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“High school has shown us who we are and how we can take forward what we’ve learned and apply it to whatever we encounter in the future.”


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Lindsay Thurber Valedictorian credits his time in French Immersion for success

Striving for excellence and continuously pushing himself to be his best version has landed Lindsay Thurber graduate Samuel Bakker the title of Valedictorian for the Class of 2023.

Samuel, who was given the news earlier this month, said it was an extremely exciting moment.

“I knew I was in the running for it, but I wasn’t sure if I had gotten it. I was able to keep myself composed when I was told, but I did a little happy dance after,” he said. “This year, the Valedictorian race was extremely close and all of the students in the running are all exceptional people who deserve this just as much as I do, but it is an honour to represent our class.”

Samuel, who has been in the French Immersion program at Red Deer Public Schools since Kindergarten, said the program has afforded him some great opportunities.

“The main thing that led my parents to register my sister and I in the French Immersion program was because it was something that was a little bit more challenging, and a program we might find a little more engaging,” he said, adding he recognizes it may open more opportunities in his future. “Overtime we learned the value of it, and what I have enjoyed the most is the sense of community we have with the people we’ve gone through the program with. It’s been nice to have a core group of people to go through my schooling with.”

A highlight of high school for Samuel has been the opportunity to be part of the school’s Student Council.

“I’ve loved the work I’ve gotten to do with the Student Council. I run our community division so I’ve gotten to do lots of charitable drives and fundraising,” he said. “We’ve been able to do so many wonderful things with the resources of the school behind us.”

As for plans after high school, Samuel will be heading to the University of British Columbia to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “I’m not sure yet what I will minor or major in, but I would like to do graduate school of some kind,” he said.

As part of his role as Valedictorian, Samuel will address his fellow graduates on May 25 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre during the school’s graduation ceremonies.

“The overarching theme of my speech is how we’ve been through the journey of high school together and are now heading off on our own adventures,” he said. “High school has shown us who we are and how we can take forward what we’ve learned and apply it to whatever we encounter in the future.”

As the Lindsay Thurber graduation is right around the corner on May 25, Samuel said he is looking most forward to the ceremony.

“I am really looking forward to walking across the stage, getting my diploma and being there with my family.”

Chris Good, Principal at Lindsay Thurber, said being named valedictorian is a testament to the hard work and dedication that Samuel has shown during his time at the school.

“He has earned this distinction through resilience and commitment to his course work. In addition to his academic achievements, Samuel also makes our school a better place to be through his work with student leadership,” he said. “I look forward to hearing his address to our graduating class.”

Class of 2023 gear up for graduation ceremonies

Grade 12 is an exciting and pivotal year for our students, which ends with the ultimate celebration of achievement – graduation! It’s a milestone in a young adult’s life – dressing in the cap and gown, walking across that stage, and celebrating with staff, classmates, family and friends. Our Grade 12 students look forward to their graduation all year and as educators, it gives us such great pride to celebrate this accomplishment together with our students.

Graduation celebrations for each high school will be as follows:

  • Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School – Thursday, May 25, 2023

    • Two ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre 

  • Hunting Hills High School – Friday, May 26, 2023

    • Two ceremonies at 10 a.m and 12:30 p.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre

  • Pines Alternative School Centre and North Cottage – Friday, June 23, 2023

    • One ceremony at 1 p.m. at Pines Alternative School

  • Gateway Christian – Thursday, June 29, 2023 

    • One ceremony at 3:30 p.m. at New Life Fellowship Church

“We recognize that graduation is an important milestone in a young adult’s life. It’s a milestone that is meaningful for our students and also for their families and friends as well,” said Chad Erickson, Superintendent of Schools. “Graduation is not only a celebration of the hard work and dedication of students, but the start of the next chapter in their lives. We know our students will move on to do great things, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”

“We are very excited that we will be able to celebrate the dedication and achievement of our students at this year’s graduation event,” said Darwin Roscoe, Principal at Hunting Hills High School. “These students have demonstrated the extreme resilience and commitment necessary to reach this milestone. Over the last couple of years, the feedback we heard from our parents and graduates was that they enjoyed the staggered ceremony times, so this year we are doing the same while keeping the great things our students, parents and staff value most in graduation.”

“The thought of reaching graduation in a few short days is incredibly exciting, and simultaneously surreal. For as long as I can remember, high school graduation has been the biggest, most thrilling milestone to reach, making the decision to join the 2023 Graduation Executive Committee a no-brainer,” said Marin Walton, a graduating student from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. “Through grad exec, we have been able to give back, and provide a memorable senior year for all of the graduates that unfortunately missed out on a majority of the ‘normal’ high school experience. Hopefully, through our various events including multiple spirit days, bowling night, wakefest, and the grad fashion show, we as a committee were able to reinstate the excitement surrounding graduation, despite our unorthodox four years that seem to have passed in the blink of an eye.”

“We are so incredibly proud of our graduates who have persevered, reached this incredible milestone, and are ready to take this new and exciting next step in their lives,” said Stephen Pottage, District Principal – Alternative Programs and Support Services. “Congrats to all of Red Deer’s graduates and their families.”

“What a privilege to see this group of kids successfully reach the milestone of graduation. I am so proud of each of them,” said Karen Wiebe, a parent of a graduating student at Gateway Christian School. “This is made all the more special to me as a Gateway parent because of the rich community developed amongst students, parents and staff in what feels like a small town school. I am truly excited for what is yet to come for this amazing class as they step out into the next chapter of their lives.”

Red Deer Public looks forward to celebrating the achievements of our graduating students over the coming months.

Red Deer

Expelled member of Red Deer Catholic School Board will have judicial reviews heard May 1-3

Published on

News release from The Democracy Fund

TDF and James Kitchen Defend School Board Trustee Monique LaGrange

Briefs were filed in Monique LaGrange’s case on the week of April 8, 2024.

RED DEER: The Democracy Fund (TDF) has partnered with lawyer James Kitchen to represent former school board trustee Monique LaGrange as she takes The Board of Trustees of Red Deer Catholic Separate School Division to court for kicking her off the Board because they took offence to one of Ms. LaGrange’s social media posts.

Mr. Kitchen filed two applications for judicial review in December 2023, challenging the Board’s decisions to penalize Mrs. LaGrange and disqualify her from sitting on the Board. Mr. Kitchen has now filed his briefs, which lay out in detail how the Board’s decisions are procedurally unfair and unreasonable and should be overturned by the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta.

The two judicial reviews will be heard virtually by a Red Deer judge over the course of a three-day hearing on May 1-3, 2024, starting at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, May 1. Members of the public are encouraged to attend by accessing this link.

In Alberta, judicial reviews are heard on the basis of a record of documents compiled and submitted to the Court by the decision-maker, which is supposed to include everything presented to the decision-maker at the time the decision was made. In this case, Mrs. LaGrange had submitted to the Board 33 pages of emails and letters from Albertans who supported her. At first, the Board failed to provide these supportive emails and letters to the Court, but that changed when Mr. Kitchen filed an application to compel the Board to do so. Redacted versions of these emails and letters, which are also quoted at length in the briefs, can be viewed here, starting at page 113 of 169.

Mrs. LaGrange was democratically elected to the Board in 2021. Despite this, the Board expelled her because she allegedly failed to comply with sanctions imposed on her by the Board in September 2023 for posting a meme to her Facebook account that some people found offensive. The impugned meme depicted two side-by-side photographs, one of children holding swastika flags and the other of children holding pride progress flags. The meme, which drew much support but also some disapprobation from the community, included a caption stating, “Brainwashing is brainwashing.”

The Board asked Mrs. LaGrange to apologize for the meme, which she declined to do because she believed she had done nothing wrong. In speaking to the Western Standard, Mrs. LaGrange stated, “I was elected to stand up and protect our children, and that is what I am doing.” Among other things, the Board, on September 26, 2023, ordered LaGrange to undergo sensitivity training at her own expense for allegedly breaching their code of conduct by posting the meme and to refrain from making public comments about sexual minorities in her official capacity as a Trustee.

The Board subsequently alleged Mrs. LaGrange had breached some of these sanctions and voted to disqualify Mrs. LaGrange as a trustee.

TDF and lawyer James Kitchen have chosen to defend Mrs. LaGrange to defend the free speech rights of all Canadians, especially in the context of statements made by democratically elected representatives.

To support Mrs. LaGrange, please consider making a tax-deductible donation on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education, and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education and supports access to justice initiatives for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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Solar eclipse school closures underscore impact of learning loss

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Michael Zwaagstra

Instead of making every effort to protect instructional time and ensure that schools remain open, students are being sent home for ever more dubious reasons.

Schools are closed out of an “abundance of caution.” No doubt you’ve heard this phrase many times over the last few years. It was commonly used during the pandemic when provincial governments closed schools for months on end—even after it was widely known that COVID-19 posed little risk to most children.

Ontario schools were closed for 135 days during the pandemic, more than any other province. Parents and teachers are still trying to recover from this enormous learning loss. Clearly, this was one situation where an abundance of caution caused more harm than it prevented.

Sadly, it appears that provincial officials and school board administrators haven’t learned from their mistakes. Instead of making every effort to protect instructional time and ensure that schools remain open, students are being sent home for ever more dubious reasons.

For example, school boards across Ontario cancelled classes on April 8, the day of the solar eclipse. Apparently administrators felt there was too great a risk that students might look at the sun during the eclipse and damage their eyes. No doubt more than a few of them glanced at the sun while sitting at home that day. However, there was no need for the school closures to be as total as the eclipse. If they were really that concerned, school officials could have kept students indoors or simply altered the dismissal times.

Initially, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) took a common sense approach by stating that schools would remain open and teachers would use the eclipse as a learning opportunity for students. Then, only days before the eclipse, the WRDSB suddenly reversed itself and said their schools would indeed close on April 8, and students would have the opportunity to engage in “asynchronous remote learning” instead.

This decision sent the unfortunate message that WRDSB trustees are incapable of standing up to pressure from people who think that schools must close at the slightest sign of real or presumed danger. As for the notion that remote learning was an adequate substitute, our experience during the pandemic showed that for most parents and students, remote learning was thin gruel indeed.

As a further sign of how far paranoia has crept into the education system, some teacher unions demanded they too should be able to work from home during the eclipse. For example, Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton local teacher union, said, “If it’s not safe for children [to be at school], then it’s not safe for adults.”

The union representing Toronto’s Catholic teachers made a similar request. In a memo to its members, local union president Deborah Karam said the union was “intensifying our efforts” to ensure that teachers be allowed to complete their professional development activities at home that day. Surprisingly, no union leader has yet explained why teachers would be less likely to look at the sun while at home than at school.

Of course, school boards must focus on education while also looking out for the wellbeing of students. But there’s more to student wellbeing than simply shielding them from all perceived risks. Extended school closures cause considerable harm to students because they lead to significant learning loss.

By normalizing the practise of closing schools at the slightest sign of danger, real or perceived, we risk raising a generation of young people who lack the ability to do a proper risk assessment. Life itself comes with risk and if we all took the same approach to driving a car that school boards take to school closures, would never set foot in a vehicle again.

Ontario students had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a solar eclipse in an educational environment, guided by their teachers. While some parents no doubt taught their children about the eclipse, many others had to be at work.

By closing schools out of an “abundance of caution,” school boards sent the message that school is not a place where unique educational events can be experienced together. Students should be in school during events such as the eclipse, not sitting at home.

If we’re going to exercise an abundance of caution, let’s be a lot more cautious about the risks of closing schools at the drop of a hat.

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