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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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November 23, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

November 23, 2020

This week (November 22-28) is Education Week in Saskatchewan. This year’s theme is “Connecting and Learning in New Ways”. I think the theme in this school year certainly makes sense as we have all done our lion’s share of connecting and learning in new ways.

As we celebrate education this week and the combined efforts of our teachers, support staff, and central office staff, I am reminded of what I have seen in schools over the past couple of months. Each of you has done an incredible job as you have helped over 5900 of our 6350 children and students learn new safety protocols in our schools. And for the other 450 or so children who are learning from home, many of you have gone above and beyond to help those children learn in new and exciting ways. You have changed your instructional and support practices such that they align with “maintaining physical distancing” and have led by example as you have washed hands, sanitized, and worn masks. You have engaged with colleagues to put your seating plans, instructional plans, and class lists on the internet. You have cleaned classrooms, doorknobs, and gymnasiums and made sure the equipment and surfaces were safe for our kids. You have managed our books and answered our parents sometimes anxious phone calls. And you have done all this and continued to care for our children and students like the lawful parents you are. And because of our practices and routines and procedures and modelling, not one case of Covid-19 has been transmitted in our schools. How does anyone say thank you enough for what you have done? We know we cannot thank you enough…but please know that our Board of Education and my office do thank you from the bottom of our hearts.   

And we also celebrate Bus Driver Appreciation Day on November 23. Our bus drivers also play such a critical role in our system ensuring the safety of our children and staff and we cannot thank them enough for their added efforts this year. Please join me and take time on the 23rd to thank the bus drivers in your life and all Horizon staff throughout this Education Week.

Horizon’s new Board of Education came together for the first time last week for a day of orientation on Monday. During the orientation, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Sarah Reding and I led the Board in a review of their Board Policy and were also joined by Ted Amendt from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA), who shared a presentation on policy governance.

On Tuesday, we were joined by Amber Biemans of Beheil, Will, and Beimans Law Offices for our Board’s swearing-in ceremony. The Board then held its annual Organizational Meeting. Among other business, they selected their Board Chair and Vice-Chair for the next year. Chair Jim Hack and Vice Chair Linda Mattock will continue in these roles. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate our table officers for returning to these positions. Following the Organizational Meeting, trustees began their first Regular Meeting as the Board of Education of Horizon School Division. We had a great deal to discuss, including our pandemic planning, the SSBA general assembly, Horizon’s annual report, and reports from Finance Services, Human Resource Services, and Operational Services. It was important to engage in discussions with our newest Trustees and bring them up to speed on some of the items we have been working on this year.

The provincial SaskMATH Working Group continued their work on Wednesday, with some of the group joining in person at Horizon’s central office and others collaborating remotely. The online tool to support instruction and assessment for mathematics for Saskatchewan teachers is going to be very powerful, and I am proud of Horizon’s involvement and leadership in this effort. Katherine Oviatt, Assistant Superintendent of Literacy, Numeracy, and Early Learning Services has had a critical leadership role in this work, bringing together educators from across the province to create this outstanding resource and as primary owner, I want to thank her and her team on behalf of our entire province and our students.

Late Wednesday afternoon, we were made aware of a positive case of COVID-19 at Wakaw School. I called a meeting of my Senior Leadership Team to mobilize our response to this case. Late that evening, we also learned of a positive case in Muenster School. In each scenario, our excellent partners in Primary Health were able to establish a temporary testing site at the schools for the next day, for students, staff, and family members to access on a voluntary basis. We have so many excellent partners in public and primary health and we could not do any of our work without a high level of collaboration. I thank the staff at these schools, in my office, and in all schools for their work both in response to and in preparation for these issues. As I said earlier, because of the measure we have implemented, we are mitigating viral spread and our partners in Health have cleared us to keep each of these schools open for students. I also recognize how many are challenged by the disease and I want to offer the thoughts and best wishes of everyone across Horizon to those individuals and their families.

We began our Learning Improvement Plan (LIP) reviews in schools last week. Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and I travelled to Punnichy Community High School, Punnichy Elementary Community School, George Gordon Education Centre, and Raymore School to speak with administrators about their LIP documents on Thursday. To end the day on Thursday, I called a meeting of my Director’s Leadership Team of principals, vice principals, and central office staff, to check-in and share a few important updates. LIP meetings continued on Friday, as Darrell and I made our way to Ituna School, Foam Lake Composite School, Foam Lake Elementary School, and New Horizon Hutterian School.

My office shared a Thoughtexchange link with staff last week, asking what has gone well in the last 3 months and what we can add to the supports we provide. This staff Thoughtexchange will close on Monday, November 23, at 11:59 pm. My office will send a reminder about the Thoughtexchange on Monday morning. If you have not already done so, please visit the link that has been emailed to you to provide your anonymous thoughts, and/or review the thoughts submitted by others. The feedback is greatly appreciated and will help us improve the supports we provide in the months to come.

I will end this week with another reminder about Horizon’s Christmas Hamper Project. In our efforts to support a record 420 students and 175 families, we have received a number of generous donations from schools, school staff members, CUPE, and community organizations like the St. John’s Lutheran Church and the Haus of Stitches. So far, we have received just over $8000 in donations – all of which supports these students and families. We are so grateful for this support, and I want to remind everyone that you can make a personal donation to this worthwhile cause through either a payroll deduction over one pay period or multiple pay periods (contact Corinne Thoms at corinne.thoms@horizonsd.ca) or by donating in whatever manner you choose by connecting with my office and Marni Sogge at marni.sogge@horizonsd.ca. Every bit helps in this important, worthwhile cause to spread holiday cheer to families in need across our system.

Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon.

- Kevin

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