DIAL “HORIZON FOR HERO”!
Well, everyone…WE MADE IT!!! 2020 is almost behind us and I think each of us is ready to put a big checkmark beside what can only be described as one of the most challenging years on record. And as much as we have had to adjust and readjust plans, turn on and off extra-curricular activity, mask and unmask and mask some more, we have found a way to do all of that with dignity, care, compassion, patience, and grace.
Have you ever heard of the comic book called “Dial H for Hero”? As a kid, I used to love that comic book series. As I think about that comic book today, I have found a new meaning for the “H”. It is without question that we could create our own series and call it, “Dial HORIZON for Hero”. Mr. Jeff Burton, teacher at Englefeld School and creator of the comic book “Auroraman”, donated sales from his comic book to the Horizon Christmas Hamper Project. Jeff’s work along with my childhood reading reminds me of the importance of having heroes in our lives. Because of what you do every day Horizon, you are truly superheroes to our children and families. Each of you has been a front-line worker, donning your cape to go well beyond the call of duty. You have taken on the role of driving a bus, of cleaning a school, of providing a library book, of answering a phone, and of supporting learning, and while doing so, put the health and safety needs of children and adults ahead of even your own. I suppose no one should have expected anything different…that’s just what heroes do.
And now, you deserve to take off your cape, escape to your homes, and just plain rest. I don’t think there has ever been a time when your rest has been more warranted. So take it. Take every moment you can to just release from what you’ve been doing in your superhero way and enjoy your family and friends knowing that you deserve a millennium of rest based on those few months of work in 2020-21.
MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD
At this time, I want to share a message on behalf of our Board of Education from Horizon Chair, Jim Hack:
As we head into an incredibly well-deserved holiday break, I want to thank our staff, students, trustees, families, partners, communities, and support organizations for the incredible efforts that have gotten us through this calendar year. There will certainly be challenges to come in 2021, but I want each of you to take a moment over the break and think about just how much you have done over the past several months. Through everything, you have not lost sight of what makes our work so very important, day in and day out… and that is, of course, our students. You have given so much and done so much, for them. To keep them engaged in learning, to keep them happy and healthy, to keep them active and supported, to assure them that they are not alone, but part of a classroom and a community. From our parents and families to our school staff and support staff and partners across Horizon, you have all worked so hard to achieve and provide these things for kids. And, you have worked to support one another. On behalf of Horizon’s Board of Education, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Happy Holidays, everyone!
TO OUR BOARD
I want to echo Jim’s sentiments and extend my heartfelt thank you, on behalf of Horizon’s staff, families, and communities, to Horizon’s Board of Education. Our Trustees do so much and provide so much support for our system, our students, and our staff. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for keeping our interests and the interests of our children at the forefront of what they do. Speaking of our Board, this past week, they met for their regular monthly meeting on December 16. We had many meaningful and in-depth conversations regarding governance and operational matters across the system. We also discussed our ongoing COVID-19 response and protocols, our new Board committees, budgetary items, and other critical pieces for our Board to address. I appreciate the questions and guidance they provide, and their willingness to dive deeply into each topic and discussion. Once again…THANK YOU, BOARD!!
MEETINGS MEAN TIME WITH PEOPLE
These past weeks have involved several meetings with our Education Sector partners and colleagues, Board Chairs, my fellow Directors, Medical Health Officers, Dr. Shahab, and Deputy Minister’s office. One of my highlights was my opportunity to meet, albeit a short meeting with our CUPE president, Marie Moore. Marie, Todd Gjevre, Assistant Superintendent of HR and Randy MacLEAN, Deputy Director worked tirelessly to complete a negotiation that was likely as unusual a process as we have seen. The agreement between Horizon and CUPE was ratified on December 10th and our amazing Finance staff, under the leadership of Corinne Thoms, Manager of Payroll Services and Sarah Reding, Chief Financial Officer, were able to provide our staff with back pay to September of this year before the close of the day, today.
Another highlight was the opportunity to spend time with my good friend and Horizon Teachers’ Association president, Mr. Gerard Frison. Gerard and I both engaged teachers around questions of what has worked well and what are some of the important things for consideration from the hearts and minds of staff. Your views are so very important, and you need to know that. They are necessary to provide us with your thoughts on our current direction and so, to each of you who responded, please know that you are being heard and that your views matter. In the New Year, we will be once again asking for more information from you so that we can continue to “get it more right”, along with asking some pertinent questions of our students.
Finally, I was also privileged to be part of the meetings to discuss progress on the Lanigan School project, and a project we are doing in Englefeld School. These are such exciting times for our system as the efforts of Kam Kiland, Manager of Facility Services and Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Operational Services and their staff will see significant improvements to school environments for our students!
CHRISTMAS HAMPER FOR FAMILIES
Our office staff and Board members took up the task of packing and preparing our Christmas Hampers on Thursday, December 10, and they were delivered this past week just in time for the holidays. I remember walking into the office in the early mornings and there would be some of Horizon’s staff wrapping presents or hampers for preparation for this day. I would be at the office in the later evenings and one of our Horizon students, daughter of Monica and Justin Arendt, would be wrapping gifts in our flex room. Monica told me that her daughter would finish supper and then try and hurry her mom up so they could head to the office to do the wrapping work. Well, because of them and all of you, we will be supporting 440 children and 174 families through this project. We received great support from staff, partners, community organizations, local businesses, our Board of Education, SCCs, and more. We are blessed to receive such support for this project, allowing us to spread the holiday spirit to so many who might otherwise go without at this time of year. This year especially, the need is high, and we greatly appreciate the support we’ve gotten from all our stakeholders, which has allowed us to meet the increased need. We will still be accepting personal donations to the project, through either a payroll deduction over one pay period or multiple pay periods (contact Corinne Thoms at firstname.lastname@example.org), or by donating in whatever manner you choose by connecting with my office and Marni Sogge at email@example.com. Every bit helps in this important, worthwhile cause to spread holiday cheer to families in need across our system. I want to send out a special thank you to the amazing preparatory work done by Marni Sogge, Kim Loose, and Melanie Gray. I also want to thank many others including trustees Jennifer Lemky and Linda Mattock, who helped prepare and coordinate packages for the Christmas Hampers. We had staff taking shifts throughout the day to ensure we kept a physical distance and in small groups. I cannot say enough about all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this project possible. Shopping for gifts, processing donations, organizing recipients, planning the assembly day, and coordinating delivery are all very time-consuming tasks, and I cannot thank our staff enough for their efforts to bring joy to students and families across our system.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again wish the staff, students, families, and Board a very happy holiday season. I know that we have all experienced our share of challenges in 2020, and I want to once again, express my deepest gratitude for all that you have done for our students, families, and each other. In 2017-18, each of you in Horizon, like so many others in emergency services, health, education, and the private sector, worked tirelessly during what was likely the worst year in the lives of many. You worked endless hours to support our children while being a witness to immense loss. You grieved with the families and friends of those whose lives were cut far too short. And as expected, you dealt with children and colleagues and never considered the colour of their skin or their religious affiliation. All that was relevant was the incredible care and compassion in your heart and the attentive thoughts in your mind. Race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation should never matter as they didn’t during that school year. And in the aftermath of multiple tragedies, as our tears continued to flow and our hearts continued to break, the strength of the people in Horizon and in this mighty province was demonstrated time and again through countless acts of kindness. You unselfishly wrapped your arms around your children and your fellow citizens in their most difficult times. That was and still is the Saskatchewan way…to choose honour ahead of dishonour, love ahead of hatred, and humanity ahead of ignorance.
If we have one thing granted to each of us, it is the freedom to choose. I choose to respond to this challenge that was 2020 with a message of honour and love and humanity for staff across our system and all those in our province who are also making a choice every day. You are choosing to put your lives unselfishly in the path of a pandemic to help your children and families and all Saskatchewan people. These are once again tragic times for our school division and our province, Horizon. There has been pain and loss and we are once again required to find our resilience and endure. As citizens are losing their fight to a deadly disease, I remain grateful that we remember to help, not hinder; to care, not disgrace; to show compassion, not ignorance. As I reflect back on the year that was, I recognize that the challenges we have experienced have also led us to opportunities. As much as I know things will get back to something resembling normal in the very near future, the lessons we have learned from our collective past have changed what we do and how we do our work and will do so well into the future. And that IS an example of the resilience you continue to teach me and each other.
Horizon, I wish for health and happiness for each of you and your families as we enter this next year, one we can collectively choose to make the best year yet.
2021…HERE WE COME!!
Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed.Director of Education/CEOHorizon School Division No. 205