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Horizon School Division
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January 18, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

January 18, 2021

“Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” I think about this quote from author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Alice Walker, as we pass the halfway point of January. As the school year seems to speed by, we must take time to appreciate the relationships we have with the people contributing to our work in education – our incredible students, colleagues, partners, families, friends, and members of our communities. We sometimes get lost in the day-to-day challenges we are routinely faced with, only to realize that we are at the halfway point of yet another school year. I encourage each of you to begin your week by reflecting on the people in your life who you are grateful for and take a moment to let them know. I will do just that by saying once again how grateful I am for everyone in my life, including every one of you, Horizon.

I started the past week with meetings regarding William Derby School and George Gordon Education Centre. These schools continue to be challenged as a result of COVID-19, and the opportunity to further discuss our response to these challenges was necessary. As we ended this week, George Gordon is going to be learning from home for the third week in a row and William Derby School in Strasbourg will be heading into their first full week of learning from home for grades 7 to 12. Of course, although our school in Wakaw has been able to remain open during the extremely challenging times in the community due to the massive outbreak, I am very sad to report that a fifth member of the long term care centre passed away. We continue to keep all the families impacted by this tragic situation and any across our province and beyond, in our thoughts and/or prayers. 

Monday afternoon, I took part in a Provincial Education Plan (PEP) interim team meeting with Ministry of Education personnel and other Directors and school division staff from across the sector. The new PEP's continued development will require collaboration and discussions with colleagues from across Saskatchewan but will also require time. Slowly managing this change process is necessary during the pandemic, and I can share that the provincial leadership has brought this to a necessary slow boil.

My Tuesday began with a conference meeting regarding Education sector pandemic updates. I appreciate these regular updates and discussions with Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Shahab, as we continue to learn and prepare the sector for new and emerging challenges related to our province's pandemic. Later Tuesday morning, I joined a meeting of the Lanigan School Project Management Team. Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt and Manager of Facility Services, Kam Kiland join me every two weeks for meetings related to moving this exciting project forward. It is also important to note the partners we have in the Ministry with Senior Facility Consultant, Michael Stopanski and Colliers, Colliers VP, and our project manager, Michael Sazynski. Our next significant step in our work is to establish the proponent for project design, and we hope to have this firm nailed down in early February. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I joined a virtual meeting with our Board Chair, Jim Hack, and Vice-Chair, Linda Mattock, to set the agenda for the regular Board meeting taking place on Wednesday, January 20. As always, we were joined by staff from my office, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Sarah Reding, Executive Assistants, Melanie Gray and Marni Sogge, and Communications Officer, Lance Hiltz. Our discussions help us ensure that the agenda for our Board is efficient and includes all the necessary information for our Board to make the very best governance decisions for our system.

I joined a Zoom meeting of Saskatchewan’s Board Chairs and Directors on Thursday morning. The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) facilitates these regular conversations. It allows for Directors and Board Chairs to join with the executive of the SSBA to discuss issues related to Covid-19 and discuss the potential for solutions. That afternoon, I joined a meeting for school boards within the Saskatchewan Health Authority regarding the ongoing Public Health COVID response and how this has impacted schools and communities. I greatly appreciate the guidance and partnership of our excellent partners in Health.

My Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) of principals, vice principals, and central office personnel met via Webex on Friday morning, for our regular discussion and updates. Our current circumstances bring so much new information every day and the discussion and direction is necessary. I then stepped away from the DLT meeting to join a meeting for an update from the Response Planning Team (RPT) before completing my week in a full-day meeting with the other members of the executive from League of Educational Administrators, Directors, and Superintendents (LEADS). LEADS is the professional organization that the senior members of the organization with teaching background, belong to. While all this was occurring, our partners in Primary Health led by Director Holly Srochenski, set up a testing centre at William Derby to support enhanced testing of students, staff, families, and community members in Strasbourg and area. We appreciate this important support they provide and can't thank them enough for their efforts to help us keep our schools and communities safe. 

I want to end the week reminding everyone of an email from Jason Neville, sent out this evening regarding Trina Markusson’s free Mindfulness Challenge to support student mental health. We know the significance of Covid-19 alone on our youth, so providing this type of opportunity is another way in which we try to add that necessary level of support. I encourage all Horizon teachers to consider this learning opportunity for your classroom.

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