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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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December 20, 2019 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

December 31, 2019

I know I say it often but only because it is so very true. I am extremely thankful to be working in an organization and with people who care so much about their fellow human beings, from the youngest to the oldest. I was reminded today of the care that is shown throughout our system when I received a message from a family who received a Christmas hamper this holiday season. Although we try to be anonymous when it comes to the hampers, someone obviously found out that Horizon was behind this important initiative. Though I won’t share the exact wording of the message, they clearly indicated that they have been brought to tears multiple times by the incredible generosity and care of those who have supported their family every day since they arrived in Horizon…and yesterday seemed to be the pinnacle of that care. Often, we do not hear the appreciation that is out there for the work that is done every day on our schools' buses, in our classrooms, and in our school division offices. It likely is hard to comprehend that we are making an impact when the growth seems small or is so gradual that on any one day, it is almost unnoticeable. So the next time you have a need to be reminded of the incredible work you do every day for children and families, think back to the message I was given to truly share with each of you…the staff and Board of Horizon School Division. As Leo F. Buscaglia stated, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

What a year 2019 has been. Our Board of Education unveiled Horizon’s new Three Goals this fall – Safe & Caring, Literacy & Numeracy, Graduation Rates – and these goals have helped guide everything we do as a system in supporting students along their learning journey toward a highly effective life beyond our classrooms. And at fall measurement, our reading results along with our safe and caring data is the highest it has ever been in Horizon School Division.

Our relationships with our education partners continue to grow. After a long, thoughtful, and collaborative process between our staff and Board, and Chief Lloyd Buffalo and his Council, Horizon signed a new education agreement with Day Star First Nation. We have been working with our other First Nation partners including George Gordon First Nation and Fishing Lake First Nation to review and renew the education agreements currently in place and this work has been extremely rewarding.

January will mark one year that we have been in our new central office, and we have already seen so many opportunities brought about because of having this space. We have and continue to develop a dedicated area for events such as our Indigenous Peoples Day flag-raising ceremony. Our Literacy and Numeracy Team has been hosting regular professional development opportunities for staff while my Director’s Leadership Team can hold our PD sessions here instead of renting space in other facilities. We have hosted provincial meetings in Horizon’s office including the provincial Human Resources group, the Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials (SASBO) Facilities group, and most recently, the provincial SaskMATH working group, to name a few. We were honoured to be joined by community partners, First Nation representatives, past Board members and staff, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Donna Harpauer, and the Honourable Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Gordon Wyant for our office grand opening. And, with our recent Christmas Hamper Project packing day, we had enough space to accommodate this growing initiative and add significant efficiency to this already remarkable process.  

Along with several of our schools hosting provincial sports this year – most recently Foam Lake Composite and Muenster School hosting Volleyball provincials – Winston High School in Watrous hosted approximately 1000 students from across the province for the provincial Student Leadership Conference. Staff and students did an extraordinary job planning the event and their hospitality was exceptional. We simply couldn’t have asked for better representation from one of our Horizon communities.

While the year has not been without its challenges – such as the challenges of integrating the new MySchoolSask provincial student information system – our staff have faced those challenges by working together, supporting one another, and sharing the lessons we learn with our colleagues. I am so proud of the work we do, and proud to know that each and every individual within Horizon is focused, first and foremost, on our greatest resource: our students.

This past week began with our final meetings for this round of Learning Improvement Plan (LIP) reviews. Jason Neville, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services joined me in visits to Bulyea School, William Derby School, Imperial School, and Drake School. With these LIP reviews now complete, I can look back on the past several weeks and appreciate the conversations we’ve had. The passion and dedication to improving that is emblematic of our staff in every building and in every bus across our system, is truly inspiring.

Our Board’s Governance Committee met at central office on Tuesday. Jennifer Lemky, committee chair, led the meeting, which covered their ongoing Board Policy review, suggested updates to Board forms and processes, and the upcoming strategic planning session for Board members. Members of the committee include Christine Gradin, Paul Crow-Buffalo, Jolene Koopman, and Chair Jim Hack and Vice-Chair Linda Mattock as ex-officio members.

While our Governance Committee met at central office, I was in Kelvington with Board Chair, Jim Hack, and Trustee, Wil Lengyel. We had the pleasure of joining the Honourable Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Gordon Wyant, and MLA Hugh Nerlien for tours at Robert Melrose Elementary School and Kelvington High School. I want to thank the staff and students at each school, Principal Kim Nicholls, and Principal Rob Lissinna for their excellent hospitality. Each school did a tremendous job of showcasing their fantastic facilities, school culture, and student achievements. I also want to thank Minister Wyant and MLA Nerlien for taking time to visit Horizon and discussing the work happening in our schools and system to support kids.

Back at the office on Tuesday afternoon, our Board’s School Community Council (SCC) Engagement Committee held a meeting to discuss several topics and begin planning our annual SCC Workshops. The committee includes Jolene Koopman, Sheryl Kayseas, Jennifer Lemky, Cheryl Vertefeuille, and committee chair, Christine Gradin.  

Horizon’s Board held their December meeting on Wednesday. Our last meeting of the year, and the decade, was a productive one that covered a lot of important information for our system. We discussed the recent work of several Board committees and discussed the work of my office as we head into the second half of the school year. Our Trustees also took the opportunity that day to join central office staff for a potluck lunch. During our central office/Board potluck lunch, I had the pleasure of presenting two special people with their Years of Service awards. Scott Ewen, Maintenance Worker, recently celebrated 20 years with Horizon. Wil Lengyel, Trustee for Subdivision 7, is celebrating 45 years with Horizon as an educator, administrator, and Trustee. Congratulations to Scott and Wil on these very impressive milestones. Thank you both for your continued commitment to students, staff, and families.

I started my day on Thursday morning with a conference call regarding a legal matter. I then had the great pleasure of meeting with Fishing Lake First Nation School Director of Education, Rhonda Kayseas to discuss the renewal of our education agreement. Rhonda and I were joined by members of my staff including Supervisor of First Nations and Métis Education Services, Bryan McNabb, Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Sarah Reding, Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, and Deputy Director of Education, Randy MacLEAN. The next month will mark some significant change for Fishing Lake First Nation students as their new building will be opened in early February and bussing will no longer be provided to Horizon schools. As a system, we will continue to work with Rhonda and her staff as we lend any necessary support in meeting the needs of the students of Fishing Lake.

On Friday, I had another quick conference call regarding a legal matter while travelling to William Derby School in Strasbourg. With so many activities happening in our schools at this time of year, I am always appreciative to have the opportunity to get to our schools and spend time with students and staff before their break. Of course, I was not able to make the lunch event in Viscount School and was thankful Darrell Paproski was able to join them.

As I dismissed students and staff a little early Friday afternoon to begin the holiday break, I also want to remind the rest of our staff that central office will be closed from December 25 to January 1, inclusive. We will be open next week on December 23rd and 24th and will also be back in the office on January 2 as we prepare to welcome students and staff back to class on January 6.  

I want to close this week with the following message from our Board Chair, Jim Hack:

On behalf of the Horizon School Division Board of Education, I want to wish each of you a safe and happy holiday season. I also want to thank you for the incredible year we have had.

2019 has been extremely busy in Horizon. We have shared in successes, weathered challenges, celebrated changes and improvements and we have done it all together.

None of the great things we have accomplished would be possible without the partnerships we are fortunate to have. Only through collaboration between our staff, the HTA, CUPE, my fellow Trustees, our families across Horizon, education partners, communities and First Nations, government authorities, and countless other partners, can we provide the outstanding learning opportunities that our students have access to in each Horizon community. These critical partnerships continue to develop and get stronger with every new initiative and project in our schools. As we begin a new decade, I look very forward to continuing down this path of improvement, together, in the months and years ahead.

Thank you, everyone, and enjoy your well-deserved holiday break.”

As we begin our next decade called 2020, remember what Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Have a well-deserved and relaxing holiday, a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and prosperous New Year, everyone! #HorizonStrong

- Kevin

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