Principal's Blog

June 1, 2018

From the Principal's Desk

As the school year draws to a close NorthStar Academy would like to thank all of our students and their parents for choosing to study with us.  It has been a great year filled with learning and adventures.  Online and Home Education learning opportunities both enjoy the advantages of being highly individualized.  However, that individualization can also be a bit isolating so I hope you had the opportunity to join us at a variety of Activity Days and a chance to join in on some of our Activity Clusters.  The golf, karate, baking, gymnastics, and many more activities were great times of fun, fellowship, and learning.

Summer school is happening at NorthStar.  Recent changes to the funding model for senior high students made for some challenges in figuring out how we could offer summer school but we have a plan!  Contact the office if you are interested in taking a senior high class in July.

Our back to school barbeque will be happening on September 8th at the Zion Church just across from our offices in Didsbury.  It is a great chance to meet your teachers in person, rather than just through your computer screen.  We have food and games as well.  Please come and join us.

As we look towards the next school year, we are excited to see what God has in store for us as we work together with our students and parents to expand our understanding of God’s world and his will for our lives.  Have a great summer and we will see you in late August.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood

Principal

 

May 1, 2018

From the Principal's Desk

Students and teachers are back at work now that Easter break has come and gone.  Part of the reason the school year is organized with this week off in it is that school is hard work.  It can wear us down if we don’t take time away once in a while.  With over 650 students at NorthStar Academy, the staff is kept hopping.  Hopefully, your teachers have caught up in their marking by now as a lot of assignments came in while we were taking our break.

You should have noticed some changes to Moodle when you logged back in.  The company which hosts our Moodle worked with a couple of our lead teachers to upgrade our software over the Easter break.  These upgrades allow for us to add new features to our Moodle such as the new navigation bar that toggles on and off and the links in the title bar.  One of those links is PowerSchool, which takes you to the student/parent portal where you can access the latest information on your child’s progress in his/her classes.  An email was sent out with your login information, but if you need any assistance with getting into the portal, just call the office.

We have had lots of questions about summer school but unfortunately, we don’t have any definite answers yet.  The changes Alberta Education introduced to the way senior high students are funded (45 credit cap) have led to concerns about whether or not we can operate summer school, since we don’t know for sure we will receive funding for any classes we offer in July.  We hope to hear from Alberta Education regarding their plan by May 1st.

Please join us in continuing to pray for the families touched by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.  The scope of this tragedy is such that its impact is being felt by many, many people.  One of the side effects of being in education for a long time (32 years for me) is that the loss of young lives is familiar; rare but familiar.  One funeral is too many – 15 young lives lost is hard to comprehend.  May God have mercy.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood

Principal

 

 

March 1, 2018

From the Principal's Desk

Did you know that teachers do classwork much like they ask their students to?  It doesn’t look exactly the same, although a room full of teachers can be just as hard to control as one full of enthusiastic kids.  At NorthStar Academy, our teachers are part of a collaborative group within our school division that has us looking at best practices for online and home education.  On January 31st we got together with the other online school in Golden Hills to spend the day working on how to make our classes more engaging for our students (online instructional design).

As well, as a part of our focus on Powerful Learning, we are also engaged in making our classes and our school into places of thinking.  Sounds pretty simple but it turns out we have some things that we need to “unlearn” before we can go forward.  Ron Ritchhart, the author of Creating Cultures of Thinking, spells out some of the challenges we face:

  • Focusing students on learning vs. the work
  • Teaching for understanding vs. knowledge
  • Encouraging deep vs. surface learning strategies
  • Promoting independence vs. dependence
  • Developing a growth vs. a fixed mindset

Online learning and home education can make some of these challenges even more difficult to overcome, but our staff continues to work on making ourselves and our students into better thinkers.

NorthStar will have a new program for the 2018-2019 school year.  We will be offering our families a blended program.  A blended program combines the benefits of parent-directed home education with the advantages of teacher directed and online programming.  In the past NSA parents have had to choose either a traditional home education program (parent directed) or a fully aligned program (online or teacher directed).  We will now be able to offer the opportunity for a student to be a part of both of these worlds.  There are some boundaries, so we will provide all the details in the days ahead, but here are the basics:

  • Grades 1-9 – home education portion of the program must be 50% or higher
  • Grades 10-12 – home education portion of the program must be 20% or higher

Stay tuned for more details as we will send out guidelines for the NorthStar blended program in the near future.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood

 

December 4th, 2017

From the Principal's Desk

Feedback is at the core of good education, both for learners and for schools.  Alberta Education provides feedback to its schools through the Accountability Pillar which includes data from sources such as diploma exams, high school completion rates, and Rutherford scholarship eligibility.  Stakeholders are also surveyed on their views in regards to areas such as how safe and caring schools are, how well students are prepared for the work world, and the degree of parental involvement in schools.  We at NorthStar use this data to craft our improvement plans so we can better live out our slogan “Connected by Christ, Committed to Learning”.

We continue to excel receiving the highest rating in all seven of the survey areas: Safe & Caring, Parental Involvement, Citizenship, Work Preparation, Education Quality, Program of Studies, and School Improvement.  As well, we had strong results in our Physics 30 and English 30 diploma exam result, both of which were above provincial average.  However, the number of students achieving the standard of excellence declined slightly in Biology this year.  Our teachers look at all these results with an eye to determining opportunities for improvement.

GSAs are once again in the news in Alberta with the introduction of Bill 24 – An Act To Support Gay-Straight Alliances.  There is cause for concern for Christian schools, in part because the minister of education does not appear to understand our position.  He is rightfully concerned for the well-being of LGBTQ students, as their rates of self-harm are very high.  Christian schools share this concern but this is not fully recognized by some.  They don’t see how we can be supporters of LGBTQ students when we are not promoters of the LGBTQ lifestyle.  This is possible.  The Western Canada Director of the Association of Christian Schools International, Phil Hills expresses this better than I can. 

"Firstly, we believe that all students are created in the image of God and have innate value.  But adding to this is the belief that all of us are sinners.  Our shared brokenness is a powerful reality that can create a humble and inclusive atmosphere in a Christian school.  We aspire to deal with the log in our own eyes before focusing on the spec in the eyes of others.  Finally, we believe that Jesus offers all people an opportunity to find forgiveness, freedom and the hope of a glorious future."

While this debate is not likely to affect a home and online school like NorthStar Academy, please pray with us that our political leaders may see the truth.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood

 

December 1, 2017

On November 30th and December 1st, the Law Society of Ontario and Trinity Western University are presenting arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Law Society wants to be able to refuse to recognize graduates from TWU’s proposed law school.  Their objections began on the basis of TWU’s community covenant which includes a commitment to reserve sexual intimacy to marriage of one man and one woman.  Those objections now appear to have grown to include the “distinctly Christian” environment of Trinity Western. 

This case has relevance for me both personally and professionally.  I did my Masters in Leadership program at Trinity.  The school does an excellent job of staying true to a Biblical worldview, while at the same time being welcoming of people with different points of view.  Some of my classes had students who were from different faith backgrounds and some who would not profess any faith.  The personal relationships I built as we wrestled together with some very demanding topics, allowed me to share my faith as I learned how to better lead a school community.  Professionally, as principal of a publicly funded Christian school, the Supreme Court’s decision on the place of religion in the public sphere will have an impact on our community here at NorthStar Academy.  Not immediately, but it will shape policy for years to come.

I am reminded of the words of Eric Liddell, the Olympic athlete and missionary to China when he was called before British officials who wanted him to compromise his principles.  “God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern.”  I ask you to pray with us at NorthStar that the Supreme Court will uphold the religious freedoms that God has granted us here in Canada.

Randy Wood

 

November 27, 2017

Dear NSA Parents,

I have some information to share with you today on a couple of topics:  diploma exam accommodations and home education reimbursements.

Diploma Exams

  • Alberta Education has made available to all students writing diploma exams the additional time accommodation. 
  • Diploma exams are released with a time frame of 2.5 to 3 hours, depending upon the exam.  All students may now take up to double the set time for their diploma exams. 
  • This means that the total time available will be 5 or 6 hours.  Alberta Education has not changed the exams so the expectation is that most students will finish within the allotted time.
  • 5 or 6 hours is a long time for an exam but the same exam supervision conditions will remain in place.  This means you can’t bring your lunch and there are no coffee breaks.  The usual bathroom breaks, sealed drink containers (no open coffee cups), and unobtrusive snacks such as candies and gum (stuff that won’t get on your fingers and onto the exam papers) are all that will be allowed.

Home Education Reimbursements

  • Alberta Education has provided us some feedback on the last yearly audit of traditional home education reimbursements.
  • They indicated two specific ineligible reimbursements:
    • Butterfly Life Cycle Kits
    • Shipping costs from the NSA office
  • We are seeking clarification on the concern over the butterfly life cycle kits as these are closely tied to the grade 3 Science learning outcomes.  Unless we receive the go-ahead from Alberta Education, we will no longer be able to reimburse for butterfly kits.
  • Materials that we occasionally had shipped to our offices and then sent out to families will now have to be shipped directly to families.  This should not be a significant concern.

On an unrelated note, the Trinity Western University case on their law school application will be adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Canada on November 30th.  These kinds of decisions have great impacts on all Christian schools.  Please be in prayer that the court will continue to recognize the religious freedoms that we have enjoyed in Canada and will find in favour of Trinity Western University.

Yours in Christ,

Randy Wood

Principal