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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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February 8, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

February 08, 2021

Well, the first week of February is behind us and this next week leading into a well-deserved break appears to be willing to challenge us with temperatures we haven’t seen for a fairly long time. The forecast is throwing numbers like -53 and -55 around, making me want to turn up my thermostat just thinking about how cold that is. Of course, with buses being required to be grounded at -45 with a wind chill, it is unlikely Monday will see the safest mode of transportation for our children, on the roads across Horizon. I know I sent this out about 6 or so years ago, but as we are dealing with the cold, I think everyone can use a good snicker. Enjoy… https://www.youtube.com/watch/wkDvqQKGgDA

As I write, I recognize that we are heading into Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week in Saskatchewan. I am reminded of the wise words of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an activist for education and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, who said: “In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It's their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education...it's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond.” Although access to education looks different during the pandemic, I know that we are fortunate for what we have and that we will continue to appreciate the opportunities we have for learning as the true gifts they are.

As I mentioned, February 7-13 is Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week in our province. This year’s theme is “Unsung Heroes”. People working in education have and always will be heroes in my books…perhaps this year more than ever. Horizon staff have brought so much good to this challenging year, and we want to celebrate and recognize all that you have done. If you have a story you would like to share about a Horizon teacher or staff member going above, and beyond this year, I encourage you to do so online this week, along with the hashtag #HorizonSD, on Horizon’s social media accounts at either facebook.com/HorizonSD or @horizonsd205 on Twitter, and we will help spread the word. This week is a great occasion to show our staff how much we appreciate everything they do for our students, families, colleagues, and communities.

Last Monday, I joined a virtual session presented by Kevin Cameron, Executive Director of the North American Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. The title of this session was “Post Pandemic Education: Trauma-Informed Management of the Learning Gap”. It was a very enlightening session, full of insights and information regarding what our priorities and practices will need to be as educators once we’re out of this pandemic. We are very fortunate to have a partner and a friend like Kevin to provide his expertise in these areas supporting our work as educators.

I then joined a conversation with others from across the Education sector to discuss our successes and pressures, and a town hall meeting with Saskatchewan Health Authority stakeholders. This is the second SHA town hall meeting I have been a part of. This one focused on epidemiological trends and projections, pandemic response strategies, vaccination strategies, and more. I have a deep appreciation for the work of our Health partners, and working with them to ensure we are provided opportunities to discuss our shared work is necessary.

On Wednesday, I joined a webinar for the Education sector with Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt and Executive Assistant, Marni Sogge regarding tips and tricks relating to the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (LAFOIP) Act. Justin is now the LAFOIP coordinator for Horizon, and as the LAFOIP head for the Division, all three of us needed to be part of this important learning opportunity. The webinar was presented by Pam Scott, Executive Director of Corporate Services with the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner, Clint Reddekopp, Superintendent with Prairie Spirit School Division, Rob Currie, former Deputy Minister of Education, and Geraldine Knudsen, Solicitor with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA). Their expertise on this critical topic was appreciated by the significant number of people who participated.

Following the LAFOIP webinar, I joined our Board Chair, Jim Hack, and Vice-Chair, Linda Mattock, for a meeting to set the agenda for their regular meeting coming up on February 10. We were also joined in in the virtual meeting by Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt, Executive Assistants, Melanie Gray and Marni Sogge, and Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz.

On Thursday, I took part in a provincial Director’s meeting, which is always joined by our Deputy Minister of Education, Donna Johnson and her staff. I also joined Katherine Oviatt, Assistant Superintendent, and Darrell Paproski, Superintendent for a meeting with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and their Medical Health Officers and Public Health staff to discuss some of the direction coming from that health region. I then joined our regular weekly meeting between education officials and the Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Shahab. Our important partners in Public Health also participated as we discussed numerous topics regarding the ongoing COVID response.

My day began on Friday with a meeting of the Director’s Leadership Team (DLT), consisting of principals, vice principals, and central office personnel. We had the opportunity to discuss our ongoing COVID response and protocols and other important updates and information. I then held a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to discuss our plans to address gaps in learning that may have occurred over this unusual year. I finished my day and week in a meeting with the Board’s Governance Committee. The committee includes Trustees, Doug Armbruster, Jenna Hale, Jennifer Lemky, Paul Crow-Buffalo, and ex-officio members, Board Chair Jim Hack and Vice Chair Linda Mattock. Jenn was once again acclaimed as chair of the Governance Committee and I look forward to working with her and the other committee members to address governance-related matters in our school division.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I am sending my thoughts and/or prayers on behalf of all of us in Horizon to our communities of George Gordon First Nation and Wadena.

Jesse Gordon, one of our students from George Gordon and Punnichy passed away over the weekend. To all who knew him, Jesse was a kind and gentle soul who was so extremely well-liked. He is missed deeply by his family and friends and any who had the pleasure to know him.

I also learned of the extremely sad news related to the passing of one of our Horizon parents, Amanda Morrissette. Amanda and her husband, Cody, have three amazing children attending our schools in Wadena. Our thoughts and/or prayers are with her children and husband as well as family members and friends who had the incredible fortune to know Amanda.

Please have a great week, Horizon. Stay safe…and stay warm.

- Kevin

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