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Mar 17
Fraser Heights Secondary debate students taking on nationals
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Grade 10 Fraser Heights Secondary debate team students John Wu and Finn Liu will be competing at the Senior Nationals Tournament in April.

Members of the debate team at Fraser Heights Secondary are heading to the Senior Nationals Tournament, following an impressive fourth-place showing in the senior category at the provincial debates.

Grade 10 students Finn Liu and John Wu will compete in the Canadian Student Debating Federation (CSDF-FCDÉ) nationals in April, a showcase of the top debaters from across the country. As co-presidents of the Fraser Heights Secondary debate team, the duo leads 40 to 50 students in debate every week, sharpening their leadership and critical thinking skills.

"Fraser Heights probably has the biggest debate program in all of Surrey," said Wu. "We give them the opportunity to partake in debates, learn the skills they need to become more critical speakers, and to go to tournaments that they otherwise couldn't go to."

While debate tournaments are predominantly made up of teams from private schools, Wu and Liu said Fraser Heights Secondary has a long history with debate and tries to offer opportunities for students who can't afford private training.

"Some of these debate academies can cost around $400 per hour for some really good coaches," said Liu. "A lot of private school students get private training and most of the kids at Fraser Heights don't have that, so we're trying to provide feedback and run exercises like debate rounds to practice debate. And then at tournaments, they can apply the skills they learn in the club and actually experience what debate is like."

On the team, students practise debating a broad range of topics from law and politics to social movements and international relations. Liu said the provincials were a good opportunity to test their skills outside of the club against a higher calibre of competition with experienced judges.

"At provincials, you have what's called prepared rounds and impromptu rounds – they give you some topics beforehand to prepare a pro and a con, known as proposition and opposition in debate," she said. "And then we also debated three rounds of unprepared topics where they give you 30 minutes to prepare.

"There's a really good discourse that goes back and forth," said Wu. "That environment and atmosphere have been a really great learning experience for all of us."

With nationals around the corner, Wu and Liu are expecting tough competition, being among the youngest in the senior category that includes opponents through Grade 12. However, they both acknowledged that age and experience aren't the only factors in debate.

"A lot of what makes you a great debater isn't as much the experience from previous tournaments or the money you've invested into classes, it's being able to critically think from different perspectives," said Wu. "When you can put yourself in someone else's shoes, that really elevates your skills."

Best of luck to Finn Liu and John Wu at the Senior Nationals Tournament!

Mar 15
Fleetwood Park and Johnston Heights win Axe and Ladder finals in Goodwill Basketball Classic

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The Fleetwood Park Secondary Dragons won the Axe Division final 68-45 against the Semiahmoo Thunderbirds in the Surrey Fire Fighters' Goodwill Sr. Girls Basketball Classic. (Photo via Surrey Fire Fighters' Charitable Society)


The girls at Fleetwood Park Secondary and Johnston Heights Secondary were dominant on the court last week, winning the Axe and Ladder championships at the 20th-annual Surrey Fire Fighters' Goodwill Sr. Girls Basketball Classic.

The Fleetwood Park Dragons took a commanding lead in the Axe Division final on Saturday, defeating the Semiahmoo Thunderbirds 68-45 and keeping the South Surrey school from a fourth-consecutive championship. The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers placed third, edging out the Panorama Ridge Thunder 67-54.

Meanwhile in the Tier 2 Ladder Division final, the Johnston Heights Eagles extinguished the Fraser Heights Firehawks 65-54, with the bronze medal going to the Frank Hurt Hornets over the Princess Margaret Lions.

The finals were hosted at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, with 20 teams from across the district competing throughout the week. The tournament is made possible thanks to the volunteer work of Surrey fire fighters.

The themes of the tournament include promoting volunteerism, diversity in the fire service and girls in sports. Additionally, in promoting goodwill, the Surrey Fire Fighters' Charitable Society offers several bursaries to students who demonstrate outstanding volunteer service in their community, with more than $70,000 awarded to date.

For the full results, click here.

Congratulations to all of our teams and bursary recipients!

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The Johnston Heights Secondary Eagles won the Ladder Division final 65-54 against the Fraser Heights Firehawks in the Surrey Fire Fighters' Goodwill Sr. Girls Basketball Classic. (Photo via Surrey Fire Fighters' Charitable Society)

Mar 15
Semiahmoo Secondary students win gold at UBC Physics Olympics
​Up against 50 teams from around the province, Semiahmoo Secondary managed to snag gold at the recent 2022 UBC Physics Olympics.

While the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, it returned last year in a virtual format that was used again for the 2022 iteration.

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The Semiahmoo team's smartphone elevator.

The Semiahmoo team is also no stranger to success at the competition. The team also came in first overall during the 2019 competition and came third during last year’s event.

For this year’s competition, teams took part in four activities, after which a cumulative score determined their overall rank.

Activities this year ranged from building a ‘smartphone elevator’ to detecting and characterizing exoplanets as part of a ‘Planetary Astronomy Lab’, in addition to ‘Quizzics’ and determining the answers to ‘Fermi Questions’.

“As one of the largest competitions of its kind in North America, schools from around the province compete, usually in six events: Quizzics, Fermi, two labs and two engineering pre-builds,” explained Semiahmoo physics teacher Louay El Halabi. “But as the event was held virtually this year, there were only four major components.”

The Semiahmoo team, made up of senior students (Grade 11 and 12) from both the school’s International Baccalaureate program and physics classes, fielded 26 participants during the competition.

El Halabi could not be more proud of the team’s performance.

“The number one rule is to have fun and give it our best to represent the school,” he said. “These students are amazing as they put so many hours into it while keeping up with their busy day-to-day schedules and other academic challenges.

“UBC has done an amazing job with hosting this event online, however, we look forward to the in-person competition next year to defend our first-place title.”

Mar 14
Surrey Steps Up giving away $500 grants for student community action projects

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Surrey and White Rock students who make a difference in their school or community are eligible to receive one of five $500 community action project grants from Surrey Steps Up, an annual showcase of youth contributions and positive impact.

As part of this year's showcase, Surrey Steps Up has partnered with human rights education organization Equitas, a longtime partner of Safe Schools, to provide five grants to groups who are stepping up in Surrey. The idea of creating grants was pitched during discussions with Equitas and the organization offered to fund the grants for students.

"They are supporting these five $500 grants to youth in Surrey in any sort of community service initiative that they see fit," said Jaclyn Blaney, Community Schools Partnership facilitator with Safe Schools. "It's an opportunity to spread some positivity and get the word out there about these great things being done – and that $500 can go a long way."

Hosted by the City of Surrey, Surrey RCMP and Surrey Schools, Surrey Steps Up shines a spotlight on the positive impact youth have on their peers, their schools and their communities. The event is planned months in advance by a team made up of secondary students and members of Safe Schools.

"Some of our first youth planning team members now work with us and are running the team," said Blaney. "It's really cool to see how they've grown and stayed connected to volunteering."

While last year's event was held online due to the pandemic, this year's will be held in person on June 3 at Surrey City Hall, and groups who receive grants will be able to display how they step up in their communities and utilized their funding.

"We're hoping for at least 100 participants, and we'll be showcasing what the youth have been able to do with these grants, as well as any of the other groups that apply for funding," said Blaney.

Applications are open until Tuesday, March 29 through the Protecting Surrey Schools Together (PSST) website at psst-bc.ca/ssu22

The grants are open to any youth in Surrey, including city-based youth groups, individual groups and both elementary and secondary students. Applicants must outline how they will utilize their funds if selected. The grant recipients will be selected on April 1 with funds being transferred the following week, to be used by May 23 with reporting and receipts submitted by June 1.

For more information, visit Surrey Steps Up or contact Jaclyn Blaney at blaney_j@surreyschools.ca

Mar 11
Tamanawis wrestling team pins down another banner year
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The Tamanawis Wildcats wrestling team has retained its top spot as the best in B.C., and possibly the best in the country, when it comes to male high school wrestling.

The team recently took home its third-straight provincial banner, once again crowning the squad as the best in the province.

“Winning a banner means you have the best male team in the province and in Canada – it’s usually between B.C. and Ontario for the best team in the country,” said coach and former Tamanawis student Jessy Sahota. “If you happen to have the strongest team in the province, there’s a good chance you probably have the best in the country.”

For Sahota, his pride in the team’s success is twofold, as he is not only a current coach but also a founder of the team. In 2014, after both he and his brother Paul graduated, they went back to their alma mater and looked at helping to kickstart the school’s wrestling program. The initiative was born out of their own years at Tamanawis when there wasn’t really much of a wrestling program to speak of. At that time, the team was comprised of just the two brothers, who mostly resorted to coaching one another because there was no full-time wrestling coach.

“A few years later, my brother and I looked back on our time there and thought ‘Why not go back and start something on our own?’” recalled the community-drive Jessy, who is also an officer with the Delta Police Department.

And start something they did.

What began as a leisure program to help students make productive use of their time after school quickly grew into a full-fledged wrestling program. As more students joined, more funding and resources became available – and eight years later, the team is celebrating its third-consecutive year at the top.

Jessy hopes the continued success will once again re-ignite the scouting scene as well, especially as more and more activities return to normal as pandemic restrictions are eased. Already, students of the program have received scholarships to post-secondary institutions in Canada and the United States, but Sahota has his sights set even higher.

“I foresee within the next five years, we’ll have some kids going off to Div. 1 schools in the USA,” said Sahota, referring to the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships, the premier competition for Olympic-style wrestling in North America.

For now, the Sahota brothers are just happy to see their students carry the torch as they continue to rack up wins. It’s a far cry from the program’s humble beginnings of two brothers trying to make a go of it.

“We never thought the program would be this big, it’s amazing.”

Mar 10
A final message of gratitude and appreciation from Superintendent Jordan Tinney

I wanted to take this opportunity to write a message of thanks as we head into spring break. The weather has been better, we are hearing of further relaxation of restrictions and for the first time in a long time, it just might start to look a lot more like life prior to March 2020. That would be a fabulous and welcomed change. At the same time, this will be my last newsletter message as I head off to life beyond Surrey Schools. This message for me is one of gratitude and appreciation.

Superintendent Jordan Tinney - June 2021.jpgI have said it many times, but over the past two years, we have asked an extraordinary amount from all in the school system, including students and families. The combination of COVID restrictions, changing health and safety protocols and the apparently unending pandemic has taken an enormous toll on us all. There is not a person among us who has been left untouched, and many have suffered significantly. It appears that there is light on the horizon. We will stand by and remain cautiously optimistic.

In the coming months, it will be critical to consider how we rebuild, reconnect, and re-establish our social, professional and family interactions. We have missed the ability to gather and, in many cases, our connections have been fractured or broken. If we are able to return to larger gatherings and having the types of interactions we've missed, we still need to be extremely vigilant because not all people are ready to throw down the mask and run to hug their neighbour. There are many who will remain deeply concerned as we head toward summer.

My message is the same as it has been throughout the pandemic: Slowly and steadily we'll get there. We can't just flip the switch; we need to raise the light slowly and surely, so all are comfortable with the changes. When we do, we enter a new era together.

For Surrey Schools, that era begins under new leadership with the incoming Superintendent Mark Pearmain. I have known Mark for several years. He is a talented and caring leader who will build on Surrey's strong foundation alongside our senior leadership team. I am excited to see where the Surrey School District will go.

I want to close by expressing my sincere appreciation. I have been honoured and humbled to work in Surrey. When your children return to school after spring break and restrictions start to lift, we look toward a brighter future together.

Take care & stay well,

Jordan Tinney

Mar 10
Spring break camps back in full force at 23 schools

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After two years of reduced spring break camps during the COVID-19 pandemic, the district's Community Schools Partnership (CSP) and Safe Schools departments are back to running camps at full scale this year, hosting daytime activities at 23 schools across the district.

The camps are generally for students at the select schools and provide equity and access for those who may not otherwise be able to attend other programs over spring break. CSP offers camps at 20 schools while Safe Schools hosts more intensive programs for vulnerable youth at three schools.

"These camps really help our parents in terms of giving students a place to go but also a safe place that isn't too far outside of their comfort zone with how we're recovering from COVID," said CSP manager Meredith Verma.

"Some families are still nervous about sending their kids out in the public so for us to hold our camps safely and welcoming children into their schools, it helps alleviate that stress while students engage in social and emotional learning."

The camps provide students with engaging activities that support both physical and mental health while encouraging connection with others through sports, arts and play.

"For a lot of families, it's an extension of school, they get six hours of programming with one or two adult leaders that they may know or will get to know over the camp," said James Speidel, assistant manager of CSP. "We're just happy we can meet the needs of these communities, and our staff are excited to be at the camps."

The camps are supported by the generosity of numerous donors, including United Way, the Tzu Chi Foundation Canada, First West Credit Union, Canada Scores, the SFU Science Department and Arts Umbrella.

Verma said she's excited to see the full roster of camps up and running again and hopes students who may have felt isolated during the pandemic will regain the comfort of learning and playing with others at the spring camps.

"We're just thrilled to offer these support services for our students and start to pull back some threads of normalcy and create space for these students," she said.


Participating Schools:

  • A.H.P. Matthew Elementary
  • Bear Creek Elementary
  • Beaver Creek Elementary
  • Bonaccord Elementary
  • Bridgeview Elementary
  • Cedar Hills Elementary
  • Forsyth Road Elementary
  • Hjorth Elementary
  • Holly Elementary
  • James Ardiel Elementary
  • K.B. Woodward Elementary
  • Kirkbride Elementary
  • Lena Shaw Elementary
  • Mary Jane Shannon Elementary
  • Prince Charles Elementary
  • Riverdale Elementary
  • Senator Reid Elementary
  • Simon Cunningham Elementary
  • Kwantlen Park Secondary


Mar 09
Dance students take centre stage at District Dance Festival

dogwood-dance-2022.jpgStudents from Dogwood Elementary popped and locked during their hip-hop performance at the District Dance Festival on Tuesday.


The Surrey Schools District Dance Festival kicked off Tuesday at the Bell Performing Arts Centre, showcasing the talent of elementary and secondary dance students in the district.

This year's event features more than 50 ensembles from schools across Surrey and White Rock, sharing their passion for creative expression through dance and movement on stage.

"We all have this natural movement when there's music – for some people, it might just be some toe tapping, but it's really hard to be completely still when you hear music," said Tricia Liversidge, arts education helping teacher. "To go from a little bit of movement to some creative movement to some guided movement to the full-blown performance, it's phenomenal."

While normally held later in the spring, the festival was moved up to better manage other district events. As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, Liversidge said she hopes this year's performances will give students a chance to cut loose for the first time in a long time.

Lord Tweedmsuir Secondary students put on their own hip-hop dance performance at the District Dance Festival.

"I want festivals to be an opportunity that adds some lightness and focus or goals, as a bit of a celebration," she said.

Liversidge said secondary dance teachers will use their talent and knowledge to judge the kindergarten to Grade 12 competition, noting the judges are just as excited to see students onstage as the kids are.

"It's really exciting to see how passionate the teachers are and how infectious that is," she said. "Our secondary dance teachers are an amazing team, and the opportunities they create for students are amazing."

Liversidge also said the festival presents a unique chance for secondary students to inspire and be role models for their elementary peers.

"I love the connection and the bridge that happens between elementary and secondary," said Liversidge. "If our kids are able to see what's waiting for them at the secondary level, it makes it that much better."

The festival runs March 8-10 at the Bell Performing Arts Centre and is being livestreamed on surreyschoolsone.ca.

Mar 09
The end of an era: Superintendent Jordan Tinney retires from Surrey Schools

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Grade 1 students from Bear Creek Elementary read to Dr. Jordan Tinney on Tuesday as part of a series of surprises from students and staff in his last week at Surrey Schools.


It's Dr. Jordan Tinney's final days as Superintendent of Surrey Schools, signalling the end of his time at the helm of B.C.'s largest school district.

For almost a decade, Tinney has held the highest leadership role in the district, joining Surrey Schools in August 2012 as Deputy Superintendent before moving to Superintendent in January 2014. He has overseen rapid growth in the form of 1,000 new students per year, supported dozens of new and expanding capital projects, launched the district vision of Learning by Design, encouraged innovation and out-of-the-box thinking and navigated myriad challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.

"In working closely with our board, Jordan has exhibited tremendous leadership skills and an unwavering dedication to guiding our district through some of the hardest times," said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "He has done so with immense capability and transparency, positioning Surrey Schools as not only the biggest district in the province, but, in my opinion, the best."

Tinney got his start in education on Vancouver Island after attending the University of Victoria, earning a Bachelor of Education, Masters of Administration and a Ph. D. in Curriculum Studies. Prior to Surrey Schools, he worked as an Assistant Superintendent in Saanich and was Superintendent in Comox before moving to the Lower Mainland and taking the Deputy Superintendent position in Vancouver.

Students from North Surrey Secondary's Polaris choral group performed for Dr. Jordan Tinney on Monday, kicking off a week of student surprises for the departing superintendent.

Since becoming Surrey's Superintendent in 2014, Tinney has seen the construction of eight new schools and facilities, including (in order of opening) the Resource Education Centre, École Salish Secondary, Douglas Elementary, Edgewood Elementary, Maddaugh Elementary, Grandview Heights Secondary, and the ongoing work Regent Road Elementary and Ta'talu Elementary. He also oversaw 16 school additions and seven seismic upgrades to existing schools, as well as six more capital projects currently in the design phase.

Tinney has worked extensively with the Surrey Board of Education, senior team, principals and vice-principals, Surrey Teachers' Association, CUPE Local 728, the Exempt Professionals Employees Group and the District Parent Advisory Council throughout his time with Surrey Schools, in addition to serving as a director of the BC School Superintendent Association, the BC Council for International Education and The Learning Partnership.

We offer our sincere thanks for all Dr. Tinney has brought to our district and wish him all the best in his retirement.

Mar 08
Schools celebrate women's achievements and contributions on International Women's Day

IWD-Kaur-Collective.pngToday (Tuesday, March 8) is International Women's Day, and schools across the district are celebrating the achievements of women locally, nationally and globally in recognition of women's rights and equality every day.

At L.A. Matheson Secondary, the celebration is part of Intersectional Women's History Month, with students learning about the women's rights movement through a broader lens of inclusivity, recognizing women of different races, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities. Displays and awareness campaigns have been organized by Mustang Justice, the school's social justice club, as well as student council, leadership classes and the intersectional feminism club.

"We try our best to make sure all women are included in that discussion, and especially feminism," said teacher Annie Ohana, who founded Mustang Justice. "We think about feminism through the lens of being for everybody in what we do for the month."

For this year's International Women's Day, L.A. Matheson is hosting guest speaker Jessie Kaur Lehail, a local community leader, diversity advocate and founder of the Kaur Collective, a virtual storytelling movement dedicated to empowering South Asian women. Students from several classes, including social justice and Punjabi language classes, will hear how she operationalizes her identity as a woman to spark change.

"We're a majorly BIPOC and South Asian school, and the Kaur identity is a very big one," said Ohana. "A lot of students have that name, Kaur if they're women or Singh if they're men, and we want to really celebrate women's history through that lens of where kids are.

"We believe in mentorship through identity, in the sense of using identity to talk about women's history, women's rights and what women have contributed to our world," she said, noting additional classes at L.A. Matheson will get to attend Lehail's presentation virtually.

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Other district schools are celebrating International Women's Day with their own events and displays, such as Green Timbers Elementary's leadership team promoting equality through activity cards (above left) with the theme Break the Bias.

Panorama Ridge Secondary's social justice club has also created 'Power To Women/Pouvoir Aux Femmes' postcards that will be available to purchase at the school, and will share the related artwork of Panorama Ridge students (such as that of Grade 9 student Ashlee Aujla, above right) on their Instagram account throughout the month.

Ohana said it's inspiring to see students embrace initiatives such as International Women's Day and Intersectional Women's History Month, and she hopes students will equally be inspired by the messages that are shared throughout the month.

"Students are coming forward with their ideas," she said of the groups organizing this year's celebrations at L.A. Matheson. "We're very much keen to have student voice and student agency be part of everything we do. The growth they get out of these experiences is amazing.

"It helps kids realize that they are the change and they can be part of something."

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