Doing What’s Best For Kids: Partnerships That Benefit Students, Teachers, and The Community
Doing what’s best for kids; the guiding principle behind the Fort McMurray Public School District (FMPSD), and perhaps also the best way to capture the partnerships the FMPSD has established with two local faith-based schools. These partnerships, both of which have now endured for over a decade, are undoubtedly examples of doing what is best for the kids in our region and ensuring children have access to the best education and resources possible.
The Fort McMurray Islamic School (through Markaz ul Islam, the Islamic Centre of Fort McMurray) joined the FMPSD family of schools in 2005; the Fort McMurray Christian School (through the Fort McMurray Christian Society) began their partnership with the FMPSD in 2006. And while the partnership involves three different parties and represents a multitude of administrators, educators, parents, and students, one thing is unanimous; it has been beneficial for everyone.
“The partnership with the faith-based schools speaks to the diversity in our community,” says Doug Nicholls, Superintendent of the FMPSD. “Through these partnerships, we are able to ensure students in our community have access to the best resources possible, including those within the Christian and Islamic schools.”
The partnerships with the faith-based schools means the school administrators, educators and students have access to the resources afforded through the larger umbrella of the FMPSD, but it also ensures that students are adhering to the standard Albertan curriculum and have instruction from certified and qualified educators. In addition, the schools follow FMPSD board policies, providing structure and guidance that lead to stability for both the school administrators and educators as well as their pupils.
The Fort McMurray Christian School is an interdenominational school that provides faith-based education for students from Early Childhood (ECDP) through Grade Nine.
“The FMPSD also supports us in upholding the vision and mission for our school,” says Joe Champion, Principal of the Fort McMurray Christian School. The school seeks to provide students with an education based on scripture, with a Christian perspective integrated into every aspect of study. Education in the school not only meets Alberta Education guidelines, but students also take the same competency exams as students in the other FMPSD schools.
Mehar Rashid, Principal of the Fort McMurray Islamic School, echoes Champion’s sentiments on the benefits of the partnership with the FMPSD.
“This has been a huge blessing,” says Rashid. “We have the opportunity to be part of every event and competition that involves the FMPSD schools, and we are able to offer our students more opportunities while taking advantage of being part of the same curriculum all students in our district follow.”
Located in the Greely Road School in Gregoire, the Fort McMurray Islamic School has seen steady growth for their program, which includes not only the Alberta Education curriculum but classes on the Quran, Islamic Studies, and Arabic language studies.
The FMPSD believes these partnerships have enriched not only the faith-based schools, but been of benefit to all schools within the district as they embody the sense of diversity in a community that has attracted residents from around the world.
“These partnerships have been excellent fit,” says Nicholls of the longstanding and successful relationships with the faith-based schools. “Through this partnership, the schools have access to FMPSD support services, board policies, certified teachers and Alberta Education curriculum, as well as all district events. We are able to provide the best academic experience possible for the students in these schools.”
Approximately twenty years ago, Alberta Education promoted the concept of parental choice in school experience and environment, and the FMPSD quickly adopted this philosophy which led to the partnerships seen today in Fort McMurray. This was seen as a positive move to not only support student learning, but as a way to meet the best interests of the community at large through beneficial and strong partnerships.
Prior to the start of the 2017/2018 school year, the Fort McMurray Christian School will be on the move to their new home in Timberlea, leaving behind their home in Thickwood as they continue to experience steady enrollment numbers.
Says Champion: “We have a great relationship with FMPSD and it gives our students many opportunities while allowing us to remain true to the values and vision of the school. Our students definitely benefit from this partnership, as do our teachers and the administrative staff as we can access education resources, including special education. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with FMPSD and the other schools in our district.”
Says Rashid: “This beautiful partnership has been so beneficial for the Islamic School and our students. We have seen our school enrollment continue to grow, and through this partnership, we can continue to provide many opportunities for our students as well as meet the values of our school vision.”
Rashid also shares that the partnership model the Fort McMurray Islamic School has developed with the FMPSD has proven appealing to many other school boards, including a board in southern Alberta which is now pursuing similar partnerships with faith-based schools in their community.
“The success of these partnerships has inspired other boards and schools to explore partnership possibilities in their districts, which really shows the impact this has had not only in our community but in our province,” says Rashid.
Doug Nicholls of the FMPSD agrees with both Champion and Rashid, noting that the benefits of the partnership are mutual. “The FMPSD Board of Trustees and administration are extremely pleased with these partnerships,” he says. “These two faith-based schools are prime examples of embracing diversity in our community, and their stability and growth displays the success they have achieved. We are proud to be a partner in their success as we continue to do what’s best for kids in our community.”