Four Directions: Dryden High School
79 Casimir Ave
Dryden, ON P8N 2H4
Phone: (807) 223-2316 ext. 119
Fax: (807) 223-2380
Four Directions: Beaver Brae Secondary School
1400 9th St N
Kenora, ON P9N 2T7
Phone: (807) 468-6401 ext. 3228
Fax: (807) 468-3628
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KENORA ONLINE: Student achievement goes beyond the classroom in Dryden

05 Sep. 2015

For trustees at the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, improving test scores can mean adopting strategies that go well beyond the classroom.

Heather Gardner's job is helping aboriginal children at Open Roads School in Dryden. As she told trustees last night, she's rarely at her desk.

"I'm almost never sitting down. I'm always in the classroom getting to know the students, getting to know the teachers. I'm in and out of the school getting to know the families as well. We're always in constant communication with them. Whether that's a text, a phone call, an email, Facebook message, Twitter. Whatever it is, we need to do to reach the families and get them to correspond with the school," she said.

At Dryden High School, Scott Urquhart oversees the Four Directions initiative. In their first year, he says they were able to narrow the gap in academic achievement between aboriginal students in Grade 9 and their peers.

"I think it speaks to what's possible and what can be done, and the commitment we're ready to make as a school board to move forward," he said.

In an average year, Urquhart says up to 60 per cent of Grade 9 students might earn eight credits. Last year, after the Four Directions program, 80 per cent of students earned eight credits. That's only three per cent below the average for non-aboriginal students in Grade 9.

Kieran McMonagle is called a grad coach. She's been working with aboriginal students in The Four Directions initiative -- which is focused on aboriginal students in Grade 9 -- in an effort to improve their academic achievement. McMonagle says the key is building strong relationships with her students, as well as their families and communities.

"So, for some students, that might mean working with their parent or guardian. For some students, it might mean working with a coach or a team within the school, or in the greater community. For some, it might be linking them with an agency, to better support and meet their needs," she said.

Urquhart says this kind of result has people in Queen's Park taking notice. He adds the board is hoping to expand the program to Beaver Brae in Kenora, while continuing with a second cohort in Dryden.

With a legacy of residential schools, as well as missing and murdered aboriginal women, both staff say its important to provide a strong bond between the classroom and the communities they serve. 


Four Directions Youtube Video

10 Feb. 2015 



06 Aug. 2014


Beginning in 2014 Dryden High School is piloting a new program for First Nations, Metis & Inuit (FNMI) students. FNMI is a program which provides mentorship, individual and group support for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students transitioning to and attending High School. It is the first program of its kind in Ontario.

A special coach-educator has been hired to assist in developing and implementing programs, services and other supports to meet the unique needs of FNMI students and their families, with a focus on student success and graduation.
The “coach” collaborates with school staff, parents, FNMI officials and outside agencies to foster success for students.
As a member of the school team, the “Coach” plays a crucial role in assisting all staff to improve achievement and graduation rates for FNMI students attending Dryden High School.
This is the nub of the FNMI program explained to Dryden Rotarians by the DHS Vice-Principal Jennifer McMaster, and Scott Urquhart, Student Success Leader.
The KPDSB had identified that the graduation rate among FNMI students is about 20 % less than the average. This is consistent with data from Alberta. DHS used as its model the FNMI program created at the Edmonton Catholic District School Board.
At present DHS has about 20 - 25 % who self-identify as First Nation, Metis, or Inuit students. This is expected to grow to 50% in the near future.
This summer Kieran McMonagle has been hired as the Graduation coach.  She will identify FNMI students at risk of dropping out of school and work with them and their families to ensure they stay in school.
The graduation coach monitors absences, late slips, behaviour referrals, class performance and the number of graduation criteria met, as well as the participation of the student in school events.
A special room has been created for Kieran where students can come for help, to talk, do homework, or just to feel that they are in a safe environment.
McMonagle will also provide transition support for students coming into high school or help with post-secondary education and career planning. One of her goals is to keep engaged with parents and ensure there are appropriate cultural activities.

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