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Friday, 31 March 2017 05:48

Chinook building positive relationship with Hutterite colonies

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The creation of a positive and respectful relationship is an important part of the interaction between the Chinook School Division and Hutterite colonies.


Mark Benesh, the school division’s superintendent of Hutterian schools, spoke about the provision of educational support to colonies during a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, March 13.
“I think we have an excellent relationship,” he said after the meeting. “We work really hard respecting their traditions and their culture and because we do they seem to trust us. We are supportive and want to hire good people who also support their culture and traditions. So we’ve been able to put good people in place, their schools have been successful, and because of that then a really good relationship has developed.”
There are currently schools at 31 colonies within the Chinook School Division. Another school will be added during the 2017-18 school year as a result of the establishment of a new colony in July.
There has been a decline in the number of students at colony schools. There are 509 students enrolled for the 2016-17 school year. It represents a reduction of 43 students over three years and a decrease of 150 students over the past 10 years.
“I think it is just the general trend of society to have less children,” Benesh said. “So I think there are just less children in Hutterian schools as there would be in our non-Hutterian.”
As a result there is an increase in the number of schools with less than 10 or fewer than five students.
“Right now there is a general trend for some schools being smaller, but I also think that those schools in time — and we have some long-term stats of that — will eventually turn around and go the opposite way,” he said.
The Chinook School Division has established a teacher assistance team to provide support to colony teachers. The team consists of two learning coaches, two coordinators and the superintendent. The team members give assistance to teachers to determine interventions and support for students.
“Our schools are small, so most of our schools would be either single-teacher or two-teacher schools,” he mentioned. “We do have one with two and a half because there are 40 kids in the school, but most are small schools.”
The colony schools have been grouped into five professional learning communities (PLC). The current focus is on the implementation of Saskatchewan Reads and there is also some maintenance work for math.
The goal is to improve the math and reading levels of students who have tested red or yellow. Most of the PLC related work is done outside the regular school time.
The two learning coaches play an important role to provide instructional support for teachers in Hutterian schools.
“We actually have coaches throughout the school division and we have some that work strictly with Hutterian schools,” he said. “So they would do the same thing. In Chinook we have math coaches and we have literacy coaches, but in the Hutterian realm we combine them.”
The Hutterian learning coaches have made more than 300 classroom visits and Saskatchewan Reads is the focus of most of these visits.
“Our coaches would be working in math and in literacy and because we don’t have student services teachers in these schools because they’re small, they would also be a second eye in support of helping develop some interventions for kids in their learning,” he said. “So they basically go out and support schools and just working on initiatives we have and supporting teachers in just growing as a teacher.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer