathmore Municipal Library will be having a summer reading program for children and youth from July 3- August 24. The 2012 theme is Fantasy and the program is Imagine. Prizes will be awarded for completed reading challenges.
Programs are available for ages 3-5 (Monday 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.), ages 5-8 (Tuesdays/Wednesdays from 10am-12pm), ages 9-11 (Tuesdays/Wednesdays from 2pm-4pm), and ages 12 and up (Thursdays from 1:30pm-3:30pm.)
More information about the summer reading program can be found by visiting http://strathmorelibrary.ca/srp.
Rosebud Theatre introduces My Name is Asher Lev
Rosebud Theatre debuted a new play on Wednesday, July 4 which focuses on a father-son relationship and Jewish culture.
Based on a well-known novel by Chaim Potok, the play depicts the story of a Hasidic Jew whose true passion lies in painting despite his strict father’s disagreement. Giovanni Mocibob plays the young Asher Lev as he struggles with his father and his talent. All other male roles including Asher’s father, Ari Lev, and Asher’s artistic mentor, Jacob Kahn are played by Nathan Schmidt. All female roles are played by Heather Pattengale.
“I think the main theme of the play is...the son dealing with the struggle between what he wants to do and what he should do,” said Schmidt, “also the grace of a father to let the son live his life, ultimately, even though he doesn’t understand or agree.”
Schmidt said the relationship of the mother between those two is also a big part, as she “watches two powerful personalities struggle with each other” even though she loves both men.
Schmidt says having a small cast is “great” and has increased the “magic of theatre” as it enhances the storytelling.
“The purpose of theatre, to a large extent, is to show us ourselves,” said Schmidt, “to sit there and watch people within the play or within the story environment struggle...I think people connect with that right away.”
Schmidt also said the aspect of the prevalent Jewish culture in the play makes it stand out, and it adds a whole new aspect to the play. “I think it’s a pleasure to watch,” said Schmidt.
“I think the musical composition is really, really wonderful to listen to,” Schmidt says as he explains the set design and the music working together, and suggests the play is “scored like a film.”
“I’m not sure it’s going to be as interesting to kids who haven’t hit that struggle [with their parents] yet,” said Schmidt of the play, “but anyone from teenagers up will enjoy it.”
The play opens on July 4 and runs until August 25, running every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door and do not include the price of the meal. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.rosebudtheatre.com or by calling 1-800-267-7553.
Canadian Passion Play a must-see event
The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, a play based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is scheduled to begin performances on July 13 to much excitement.
The play has been listed as “One of Alberta’s Top Cultural Attractions” by Attractions Canada, as well as “One of the Top 100 Events in North America” by the American Bus Association. Audience members with glowing reviews can be found everywhere from newspapers to YouTube.
Stephen Waldschmidt, who is entering his fifth year playing Jesus in the play, says the play is a “dramatization” of the gospel of John, and it is a very “poetic and artistic account of Jesus.”
“It’s a very dark play,” said Waldschmidt, “it shows what happens to truth, beauty and love, when powers are corrupt.”
The play is recommended for ages six and up, but Waldschmidt said ages twelve and up would probably get the most out of the play. He also says being religious is not a prerequisite for seeing the play.
“The play is presented in such a way that the audience can understand, and even form an emotional connection, with Jesus’s story, regardless of whether they’ve had any previous exposure to the gospels.”
People with little or no religious background have had amazing reviews in the past, said Waldschmidt. “Regardless of pre-depositions or assumptions about Jesus, he is just such an amazing man, and he lived such a beautiful life.” He explains seeing that embodied by live actors can “effect you” and makes the play “beautiful.”
“I think it is a must-see because we all need to be woken up and invited to live a better story with our lives,” Waldschmidt said, “and I say that regardless of one’s religious inclinations.”
Waldschmidt also praises the music, saying it is “amazing” because the speakers are all hidden which makes the play that much better.
“The price of admission is worth it just to [hear the music]. Luke Bertman has composed an original score for the play, and it is so profound.”
“This play presents Jesus’s life in a way that it will inspire and move people.”
Performances are scheduled for both evenings (6 p.m.) on July 13,14, 19 and 20 as well as afternoons (3 p.m.) on July 15, 21 and 22 in the outskirts of Drumheller. Ticket prices range from $17-$56 each based on performance date, the attendees age, and section. Please visit www.canadianpassionplay.com/tickets to pre-purchase your tickets.
Sarah Lyons is inviting you to try something new; to beat on a West African Djembe drum, in Kinsmen Park on July 11.
Lyons has her Bachelor degree in music and is the band director at Holy Cross Collegiate School.
“Djembe is a traditional West African drum on which hundreds of rhythms can be played. I want everyone to come out and get a taste of listening to it and try it for themselves,” said Lyons.
Although Lyons’ major was in clarinet, she became interested in the Djembe drums. Her teacher was Trudy Hipwell, who studied under Mamady Keita from Guinea. Keita learned his art from an elder in his home in Balandougou, Guinea, where generations pass down the beats through oral tradition.
Keita has competed in worldwide professional drumming competitions and later founded Sewa Beats, a company that teaches learning through rhythm and music. See a clip of Mamady Keita on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng6C-hMfAgc&feature=related
Lyons says her workshop will be a hands-on session to introduce the drums, and a more advanced session where a complete song will be learned. She said being able to read the music is not a pre-requisite and everyone should come out, have fun and learn.
The event is organized by the Hope Bridges Society. The society is hoping that by bringing arts to the community, it will foster meaningful relationships and change the perception of difference that includes belonging, inclusion, citizenship, and a stronger community. They are hoping everyone, including seniors, shut-ins and those with special needs turn out to enjoy the day together.
Their new Coordinator, Wanda Reinholdt, is looking forward to speaking to those interested in the workshops. Reinholdt is an actress and artist and mentors artists. She is excited to get to know the various artists in the community. She will be available to register those interested in the drumming sessions, if they call 403-983-3640.
The introductory session is $10 and runs at 12 noon. It will last about 35 minutes. The second more advanced session is $25 and will be about one hour and 45 minutes. It runs at 7 p.m.
Hope Bridges is located in a new office in the old Home Hardware building across from Kinsmen Park. There will be a grand opening for the Hope Bridges office, later this year.
Seniors’ Centre renovations complete
The Standard Young at Hearts Club celebrated the completion of their $55,000 renovation project of their Seniors’ Centre with an open house June 27 in Standard.
Guests from seniors’ groups in Strathmore, Hussar, Rockyford, and many Standard residents came by to look at the changes, which include an expanded kitchen area that is one-third larger than it was, new cupboards, flooring, windows and fresh paint.
The 30 year-old building was starting to show its age so the club members began planning the work a year and a half ago, part of which was raising the funds through the New Horizons Grant, the Community Spirit Grant, working a casino and local projects.
The actual work on the building took most of April and May to complete with the work being done by local craftsmen and volunteers.
The only noticeable change on the outside of the building is a new storage shed out back, as the old one inside was torn out for the kitchen expansion.
The 42 members of the Standard Young at Hearts are looking forward to making use of their remodeled centre, and appreciate all the help and support that made it possible.
DVDs are here to stay
With the outbreak of Netflix and the closing of big box video stores one has to wonder, are DVD’s on the way out?
“They all closed for different reasons actually,” said Ed McCune, owner of Strathmore’s Video Gallery.
“Rogers has been planning to close for years actually, they’ve been planning to get out of the video industry for five or six years. People in Calgary might have noticed all their stores have been gradually closing down their DVD sections and just going straight to cell phones, they’re doing online stuff as well.”
Financial problems and extreme debts are what close down stores like Blockbuster and the Movie Gallery. The big corporations overextended themselves and eventually had to liquidate in order to be able to buy their way out of some of the debt.
Even with the creation of Netflix, McCune isn’t too concerned about losing business.
“The media keeps putting out that the big problem for video stores is Netflix. If you ever look at Netflix, if you ever took their free month, you’d realize it’s not an issue. They’re totally in a different business than I am,” said McCune.
“They carry old, crappy movies, they don’t have good licensing because licensing is expensive. So they can’t carry any Disney stuff or any of the really good newer movies. They have to wait a year before they can have them, and then they are so expensive that they usually only have the ‘B’ rated movies. That’s all they ever carry.”
McCune said he feels the biggest competition is out there for video storeowners, such as him, is TV. Things like Shaw Video on Demand and other similar programs make travelling to the video store less appealing. Even then he still thinks the real deal of a video store wins out, at least with some people.
“Especially in small towns there’s still quite a bit of demand for people wanting to rent videos. It’s a different experience. There are various options for digital, but they only carry a few of the top hits, they don’t always have everything and you get it for 24 hours. If something happens you have to rent it again, and if it doesn’t work too bad you have to rent it again,” said McCune.
“They don’t have the selection a video store has, we have all kinds of smaller titles that they don’t carry at all. The only thing that they’ve got that I don’t have is convenience. People have to get out of their house to come down here.
“That’s the only thing. We have better prices, we have better selection, we have better customer service, if there’s an issue or a problem we can give out a free rental or whatever, they won’t do that at Shaw. We can give advice to people on what they’d like.”
McCune goes out of his way once a month browsing the pawnshops in Calgary to search out old hits that can’t be found anywhere else. He usually finds 20 to 30 titles a month that he then adds to the store’s classic hits room.
He said he has customers that drive in from Calgary and even as far as Bassano to browse, or purchase the movies.
“There’s still a lot of people that like to browse and pick out movies, they don’t want to just click on the TV, they want to come down and browse and that’s where we fill a niche too.”
Farmers Day Gator winner announced
One day every year UFA recognizes and celebrates the hardworking men and women who dedicate their lives to farming. During Farmers Day there is also a raffle for people to enter. This year’s raffle was for a new John Deere Gator Utility Vehicle.
“We had a draw to give away this gator from Farmers Day…so it’s just a prize giveaway for people who put (in) their name and a thank you for being a part of Farmers Day,” said Rudy Nordin, a member experience representative with UFA.
There are 120 agents and 35 farm stores that participate. One winner is picked from across the province and this year Wheatland County resident Robert Bolinger was that lucky winner.
Bolinger had stopped by UFA on Farmers Day to pick up some farm chemicals for the spring crops. He said things were just starting to get packed up but he and another farmer were encouraged to enter into the draw. Bolinger and his wife Gwen were happy to hear that they had won the raffle, and have already thought of ways to put the Gator to good use.
“I’ll use it as a utility vehicle on the farm, it looks like it’s really handy, save having to traipse around in the 4x4 or the truck for a lot of things,” said Bolinger.
“This is really good. If we had cows it’d be really good for calving time, if early spring is cold just throw the calves in the back and take them to where it’s warm. They’re pretty handy for just about anything.”
“We’ll put it to good use. We’ve had a gator since the early ‘90s and they are the handiest little vehicle to have on the farm,” said Gwen.
The Bolingers said they had been considering replacing their current Gator and Robert said the list price for the Gator they won is approximately $14,800.
Can learning be measured?
The Fraser Institute have released their controversial report cards for 2011, which rate schools entirely on academic performance. The Fraser Institute base their calculations on the publicly available information that is received from provincial testing.
The Fraser Institute is a Canadian, independent, non-partisan research organization which made its first Alberta high school report card in 1999 and elementary report card in 2002. The Fraser Institute reports have expanded to provinces which provide provincial testing whose results are made available to the public. The Fraser Institute has, in the past 13 years, expanded its research to British Columbia, Ontario and have used to produce results for Quebec.
“You have to keep in mind our report cards are looking at overall school average results, so what the report card is first and foremost designed to do is help you answer the question of a parent or an educator, ‘how is my school doing compared to all the other schools in the report card, in other words, is it keeping up academically?’ Now the report card will clearly tell you if a school is above or below average in terms up keeping up academically, but doesn’t say why,” said Associate Director of School Performance Studies, Fraser Institute Michael Thomas.
Principal of Holy Cross Collegiate Lavern Evans thinks provincial testing and the Fraser Institute only provide a ‘snapshot’ of a school’s performance.
“There’s a lot more that goes on in the school besides results at the end of the day, it’s sort of misrepresenting because it doesn’t give the big picture of the school,” said Evans.
The Fraser Institute has never claimed that its reports offer a complete evaluation of a school success.
“When we say a school is doing a good job, you still have to follow up with the school and affirm our findings. Also look to other aspects of the school that we can’t measure in our report card, like extracurricular programming, special programs, different languages like French emersion, or even a third language, how well a school teaches students to be good community members, these things unfortunately cannot be measured in the report card,” said Thomas.
The Fraser Institute reports focus on core subject areas that are covered by provincial examinations. Looking to high school diploma examinations, which account for 50 per cent of a student’s grade, one could question if the heavily weighted exams, which the reports use for its information, portray a true representation of a student’s academic success and, the school’s academic success as a whole.
“I think (the diplomas) are weighted too heavily on the student’s grade, should they have a final exam and should it be important, of course, but if you weight it at say 30 per cent, the kids are still going to take it seriously,” said Evans.
On the other hand, Thomas views standardized testing, including diploma examinations, as important to accurately reflect if students know the material at that point in their education.
“I think it’s very important to measure if the curriculum is being delivered appropriately. Standardized testing is done for a number of reasons, it’s done first of all to measure that the curriculum across the province is appropriate and is at an appropriate level for students, it’s done to make sure school boards are delivering it, to make sure schools are accurately delivering the curriculum and at a student level, to give a diagnostic on the student education and if they need early intervention,” said Thomas.
“When I hear teaching to the test, the fact is if you are teaching the curriculum, by design the way the test is written, you should be teaching to the test,” said Thomas.
At HCC, Evans said they do not implement ‘teaching to the test.’
“(Teaching) isn’t just to prepare kids to write an exam, we want to focus on reading, writing, and discussion, we want to focus on many things not just, ‘can you take a multiple choice exam and do well?’, because you’re doing it as a service to the kids, and preparing them for life after school. You don’t want to be that teacher, as if in a factory, teaching a kid how to take an exam, I think there is so much more to teaching than just that,” said Evans.
“If you do other things well, such as reading, writing, discussion, I think the kids will naturally do better on a multiple choice exam anyways,” said Evans.
While it may be clear that the Fraser Institute is incapable of delivering a complete review of a school, their reports are still referred to by parents across the province.
“Last year in Alberta alone, we had 500,000 individual school reports downloaded, so parents looked up 500,000 different schools to see how they were doing on our report card. Clearly, parents are getting a lot of use out of our report cards in Alberta,” said Thomas.
A bit of controversy over the years have been sparked by Alberta’s Deputy Premier, Thomas Lukaszuk, who according to Fraser Institute’s website, www.compareschoolrankings.org, called the reports a ‘misuse of provincial test results’ and in the future, provincial testing could possibly change in order to eliminate further production of the reports.
“I find it unsettling that people would be open to the idea to want less information available about the education system, and it kind of makes me think about the health care system in Alberta, could you imagine the public reaction if the decision makers said, ‘we are not going to release any more information on the state of health care in Alberta’, people would be outraged,” said Thomas.
Thomas wants schools to use the reports as a tool to pinpoint where the school is lagging behind and areas where the school is excelling.
“We’re not out here to demonize schools that perform below average, our report cards are intended to be a tool for improvement,” said Thomas.
Evans described HCC as “not overly concerned with the Fraser report at this time.”
“We’ve jumped up quite a bit from last year, and we continue to improve which is always nice to see, as far as action plans and ideas for school improvements, so much is put into that compared to the Fraser reports,” said Evans.
The Fraser Institute hopes to continue their report card as long as they have “good, reliable and objective data out there.”
“We intend to do this report card as long as we have the publicly available information and I hope people make their voices heard that they want this information to be public so we can do our analysis,” said Thomas.
Thomas encourages parents to not focus on the rating but to look at the data that is collected from over five years to see the trends, and decide for themselves what to make use of from the information.
I Wonder … (and maybe you do, too!)
Fule for Thought
I’ve been thinking lately. I’ve been thinking, pondering, musing, but most of all I’ve been wondering. These are the things I wonder:
1) … if the 23 year-old Pat knew he’d stay in Strathmore for 30 years?
2) … why I swear so much putting up Christmas lights? Isn’t that a bit ironic?
3) … if I’m the only living person who’s never read, or seen Harry Potter?
4) … if the Doobie Brothers know that “China Grove” is played at the Co-Op?
5) … which super hero you’d be?
6) … why I thought the original Star Trek was cool?
7) … what happened to my lost dog in Grade 9?
8) … how Mick Jagger got knighted?
9) … if my kids think I’m cool, or a dork?
10) … why Charlie Brown ever trusted Lucy to hold that football?
11) … If current generations can ever match the ones who went to WWI and WWII?
12) … why it’s called “breaking wind”?
13) … why I have Enya AND Justin Bieber on my iPod?
14) … how Grad became as big a day as a wedding?
15) … why we wore leisure suits and big shoes in the 70s?
16) … why some kids doubt the moon landing?
17) … how I could possibly have taught a student who’s now a grandfather?
18) … how I know the characters’ names from “Young and Restless”?
19) … how long guys will think wearing their pants half way down their butts is cool?
20) … why Debbie said yes?
21) … if our kids REALLY know how much we worry about them, no matter their age?
22) … if my Junior High English teacher really knows he was my hero?
23) … why (after my colonoscopy) I asked the nurse to read me a story?
24) … why “good” girls STILL go for “bad” boys?
25) … who really did write the Book of Love?
26) … why people have to take 6 years of University to become a teacher?
27) … if I really know how hard it is to be a farmer or rancher?
28) … why I’ve watched some of “The Bachelorette”?
29) … if there WERE other gunmen on Nov.22, 1963?
30) … why Archie doesn’t see that Betty and Veronica are almost identical?
31) … why Main Street was put on a hill?
32) … if Womens’ work is never done?
33) … if you knew that “hat trick” came from a Canmore guy who scored three goals in a NHL game?
34) … how an actor in a SILENT movie won “Best Actor”?
35) … why OUR generation worried so much about hair loss? (Now, everyone shaves their heads!)
36) … why I’M the one who shops for ‘feminine products”?
37) … why pro athletes make more money than doctors who save lives?
38) … why we “coddle” this generation?
39) … when it became okay to stand in music concerts? (Now, everyone does)
40) … how moms make everything better?
41) … how dads can be so unselfish when it comes to their kids?
42) … why it gets “un-cool” for kids to do well in school?
43) … if By-Law Officers, Police, and Firemen know they ARE respected?
44) … if our parents know (knew) how much we love (loved) them?
45) … WHY Disco!?
46) … how people can abandon cats or dogs?
47) … if we had a “do-over”, would we stay in the same jobs?
48) … Terry Fox ever believed his run would motivate so many?
49) … how we’d ever get along without grandparents?
50) … if I’ll still have a column next week?
(“Fule for Thought” is a slice of life humourous column that will appear in the Strathmore Times, written by long-time resident, town councillor, high school teacher, coach, husband and father of two – Pat Fule. If you would like to get in touch with Pat, you can send him an e-mail at
“My child is gone”
A mother’s worst nightmare is turning around and finding her child has disappeared. Locating the lost child by the quickest means necessary is the most effective way to recover the child.
“Everyone has a story as a child, of hiding to give their mother a fright, but for those whose child actually disappears and can’t be found, the loss is unimaginable,” said Becky Scheer, who works with Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC) as their Communications Officer. “Not a day goes by that I fail to shed a tear for the families. I come home and hug my children tighter.”
Scheer, who originally hails from Strathmore, wants the public to know that MCSC is promoting a way for all Albertans and Canadians to see breaking Amber Alerts on missing children quickly. It enables those who use social networks to almost instantaneously spread the word and increase the chance for a sighting.
“We see this link as providing urgent information to people where they are at,” said Scheer.
Police already issue Amber alerts links to digital road signs and news stations. Scheer said with improvements in communication technology, alerts to social media were a way to highlight ways to help a missing child. People who access the website www.valuablenetwork.ca and accept the option of donating their Facebook and Twitter feeds will receive critical alerts, targeted to the areas where they live, on their Facebook wall and Twitter feeds. They can forward the alert to friends, or if they notice something related to the missing child’s case, phone 911 or their local police force.
“Share the information and take the initiative to call the authorities. Every single tip could be the critical piece of the puzzle in an investigation,” said Scheer.
Scheer said people should not be hesitant to call for fear that it may be the wrong child. She said the investigators are all retired police officers, who over the years develop a type of sixth sense. The tips help them target and eliminate any leads that may be pertinent to the case. If callers want to remain anonymous, they can ask to do so.
Statistics from the RCMP for 2011 show there were 46,718 reports of missing children in Canada. The MCSC webpage shows a breakdown of the reported cases of missing children as 25 abductions by strangers, 145 by parents, 33,259 runaways and 13,289 other.
Scheer reassures those that access www.valuablenetwork.ca that they will not experience spam or have their private information shared through a back door process. They are able to delete the process if they desire. She says there are only about 60 Amber Alerts issued Canada-wide per year, so it will not radically interfere with their communications.
Some people may be hesitant to call, because they may feel it is a parental issue or the child ran away from home for a reason. Scheer cautions that when a parent abducts a child, the child is in physical, emotional and psychological danger, just by removing them from their regular environments. The stress of the situation may put more pressures on the parent to do irrational things.
“By calling, people can help the family on their long journey back to a healthy status,” said Scheer, who said social services are involved when the child reunites with the custodial parent.
As for children fleeing an unsafe home atmosphere, Scheer said the child experiences greater danger by taking to the streets. The physical supports of food, shelter and access to resources are gone.
Prostitution and human traffickers find runaways an attractive prospect. Scheer would like teens considering a runaway situation to contact other resources like a friend, close adult, teacher or social agency rather than taking to the streets.
For more information on the process, on missing children postings or MCSC, it can be accessed at www.mcsc.ca or by calling toll free 1-800-661-6160.
Promoting awareness about diabetes
Injecting yourself with approximately 1,460 needles a year doesn’t sound fun to anyone, but it’s something every diabetic with type 1 diabetes has to do to live.
For Rachel Rogers, and many like her, it’s just part of her daily life. She has to strictly watch what she eats, monitor her exercise in relation to her food intake and much more.
When Rogers found out the spring queen at Strathmore High School is picked by who raises the most for a charity important to them, it was an easy choice for her to pick the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
“I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for over 11 years now, it’s all I really know and I wanted to bring awareness to the disease. While I was looking for donations, so many kids at school had no idea what this form of diabetes was all about or what I go through every day, but it’s just what I know,” said Rogers.
“I was happy I won and was able to raise as much as I did for JDRF, I know it’s going to a great cause.”
Susan Shearer, a Strathmore teacher and JDRF volunteer, met with Rogers to pick up the cheque for $821.86 on June 14. Shearer taught Rogers while she was at Wheatland Elementary school. Her son also has type 1 diabetes.
Every year Wheatland Elementary school does a Walk for a Cure, focusing on something that affects a member of the student body or staff. Six years ago they walked for diabetes.
“It was just neat to see that six years later she’s still raising money, still trying to find a cure for diabetes,” said Shearer.
Shearer said she loves the idea that the high school decided that the students have to raise money for a charity of their choice in order to become prom king and queen.
“JDRF is Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation so the goal is to find a cure, so all the money that is raised for JDRF through events, or functions or individuals, all goes to research and finding a cure. So every bit helps,” said Shearer.
“I’m just hopeful that in my son’s lifetime there will be a cure. My niece and nephew are diabetic as well. When you’re younger like that you shouldn’t have to worry about counting carbs. When you go to a birthday party (and) they have cake, how much is in the cake.
“They have to become planners, they have to think about things that they shouldn’t have to think about, they can’t be a kid. They have to do all this other stuff that we don’t think about, let alone having to take the needles themselves.”
County forming water partnership
Council voted to support the Wheatland Regional Water Partnership (WRWP), so they can obtain a grant to develop a governance study.
The partnership is made of representatives from Rockyford, Standard, Hussar and Wheatland County. The WRWP may also contact others who have opted out of the Calgary Regional Water Partnership. The CRWP members include: Black Diamond, Calgary, Canmore, Chestermere, Cochrane, Crossfield, High River, Irricana, Nanton, Okotoks, Redwood Meadows, Strathmore, and Turner Valley.
“The partnership will give the region a voice in the provincial discussions regarding water allocations. We are looking for the best option to address our water needs,” said Mike Ziehr, Wheatland County Municipal Engineering Technologist and Development Officer.
The county wants to be proactive by protecting the region’s interests, yet ensuring they will have a voice in future provincial water allotment processes.
“With no support from Calgary, we will build our own water treatment plant. The direction is to upgrade our plan to include all the municipalities and hamlets,” said Ziehr.
The county has plans in place to upgrade the Gleichen and Rockyford water treatment plants.
There was the suggestion to establish a regional water hub, with water supplied from the Western Irrigation District (WID), possibly in Standard, and a pipeline system that would service the surrounding towns and villages. Examples of the Newall Rural Water Initiative developed by MPE Engineering were given as reference for the idea.
Ziehr told council the cheapest option would cost approximately $55 million with funding, up to 90 per cent of the cost, provided by applying for provincial grants and initiative money. Council will have to supply $5 million.
The governance of various municipal partners would mean they would split the fund payment. The county would be 53 per cent of the study.
There may be an expectation that residents would be required to sign contracts and to tie into the plan. The expected costs to the ratepayer were not currently available.
There were questions about people with wells being required to tie into the pipeline.
“That would be a hard sell,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Jennifer Deak.
Users on the Newell line paid a lump sum of $1,000-$7,000, and then a monthly fee of approximately $100 for treatment and maintenance costs.
If the governance study was done, it would flesh out the plan and everything would be costed out.
Reeve Glenn Koester cautioned that if ratepayers didn’t sign on, the county had the largest percentage share, so there were concerns the county may have to overpay to make up for the loss. He also wondered how long the timeline was for the plan development and whether the cost of maintenance would be too great.
Ziehr cautioned it might be cheaper to go with the regional plan, but he wanted council to know all their options. It was recommended the Partnership retain a lawyer in an advisory role.
In 2006, the province placed a moratorium on new water licenses in the province. Municipalities worried that if future growth in Alberta continues, the maximums for water use will be reached on existing licenses. The province left municipalities to come up with plans to conserve and reduce water usage by 30 per cent by 2030. The province was divided into seven regions, plus Edmonton and Calgary, to develop regional plans that the province expected would be in place by the end of 2012. The plans included provisions for water supply and management. The Calgary Regional Partnership met on June 21 and voted to ratify the Calgary Regional Plan, forwarding it to the province for approval. See: www.calgaryregion.ca/ Moving Forward Together. The plan includes water management and conservation proposals, governance, servicing and maintenance costs and further research and analysis goals.
Crowfoot school celebrates 100 years
The Crowfoot school, a stand-alone one-room schoolhouse celebrated its 100th Anniversary in style on June 30 with over 300 in attendance.
Ann Scheer, one of the main organizers of the event states that it was a “huge success. The weather co-operated all day and all evening, so that the ball games could conclude about 10p.m.”
Part of the weekend’s festivities included a six team Ball Tournament which was played Friday into Sunday. The participants mingled with the centennial guests, and an enjoyable time was had by all.
Some of the history behind the Crowfoot School: the first day of classes happened in 1912 and the last day of classes happened in June of 1945. After 33 years of operation the students in and around the area were then bussed to Strathmore. In 1944 the “Goodwill Club” of women decided that the building would do well as a venue for events for their community. They approached the Bow Valley Municipality to purchase the 2.16 acres that consisted of the schoolhouse, barn and teacherage. The Municipality asked for a whopping $200 to make the purchase. After several years of bake sales, raffles and teas, the whole parcel was purchased in January of ‘49 and was finally paid for.
In 2006 major renovations took place at the site. The school was lifted and a new basement put in, an addition was added, handicapped entrance and bathrooms were installed and a fantastic new kitchen was built.
Scheer said, “we had guests come from as far away as Doha, Qatar, wow. And others who drove many, many miles to come: Spruce Grove, Swan Hills, Grande Prairie, and Hay River NWT. Also from Bassano, Beaumont, Red Deer, Calgary, Rosebud, High River, Strathmore, Rockyford, Carseland.”
The committee compiled and sold a cookbook which sold enough books to pass the ‘break even’ point and is now making a small profit which will go towards trying to cover ‘some’ of the 100th anniversary costs.
The program in the early evening, after a wonderful catered meal of a steak supper by Barb Praeker started at 5p.m. Master of Ceremonies Johnny Sanden with “History Story Tellers” John Scheer, Ralph Tiede and Spencer Hilton did a fantastic job covering the timelines from 1909 to 2012 Crowfoot history. Scheer was happy to participate in honouring Dorie Harwood, “our only surviving Good Will Club member of the original 21 ladies in 1944, was present and given a lovely corsage.
It was nice to have some of our former members of succeeding years- Marie Louise Praeker, Hillevi Ruppe, Dorothy Woldum, Florice Desmet, Nina Newell, Vera Morgan, Eileen Drummond, also present.”
The formal part of the evening was concluded with a cake cutting ceremony, and County Councillor Ben Armstrong presented a lovely plaque from the Board. Local MLA Jason Hale presented a letter and scroll from the Alberta government and a similar one from Kevin Sorenson from the Canadian government on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Drew Gregory was the entertainment for the evening and played until the fireworks started, and the kids enjoyed a bonfire.
Congratulations and best wishes to you on the next hundred years from all of us at the Strathmore Times.