May 25th, 2024

COVID, curriculum top agenda for Holy Spirit in 2021

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 11, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Holy Spirit Catholic School Division board chair, Carmen Mombourquette reflects on a year filled with challenges that also brought many accomplishments, as he looks forward to 2022.


The year of 2021 has likely been one of the most difficult years in the history of education in Alberta and most certainly that would also be true for Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, according to board chair Carmen Mombourquette.
He said that when the pandemic first hit and that March 2020 of literally sending all children to learn from home, and teachers having to learn how to deliver high quality online learning for children from kindergarten to grade 12, was a monumental task.
“I think I can safely add a task that teachers and school leaders rose to, and in time came to provide tremendous service to the children of Holy Spirit school division. They are to be applauded, acknowledged, and congratulated in a firm way for the good work that they did,” said Mombourquette.
He said that in 2021 the in and out factor and never really knowing from a day-to-day basis what environment children will be learning, made it very difficult for everyone.
“While issues of COVID-19 have been dealt with, I would suspect for teachers inside of classrooms, it has been a year of being on pins and needles,” said Mombourquette.
He said that a simple day-to-day act of teaching children within a classroom environment is a strenuous, difficult but yet a highly rewarding job.
Mombourquette said the other issue that has been colouring education in Alberta in 2021 has been the ongoing curriculum review. The draft has been questioned by almost every stakeholder within education.
“The Alberta Teacher’s Association certainly has some major issues with it, individual classroom teachers certainly have issues with it, school leadership has issues with it and as a board of trustees within Holy Spirit school division we also have some fundamental issues with the draft in its present form,” said Mombourquette.
He believes that no matter what the new draft looks like, Alberta is about to experience for the first time ever an entire curriculum replacement.
“Our board has the position we would like to see next September become another pilot year feedback here, and this time hopefully the draft that will be put out at some point in the spring will be more in keeping with what educators broadly would say is necessary for children in the 21st century,” said Mombourquette.
As for his new position of board chair, Mombourquette said he has been pleased to work with his fellow trustees.
“It is wonderful listening to my fellow trustees as we enter into conversation with each other and then in open question session times with our superintendent and his senior leadership team, about education within Holy Spirit school division,” said Mombourquette.
He added that as a new board chair his learning curve has been steeper than he has ever experienced.
He is currently in his 40th year in education. He has been a teacher, vice principal and principal, headmaster of a private school and for the past 12 years now a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Lethbridge.
“I’ve been in education a long time and I think I understand much of what we do to help ensure that children have the opportunity to achieve optimum learning. And still as a board chair and coming to know the governance role and the interplay between governance and administration and the actual teaching process I have been learning a lot throughout as well,” said Mombourquette.
On the unmarked graves subject Mombourquette said that during his teaching career as a social studies teacher, long before that news became so prominent within Canada, he was teaching about residential schools.
“I was teaching about the impact that horrific experience in the lives of our First Nations, Metis and Inuit children had on them, had on their families, had on their collective societies within their nations or maybe settlements,” said Mombourquette.
He added that as Catholics they are mandated to point out wrong in this world and to encourage others to do something about it. That has been fundamental to teaching in Holy Spirit school division about residential schools.
“It is top front and in an honest and open way, and we’re perfectly allowed to say and encouraged to say, it was evil what was done inside of those schools, it’s something that should never have happened and something that our church should never have participated in,” said Mombourquette.
Mombourquette said that on a positive note, the success rate of self-declared Indigenous children going through Holy Spirit schools literally leads the province. He explained that over a five-year timeframe of children entering into high school provincially, there is a graduation rate somewhere around 65 to 66 per cent.
“Holy Spirit school division has topped 80 per cent and it has done so for a while. Holy Spirit without question has made a commitment to help all children achieve success and therefore be able to go on and live happy, productive lives even with the legacy of residential schools,” said Mombourquette.
He said many First Nations, Metis and Inuit parents enrol their children in their schools and they also recognize that what went on in residential school is not happening within the modern version of school.
“We’d support language development, cultural revival, support cultural understanding of the broader society for children that we have within schools so that they come to know that in 21st century Canada we are all partners,” said Mombourquette.
He said that even though the news of the unmarked graves came as a shock to many, the work that has been happening in Holy Spirit school division over multiple years, helped it to be not as horrific a shock as it would have been to mainstream Canadian society.
“Holy Spirit school division had been learning about that, at age-appropriate times of course,” said Mombourquette.
Mombourquette said that the previous curriculum was a much clearer scope and sequence of when to introduce, how to introduce, how to carry forward that full experience of residential school and the meaning it has.
“It really would have been nice to see particularly that aspect of what was developed carry forward into that current version of the draft curriculum that’s out now. I think teachers right across Alberta would have been much better served,” said Mombourquette.
He said that a lot of feedback those curriculum documents are receiving now is regarding having to pay better attention to the full residential school experience, so that as Albertans we can then make a conscious act of knowing what our treaty responsibilities are and how we can actively participate in being partners into treaties as we move forward.

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