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October 5, 2020 - a message from Director of Education, Kevin C. Garinger
October 05, 2020
As we wrap up our first month back to learning, we continue to be fortunate that our schools have not been impacted by the novel coronavirus as they have in other parts of the province. As we are aware, the Yorkton area has most recently been hit by the virus and their largest school in the division, Yorkton Regional, had to be closed down and students had to begin learning from home. I know you join with me as I think about those who contracted Covid-19 and hope and pray for their swift recovery from the disease. My thoughts are also with Director, Quintin Robertson, and his staff and families during this challenging time. I know they, like colleagues before them, have done a tremendous job of managing through the outbreak in their system and we are learning a great deal from their work and leadership as we continue to prepare in Horizon.
This past week, we had the opportunity to commemorate and honour the victims, survivors, and generations affected by Canada’s Residential Schools on the annual September 30 Orange Shirt Day. This is such an important and impactful day on our national calendar, as we acknowledge the trauma and harm done by the racist practices of Residential Schools and commit to furthering the work of Reconciliation; as both educators and citizens. It is so important that we continue to spread awareness of what occurred, and how damaging these systems were. Only when we all understand and acknowledge these wrongs can we move forward together. Seeing the work and learning in our schools on and around September 30, I am so inspired and optimistic for the future of our country and Reconciliation. Thank you to all staff, students, and families who took time to read, learn, share, and recognize this critical day.
I started the week last Monday with a meeting at the offices of Prairie Valley School Division, with their Director of Education, Luc Lerminiaux. I appreciated Luc’s time, and the opportunity to sit down together to discuss a number of matters relating to our two school divisions. Our systems share a border along the southern edge of Horizon School Division, and we are often in discussion on matters relating to this border with a significant focus on student transportation. We have a good relationship with our school division neighbours, and I appreciate the opportunity to work together for the benefit of all families and students.
On Monday afternoon, I joined Board Chair, Jim Hack for a Public Section Executive meeting. The Public Section pertains to the public school boards who are members of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA); Horizon falls into that category. There is always much for this group to discuss, especially during these times.
Tuesday morning, I was part of a teleconference call with the Deputy Minister of Education, Rob Currie, other Ministry personnel, and my fellow Directors of Education to discuss the ongoing work of our pandemic response planning. Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Saqib Shahab, was also part of the call and shared information and answered questions from our sector regarding COVID-19 and related health concerns for schools and divisions. It is so important for us to have regular communication with our colleagues and health professionals, so I am very grateful to our Deputy Minister for establishing these weekly meetings in order to bring our questions forward.
I finished off the day on Tuesday in meetings with Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Sarah Reding, then with Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt and Manager of Transportation Services, Jocelyne Possberg. I appreciate the support and leadership of my team, helping us reach Horizon’s goals. Each day, I am reminded that we have such a great team working in support of our schools, students, and staff.
On Wednesday morning, I joined Superintendent, Justin Arendt and Manager of Facility Services, Kam Kiland for a meeting relating to a renovation project at Englefeld School. Evan Pronych from Humboldt Lumber Mart (HLM) is the successful proponent on the project so we are eager to work with him and to get a final product that will support the work of principal, Cori Harcourt, her staff, and students.
On Wednesday afternoon, our central office staff had a photo to commemorate our participation in Orange Shirt Day. Of course, this year’s picture looked different from our previous photos, with face masking and physical distancing in place. In spite of the challenges during this pandemic, I am proud of our staff for their commitment to Reconciliation and acknowledgement of this important day.
I had a conference call with my fellow Directors of Education and our Board Chairs from across the province on Thursday morning. Following this meeting, I joined a provincial Directors’ meeting, and finally a meeting of the Corporate Services Team (CST). The CST is a subcommittee of the provincial Response Planning Team that has been advising the education sector on our pandemic response.
On Friday morning, my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) met for our weekly video conference meeting to review new information, answer questions, and discuss the items related to our school operations under this temporary “normal” for our school year. A lot of work goes in to preparing the information we share and having regular discussions is so critical in this time of uncertainty and change. Sometimes we take for granted how fortunate we are. I am very appreciative of Justin, Ken, and the technology services team to ensure we have the technology to facilitate so many of these meetings and conversations to continue our collaborative work in support of students, staff, and families across Horizon School Division. When I began 6 and a half years or so ago, I know we would not have the capacity to manage what we do today.
I finished off the week travelling to Watrous Elementary, Imperial, and Holdfast to meet with school principals where I could, but more to continue to see first-hand the work of our staff and students as it relates to health and safety. It is great to see how well our kids are managing the protocols of Horizon School Division in returning to school. This would not be happening nearly as effectively without the outstanding efforts of our staff who are so very committed to the Division plan as well as their school’s plan. Thank you for keeping our children safe!
Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon.
Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205