McAlister elected school board chair

Rainy River District School Board trustees elected a new chair and vice-chair last night.
Former vice-chair Ron McAlister, who represents Rainy River, was elected chair while Marg Heyens, representing Emo, Chapple, and Nestor Falls, was named vice-chair.
“I would like to thank the board for their confidence, and recognize and thank [former chair] Dan [Belluz] for his service to the board,” McAlister said.
“I know there will be times when I’ll be relying on Dan for his assistance.”
Heyens, who was first elected to the board in 2003, also was grateful for the vote of confidence.
“This is new to me. I hope I do a good job,” she remarked.
Belluz was nominated for the position of chair again, but lost in a secret ballot to McAlister.
Gord McBride, also a past chair, was nominated for the position of vice-chair but gratefully declined.
Also at last night’s meeting, the board recognized the efforts of staff and students in the execution of “Students Strengthening Students—Success,” a pilot project to help instill the love of reading into young children.
Dianne Thompson, principal of F.H. Huffman School here, explained to the board that the program has Fort Frances High School students in the Later Literacy program come and read to younger students at Huffman.
“The high school students consolidate their newly-acquired learning by teaching the younger students, informally, through their weekly reading sessions,” Thompson wrote in a report to the board, along with assistant Superintendent of Education Linda Hill.
“They help each other see a purpose in reading.”
In her presentation to the board last night, Thompson was enthusiastic.
“The feeling in the room, it’s something you can’t walk away from without getting shivers up your spine,” she said.
“They’re truly captivated. When they know it’s their reading morning, the students start vibrating,” she added.
The program was inspired by a publication put out by the Ministry of Education called “Me Read? No Way!” addressing the difficulties facing boys and literacy.
“The strategies that are effective for boys are effective for everyone—having strong mentors and positive role models,” Thompson noted.
The new program is in addition to Huffman’s FOLKLORE program, where volunteers from the community come into the school once a week to read stories to the young children.
The board’s renamed and revised anti-bullying program also was highlighted at last night’s regular meeting.
The board began an anti-bullying curriculum as a pilot project in the 2003-04 school year. Since then, administrators have sought feedback from teachers to further develop and strengthen it.
Now called STAR (safety, truth, attitude, and respect), the program is being delivered to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 9. Each grade has target themes, along with resource materials.
“The Rainy River District School Board recognizes that bullying is an issue in many schools and communities,” the board’s report reads.
“The purpose of the STAR program is to instill in students social virtues and personal character traits so as to improve the learning environment, promote student achievement, reduce disciplinary problems, and develop socially-responsible students of high character,” it adds.
“Students learn that what they do matters, and that one person can make a big difference.”
The board’s policy towards bullying is a mandatory suspension.
Also at last night’s meeting, the board:
•heard a presentation from Fort Frances OPP Cst. Dereck McLean on the D.A.R.E. program and a request that the board provide funding to support it;
•heard from Education Director Jack McMaster that the board soon would put out a call for a new superintendent of education; and
•recognized the work of its custodians and maintenance staff in its monthly employee recognition program.