Dean MacInnis, principal of Sir John Franklin School gave trustees a presentation about the school’s travel club trip to China at the May 14 regular board meeting. The trip, which took place in late March has been controversial because of the decline of diplomatic relations over the last six months between the Canadian and Chinese governments.
In attendance with MacInnis were students Chloe Malin, Dara Maduke, and Cindy Ngo, who took part in the 13-day trip over the March break. The school board had come to be quite concerned over the safety of the 24 students travelling and had gone so far as to plan optional countries to visit should relations between the two countries deteriorate further.
MacInnis, who remained committed to seeing the trip through, said the international relations had no impact on the kids and their trip. The students were safe at all times because they were in groups, they were always with chaperones, and the trips from city to city and site to site were well planned and well structured.
Students were guided by EF Tours and they visited four cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Hong Kong.
“I know through many conversations with many of you and the concerns prior to us leaving, I can tell you we had absolutely zero issues travelling,” said MacInnis. “There were no concerns when we got there of transitions (at) the borders or anything. The locals treated us the same as everyone else. The mass majority had no idea there was a conflict between the Canadian and Chinese governments prior to us leaving.“
Several trustees asked questions about the experience. Chair John Stephenson said he was relieved that the trip turned out to be a success.
“I was so pleased the trip worked out well,” he said. “I shared the nervousness about you going to China. Canada is a casualty of some pretty major international drama going on between the United States and China and I shared in the nervousness of having our students and staff travelling to that country. So I’m so happy to hear that it worked out well.”
Assistant superintendent sworn in as superintendent
Metro Huculak, superintendent of Yk 1 Education District had open-heart surgery last week for a triple bypass. His surgery was reported as successful during the May 14 regular board meeting, but he will be off work from his duties for the foreseeable future.
The board passed a motion to have Ed Lippert, assistant superintendent take Huculak’s role. The motion was made as a formality as per requirements in the Education Act and Public Service Act which spell out how another person is to be designated to perform the duties of the superintendent.
John Stephenson, chair of the board said the operation was successful but trustees are asking that Huculak takes the time he needs to rest and recuperate.
“I talked to him (last week) and he is at residence in Aggasiz, B.C.,” said Stephenson, noting Huculak’s operation was performed in Alberta.
“He was released from hospital and he had open heart surgery. The surgery went well and he is in rest and recovery mode. He has prescriptive limits with things.”
Trustee Rajiv Rawat said Huculak’s contributions have been something to admire as he has served 14 years as a superintendent and almost 50 years as an educator. Rawat said it was good that the board office staff was able to step up for him in a time of need.
“We’re very fortunate because we have a great administrative team and everyone is stepping up. Tram Do and Ed (Lippert) and others have been really stepping up and filing in for him. It has been a hiccup, but we’re still in a good position.”
Huculak’s contract is set to expire in about a year’s time. Trustees will be putting together a hiring committee to find a new superintendent as Huculak prepares to retire.
Stephenson said the position is “demanding” as there are 2,100 students and 250 teachers and staff to oversee. The role also requires political accountability to the board of trustees, which puts greater demand on the individual.
Update on accommodations plan for JH Sissons and request for proposals
Tram Do, director of corporate services with Yk 1 gave an update on the J.H. Sissons School project calling the developments “exciting times.”
Do’s report follows Yk 1’s information night on the elementary school rebuild that took place on April 24 featuring Simon Taylor of Taylor Architecture Group (TAG). During that meeting, Taylor presented to parents a draft accommodation plan, or the recommended plan for how the school board will serve students at other locations while the rebuild takes place between 2020 and 2022.
Do reported that an advisory committee has been created with parents from the JH Sissons parent advisory council and the GNWT departments of Infrastructure and Education, Culture and Employment.
The accommodation plan is expected to be finished and sent to Minister Caroline Cochrane by the end of the month. A request for proposal for a new architect to work on the schematic design for the new school is to be closed by the end of May with meetings to be held with the new contractor on June 17 and 18, said Do.
A schematic design is to be completed for the new school in August or early September, Do added.
An updated timeline and information about the project can be viewed at the Yk 1 Education District website.
Boiler issues at Sir John Franklin
The school is lobbying to get the GNWT department of Education, Culture and Employment to cover the cost of either fixing or replacing a cracked boiler at Sir John Franklin School.
“We have reports from the chief boiler inspector that the boiler may not work,” said Tram Do, director of corporate services with the board, noting that the GNWT owns the building. “We are lobbying hard because Sir John Franklin is not a school that Yk 1 owns. We have to manage our risks before the winter starts to have a new boiler in place.
“It is a major capital item that Yk1 should not have to pay. We continue to lobby hard and we will hopefully have an answer next week.”
Do said there have been reviews done by GNWT engineers to see if a boiler at JH Sissons could be used, but it was determined to be too small.
“We asked our engineers of infrastructure to go and have a look at the technical design of the JH Sissons boiler to see if it would be compatible to Sir John,” Do said. “Basically the capacity of the boiler at JH Sissons would be about a third of what would be required … it is not compatible for the mere fact that it is too small.”
Staff adjustments in the board
A few staff adjustments are being made within the board. Jeff Seabrook, principal of William McDonald Middle School is taking leave from his position. Seabrook was recognized nationally this year for being an outstanding principal. He will be temporarily replaced by Jodi Lee-Lewis, a personal support worker with the school.
As well, Rachell Simmons, principal of JH Sissons, has stepped down from that role and it is now being advertised.
Landon Kowalzik, a social studies teacher at Sir John Franklin School has also been named principal of NJ Macpherson School starting next fall. The position is currently held by Shirley Zouboules.