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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 4pm

See the valley again during Be a Tourist in Your Own Town


    Spring is a great time for residents to reacquaint themselves with all the valley has to offer.
    This is the fourth year for Be a Tourist in Your Own Town Week. The promotion, an initiative of The Town of Drumheller is slated for May 17 to 23. The promotion is aimed at creating local awareness for the products, services and attractions that Drumheller has to offer.
    “Drumheller is the heart of the Canadian Badlands and we realize the importance of our location,” said Mayor Bryce Nimmo. “Our local residents are wonderful ambassadors for the valley and they do a great job hosting over 400,000 visitors every year. We look forward to being tourists in our own Town.”
    The promotion comes at the cusp of the tourism season in Drumheller. Organizers encourage residents to see and experience what the valley has to offer. It is a great time to take a look at some of the sites, museums and businesses that many have become accustomed to passing by.
    Economic Development officer Ray Telford says they have moved back the week to a later date this year, with designs on creating more awareness.
    “Each year it gets a little bit bigger and a little better,” said Telford. Usually it was the first week of May. We decided to hold it over the long weekend. The reason we did this was for the summer worker season. At the beginning of May often a lot of companies didn’t have their employees hired, so at least now they will be prepared for the May Long Weekend.”
 Along with the promotion, the town also runs a familiarization tour that businesses can sign their employees up to take. This way those in the service industry can serve their customers in a more efficient manner. Rather than just directing visitors to a point on a map, workers can provide first hand accounts of the sites to help those with questions.
    “It’s to get people more aware that we live in a wonderful place for tourism, and a lot of us don’t get to see what is in our own backyards,” said Telford.

Group critical of Golden Hills International Program

    A group in the Acme Linden area is raising concerns about costs of the Golden Hill School Division’s International program.
    ALIVE (Acme Linden Inspiring Visionary Education) raised an alarm bell after reading the Golden Hills School Division revenue and expenses breakdown from September 1 to November 30 of last year. It showed a $147,000 deficit for the program in the first three months of the school year.  They wrote an open letter to chair of the School Divisions’ Board asking what is the “real cost of the Golden Hills International Student program?”
    “This Golden Hills report is not consistent with the past message that this International Student program is a major cash generator for the school division,” said the letter signed by Dave Price on behalf of ALIVE.  “These points are without touching on the non-financial but critical question of the extra workload for the teachers and fellow students where these students are in their classrooms.”
    Ron Kenworthy says the numbers quoted in the report are correct, however, he says there is a note following the breakdown, which says the “statement includes revenue on a cash basic for all departments except for International Student Services and Federal Government where revenue is recognized based on invoiced amounts.”
    “They are talking about actual dollar amounts as if everything that was due was paid today,” Kenworthy told The Mail after being alerted to the letter.  “We don’t get everything all neat and tidy.”
    This means while the expenses to run the program accumulate daily, the revenues come in at different times. This is explained further within the report.
    “Although revenue is received in unequal amounts (most in September, January and June) expenses are distributed more evenly.”
    It also states International Students Services has invoiced $4.2 million, however some students may not receive visas to enter Canada, thus the actual funds received will likely vary from the invoiced amount. The revenue reported in the quarterly report represents the visa approved students invoiced to date.
    “You are always going to have variances in quarterly reports because income does not come in exactly when expenses occur,” said Kenworthy. “We’re not losing money on this program. At some point in the year it could show a loss, but by the end of the year you are okay.”
    The ALIVE letter also raises the point that only $12,808 is directed to certified salaries and benefits to serve 179 students in the program. The letter concludes the cost represents 2/3 of one teacher for 179 students.
    “How can less than one certified teacher cover 179 students in a variety of schools?
    If we said 179 students would have closer to 10 certified teachers, then the additional cost would be over $210,000 for the first three months,” the letter states.
    Kenworthy responds, “If we were teaching those students in a completely separate program you would need 10 teachers to handle it, but they are intermixed with other students in the classrooms.
    He says integration is one of the strengths of the program.
    “So that helps us pay for teachers for local kids too,” said Kenworthy.
    This is not the first time ALIVE has been critical of the Golden Hills School Division. In February they issued a press release regarding the board’s process for allocating representation when amending the number of electoral wards.
   

Golden Hills responds to critique of international program

The following is a response to open letter to Golden Hills School Board from Mr. D. Price regarding International Student Services Program.

    Thank you for your recent letter regarding the International Student Services in Golden Hills.  The board is pleased to respond and address your misunderstandings.
    First, it is important to know that Alberta Education has a very comprehensive international education strategy so we encourage interested individuals to visit the Alberta Education website for more information about international education in Alberta.  The International Education Services (ISS) program of Golden Hills aligns with Alberta Education’s strategy on international education.  For advice and support in establishing ISS, the board is grateful to Dr. Lyle Oberg, former Minister of Education. 
    Further, please note the following:
  •  The quarterly financial report, reviewed at the April 13 board meeting shows a significant positive variance for international services:   $1,259,703.35.  The first quarterly deficit was due to a timing difference, since resolved, between reported revenue and expenses.
  • Schools receive funding in the form of revenue transfers for international students and decide whether to purchase staff or use the funds in some other way to benefit students.  The site based decision is influenced by many factors such as the number of students and placement within existing classes.
  • International students are enrolled in several schools around our division.  That is why it is impossible to divide the full time equivalent enrolment by a part time certificated teacher cost to arrive at a speculated shortfall.
  • More resident than international pupils qualify for ESL services, yet the programming developed and supported by international education benefits all our ESL learners.  International Student Services provides a part time teacher to support English as a Second Language programming.
  • Recruitment costs are included in the expense statements.  Many principals have travelled to recruit at education fairs, visit schools, and meet agents and parents.  Travel provides a unique, valued professional development opportunity.
  • A Director of ISS administers the program and reports to the division administration. Due to a resignation, ISS is currently supervised by division administration.  The role of the superintendent is comprehensive and is not expensed by task.
  • Board members have not participated in international travel for the ISS program.  The superintendent, a member of Alberta Education’s International Advisory Council, was invited by the Chinese government to visit last spring.  HANBAN (China’s approximate equivalent to our Ministry’s international services branch) paid the expenses.
  • The primary purpose of the ISS program is the educational benefit to our students.  Our students will work cross culturally with people from around the world as they enter the world of work and post secondary education.  We prepare students to participate in the global village by providing opportunities in our classrooms.  The division does not tout the program as “a major cash generator;” nevertheless, annual revenue for the division is approximately $3.5 million.  Despite H1N1 and a significant downturn in the world’s economy, we continue to fund international services through resources generated by the program.
  • International students also stabilize enrolment across the division.  One effect is that small high schools with international students are able to offer high level courses in physics, chemistry and mathematics as a result of additional resources and sufficient enrolment interest to offer a class. 
    Finally, all young people are worth the effort: no student is “extra workload.”  As our students learn to work together despite obvious differences in language, culture, religion, and physical appearance, we find hope for the possibility of building a kinder, gentler world.  At one time students with special needs were also considered “extra workload and intrusions on fellow students.”  Fortunately, classrooms today are richer because we embrace diversity. 
    International students in Golden Hills are among our top athletes, scholars, volunteers, and leaders in student circles.  They bring many extraordinary talents and skills.  We are privileged to have so many young people from around the world contribute to our schools and enrich the lives of our students. 


Sincerely,

Ron Kenworthy
Chair
Golden Hills School Board

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