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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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May 6, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

August 08, 2016

I am beginning "This Week" writing from a state of concern and disillusionment as our whole world is witnessing one of the greatest disasters in Canadian history unravel before our eyes. Fort McMurray, AB has recently been devastated by wildfires and it is hard to comprehend the level of destruction so many have faced this past week and will continue to face into the foreseeable future. I suppose my discouragement stems from the fact that so many incredible people are working so hard to try and end this inferno but are having so little success. On behalf of everyone at Horizon School Division, I want to express our deepest heartfelt concern and support for the families, colleagues, neighbors and friends of those in Fort Mac and the surrounding area. If we can find a shining light in the face of such a dark time, it is in the outpouring of support from people across the globe. A tragedy like this screams of the importance of communities coming together in time of need and I know those of us in Horizon are and will continue to step up to the plate when the needs in our world are truly understood. I would ask that we continue to have anyone impacted by this tragedy in our thoughts, including those who are fighting so valiantly to bring the blaze under control or to rescue people and animals displaced by the flames and smoke.

I began my week at Fishing Lake First Nation in a meeting with Chief Derek Sunshine and his Council. I joined Trustees Darcy Swiderski, Melva Desjarlais, Albert Pinacie, and Paul Crow-Buffalo to build relationships and discuss our current educational state as it relates to our shared successes and challenges. Crandall Hrynkiw, Superintendent of Learning Services, Joanne Cunningham, Supervisor of First Nation and Metis Education Services and Katherine Oviatt, Supervisor of Literacy and Early Learning were in attendance along with one of our First Nation Outreach workers, Yvonne Peters. It was important to have our principals in attendance at the meeting and I want to thank Darin Faubert (Wadena Composite), Nevin Halyk (Foam Lake Composite) and Miles Johnson (Wadena Elementary) for not only being in attendance, but sharing their work in their schools with the group.  The strong partnership with Fishing Lake First Nation is essential in developing a shared understanding and focus ourselves on a shared mission and I greatly appreciate the time and dedication of all those involved in ensuring these meetings remain a priority. Prior to heading back to the office, I stopped in at Fishing Lake First Nation School and had the chance to meet with their principal, meet some of their students and discuss their current school needs.

I returned to central office Monday evening for a meeting of our Workload Intensification Committee. Our committee is made up of members of the Horizon Teachers' Association, our Board of Education and the Senior Leadership Team and has been focused exploring best practices to support teacher efficacy and reduce teacher workload with an ultimate goal of best meeting the learning needs of students. It was a productive meeting and our next steps will result in gathering pertinent data from our teaching staff. I want to thank our committee including co-chairs, Randy MacLEAN and Nadine Jennison, trustees Jim Hack, Darcy Swiderski and Dave Holinaty, Superintendent of Human Resource Services, Todd Gjevre and teachers, Colleen Whitford, Kim Failler, Verna Lynn Gorrill, Erin Richard and Sean Pratchler. I remain extremely optimistic that the work of this committee will have a significant impact on teacher efficacy in Horizon.

Horizon School Division held its fourth annual Student Day on Tuesday, May 3. The day was yet another great success for our students and staff. We enjoyed messages of youth empowerment from Live Different, a Canadian non-profit group who put on an amazing multimedia show full of music, videos and personal stories. A large part of the day was focused around our own students presenting on opportunities or initiatives they've led in their schools. Student leadership is such an important component of a positive school culture and it was extremely inspiring to hear students from LeRoy, Winston High, Annaheim, Englefeld, Wadena Composite and Humboldt Collegiate share their leadership experiences with their peers. For the fourth consecutive year, Canadian country music artist Codie Prevost joined us to close-out the day with a tremendously engaging performance. He shared a story of hard work and perseverance on his road from high school graduation from Rose Valley School to achieving success in the music business. I would like to thank Codie for his willingness to continue to be a part of this day for our students. Joining me on the Student Day Committee are Trustees Jennifer Lemky (Committee Chair), Nathan Bitternose, David Holinaty, my Executive Assistant Marni Sogge, Central Office Secretary, Kim Loose, Communication Services Officer Lance Hiltz and these individuals deserve a huge thank you for their work to prepare this event for our schools. If you'd like to see a snapshot of the day and get a sense of the inspiring messages that were shared with our students, please visit our e-Journalism team's YouTube page here. Our e-Journalism students helped us share the story of this event and I would like to thank them for another outstanding effort. Since coming together in March to provide coverage for the National Congress on Rural Education, this was the third event students have been able to cover by engaging in e-Journalism. 

After our Student Day celebration came to a close, I returned to the office to discuss the Review of School Effectiveness (ROSE) report from our event held recently at Drake School. Meeting with Supervisor of Student Services Jason Neville, Coordinator of Learning Services Jan Paproski and Crandall Hrynkiw, we reviewed the report in fine detail in order that all the data was in place for sharing with the Board at next week's regular monthly meeting. Our ROSE process has proven to provide valuable information from all stakeholders regarding our schools and I am looking forward to sharing the successes and celebrations found at Drake School.  

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to travel to Sask Central Hutterian School, Raymore School, George Gordon Education Centre and Punnichy Community High School to meet with school administrators in order to review their schools' Learning Improvement Plans (LIPs). I was joined in my travels by Superintendent of Student Services Darrell Paproski and Superintendent of Learning Services Crandall Hrynkiw. The conversations are always extremely informative and engaging when we meet with school administrators about their progress in relation to LIPs. I would like to thank the staff at each of these schools for their dedication to this planning process focused on improvement.

On Thursday, I travelled to Mayfair Community School in Saskatoon to take part in the International Year of the Pulse celebration put on by the Health Promoting Schools program and Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan. This year, Wadena Composite was chosen as the only Horizon school to participate in the Health Promoting Schools program, which encourages things like healthy eating, physical activity and positive mental health. It has been a great opportunity for our kids to take part in and I was happy to be able to attend this event along with other schools divisions involved in the program.

On Thursday afternoon, I met with Superintendent of Operations, Justin Arendt, Manager of Facility Services, Kam Kiland, Principal, Christy Baumann, Vice-Principal, Kendra Gray and our architect and contractor to discuss the ongoing schedule for the construction work being done at St. Brieux School. The project is moving along well but it can't go as well as it has without the efforts of our school staff and students. I greatly appreciate their patience and the patience of our community members while the construction is being done. The work of this project will result in a significant face-lift to the school and will allow for the potential growth in student population at St. Brieux for years to come. I know I join our Board and the rest of Horizon in anticipation of a future that will see us provide a much improved facility for students, staff and community.

On Thursday afternoon, our Board of Education's table officers, Jim Hack (Chair) and Wil Lengyel (Vice-Chair) joined Deputy Director/CFO, Lionel Diederichs, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services, Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Operation Services Justin Arendt and me for our agenda meeting to prepare for next week's regular Board meeting. Randy and Jim joined us via Skype while Wil joined us via teleconference. Each month, we schedule an opportunity to meet as a group in order to prepare the agenda for our Board meeting and ensure its smooth operation. I greatly value that everyone makes time to join these planning sessions even when distance makes it impossible to do so in person. A huge thank you also goes to executive assistants, Marni Sogge and Melanie Gray as well as Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz, who are part of these meetings.

On Friday, I travelled to George Gordon First Nation and joined trustee Ian Kelln, Paul Crow-Buffalo, Nathan Bitternose and Albert Pinacie as well as Crandall, Joanne, Katherine, and Lester Gardiner (FN Liaison Officer) and Marcia Bitternose (Outreach Worker) for a meeting with their new Chief and Council. As you may be aware, Chief Bryan McNabb was previously the principal of the George Gordon Education Centre (GGEC), and this was our first opportunity to formally meet since he has been in this new role. I greatly appreciate the time of Chief and Council to meet with us and discuss the partnership we enjoy as it relates to delivering education and services for students. It was important to have our principals in attendance and I appreciated Gene Unruh (Raymore), Dawn Liska (Punnichy Elementary), Donna Nurse (Punnichy Community High) and acting principal, Sylvia Nagy (GGEC) for contributing to the morning. We were able to share the results of their literacy growth over the 2015-16 school year and discuss in great detail, how we can continue to support each other toward finding even greater successes for our students. Immediately following our meeting, trustees Murray Proznick and Dave Holinaty joined us as we enjoyed a Celebration Day lunch with staff and students of GGEC.

My Friday ended with a meeting at Nokomis School that involved Larry Mikulcik (Citizenship Education catalyst teacher) and a number of central office staff including Darrell Paproski (Superintendent of Student Services), Jason Neville (Supervisor of Student Services), Katherine Oviatt, Lester Gardiner, Joanne Cunningham and Crandall Hrynkiw. Our team met with Cathy Mills and Terry Myers of the Human Rights Commission to discuss our ongoing work with the Citizenship Education module in Horizon School Division. We will share in further discussions as we continue to recognize how the Human Rights Commission and their efforts are able to support our goal of ensuring our schools are safe and caring.

Grad season continued this week with ceremonies taking place at Winston High School in Watrous and Muenster School. I would like to thank Jennifer Lemky and Darrell Paproski for representing our Board and my office, respectfully, at Winston and Denis Bergerman and Marilyn Flaman for representing us at Muenster. Congratulations to our graduates.

Also on Friday, a memo came out from my office announcing that Trevor Otsig, teacher at Three Lakes School, has accepted the position of Principal at Three Lakes, beginning in August. I would like to congratulate Trevor on his new position. I look forward to working with him in his new role and as a member of my Director's Leadership Team. 

On Saturday, I had the honour of joining members of our staff and community for a memorial dedication at Humboldt Public School. A small gazebo has been erected to commemorate the life of former employee, Niel Britz. Mr. Britz was the caretaker at Humboldt Public School for many years and sadly passed away in 2011 after a battle with cancer. The dedication ceremony was a tribute to Niel's legacy of kindness and it was an honour to share in the dedication to Niel with staff and his family and to hear about the impact he had on his school community.

Finally, I want to close "This Week" by thanking all of the mothers and surrogate mothers across Horizon School Division and beyond for all you do in support of our children. One of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom, in his book "For One More Day" stated, "I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know." Our children are fortunate to have that love, not only in their homes, but in their schools. I hope each mother reading this has had a great day marked by loved ones showing their appreciation for everything you do.

Have a great week, everyone.


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