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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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This Year in Horizon - A message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education, and Jim Hack, Board Chair

December 21, 2018

I suppose in many ways, I will breathe a sigh of relief when 2018 is behind us. The year has been marked by tragedy, loss, and grief for so many of us in Horizon School Division. And yet, upon reflection, one of the things that stands out the most about the past 12 months is the overwhelming compassion, kindness, and support that we have seen from our Horizon staff, our students, our families, our Board, and our communities. As Mr. Rogers famously said, “You only need to look for the helpers”. This year, the helpers were impossible to miss. In each of our schools, in school divisions across the province and beyond, in partner agencies, in government bodies, in local organizations, and in individuals who knew nothing about who we were, there has been no shortage of support. Teachers, professionals, paraprofessionals, administrative support, Trustees, parents, caregivers, and countless others made it possible to weather the storms that 2018 brought to our system and to us as individuals. On behalf of any who were impacted by the challenges loss and tragedy bring, I remain immeasurably grateful. We have persevered and each of you has proven, time and again, why Horizon School Division is an incredible place to work and learn.

And as we do in the face of adversity, we look ahead at the path that is laid out before us and we do this while never forgetting the challenges that created it in the first place. As I have shared in a dissimilar fashion before, I liken our direction to a school bus driver travelling down our country roads. They sustain their focus on what is ahead of them by looking through the large glass windshield knowing it is where they are headed that is most important. , they take a look in the rear view mirror to ensure they remember where they’ve been and to assess anything from that recent travel that could influence their future direction. They have another purpose as well. Drivers also look in that mirror to ensure our most prized resource, our children are kept safe as they carefully and methodically move forward on their journey. They know their destination. They know where they want our children to get to and knowing this, they demonstrate care and attention and they correct where they need to in order to ensure that they and each of our children reach that journey's end. In so many ways, I am humbled to say we are all bus drivers.

Horizon has so much to be excited for in the New Year. We continue to make incredible gains in our student Literacy rates, our division is providing leadership in the province as Horizon teachers developed and implemented common Math Assessments, and we continue Safe & Caring training in programs such as Red Cross “Beyond the Hurt” bullying prevention and Mental Health First Aid for Adults who Interact with Youth. Raymore School is in its fourth year of Following Their Voices, and Punnichy Community High School has begun their first year of the program. We have been proud to welcome students, staff, and families from Englefeld School into our Horizon family, and look forward to further developing the relationships that have been built in that community. Our senior leadership and Board members have been involved in discussions with First Nation Chiefs and Councils to determine our Tuition Agreements going forward, and I am extremely proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in the months to come. We are exploring options for recruiting international students into our schools, which has the potential to bring learning opportunities to all involved. Over the holiday break, our central office is being moved into our new facility in Humboldt. While our office is being moved, we will be closed for the week of December 24-28 and will re-open for business on January 2, 2019, ready and waiting for students to return to our classrooms on January 7, 2019. We are very excited about the possibilities this new facility will open up for our system. In light of all this and more, as difficult a year as it has been, it has helped shape the possibilities that 2019 will bring and ensure that the New Year will be a fantastic one for Horizon.

This week, I was honoured to join students at Punnichy Community High School for their Trades and Skills Program graduation ceremony. This program is in partnership with Carlton Trail Regional College and provides many great opportunities for learning, skills training, and growth for students in Punnichy and area. The next day, I had a meeting with the Humboldt RCMP, discussing issues and concerns that will ultimately support families, schools, and staff in Horizon. Throughout the week, I had an opportunity, along with many of our central office staff, to enjoy a number of Christmas events in schools across the system. Of course, staff in central office have been focused on getting packed up for the move to the new office so countless boxes have piled up in great anticipation of December 27th.

As is the norm for the last This Week in Horizon for the year, I would like to share the following message from our Board Chair, Jim Hack on behalf of our Board of Trustees:

“Our Horizon School Division family endured many hardships this past year. Through it all, the strength and compassion of our staff and communities have been an inspiration to many. On countless occasions over this past year, I have felt deep pride and gratitude to be a part of this organization, and a member of this Board. 

I want to thank Horizon’s staff and senior leadership for their incredible work and support in 2018. I want to extend thanks to our many education partners, communities, and First Nation authorities. To my fellow Trustees, thank you for your ongoing commitment to students, staff, and families.

With 2018 behind us, I am very excited about the opportunities to come in the New Year. We will continue our commitment to Horizon’s goals and the Education Sector Strategic Plan. We will have many opportunities to continue our productive relationships with the Horizon Teachers’ Association, CUPE, First Nation authorities, government agencies, and community partners. Over the holiday break, Horizon central office staff will be moving to our new central office facility in Humboldt. We feel very fortunate to be able to have our entire Horizon central office staff under one roof for the first time. Another exciting benefit of our new facility will be that our new Boardroom has space to host visiting students interested in local governance. I encourage you to consider setting up an opportunity to bring your students into the office for this learning opportunity. I am grateful that in everything we do as an organization, our focus remains on supporting opportunities for students.

On behalf of the Horizon School Division Board of Education, I want to wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. We look very forward to continuing our collaborative work in the New Year, “creating a better world, one student at a time.”

We all know that this can be such a difficult time of the year for so many of our children and families and Horizon School Division’s Board and staff from across the system, supported a record 321 children and 125 families through our Christmas Hamper project. This year, Marni Sogge, Kim Loose, and Nicole Fitzpatrick had the opportunity to deliver some of the hampers to our schools. How very fitting considering the work that these ladies, along with Melanie Gray and so many others from inside and outside the office, wrapped gifts, prepared boxes, and put the final touches on the hampers. Marni and Kim almost exclusively, gather the gifts and prepare what is given to the children and families and prepare the process for creating the hampers. It is no small task! It is a remarkable accomplishment and one that if you get the chance, is well worth being a part. However, the greatest success of all is seeing the smiles on the faces of those who are provided with the baskets. I recently heard a story from a staff member who shared with pride and humility how the gift of a simple toothbrush, something they admitted seemed so trivial for most of us, brought such incredible appreciation from a high school student in need. Many of you have reached out to say thank you for making the season special for so many. I will not get the chance, on behalf of the Board and staff, to respond to each of you individually so I want to share that we are equally thankful, as each of you is, that we can provide these opportunities for so many and make the season just a little more hopeful.

Finally, I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a well-deserved break. I look forward to the next edition of TWIH the beginning of the week of January 14th, 2019. Through my tears of gratitude, I am thankful for our staff as it is truly each of you who has defined the hashtag, #HorizonStrong.

- Kevin

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