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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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February 1, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

February 02, 2021

This week, February 1-5, is Canadian School Counselling Week. I want to take this opportunity to thank Horizon’s Student Counsellors for all their work, and in particular their exceptional work over the past year. Every day, our counselling staff take on the critical role of getting into the hearts and minds of our children and students in supporting them through the many issues they deal with. By extension, all our staff take on this role in a similar but perhaps less clinical way when they take the time to talk to our kids about what is challenging them. We know how important it is to speak openly about our mental health, and I thank each of you for helping anyone in our Horizon family with the challenges they are facing. As we know, these challenges are only amplified in the face of a pandemic. Last week’s Bell Let’s Talk Day is truly a great annual reminder of the modelling we need to continue to do to ensure the openness to talk about issues and concerns exists for our children and students...and each other. It takes all of us to end the stigma that seems to follow mental health or brain health, and I want to continue to encourage anyone; students, staff, or families in our communities, to reach out for support as soon as it is needed. Nobody is alone, and we can all use a friendly ear or even professional support to help us through.

Last Monday, I joined a Saskatchewan Health Authority virtual town hall meeting for stakeholders. As I have said many times now, the partnerships we enjoy with our Health colleagues during this crisis is so vitally important. We are given opportunities to have our voices and perspectives heard as educators, and we are kept in the loop with the latest information as it affects our communities and schools.

On Tuesday, I joined the Education Sector pandemic update meeting. The meeting is the weekly opportunity we have to engage with Dr Shahab, Chief Medical Health Officer in Saskatchewan, as well as other members of Health. In the busyness of his world, Dr Shahab continues to find time to take our questions and provide insights into the issues we have related to health and wellness in our sector. I then had an opportunity to meet with Donna Appel, Schell School Principal and see some of the important and exciting work in the school by the staff and students. Of course, it was exam week for our high school students, and many of them were wrapping up their most recent final assessment for the first half of the 2020-21 school year. I then joined a meeting that was being held to discuss our ongoing project for the new Lanigan School. The project is inspiring for the whole Lanigan region and of course, for all of us in Horizon School Division. I look forward to sharing more as the project continues to move forward.

Tuesday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with Brent Loehr, graduation and career coach for Horizon School Division. The work Brent and the other coaches in our system do to support students and staff is outstanding. Having some time to sit and discuss some of the important aspects of graduate studies we are both engaged in was extremely valuable. I continue to relish these times that I get to spend with Horizon staff such as Brent and to appreciate our shared passion of meeting student needs.

The Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) met first thing Wednesday morning. Principals, Vice Principals, and central office personnel meet regularly via WebEx to share information, direction, and discussions around the important work in our system and sector. Many of the directions we receive from my meetings with Dr Shahab and other Medical Health Officer from the 5 regions we are part of are shared with school and system leadership during this time. It is also an important time for school administrators to ask questions that support them and their staff in keeping our schools safe. Once we wrapped up the week’s DLT meeting, I discussed our 2021-2022 school year calendar development with my Executive Assistant, Marni Sogge. We continue to explore options for this calendar, utilizing feedback from our employee groups. Once we have a couple of options finalized, we will put these options in front of our Board for their review and final approval as the Board is the ultimate decision-maker in setting our Division calendar.

January 27 was Family Literacy Day. As we know, regularly reading to our children helps them develop so many important skills, and sets them up for success as students and lifelong learners. It is recommended that we read to our kids for 20 minutes every day as it develops a child’s literacy skills, vocabulary, concentration, imagination, and empathy and a range of other benefits that help with school achievement. And it’s also a fantastic way to spend quality time as a family. If you’re looking for resources to help promote literacy within the home, please visit https://abclifeliteracy.ca/all-programs/family-literacy-day/ for more information.

On Thursday, I joined a Zoom meeting with our province’s Board Chairs and Directors. I want to thank the Saskatchewan School Boards Association for coordinating these opportunities to come together and discuss the opportunities and challenges before us as a sector. On Thursday afternoon, I had one of my regular meetings with Gerard Frison, teacher at William Derby School and President of the Horizon Teachers Association (HTA). Gerard and I spent time discussing many ventures that will support teachers across Horizon, and I look forward to sharing more about some of these endeavours in the near future.  

Last Friday was a non-instructional day for students, and I know staff appreciated the opportunity to have a day to prepare for the second half of the 2020-21 school year. I began my day in meetings with Director’s of Education and our LEADS executive director, Ben Grebinski, before addressing some Covid-19 concerns in one of our school communities. Finally, it was also the last day for Sarah Reding, Chief Financial Officer for Horizon. Sarah is heading to spend time preparing for the final days before the newest addition to her family. We certainly wish her all the best during this exciting time and thank her for the outstanding work she has done in the last year and a half since joining our Horizon family. As I have shared in the past, we will be bringing on Sandy Gessner as our interim CFO, and Lori Washkowsky-Lucyk will be moving to an Assistant Superintendent role to support Sandy. Sandy has many years of experience in the education sector, including working for one of our legacy School Division in Wakaw. Sandy also happens to be a graduate of Wakaw school so, in many ways, it is somewhat of a homecoming for Sandy, who has spent the most recent years as CFO in Holy Trinity based in Moose Jaw. We are fortunate to have such great people supporting our work in Finance Services.

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