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OPINION: Have the shepherds lost their way?


If it seems to many families in the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District that the sheep are lost and confused, it may very well be due to the real possibility that the shepherds at the helm of our children’s education are themselves, navigationally challenged.

They may have some idea of where they want to go but, as clearly demonstrated, no clear vision of how to get there.  And, to make matters worse, instead of truly listening parents and students, to seek out their guidance, help and assistance, the keepers of the mighty staff have instead stifled the contributions of many most impacted by the decision-makers’ quest to end French Immersion High School in St. Albert.

Like other concerned parents, we’ve had the opportunity to attend a few of the Catholic Board’s program-cutting meetings, dubbed as ‘consultations’.  Given how these meetings unfolded, it became increasingly difficult to completely dismiss multiple parents’ conclusion, that in their view, this had been a fait accompli for some time now.

It wasn’t lost on the parents attending last fall’s FIOF Open House when they heard the Superintendent, speaking to a small gathering of frustrated taxpayers, saying there was no room for single track French Immersion in St. Albert.

Now, stepping aside from the banter of who said what in this ongoing emotional and polarizing proposal of taking high school students out of École Secondaire Sainte Margeurite d’Youville (ESSMY), there are a couple of salient points (amongst others) that appear to be overlooked by the Superintendent in his way forward.

Just this past weekend, an article in our St. Albert Gazette brought to light the local public school district’s upcoming adjustments to grade allocation in an effort to address current budget shortfalls.  Noteworthy, was the Public School’s Superintendent acknowledging that while they have some unused capacity, some of their classes are busting at the seams given the growing popularity of French Immersion.

As it pertains to ESSMY, the current Grade 7 group is the largest enrollment the school has seen in years. Yes, that means that if these kids stay for their high school career, their Graduation class stands to be the largest in ESSMY’s recent history.

And, who’s to say what the enrollment size will be for next year’s Grade 7s making ESSMY their school of choice.

Furthermore, has anyone noticed that St. Albert continues to grow and that we continue to see demographic trends leaning to more and more younger families?

Yet, with so many indicators of positive growth, along with an increasing demand for French language instruction, why is the Superintendent and his Catholic Board of Trustees so quick to press the panic button on ESSMY, and by doing so, effectively killing Secondary French Immersion Education in St. Albert?  Is this really good financial stewardship?

Will the decision-makers find themselves reversing their course of action in a few years when they discover they need another high-school or, they need to bring back French Immersion if they have any hope of inheriting the enrollment numbers from the feeder schools?

For so many local families that made it their decision to move to St. Albert for the schooling, and in many cases, specifically for ESSMY’s programming which has been so well recognized by post-secondary institutions, these are very sad days.

And for those parents who believe that linguistic abilities do give our kids a stronger future and an advantage in the workforce, the Superintendent’s use of ESSMY as an easy target is truly unsettling.  It is completely incongruent with what we hope the District and it’s Board would stand for.

So, Mr. Superintendent, if you truly support our kids’ education, care for their future and fully understand your responsibilities vis-à-vis your students, you’ll make a better effort at safeguarding educational opportunities for our future leaders, and you’ll look at other viable options to meet our collective obligations to meet budget needs, rather than killing French Immersion within the Catholic community of greater St. Albert.

Shawn LeMay, St. Albert

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