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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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October 13, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 13, 2020


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. During this uncertain time, I feel I have so much to be thankful for in Horizon School Division. Our families, our coworkers, our communities, and, perhaps most of all, our students. People have come together towards our common goals of health and safety in a way that we have never seen in our lifetimes. We have faced significant challenges these last months and we are stronger for it. We have learned so much, and we have embraced new processes, and we have overcome so many obstacles. I could not be prouder to be part of Horizon School Division and so I am thankful for each and every one of you…this weekend, and always.

Last Monday, I travelled to Wynyard to meet with Tessa Jordan, teacher at Wynyard Composite. Later that day, I joined a teleconference meeting with leaders from the Education Sector in the Saskatoon region and our local Medical Health Officers. These regular check-in meetings are occurring every second Monday and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have these regular conversations to keep everyone informed and up to speed on what is happening throughout our region and province.

On Monday afternoon, I also joined a meeting to discuss the provincial Education Sector Strategic Plan to discuss how we intend to collect data for the 2020-2021 school year. Among the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to our world as educators, we also need to consider when and how to record student data.

Following a meeting at Muester School on Tuesday morning with principal Dennis Gerwing, I joined Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Jason Neville, and Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, for a meeting with Dr Pat O’Leary. Dr O’Leary has developed some interesting technology to help support a number of unique needs and it was certainly an enlightening discussion.

I then joined our Board’s agenda meeting to set the agenda for next week’s Regular Board Meeting. As always, this meeting brought together our table officers, Board Chair Jim Hack and Vice Chair Linda Mattock, along with my staff, Executive Assistants, Marni Sogge and Melanie Gray, Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services, Sarah Reding, and Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt. We typically go through the items to ensure they are necessary and pertinent to the Board for their discussion purposes.

Tuesday afternoon, I had a meeting with Quintin Robertson, Director of Education for Good Spirit School Division and Domenic Scuglia, Director of Education for Regina Catholic School Division to discuss matters related to the League of Educational Administrators, Directors, and Superintendents (LEADS). LEADS is the professional organization of those of us who are teachers and are in central office leadership, from the Assistant Superintendents to the Director of Education. Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that governs an organization like ours through legislation, making it a fully qualified professional organization. 

Our SaskMATH group got together for two days of work on Wednesday and Thursday; some of the group joining in person at Horizon’s central office while others were collaborating remotely. As this work continues, I am very excited at the prospect of sharing the team’s work with educators across the province. I believe this powerful website will help our sector strengthen and improve student performance and results in mathematics, and I am proud to see our team from across the sector and province continue this important endeavour. I want to take the opportunity to thank Katherine Oviatt, Assistant Superintendent of Literacy, Numeracy, and Early Learning for her leadership throughout this project. Many others from across the province, including within Horizon, have lent a supportive hand in the work and I can't thank them enough as well. However, no one has dedicated more time and energy in the project than Katherine. The result of everyone's efforts is shaping up to be an outstanding tool to support mathematics instruction and assessment called SaskMATH!

On Wednesday morning, I joined a virtual coffee chat for Canadian Educational Leaders to discuss our school re-opening plans. This was a great opportunity to share and hear about the plans that have been put in place in other jurisdictions from British Columbia to Ontario. Following the meeting, Sarah and I met to discuss our Education Agreement with George Gordon Education Centre. The agreement is an important document to finalize as it ensures that both the Division and the First Nation authority are bound to processes and practices contained within the language.

Wednesday was also the nomination deadline for our upcoming Board of Education elections. I want to congratulate Jennifer Lemky (Subdivision 3), Christine Gradin (Subdivision 6), Cheryl Vertefeuille (Subdivision 8), Jim Hack (Subdivision 10), Paul Crow-Buffalo (Subdivision 12), and Albert Pinacie (Subdivision 13) for returning to their positions on our Board through acclamation. We will be holding elections for Subdivision 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 14. A further call for nominations has been placed for Subdivision 11. I want to thank our Returning Officer, Sarah Reding and Deputy Returning Officer, Melanie Gray, for their work to coordinate our election process so far. I know they were answering calls, addressing people in the office, answering emails, and communicating results, all off the sides of their desk. Somehow they managed the process very well and I know I speak for the electorate when I say, “Thank you”.

On Thursday morning, I took part in our sector’s Board Chairs and Directors' conference call. With so much constantly changing and shifting in our world, these regular conversations are somewhat important to hold. Later on Thursday, I called an emergency meeting of my Senior Leadership Team, to discuss what ultimately became our precautionary decision to close Foam Lake Elementary School for the day on Friday. That afternoon, we received word that an individual with a connection to FLES had been diagnosed with COVID-19. After careful discussions with our partners in Health, the decision was made to close the school for one day, with the safety of students, staff, and the community at the very front of our minds. On Tuesday, the school will be open and operating normally within the current Health guidelines and the procedures and protocols within our Re-Entering Horizon plan and the school’s re-entry plan. I want to thank everyone at the school and in my office for their swift response. I also want to wish for a speedy recovery for anyone in our world who may be dealing with health issues at this time. Our thoughts are with you, and we are here to offer our support in every way we are able.

On Friday morning, I met with my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) of school principals, vice principals, and central office staff. We had much to discuss, and I appreciate everyone’s time, attention, and discussions, as always. The week did not end there as we continued to deal with a positive case of COVID-19 on George Gordon First Nation that was confirmed on Saturday morning. The individual who tested positive was not from George Gordon, but the impact led to a number of people having to quarantine and the Chief and Council closing down the public buildings, including the school, for students. Staff will still be able to attend school on Tuesday, but children will not be bused to GGEC, Punnichy Elementary, Punnichy High, or Raymore. Staff will continue to provide supports to students as best they can during this difficult time.

To finish this week, I will leave you with the following quote from the writer, William Arthur Ward who said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Have a great week and stay healthy and safe, Horizon.

- Kevin

Kevin C. Garinger  B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205