Last week, as part of Education Week, Horizon took the opportunity to share a token of appreciation with our bus drivers, librarians, and educational assistants. While we deeply value the work of all our staff every day of the year, Education Week is a great time to demonstrate our appreciation in connection with things like Bus Driver Appreciation Day and Library Week.
I enjoyed seeing so many of the Education Week celebrations and events that took place in our schools throughout the division, many of which were shared on social media. Thank you to our staff members and school communities for coordinating these events and helping to celebrate education in Saskatchewan. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.
This past Monday, I joined other Horizon staff as well as stakeholders from across the Saskatchewan education sector for a Graduation Rates Symposium in Moose Jaw. The symposium explores the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP)'s goal for Saskatchewan's three-year graduation rate and provides members of the education sector with an opportunity to discuss Saskatchewan's graduation rate data, current states, and plans for moving forward with this important work. As we know, graduation rates are strongly tied to student attendance. Every day matters for our students, and it is critical that we maintain and encourage strong attendance to support student success. One of the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT) mandates is to establish a province-wide campaign on “Attendance Matters”. Messaging is only one small aspect of helping our students toward improved attendance. We also know the impact that success in learning and ultimately improved literacy plays on students’ desires to come to be in our classrooms. When we combine this with the impact that authentic and effective relationships with adults in the building has on students, improved attendance is most certainly the outcome. To ensure our students attend, we also need to ensure instruction is peaking their interest levels and the work we do through collaboration and digging into data, as demonstrated this upcoming week, is certainly a very positive step. Last on my list, but certainly not last in the long line of ideas that support student attendance, is parent engagement. As the first educator, the parent is a pivotal individual who can significantly support the child or student toward regular attendance. The relationship the parent has with the school is a clear indicator of the level of engagement that will exist. Our role must then be to get them involved and keep them involved throughout their life at school. I know none of this is rocket science and that we know all the research around the topic of attendance. However, our results for student attendance are not improving at the rate that any of us would deem necessary. It will continue to take our collaborative efforts and a willingness to change as individuals, as a system, and as a province to right this course for our kids. As Albert Einstein stated, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking”.
On Tuesday, I met with Facility Services staff to discuss the ongoing construction of Horizon’s administration building. The construction is moving swiftly, and preliminary work has even begun on landscaping around the grounds outside of the office. We are well on our way to moving our staff into the facility in December and January. I want to thank Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt, Facility Services Manager, Kam Kiland, and Administrative Assistant, Stacy Anthony for their work to support this important project.
Following my meeting with our Facility Services team. I had a teleconference meeting to discuss SaskMATH. In support of improved math achievement for Saskatchewan students, the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT) is considering the work necessary to develop a SaskMATH web resource to support high-quality math instruction and assessment. I am the primary owner of this Priority, along with Duane Hauk, Director of Education for the Northwest School Division. Our work as a division and Priority team will help Saskatchewan’s students achieve success in math, and provide our teachers with the tools needed to measure and support that success.
Saskatchewan School Boards’ Association (SSBA) held an Aboriginal Council Strategic Planning session in Saskatoon on Wednesday. I travelled to attend this session along with members of Horizon’s Board of Education. Of the many important discussions we held, one of them involved the new funding processes that Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has established. ISC is the former INAC entity established at the federal government level. We also had a chance to learn through conversations around engaging our First Nations students and communities. Horizon will continue to strive to be a leader through our involvement and commitment to these initiatives, as well as exploring ideas and potential improvement in the services and support we provide.
On Thursday, after spending time in some of our schools before returning to the office, I had the honour of travelling to Lake Lenore to join in the unveiling of a memorial sign honouring former Lake Lenore School students, Craig Hartl and Dayna Brons. The unveiling in the Lake Lenore gym was a very special ceremony and was part of the healing journey for many in the community and beyond. I want to thank the School Community Council and their chairperson, Carmen Lung as well as principal, Ralph Viczko for the invitation and for the idea to establish the memorial. Our central band performed during the event and I was extremely proud of each one of our musicians and their teachers for their work. I heard comments about it only being the middle of October and already the band was at an extremely high calibre. It was humbling to be in attendance for the unveiling and to know that the memory of these remarkable people will continue to inspire students and staff long into the future.
Finally, on Friday I spent significant time focused on Operational Services going over some necessary items that have been awaiting plan finalization. It was an important time for deliberation before heading to Lanigan Central High School to support their Senior Girls’ Volleyball tournament where a number of our Horizon teams were represented. I always marvel at the level of commitment of our student-athletes and our coaches. They demonstrate the success that comes from hard work and teamwork and I am always proud to be part of these opportunities.
Following volleyball on Saturday, I was invited to be part of a ceremony with Her Excellency, the Right Honourable, Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. The people of Humboldt and area who volunteered and who were pivotal in the supporting the Humboldt Broncos tragedy in the aftermath of April 6, 2018, were presented with the very prestigious Governor General’s Award. As well, First Responders were also presented with a separate and distinct Governor General’s Award for their incredible and selfless efforts to support the tragedy of April 6th. I was honoured to be in attendance with Bronco family members, representing so many who had given so much of themselves during the tragedy, including the former Board of the Humboldt Broncos. Sticking with Dr. Einstein, I have always appreciated his perspective when he said, “Only a life lived for others is worth living”. Certainly, those who volunteer do the necessary and critical job of wrapping their arms around their community, a role that should never be understated.
Have a great week, everyone. Stay #HorizonStrong.
Kevin C. Garinger, B.Ed, M.A.Ed
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. firstname.lastname@example.org