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stand behind the school

 Don't believe everything you read when it comes to statistics

 

February 9, 2014

Editorial

by Sandy Lindsay

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G. C. Huston Principal, Dan Russell ... a proud 'Huston Hawk'

There is more to a school than bricks and mortar and numbers on pages.

It was recently reported by the Fraser Institute, a 'think tank' that rates schools, that two of Saugeen Shores elementary schools were ranked low on its list.  According to what ... numbers?

It's very unfortunate that such an organization would 'pigeon-hole' two rural schools, one in particular, based solely on numbers while ignoring that it has achieved incredible heights when it comes to student involvement, increased attendance, parent involvement and overall community support.

G. C. Huston Public School in Southampton (Saugeen Shores) was actually rated 3,010 out of 3,030 schools by the B. C. Institute. This was the first ranking by the Fraser Institute for the school because previously it was considered too small in student population to provide statistical data.  This time around however, because the school enrolment has almost doubled in numbers, it qualified to take the testing given in grade  6.

Did the Institute look at anything other than one class?  No.  Did it consider the mix of students in that class?  No.  Did its results reflect the entire school?  No.

Not only is this wrong  ... it is really wrong. 

This is a school that is unique in every aspect. It is rich in multi-cultural heritage in an age where young people are having a difficult enough time in coping with their differences.  At this small rural school, Principal Dan Russell and his dedicated staff of teachers have brought a sense of personal well-being and respect, not only between the students but for the parents and the community, by breaking down barriers, perceived or otherwise.

"We were very disappointed at this ranking," says Russell.  "This is completely unfair.  The one class that was tested had never been tested before but everyone took part.  We have some students who are intellectually disadvantaged or are special needs.  Did we separate them and not allow them to take the test?  No, we did not.  We do not discriminate in any way at this school and, if that means inclusion on a test that will result in a mark that gives a false impression ... then so be it."

Russell took over as Principal at G. C. Huston in 2010 and says that there is a seven-year plan.  "We wanted to first build a foundation where everyone was on a level playing field ... where culture is as important as academics.  We are achieving that and are now ready to move on.  We have developed a sense of 'family' here at G.C.Huston and that's most important."

According to reports, the Institute includes information about family income, the percentage of students who speak English as a second language and the percentage of special needs students.  A disturbing comment, according to sources, is that made by the Institute's director of school performance that the Fraser report gives parents the chance to compare schools when make a choice for their children.  Is this not encouraging segregation ... of all kinds?

Perhaps, if the Fraser Institute based their results on more than 'numbers on a page', it would rate their findings differently.  

At G. C. Huston Public School, 40 per cent of the student body are First Nation children.  What does this mean to the school and the community?

First, it has brought a sense of heritage and cultural richness to the entire school body, their parents and the community where everyone has had the opportunity to learn from each other.

According to Saugeen First Nation Chief, Randal Kaghee, he has "... heard and witnessed nothing but great things about Mr. Russell and the teachers."

"We have seen the improvements in our kids and their excitement in their own success," says Kaghee.  "You only have to go into the school to feel the positive energy and the entire community is impressed.  When we have kids who look forward to going to school, who don't want to miss even one day, then that's a good thing.  I know that Mr. Russell and his staff have made a strong effort to engage our people and our children."

Kaghee, also a lawyer, says that he does not always agree with tests.  "To me," he says, "they are not always an indication of success.  Sometimes, tests and rankings actually go a long way to discouraging, not only students but teachers and parents."

 

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Following the release of the Fraser Institute rankings, Lori Wilder, Bluewater School Board Superintendent of Education, supported G. C. Huston saying that it had become one of the most "...vibrant schools within the Board."

"I am pleased to see the Board has stepped up in support of the school," added Kaghee.  "Now is the time to rally behind the school and the staff and the work they have accomplished."

The school has initiated many programs that encourage student learning in unique ways.  From a year-round outdoor classroom to participating in a community garden to science classes around the adjacent Fairy Lake, this is a school that takes learning out into nature and draws on the similarities between nature and the various subjects such as science and maths.

Did the Fraser Institute bother to include the fact that Mr. Russell has begun an intra-mural hockey league where he takes students to the local arena at 7:00 a.m. once a week, where every player is outfitted in equipment, where high school students come back to their former school to help out?  No.  Did it bother to include the sense of pride that students have developed in themselves and their school ... where they are excited to be known as the 'Hawks'?  No.

The 'ranking' was only based on limited numbers that put this school into a slot ... an undeserving one.

There's an old saying," figures can lie and liars can figure" ... beware of only reading the numbers on a page ... there is often much more behind them.

To read only some of the many accomplishments of G. C. Huston, go the links below:

Dome Classroom

Outdoor picnic welcomes parents

GC Huston hosts Far North students

Stanley Pot

Christmas concert

Heritage Fair

 


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