The chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education saluted school district staff for their perseverance and ingenuity addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.
In her annual report to the school board on Wednesday (Nov. 24), Moyra Baxter said she expects more challenges are likely to lie ahead as the 2021-22 school year unfolds.
“I don’t think any of us expected that in November 2021 we would still be dealing with COVID, and I want to recognize every single employee of the school district,” Baxter said.
“Each of them has shown that they can be flexible, innovative and most of all that they are committed to the students and to each other.”
She also cited the efforts of the three senior staff members she works most closely with on a daily basis – school superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal, secretary-treasurer Ryan Stierman and deputy superintendent Terry Beaudry – along with the three executive assistants who provide support to the school board and standing committees – Mona Essler, Michelle DeRochers and Yvonne Hildebrandt.
Baxter also acknowledged that while the seven trustees each have different personalities and backgrounds that influence their decision-making, “it is important that we continue to listen to each other’s points of view and always remember why we are here.”
She reiterated the complexities of Central Okanagan Public Schools. With 24,000 students and more than 4,000 staff members associated with 46 schools, the school district is the largest employer in the Central Okanagan with an annual budget of more than $311 million.
“As the fifth largest school district in the province’s fastest-growing region, which continues to grow by hundreds of students each year, we still have urgent needs for school spaces – especially by the need to build new schools and replace older schools,” she said.
Baxter also noted how graduation rates continue to reflect positive results for the school district, with a six-year graduation rate of 96.5 per cent, while the graduation rate for Indigenous students is 84.4 per cent, above the provincial average of 70.7 per cent.
This past school year was the fifth in a row in which there was a 100 per cent graduation rate for Westbank First Nations Grade 12 students.
“As we move forward into the last year of this board’s term of office, I have not doubt that we will continue to experience many challenges. However, there are always many reasons to celebrate and I look forward to those celebrations,” concluded Baxter.