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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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January 22, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

January 26, 2016

Horizon Director 2.JPG

Good afternoon, everyone. I first want to extend my apologies for the timing of This Week in Horizon. The tragedy that occurred in La Loche, SK involving the deaths of two young people and two staff members has required my full attention this weekend. Our entire province and indeed our nation has been shaken by this act of violence. As those of us in education, it is unthinkable that something like this could happen so close to home. On behalf of all of us in Horizon School Division, I would like to offer our deepest condolences and heartfelt support for the Northern Lights School Division. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the students, families, staff and the entire La Loche community in the wake of this tragedy. I have faith that the community will persevere beyond this violence, but we are all aware that it will be a long road and, along with the entire education sector, province and country, will provide our support for that journey. As we are experiencing remorse and shock while reaching out to those in need, we must also turn our attention to our own road ahead. Horizon has taken a great number of steps in supporting our students, staffs and school communities in the last 48 hours and will continue to ensure our efforts are focused on the needs across the system. You are likely already aware of the communication that has been provided to principals as late as Sunday evening and will be aware of further communication our school division will provide to our students and our parents in the upcoming hours and days. We are responding from a position of support for those in pain and in practice as we ensure our schools continue to be the safe and caring environments everyone expects them to be. I have had conversations as early as Saturday afternoon with Kevin Cameron, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response, and I am confident in the work we are doing in addressing the needs in our system. At the same time, the sorrow and pain we feel for those who are no longer with us and for those who are suffering in loss also needs to be addressed. I am reminded of the need for each of us to express our grief through a quote by William Shakespeare. In his play, “Macbeth”, Shakespeare shares how this expression is necessary for each of us to heal in times of deep sadness and loss. I hope it provides each of you the same clarity it did for me. “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”

On Monday, after having spent the weekend in Edmonton, I attended to my son who was undergoing an operation. I’m thankful it went well and travelled through the night into the wee hours of the morning in arriving home safely. I was ever mindful of the presence of wild life, especially in the recent knowledge of one of our staff members hitting a moose. I am extremely thankful the only damage was to the vehicle but I know first-hand the impact of this trauma and remind all of us to continue to watch for animals on our rural highways. Tuesday was spent in our Director’s Leadership Team meeting in Humboldt. We had the opportunity to hear about the current state of our literacy goal in Horizon conducted by our Literacy team headed by Darrell Paproski, Superintendent of Student Services and Katherine Oviatt, Supervisor of Literacy and Early Learning. I am proud to say we have a great deal to celebrate and I know first-hand that our success is the result of the efforts of our staff across Horizon. Our First Nation/Metis Liaison Officer, Lester Gardiner, and Viscount School Principal, Ryan Heritage, also shared an update regarding the Cultural Appreciation Day held Viscount in December. It was very encouraging to hear about the event and how it brought their community together to celebrate the cultures we see across our system. Schell School Principal, Fred Curts, shared an update regarding Horizon student, Joel and his brave battle with cancer. Our administrators raised approximately $630 toward Joel’s family’s expenses. I will have the honour of delivering this donation as I attend and participate in a skate-a-thon fundraiser being held for Joel and his family this weekend. The remainder of the day was spent in discussion around the numerous action items presented by senior leadership as well as school administrators having an opportunity to discuss needs-based items in their school-alike groups. As I reflected on the day, I felt I was inspired watching how people can come together to address the needs of others across Horizon. Despite the distance between our schools, we are all one community working toward a common goal and ready and willing to lend a helping hand. I also reflected on the need we have for ongoing and effective communication as issues that sit in the minds and hearts of all of us need to be attended to as soon as they become issues, especially those that involve decisions that don’t have an immediate impact on student learning. Finally, it is reassuring to recognize administrators know they are working in a system where sharing of information is not only appreciated, but critical to creating an open system. Closed systems are not good for our students and staff and lead to less supports for learning and create structures where student safety can be compromised. An open system is exactly the opposite and is at the grassroots of any successful organization.

The First & Second Year Administrator Induction & Mentorship Program was held at central office on Wednesday. Administrators in their first or second year of their role gathered for a day professional growth and development. The induction program began this year as a capacity building initiative and will be an ongoing practice for Horizon administrators with a goal centered squarely on providing the tools and supports administrators need to excel in their roles and, ultimately to improve student learning in their schools. I would like to thank our administrators for their contributions throughout the day as well as thanking Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN and his team for facilitating this tremendous learning opportunity. 

I was in the office for much of the day on Wednesday focusing on the final development of the 2016-17 Teachers’ Convention and Summit Saskatoon survey that was sent to teachers. Gathering feedback from our teaching staff regarding Teachers’ Convention is paramount to my work in preparing the 2016-17 school year calendar options for all staff and school community council members to consider. As much as this is to be a consultative process with teachers, I feel it is critical that they have a voice in their professional development needs and convention can certainly support this belief. I want to thank teachers for their feedback provided through the survey and look forward to sharing the results with our HTA executive and our Board in preparation of a final calendar to be presented to the Board at their February meeting.

On Thursday, we held a meeting in my office to discuss the LINC contract. Deputy Director of Corporate Services, Lionel Diederichs, Superintendent of Finance Services, Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Human Resource Services, Todd Gjevre, Human Resource Services Officer, Monica Corrigan, Randy and I discussed the language of our contract and prepared elements of the agreement as per our work plan agreed to by our HTA negotiating committee. It is hoped this work will support the next stage of our negotiations as we get closer to finalizing an agreement that will can be ratified by our Board and our teachers.

On Friday, Lionel and I travelled to St. Brieux School for a tour of the renovations and an update on their progress. The project is moving along well and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our students and staff for their patience and understanding as this work is completed. It’s a challenging process with a great end in sight so when times are challenging, as we know they can be, remember that the final product will be worth the pain. Following the tour, I travelled to William Derby School in Strasbourg for a meeting with principal, Deb Schwandt-Kelln. While I was there, I had the pleasure of listening in on the progress one of our student’s made in relation to literacy. It is inspiring to see the efforts of our teachers and students yielding success as even the smallest victory can yield enormous wins for our students.

This week marks the beginning of departmental exams for our high school students. Thank you to our Horizon staff for your work this past semester as you helped to prepare our students for these summative evaluations. To our students, I wish you great success. Remember that preparation and hard work are the ultimate precursors to high achievement. As former president, Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Never throughout history has a person who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”

Have a great week, everyone. 


Kevin C. Garinger, B.Ed, M.A.Ed

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205