School Notes: dance-off at VJM

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VJM thinks it can dance

Vincent J. Maloney students will waltz the year away by holding a dance competition at a local high school this week.

VJM students will be at St. Albert Catholic High Friday for the school’s annual waltz and jive dance competition.

The dance contest has been a tradition at VJM for about 25 years, said phys-ed teacher Annetta Debski. This year, they’re holding the contest at St. Albert Catholic because the gym at VJM is under renovation.

“It’s just sort of a fun little tradition we have at our school,” Debski said of the contest.

Grade 9 students learn the waltz and jive in gym class in late November and have a few weeks to practice for the contest. Many sign up for extra dance sessions in their flex-time blocks, Debski said.

“The kids just really, really enjoy doing it. It’s something completely different they wouldn’t normally do in phys-ed.”

Debski said about 60 to 70 students had signed up for this year’s contest, which would be judged by a panel of school alumni. The whole school plus guests from St. Albert Catholic will watch up to 10 pairs at a time strut their stuff. Winners get flowers and a certificate.

Debski said students learn respect and teamwork through these formal dance lessons and pick up skills they can use at public events such as weddings.

Community members are welcome to watch the contest, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 22 at St. Albert Catholic. Call VJM’s front desk at 780-458-1113 for details.

Boards asked to save

Alberta’s deputy education minister has called on St. Albert’s school boards to tighten their belts – something the boards say they’re already doing.

Deputy Education Minister Curtis Clarke sent a letter to Alberta’s public, Catholic, and francophone school board superintendents last week. The letter says that the province faced a challenging fiscal situation and had directed departments to contain costs on discretionary spending, hiring, and non-bargaining staff wages.

While Alberta Education would maintain its funding commitments to education, “it is incumbent upon you – as stewards of this system – to strongly consider following this direction through restrained spending of administrative funds.”

Clarke acknowledged that many boards were already doing so.

In a written statement, Education Minister David Eggen said that his department was working to control costs and balance its budget as the economy recovered.

“Alberta’s teachers have stepped up by agreeing to a contract that maintains current compensation levels for two years and focuses on improving classroom conditions of our kids,” he said.

“We are now asking other education stakeholders to help restrain administrative spending that will not compromise the quality of our education system.”

St. Albert Public board chair Kim Armstrong said she was well aware of the province’s fiscal issues and not surprised by this message from the government. The board was already running a pretty tight ship, and was keeping its governance and administrative costs to 3.3 per cent of its budget – below the 3.6 per cent cap set by the province. Some 97 per cent of the board’s budget goes towards teachers and classrooms.

“At this point, we’re just going to keep on the course.”

In an email, Greater St. Albert Catholic board chair Serena Shaw said that their most recent audit showed they ran a balanced budget for 2016-2017 and have maintained a 10 per cent cut to administrative spending the board made back in 2013.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.