Stettler high school teacher Michael Kocher has been selected as the local nominee for the Alberta School Boards Association’s (ASBA) Edwin Parr Teacher Award.
The association has presented the award annually since 1964 to exceptional first-year teachers across the province. Each school board is allowed to nominate one candidate for their ASBA zone.
The Clearview Public Schools board put forth Kocher as its candidate for the area after he and William E. Hay Composite High School principal Norbert Baharally made a short presentation during the board’s Feb. 25 meeting.
Kocher, who teaches math and science, joined the staff at William E. Hay this fall. He is a native of Red Deer, where he attended Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, and is a graduate of both the University of Lethbridge and the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University.
In his presentation to the board, Baharally highlighted Kocher’s use of technology in the classroom and the variety of teaching methods he utilizes to help build students’ interest in their studies.
“I had an amazing high school physics teacher that really shaped the way I look at math and science,” Kocher said. “It allowed for a lot of hands-on activity.”
In turn, he said, that has influenced the way he teaches, including the use of project-based learning that allows students to apply the principles of physics to their own interests.
Kocher also takes part in the Breakfast for Learning program, supervises at dances and other student activities, and shoots photos for the school yearbook. He served as coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team this season.
Baharally also complimented the positive outlook that Kocher brings to his work at the school. The board was impressed and agreed to support the nomination.
“Everything that you said was student-focused,” trustee Dave Goodwin said to Kocher. “That is a tremendous asset.”
As a nominee, Kocher will be interviewed and visited by a committee of trustees tasked with determining the award winner for the central Alberta zone. Winners will be honoured at a zone function held prior to the ASBA fall general meeting.
Bus tenders accepted
Trustees approved a motion for the purchase of five 52-passenger stock buses from Western Canada IC, at a total price of $451,354.19.
At its Jan. 29 meeting, the board had given administration the direction to seek quotes on buses of various sizes and makes, in hopes that the purchase of smaller buses or gas-powered models might permit some savings for the division’s strained transportation budget.
Associate superintendent Peter Neale presented the quotes that were obtained from several companies, noting that administration continued to recommend the purchase of larger, diesel-fuelled models.
Neale said those buses were preferred as they offered greater flexibility over the smaller models, which are also more susceptible to wear and tear on rural roads.
The memo provided by Neale indicated that gas engines require service more frequently and offer poorer fuel economy, while smaller buses would require more maintenance work, are more likely to get stuck owing to their lower clearance, pose greater safety concerns and would also necessitate the purchase of new diagnostic equipment.
Large buses would be preferable in the event that the current bus routes are reduced, while smaller buses would also complicate efforts to develop a co-operative busing arrangement with the Catholic school division, Neale’s memo noted.
Trustees agreed to accept the recommendation, with trustee John Schofer — who had led the calls to investigate the smaller buses — making the motion accepted by his colleagues.
“If you’re happy, I’m happy,” Schofer said.
Superintendent Peter Barron made his regular report to the board. Among the highlights was the Project-Based Learning training held in mid-February, in which 32 teachers and principals took part. Further training is scheduled in April, August and October.
Also discussed were the support staff workshops held on Feb. 17 — detailed in a report presented by trustee Staci Gerlitz — and the school council workshop held on Feb. 12.
Barron, along with administrative and instructional supports co-ordinator Rob Rathwell, gave an overview of the current draft of the Education Plan for the 2015-2016 school year.
Rathwell called the plan a “living document,” while Barron noted that it would be subject to further revision before a finalized draft is ready in the fall of 2015.
Trustee Dave Goodwin presented a brief verbal report from an informal meeting of the shared facilities committee, indicating their decision to postpone any decisions until after the provincial budget is presented.
The board also heard from trustee Ken Checkel on behalf of the policy committee, regarding a draft policy on yard service. Similarly, trustees agreed to delay taking action on the draft until the budget is released.
“There’s some big questions around fees that are coming down the pipe in the next couple of months,” said associate superintendent Peter Neale.
Trustee Karen Holloway reported on behalf of the internal teacher workload committee, indicating that 69 responses had received through a recent survey. She said a formal report would be delivered to the board in the near future.
Goodwin also reported from the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) committee, which met on Jan. 21 with six out of 12 members in attendance, their first meeting since Sept. 24, 2013.
The topics discussed included fire regulations for the PAC, training for the facility’s sound and lighting booth, proposed increases in user fees, changes to booking procedures and purchases of new or additional equipment.
Goodwin reported that another PAC committee meeting will be held before the end of the school year to finalize some decisions in time for the fall.
Finally, Neale presented the division’s Annual Capital Plan, which is largely unchanged from the previous year’s plan. The plan includes proposals for the modernization of the middle portion of the Stettler schools complex, including an enlarged gym, and the addition of two modular classrooms at Castor’s Gus Wetter School.
Trustees approved the plan, which will be submitted to Alberta Education for consideration.
The provincial government will have the final say on the proposals contained within.
The school board will only meet once this month, with the regular meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 19 at 10 a.m. at the division office in Stettler.