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Last updateFri, 14 Jun 2024 6pm

LaPierre winding up 35 year teaching career

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After 35 years, DVSS Principal Curtis LaPierre has decided to put his chalk away and will be retiring at the end of this school year.
LaPierre came to Drumheller in 1989, after taking a chance on a small classified ad. It couldn't have been more suitable; the school board was looking for a person with a teaching degree and a ticket in cooking.
It was a long path to get to that point, which took him through kitchens across Western Canada, university and even a stint slinging insurance. But in the end, DVSS left him with a satisfying career.
“I turned 64 in May and have taught for 35 years, and I still really enjoy working with teens,” he said.
“I have had the opportunity to work with and interact with over 3,000 teenagers over those 35 years. Drumheller has become home. The community has been good to me, the students I have worked with have been good to me and it has been a blessing.”
His story starts like many others, without direction after high school, he had already been cooking in restaurants for a few years and decided to follow that path. When he was 20, he jumped on a train and headed west from Ottawa and within three days, he was working at the Banff Springs Hotel. He then worked at a Greek restaurant in Vancouver, and then as a private chef in Calgary for a year and a half. After some soul searching he decided to go to University.
He went to Mount Royal College and then the University of Calgary.
“I went back and ran the catering department when I was at Mount Royal, while I went to university,” he said.
After a summer studying French at McGill, he started at the University of Calgary.
“While I was there I ran the catering department at the University of Calgary.”
He graduated with a double major in Elementary Language and Reading. After doing his practicums he was looking for a job.
“I couldn’t get a job teaching, there was a glut in the market at the time,” he said. “I sold life insurance with Great West Life, and did that for about two and a half years.”
He was offered teaching jobs but at the time his insurance position was much more lucrative.
Circumstances in his life did change, however, and one day he noticed an ad.
“I saw a little print ad in the Calgary Harald. It said Drumheller Valley School Division #62 was looking for a Bachelor of Education with a Journeyman’s ticket in cooking. I came out and slid my resume under the door. I got the job.”
He pushed hard to get his last insurance commission before he left his previous employment. He made the sale, and the next day he was in the classroom.
He spent the next 13 years in the classroom before he became associate principal in 2002. Along the way, his entrepreneurial spirit never ended, and he continued to cater, did real estate appraisals and also started Drumheller Taekwondo and Hapkido School.
He served as associate principal until 2010, when he was appointed principal. At the time, the school had relocated to the former Central School during renovations. That first Christmas holiday was spent moving back into the new DVSS.
During his time at the school, he has seen many changes, including the blossoming of the cooking program, which has affected many students.
He recounted an experience a few years ago when he was undergoing a medical procedure, the nurse in her mask asked him about the recipe books that students would take when they graduate.
He was also in a leadership role during the introduction and flourishing of the international program. In helping to launch the program, he travelled to China, Turkey, and Central Mexico.
He has seen students excel at the school.
In 2010, when he became principal, the three-year graduation rate from the previous year was 55 per cent.
“Two years ago, our three-year graduation rate was 89.5 per cent. It is 84.5 per cent now,” he said. “Our six-year transition rate… in terms of transitioning into secondary was 50.5 percent. The province is 42 per cent, and the school division at large is 30 per cent. And for a student in Drumheller transitioning to post-secondary, that is way more difficult than a student living in the city.”
“It's been quite a journey, there have been lots of changes. Remapping the vision of the school and turning around school culture, it is significantly different than what it used to be,” he said.
After retiring, he is planning to stay in Drumheller and has a few ideas up his sleeve to keep him busy. These could benefit both students and teachers.
“I have always been supportive of supporting others,” he said. “Sometimes circumstances push you where you are supposed to be, not where you were planning to be.”


Wheatland County passes budgets

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Wheatland County residents are looking at a potential 3 per cent municipal tax increase.
Wheatland County passed its 2024 Capital and Operating budget at the April 2 Wheatland County Council meeting, which includes a 3 per cent increase in its tax-supported portion of the operating budget.
“Wheatland County Council is pleased to announce the approval of the Operating and Capital Budgets for the 2024 fiscal year. Council and Administration have meticulously reviewed the budget to ensure its alignment with Wheatland County’s Strategic Plan,” said Reeve Amber Link. “Wheatland County strives to maintain a balanced approach to spending, ensuring effective management of assets and strategic investment in infrastructure to facilitate growth while safeguarding financial stability. Overall, the budgets prioritize fiscal responsibility and strategic investment, aiming to deliver quality services to both residents and businesses within the County.”
One budget pressure is an obligation to pay approximately $900,000 for RCMP policing costs, paid to the province.
One note in a press release is that despite challenges posed by inflation, they are committed to affordability and fostering economic growth to keep taxes to a minimum.
“In 2023, the average residential property paid $1,354 in taxes. Due to growth and development in the County’s non-residential tax base, the average residential property is expected to pay $30.39 more in 2024, representing only a 2.2% increase,” it notes.
The operating budget is approximately $69.7 Million. Of this, $41.8 million is tax-supported and about $16.4 million is drawn from reserves.
The 3 per cent tax increase does not include requisitions for education. In 2024, Wheatland County is required to collect $10.8 million towards its Education Requisition through property tax billing. This is an amount that will be collected and directly remitted to the province.
The council is looking at $8.4 million toward the raw water supply and several infrastructure projects including road work and bridgework.
The council also passed its 2024 capital budget of approximately $39.9 million. A large portion of the capital budget is dedicated to water projects ($11.9 million), equipment ($6.5 million) and Public Works ($16.6 million ) for road maintenance, construction and bridges.
The Tax Rate Bylaw has not been passed.

Three more charged following drone drug trafficking investigation

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In May of 2023, a prison drug trafficking operation was dismantled following a complex investigation led by Drumheller RCMP General Investigative Services (GIS). Several drones and a large amount of cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl were seized, and two suspects were charged, including one inmate.
The investigation continued and RCMP identified a suspect and a suspect inmate who were facilitating the introduction of drugs and phones into the Drumheller Institution via illicit drone flights. On March 15, 2024, police executed a search warrant at a residence in Eckville, Alta. As a result of the search warrant, the following was seized:

1.3 Kilograms of Cocaine
2.2 Kilograms of Methamphetamine;
2.1 grams of Fentanyl
Canadian Currency and a money counter
Two Prohibited Weapons
Two drones
Cell Phones
A loaded shotgun
Break in instruments
A 2020 Dodge Ram 2500 a 2018 GMC Yukon.

Throughout the investigation, multiple RCMP Support Units were engaged including Sylvan Lake General Duty officers, Sylvan Lake GIS, Blackfalds GIS, Digital Forensic Services Unit; Forensic Identification Section (FIS), Special Operations, and more. Also engaged were key partners including Edmonton ALERT Auto Crimes Unit and Drumheller Institution.
As a result of this operation, RCMP have laid numerous charges:
Ashley Maki (39), a resident of Eckville, and John Andrews (32), from Drumheller Institution, have jointly been charged with:

Conspiracy to Commit an indictable offence
Possession of Proceeds of Crime

In addition, Ashley Maki is jointly charged with Dayton Chassie (19), a resident of Eckville, with:

Possession of Methamphetamine for the Purpose of Trafficking
Possession of Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking Possession of Proceeds of Crime
Possession of a Prohibited Weapon
Possession of a Prohibited Weapon
Unsafe Storage of a Firearm
Possession of Break in Instruments

Maki was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in the Alberta Court of Justice in Red Deer on June 17, 2024 to answer to the charges. A warrant of arrest has been issued for Chassie whom remains at large. Andrews remains incarcerated and awaits Judicial Process/court date to answer to the charges.

Drumheller RCMP and partners continue to investigate this matter and additional charges are pending.

Staff Sergeant Robert HARMS of Drumheller RCMP stated, “This was a lengthy and meticulous investigation resulting in the removal of illicit and harmful drugs and weapons from our communities. This is yet another example of numerous RCMP Units and our valued partners working together to ensure safe and secure communities.”

If you have any information regarding these matters, please contact Drumheller RCMP at 403.823.7590 or contact your local Police Service. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.P3Tips.com or by using the "P3 Tips" app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.


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