Sask Rivers board pleased with early budget numbers

During their regular meeting on Monday the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education had a first glimpse at preliminary budget numbers for next school year and how it impacts the division.

The discussion took place during the closed session but it was brought into open as the meeting ended.

“What we what we’re happy about … is that inflationary costs are being recognized, and included in that would be support staff contract increases and transportation cost which has skyrocketed over the last few years,” director of education Neil Finch said.

The province has agreed to provide $356.6 million in classroom supports, a $45.6 million increase over the previous school year. The includes ongoing funding for the Specialized Support Classroom and Teacher Innovation and Support Fund pilot programs.

In a school division press release the board said it was pleased to see a budget that addresses inflationary costs to help the school division to maintain operations.

After many years of advocacy by the board of education, the dedicated funds for supports for learning are welcomed to address some of the complexity in SRPSD classrooms.

“That’s a piece that we’ve been asking and advocating for as a board for a number of years—for supports, for learning budget to go up—and that has went up in this budget,” Finch said.

According to the province the 2024-25 Ministry of Education Budget increases to $3.3 billion – an 8.1 per cent increase over the 2023-24 Budget.

The province said this increase includes $35 million to support enrolment growth for the 2024-25 school year, $8.6 million to increase classroom supports, $66.6 million to fund the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, $29.8 million to address inflationary pressures, including fuel and non-teacher salaries; and $40 million in annualized funding from the 2023-24 school year for classroom supports and enrolment growth.

The next steps for the Board are to understand the impacts of the budget on a school division with decreasing enrolment as funding is tied to enrolment. Although it is a ‘good news’ budget, the impact of decreasing enrolment is not lost on the Board

“The only thing that is hindering our budget is our enrolment projection is projected to decrease for the fall, and so that does not help,” Finch said.

Finch added that there is always hope about the mid-year adjustment next school year, which follows the enrolment declaration after Sept. 30 of each school year.
In 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 Saskatchewan Rivers had to access reserves in order to balance their budget.

The division is expected to pass their 2024-25 budget in June.

Sask Rivers board discusses SSBA Spring Assembly

During their regular meeting on Monday, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education discussed the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) Spring Assembly on April 11-12 in Saskatoon.

The theme of the conference was ‘Forward Focus’.

“There were lots of different professional development opportunities for the board that took place,” director of education Neil Finch said.

According to a school division press release, trustees had the opportunity to gain valuable professional development and learn alongside colleagues from across the province.

Board chair Darlene Rowden led a roundtable discussion of the meeting.

“We were led well by our executive I feel throughout the weekend. we are looking forward to our team and the teacher team getting back to that table and settling this,” Rowden said.

Trustee Barry Hollick noted how long Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill spent at the Spring Assembly.

“Hopefully that’s a good sign that he’s comfortable with trustees and will get a good understanding of our issues,” Hollick said. “Usually they come, they give their speech and they are out of the door.”

Trustee Grant Gustafson highlighted the session on Governance in Saskatchewan about getting people involved in school boards.

“What stood out was the part about involving students in the decision-making process,” Gustafson said.

With the Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change (SRSC), the division is ahead of the curve on student voices in decisions.

“I thought, ‘well we are doing something right’ and it’s not just the board that is doing it. We are working with students and doing something that is right and it is working,” Gustafson said.

A highlight of the event was a presentation from the Ile-a-la-Crosse School division on Land-Based Learning, a plan which has a lot in common with a similar initiative in Sask Rivers.

Trustee Alan Nunn said that the presentation really showed how that division leads the way in the province in outdoor education.

“For us, we are trying to get going,” Nunn said. “We have got Wesmor and different schools that are taking this on. It was good information and I thought really interesting.

“It’s good for us to hear success stories,” he added. “We always hear the other side of the coin, but a success story is kind of nice and kind of upbeat.”

Rowden noted how much community support the program had.

Trustee and SSBA President Jaimie Smith-Windsor discussed the presentation on the National School Food Program.

“The school food program in the United States has been legislated since 1946 and it was really interesting to hear how that has evolved and what some of the missteps have been,” Smith-Windsor said.

Her takeaway from that presentation and one at a national conference was that local partnerships are important.

Adult allyship and discrimination against young people top list of topics at Sask. Rivers student for change meeting

The Saskatchewan Rivers board of education received an update on recent Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change (SRSC) activities during their regular meeting on Monday.

SRSC Board representative Charlie Lysyk provided updates on the recent SRSC meeting on March 26. The day began with team-building work, and a workshop on adult allyship.

The topics included adultism (prejudice against young people as a group) and intersectionality.

“I didn’t know about intersectionality just how the different parts of your identity, like your age, your race, your sex, can build on one another and people’s biases against you can be built,” Lysyk said.

Lysyk gave the example that she was a young woman and people may treat you differently if you are a young woman or a young man.
The group also created exercises for students to bring back to schools to educate their own schools on adultism. One example was creating a science fair about adultism and have teachers come and listen and learn what they can do to create better adult allyships.

In the afternoon, the group had a discussion about career guidance.

“We are hoping to bring that back to our next meeting because it was definitely a hot topic,” Lysyk said.

After her presentation, there was a longer discussion about career guidance with trustees. The discussion focused on what career path students were choosing whether it was trades or post-secondary.

The final portion of the day for the SRSC discussed welcoming spaces. They concluded by establishing what belonging feels like to each student at a personal level by doing writing exercises.

Lysyk is a rural representative from Meath Park. No urban representative was chosen for this school year.

JSCN donates $116,000 to help build playground to honour Wes Petterson

There were plenty of tears shed at the Weldon Playground Project pancake breakfast fundraiser on April 13 thanks to a donation from the three James Smith Cree Nation bands.

New James Smith Chief Kirby Constant along with Chief Calvin Sanderson of the Chakastaypasin Band and Councillor Adam Whitehead of the Peter Chapman Band were all on hand as the three bands combined to donate $116,000 to help the community create a new playground in honour of 78-year-old Wesley Petterson.

Weldon community members began fundraising for the park as a way to honour Petterson, who was killed in the mass stabbing carried out by Myles Sanderson in James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon.

Sanderson said community members wanted to help with fundraising for the project. He said the community’s reaction touched his heart.

“They were pretty emotional in that donation that we gave for the community this morning,” Sanderson said.

“We were very grateful to do that for that community,” he added.
Weldon Playground Project co-director Jamie Petrie was still overwhelmed by the donation hours later when interviewed by phone,

“I have no words,” Petrie said. “Our hearts are filled with so much joy and gratitude, and I don’t think there’s enough words for me to describe what we’re feeling right now. It was a complete shock, obviously, but it’s a good shock and it just made it that much closer to our goal, which we really appreciate.”

Petterson was 78 years old when was killed on Sept. 4, 2022. He was among the 11 people who died in the mass stabbing.

Submitted Photo A photo of Wes Petterson sits next to a donation jar at the Weldon Playgroud Project pancake breakfast on Saturday, April 13 at the Weldon Auditorium.

Sanderson said that the donation was a larger part of the healing process for both communities.

“We always look after our neighbouring brothers and sisters involved in what happened there too,” he said.

He added that the band members are going to continue to fundraise on behalf of the playground through bingos and bake sales until the committee reaches their goal.
Sanderson said the communities have bonded since the tragedy.

“They have always been coming to our communities here since the incident happened. (They) come and participate in our pow wows and our events and their events. It’s always meaningful for the neighbouring brothers and sisters to come over and participate in our events and we also invited them out for the summer’s events,” he explained.

Petrie said the tragedy could have divided the two communities, but instead it’s brought them closer together.

“I’ve seen nothing but support from James Smith since that happened and I hope that they know that we are there for them as well,” Petrie said. “They have been nothing but amazing for our community.”

Submitted Photo Chief Calvin Sanderson makes a speech before the representatives from the three bands of James Smith Cree Nation donated $116,000 to the Weldon Playground Project help the community towards their goal on Saturday, April 13 at the Weldon Auditorium.

On top of the large donation, they also gifted the village a hand-painted portrait that was done by prominent James Smith artist Jerry Whitehead as a token of their appreciation that will hang in the Weldon Auditorium.

Prince Albert Member of Parliament Randy Hoback also attended the event and brought a gift to the family of Wes Petterson on behalf of the Federal Government. Hoback presented Wes Petterson’s sister-in-law with a Canadian flag that was flown on the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Melfort RCMP Detachment commander Ryan Case was also on hand for the ceremony.

The Weldon Playground Committee currently has five members who have set out to raise $150,000 for the project. A conceptual drawing of the park includes playground equipment, rubberized ground cover, benches, and signs for the park’s namesake.

Petrie said that the group is driven and they will accomplish their goal. After the pancake breakfast and donation, they have raised $121,000.

“There’s not much left for us to raise, but we’re still going to go out there,” she said. “We’ve got a bottle drive next weekend and then the following weekend—the day of the Gord Bamford concert here in Weldon—we volunteered to help with the concession and, set up the tables and whatnot to help them with that.”

They also have a family barbecue planned for the town-wide garage sale in June,

“We want to just have a fun day for the kids out there and see what we can do with that as well,” Petrie said.

“Our goal, besides the playground, is to bring everybody together,” she added. “It’s been exactly what we wanted. Every time we turn around, there’s a new community member that wants to help us or is there for us or is doing things.

“It’s just been amazing to see everybody come together and help us with this. Our minds are completely blown right now. I have no words.”

The group plans to name the park and playground Wes Petterson Memorial Park after the late Wesley Petterson. They say Petterson was known for his friendly, good-natured demeanour. He was an early riser and typically the first person to arrive at the seniors’ centre to make coffee for the group of friends and neighbours that would gather there to visit.

Sanderson remembered Petterson as the man in charge of the rink in Weldon.

“We all knew Wes when he was the rink guy there and I mentioned I used to go curling in Weldon there, but they had a real heavy ice and you had to throw the rock pretty hard just to try and get it over the hog line and it was pretty tough playing in that rink that time,” Sanderson said.

Currently, in Weldon, there’s no designated park and only a few metal swings in an abandoned schoolyard.

The group hasn’t finalized a site but aims to build the park near the Weldon care home and hopes to have the play structure ready for use by the end of the summer.

The committee was honoured by the donation.

“We’re just forever grateful to James Smith,” Petrie said. “They’re going to help us achieve our goal and make the most amazing Memorial Park for Wes Petterson we possibly can. That can bring the whole community together so we are forever grateful to them.”

Melfort Seniors’ Place hosting craft show to boost interest

On April 20, the Melfort and District Senior Citizens Club will host a hobby/craft open-house showcase featuring many artisans from the area.

Organizing committee member Holly Currey said the goal is to bring people to the Seniors’ Place while also promoting local artists.

“Over the past while we have been just generally discussing the fact that our membership is not increasing,” Currey explained. “We were throwing around ideas as to just how or what we could do about it, so someone came up with the idea of doing this thing just to get people interested in the centre.”

The Melfort Seniors Place is often a busy place with activities. Currey said getting people in the building might help boost interest.

The organizers are pleased that so many people and groups have committed to show off their many projects and handicrafts for us to view and appreciate.

“There are a lot of people who work from home,” Currey said. “We also have in Melfort here a number of groups like the Quilting Guild, the painters and the calligraphers and all those types of groups. This was a chance to give them an outlet as well to advertise their presence and just get everybody involved.”

She said it was also a chance to meet new people.

“Meet new friends, look at some crafts ideas, share them with all the others and just try and make it a nice visit,” she added.

The struggle to recruit new members is common with other organizations and Currey said they wanted to see what would work.

“We’re not the only ones. Everyone is having this problem, but we still feel that we had to try something and so this is what we came up with,” she explained.

The club encourages everyone to come join them for coffee and cookies as they enjoy all the interesting displays. There will also be a silver collection.

“I would just encourage everyone to come down,” Currey said. “I’m going to have a big display as to what the senior club does, different activities that we have and just encourage people to come down and check it out and get involved.”

The hobby/craft open-house showcase is on April 20 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Seniors’ Place, 118 Burrows Ave. W, Melfort.

Sask Rivers board decides to remain status quo on campaign finance reporting

After awaiting more information around trustee election campaign finances, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education decided to stay with the status quo.

During their meeting on March 18, the board approved a number of options for the upcoming election. However, an option that would create campaign spending limits and require trustee candidates to disclose who donates to their campaign was voted down, with the board asking for more information.

The board received that information at their regular meeting on April 15, prompting another vote. Trustees once again declined to create campaign spending limits or require campaign disclosure.

“Further Information was needed for them to have a conversation, but in the end the vote was to remain as we have in the past elections and not have a disclosure of funds that are raised,” director of education Neil Finch said.

A motion by trustee Bill Yeaman to waive any campaign spending limits and disclosure requirements with respect to campaign contributions and expenses did not pass in March. After further discussion, it was decided to defer the decision until Chief Financial Officer Jerrold Pidborochinski could provide further information and the decision was made in April.

This was the recommendation by administration.

During the March meeting the board approved several options, all other options were approved unanimously.

The biggest change for the next election will be how the ballot looks. In the past, trustee candidates were listed alphabetically by surname. Now, they will be rotated and randomly assigned by the returning officer.

The City does not require occupations on ballots and the administration recommended not to include occupations on the nomination paper and ballots.

The board also voted not to have candidates include a criminal record check with their nomination papers.

The board also voted not to return the deposit of $100 to all candidates whether they win or lose as recommended. The options included returning the entire amount, retaining the candidates fee or return to those successfully elected.

The school board election will be held on Nov. 13 with the nomination deadline date set for October 9.

Administration has had preliminary meetings with the City of Prince Albert and Prince Albert Catholic School Division to discuss particulars of the election.

Prince Albert students eager to represent Saskatchewan in Ottawa for national science fair

Two students from around Prince Albert will be travelling to Ottawa for the Canada-Wide Science Fair in late May after earning their spots at the Prince Albert and NE Regional Science Fair.

The Science Fair took place at the Prince Albert Science Centre in the Gateway Mall on April 9, but organizers could not announce winners until Monday when Grade 7 students Daycee Flying Buffalo of West Central School and Mason Golding of Red Wing School learned that they will be travelling to Ottawa.

Flying Buffalo’s project is called Mind Matters: Education Through Digital Games. It was submitted under the category of Life and Earth Science. He said finishing first was special.

“It means a lot,” Flying Buffalo said. “I feel like I can make a difference for the mental health for people.”

Flying Buffalo’s project takes users through a process to work on their mental health. She created a game called Mind Matters to help users learn about staying mentally healthy.

“When you first go in, there’s a chicken and you can press numbers and it says facts. Also, if you click it, it makes sounds like a bird,” she explained.

“Then if you click M it brings you to the mood metre and there you can move around to identify your mood. If you press H, you can read the unhealthy coping skills and the healthy coping skills.”

Flying Buffalo said she was very excited to go to Ottawa. This was her first time working with coding and she said that doing the project taught her a lot about the practice.

“I put it on Scratch, so it was pretty easy because the coding blocks are there and stuff,” she explained.

Scratch is the world’s largest coding community for children and a coding language with a simple visual interface that allows young people to create digital stories, games, and animations.

The Prince Albert and NE Regional Science Fair also submitted Flying Buffalo’s name to the Sanofli Biogenius Canada Competition. The Sanofli Biogenius Canada Competition will be hosted in partnership with Youth Canada Science as part of Regional and Canada-Wide Science Fairs (CWSF). 

The focus of this competition is to acknowledge and celebrate the best research projects from across the country with a focus on health sciences, life sciences and biotechnology. There are three age categories – Junior, Intermediate and Senior. At CWSF, winners of this special award can receive up to $1,000.

Daycee Golding’s project is called The Hydraulic Crane. It was submitted under the category of Math and Engineering Science. 

Golding was happy to place second and advance to the National event.

“It really excited me,” he said. “I did not expect it. It was definitely a nice surprise and it was awesome.”

Golding said the project idea came from a long-time passion. He has always been interested in cranes since he was a small child playing with toy versions of the machinery. He really wanted to know how a crane’s hydraulics work, and used that as inspiration for his project.

“I learned lots about how hydraulics work and it really surprised me because I didn’t know anything about them before,” he said.

Like Flying Buffalo, Golding is ecstatic about advancing to Ottawa.

“I’m very excited,” he said.

In preparation for the Canada-Wide Science Fair, both students will be working hard to polish their projects and meet deadlines. 

There were 50 entries in this year’s Regional Science Fair. Representatives were from rural schools in Saskatchewan Rivers but organizers would like anybody to come including in city Saskatchewan Rivers schools, Prince Albert Catholic Division Schools and North East School Division schools, which are all eligible in the entrance area.

Prince Albert and NE Regional Science Fair continue to fundraise to send these two worthy recipients and one chaperone to CWSF. 

Canada-Wide Science Fair, the country’s largest annual youth STEM event, will be held May 25 to June 1 in Ottawa.

Love of La Ronge captured in Guy Rutter Award winning work

Lorelle Meyer has been selected as this year’s recipient of the prestigious Guy Rutter Memorial People’s Choice Award for her captivating artwork, Serenity at 7 (acrylic on canvas).

The Mann Art Gallery made the announcement in late March. The work was showcased at the 48th Annual Winter Festival Art Show and Sale, guest curated by Bevin Bradley.

Meyer also received the Award for Expressing Canadian Identity through Landscape Painting for her piece. The award as sponsored by the Men Who Paint.

“I was completely surprised,” Meyer said. “Truly. I was actually very, very surprised with my previous award that I had won for landscape art.

“My first award was probably my greatest surprise. I’ve not entered a juried art show before and receiving the Men Who Paint award was really overwhelming, totally unexpected and just so very exciting for me.”

Meyer originally enrolled at the University of Calgary with the goal of getting a Fine Arts Degree, but began a career in education instead. She decided to start pursuing art again later in life, and has loved every minute of it.

“Now I’m starting all over at this retirement age,” she said. “It’s actually very exciting to have the time to do it again. Winning both of those awards was just so very validating that maybe I can do this now and to be a part of the art world, and I’m so excited about that.”

Meyer said the inspiration for her piece came from her love for the area around La Ronge. She acquired a cabin there nearly five years ago, and was inspired by a photograph of her sitting on the dock having coffee and watching the sun rise.

Meyer has always been drawn to water and the movement of water and the shapes on the surface and below, and that added to her piece.

“This particular movement of the water was quite intriguing to me and so I tried to capture that in the in my art,” she explained.

“But, not all my water looks that way. My water changes because so too does the surface of all water. Depending on the winds and the time of day, and the reflections from the moonlight or the sunlight and. It’s ever changing.”

Her love of La Ronge has expanded into working on a La Ronge collection for an art show.

“Even when I taught school we always talked about goal setting and one of my life goals was to have an art show someday and I never knew that maybe I’d get there,” she said. “I think I’m pretty close and I’m excited about that, and I’m hoping that within the next year I can share that love of La Ronge with Prince Albert and area and they can see some of my other works.”

The Guy Rutter Memorial People’s Choice Award is given to the artwork receiving the most votes during the exhibition, which ended on March 23. Visitors are only allowed to cast one paper ballot at the Gallery.

The month-long exhibition, held at the gallery, drew in crowds of art enthusiasts and community members from across Saskatchewan and beyond. With hundreds in attendance, the event celebrated the exceptional artistic talent thriving within our region.

“We are immensely proud to recognize Lorelle Meyer for her outstanding contribution to our

Winter Festival Art Show and Sale,” Carolyn Carleton, Administrative Director of the Mann Art Gallery, said in a press release.

“Her artwork, Serenity at 7, resonated deeply with visitors, her gift of capturing the vibrant movement of water in a painting is remarkable.”

The Prince Albert region boasts an abundance of remarkable artistic talent, a fact that the Mann Art Gallery cherishes and celebrates. Each year, the gallery is honoured to provide a platform for local artists to showcase their work, fostering creativity and enriching our cultural landscape.

Reflecting on the success of this year’s event, Carleton expressed gratitude for the ongoing support from the community.

“We are incredibly grateful to every single individual who attended the exhibition, voted for their favourite pieces, and helped make this event an extraordinary success. Your enthusiasm and passion for the arts serve as a constant source of inspiration for us all.”

Catholic Division begins plans for meetings with Minister and MLAs with elections in mind

With both provincial and municipal elections on the horizon, the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education is planning meetings with both Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill and Members of the Legislative Assembly.

During the board’s regular meeting on April 8, education director Lorel Trumier canvassed the board for possible dates.

With the provincial election scheduled to be held on or before October 28 and municipal elections scheduled for Nov. 13 the board decided to invite Cockrill in September, but dates have not been determined. The board hopes to meet with other MLAs after the provincial election, with a date yet to be determined.

“Our current board and our previous boards have always prioritized advocating for our students and staff in our meetings with the Minister,” Trumier said. “We’ve done this annually—sometimes three or four times a year—but we definitely always try to do one

early in the fall.”

Trumier said that because the election is early in the 2024-2025 school year, the board wants to meet with Cockrill around that time.

“I know that he has promised to come back to see our pilot program that we are starting out at St. John,” Trumier said. “He’ll want to most likely see our capital project as well this fall because we’ll be in a position to show that as well as have some time to advocate for the needs of our children and our staff and our school division. (We’re) looking forward to that.”

Trumier said the decision around the MLA meetings was where the greatest adjustment would occur.

“We will not shy away from inviting the Members of the Legislative Assembly that serve our area to come and become familiar with our school division, whether they’re new or not,” Trumier explained. “It’s important for us to do that.”

“There’s lots to talk about, lots to improve, lots to celebrate and we hope that we will have their ear,” she added.

Staff Retreat planned for next school year in Catholic Division

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division is making some changes to their annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon to open the school year next year.

Instead of the traditional method of holding it during the opening mass and recognition of service awards during the first week of school, it will be held as part of a large staff retreat.

Education director Lorel Trumier told the board about the new format during their regular meeting. She said the idea is to build the faith dimension in the division.

“One of the best ways to do that is in a retreat–like fashion where we have guests come in that help facilitate a process of self-reflection and our own faith growth,” Trumier explained.

“There will l be a portion of time in that opening week for staff to work through a staff retreat, and we’ll do it in different groups and different days.”

Trumier said she was excited by the concept and they want to make it manageable for small groups.

Each school in the division will host a Staff Retreat. The Luncheon will be done at each school as part of that retreat.

Trumier said that the staff appreciation luncheon is an excellent way for the board to break bread with the staff.

“We need to be a gift to one another in this process of educating our children in our Catholic schools,” she said.

Schools will be grouped into three groups for different days of the week. The planning committee made up of Deacon Harold Shalahub, coordinator Gwen Clyke and Superintendent Wade Mourot has requested that lunches be hosted the same day as each school retreat.

“It’s something that the staff have been asking for and I think it’s warranted,” Trumier said. “It’s time to do that. Lots has happened. We’ve experienced the world in different ways than we ever have, and we need to really be grounded in our faith in order to make sense of the world around us.”