Catholic Division has productive meeting with Education Minister

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill answers questions from the press after Question Period at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on Thursday, October 12, 2023 in Regina.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill was in Prince Albert on Monday to visit both the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

Prince Albert Catholic School Division director of education Lorel Trumier said they were glad to have the opportunity to meet.

“(We were) very happy to have hosted Mr Cockrill on a very significant week here in the province as it relates to education for sure,” Trumier said. “We were able to spend some time talking about our challenges and our successes.”

Trumier said she got the feeling Cockrill was listening and receptive to what the board had to say.

The meeting was held at the Education Centre. It was scheduled months ahead of STF’s strike action announcement. Prince Albert teachers will go on a second one-day strike on Tuesday.

Cockrill toured Riverside School during his meeting with Sask. Rivers, but did not visit a PA Catholic school during his trip. Trumier said the minister has agreed to visit a school at their next meeting.

Topics discussed during the meeting included immigration, enrolment growth, mental health support and well-being, the Catholic Division’s graduation results, and the division’s strategic plan.

“What we were able to do is talk about our local needs and, like I said, some more challenges,” Trumier said.

They also discussed the new pilot for specialized support classroom focusing on helping staff manage and de-escalate behavioural incidents

The Government of Saskatchewan recently announced that it is providing a $3.6 million investment to fund the pilot in eight school divisions, which begins this February and runs until the end of the 2024-25 school year.

The eight divisions include both the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division. She said that they were waiting for final approval on the project.

“We are grateful for a pilot in our school division in the spirit of supporting students, so we had some opportunities to talk a little bit about how those kinds of opportunities should be across our system and looking forward to having some influence on maybe some things that could be done in that fashion,” Trumier said.

Trumier the meeting was short due to Cockrill’s busy schedule. She said the board was grateful to get the meeting, regardless of how long it was.

“There’s so much happening in the province and education right now,” she said. “It was serendipitous, perhaps, but we do know that there is some work that has to happen here to support our students and our staff, and we did take the opportunity to talk to him about that.”

While talking to reporters in Regina at the Legislature on Tuesday about the first one-day strike by Saskatchewan teachers, Cockrill addressed his visit to Prince Albert. He used the school visits as a way to address the importance of local autonomy.

“I’d say we had some fairly productive conversations around how we continue to help resource those school divisions to manage the needs that they see in the classroom,” he explained.

“Certainly from the school division/government perspective, I would say there’s a productive relationship that’s growing and I think an opportunity (for) working through that avenue to really help support students going forward in the province.”

Cockrill said that there are challenges in classrooms as he has seen in his visits around the province to places like Creighton and Prince Albert in recent weeks.

“I’ve seen that we have students with a wider range of needs probably than ever before,” he said. “We also have more students in K to 12 education Saskatchewan has never seen before. I mean, our province is growing at a rate faster than it has in over 100 years.

“These are challenges, but these are good challenges and I think school divisions are identifying for me opportunities where we can add supports to support those students.”