Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
New superintendent expanding programs
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Paulette Hanna is the first to point out that she has "some pretty big shoes to fill." But the new superintendent of East Central Catholic Schools says she's looking forward to the challenge.
Hanna took over in September from long-time superintendent George Bunz, and she plans to continue building on the quality Catholic education the district is known for.
But she's also looking forward to taking on some new challenges, and one that's close to her heart is the outreach program started this year through Blessed Sacrament School in Wainwright.
"The program is for high school students that are at risk, that have fallen through the cracks . . . or for whatever reason haven't been able to continue in the traditional school setting," Hanna says.
The program follows the provincial education curriculum, but offers individualized learning and flexible hours, which suit students who are holding down a job, single mothers or older students returning to school to upgrade.
At the same time, the program provides the direction and guidance at-risk students need.
"The first year I was a principal at St. Jerome's (in Vegreville), I realized there were a lot of kids who needed something more than what we could offer," Hanna says. "When they broke the attendance rules, we tried to give them more flexibility, but they couldn't handle it."
Hanna and Bunz set about researching outreach school programs and brought the idea to the board of trustees. They were given the go-ahead, and the program started in September. Already, 16 students are registered.
"We would have been happy with 10 by the end of the year," Hanna points out, "so we've already surpassed our goal."
The outreach program is just one example of the compassionate nature of the East Central school division, Hanna says.
"The difference here comes from the direction the board gives. They're always there for the students and want the best for them, but they never lose sight of the fact that they are there to support the staff as well.
"Here, you're cared about and you're listened to."
For five years she has been part of East Central, a closely-knit district serving a widespread community, with seven schools in Wainwright, Vermilion, Killam, Provost, Castor and Halkirk.
Hanna was deputy superintendent of the district for two years, and previously was principal of St. Jerome's School in Vermilion and the School of Hope, East Central's "virtual school."
She began her teaching career in her native Trochu and the Three Hills area more than 20 years ago.
Hanna says she's looking forward to working with other Catholic superintendents from across the province, and particularly with East Central's new deputy superintendent David Keohane, who came on board with Hanna in September.
Keohane "makes up for some of my weaknesses, and together I think we'll be a really strong team," she said.
One of the greatest challenges Hanna sees ahead of her is something that affects all Catholic school districts.
"We can never take Catholic education for granted. We are different and we need to continue to show that we are different, because some people can't see the difference.
"But I look forward to that challenge," she adds, "because I feel it's part of being Catholic. We live it every day."