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McBride, Belluz to lead school board

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Gord McBride and Dan Belluz were elected the new chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Rainy River District School Board during its first meeting of the new term here last night.

“I’ll try to do the job to the best of my abilities,” said McBride, who has served as chair twice previously during his long tenure as a trustee on the board.

McBride was nominated by Emo trustee Frank Sheppard, which was seconded by former vice-chair Judy Eluik of Atikokan.

Belluz, who also has been a trustee for several terms, was nominated by McBride, which was seconded by new trustee Ron McAlister of Rainy River.

“I thank all the trustees for choosing me for this position,” said Belluz.

The board last night also welcomed back Chief Jim Leonard of Rainy River First Nation, who will continue to serve as the First Nations rep for his second consecutive three-year term.

Chief Leonard officially was recommended by the Fort Frances Chiefs Secretariat back on Nov. 14.

Given it was the first meeting since the election last month, all trustees, including newcomer Martin Darrah of Devlin, took their oaths of allegiance to the Queen and board.

In other news, the board gave its monthly “Recognition of Excellence” to Sixth Street and Huffman Schools for their home-school shared reading programs, which are intended to improve student reading skills while increasing communication between the school and home.

Principal Linda Hill and teachers Ed Cain (Huffman) and Dianne DeBenedet (Sixth Street), along with students Jessica Leepart, Trelawney Erwin, Bryce Devoe and Karrah Ogden, were on hand last night for a presentation.

DeBenedet described her “Book Bag” program, in which grade two students bring home a bag full of books twice a week to show their families how their reading is progressing as well as develop reading skills on their own.

The program also includes increased personal reading time in class.

“I believe in a balanced reading program, and our program encourages the love of reading, which is one of the most valuable gifts you can carry with you in life,” she remarked.

Cain, who teaches a grade two/three class, outlined the “Pizza Box” reading program for his class. During the 25-week program, kids bring home a Pizza Hut box full of books, magazines, and even the Times and Daily Bulletin, along with instructions for parents as to what the program is about.

“Then, the students record their weekly success on a ‘Pizza Club Tree House.’ Those who read a certain number of books make the club, and get a special treat at the end of the program.

And those who don’t still get the thrill of participating,” Cain noted.

In other business last night, the board:

•passed a motion to accept a recommendation put forth by the Pupil Accommodation and Facility Review Committee (see related article elsewhere in this edition of the Times);

•received a report on the Education Quality and Accountability Office grade three and six test results (as reported in last week’s Times), with Superintendent of Education Terry Ellwood noting the board saw improvements in its grade three reading, writing, and math skills while grade six students saw a decline in reading scores;

•accepted a report on the recent Ontario Knowledge Network of Learning (OKNL) teleconference from Education Director Warren Hoshizaki (OKNL is the same program for which J.W. Walker-Alexander MacKenzie received $700,000 to implement a pilot project last month);

•received the monthly personnel report, which noted the appointment of casual secretaries Bernardine Sirman, Aimee Beazley, Maureen Thomson, Sharon Trimble, and Lisa Krishka.

It also noted the retirement of transportation officer Susan Drew, the resignation of secretary Delaine McLeod, and leave of absences for special ed. assistant Doris Nephin and Riverview teacher Amanda Lowes.

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