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Horizon School Division
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October 12, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 12, 2021

As I thought about what to say following this Thanksgiving weekend, I thought how easy it could be to get lost in the challenges each of us has had and continue to have in dealing with the pandemic. Our children, families, and staff have been sick, and some have paid the most difficult toll of all, the loss of a loved one. But in these most difficult times, it is likely more important than ever to reflect on what we are thankful for. 


Like all of you, I am grateful for our families and good friends who support us on our daily journeys in and outside this amazing profession. I am thankful for each of you, the dedicated staff who give their time, expertise, and energy to ensure both learning and health exists at the highest level in our system and across our province. I am grateful for the science of medicine and those who use it as a tool to provide significant support during these challenging times. I am thankful for the many supportive parents and communities that make up Horizon School Division. They send us their most prized possessions, their children, and allow us to help change their lives for the better. Finally, I am incredibly grateful to our Board, who provide us with the vision for our system and who have provided me personally with the wonderful opportunity to work alongside them in support of the fantastic work you do every day for our children and students. Yes, there is much to be grateful for and as John F. Kennedy once stated, "We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives." For me, that is each of you.


Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Each day last year, an estimated 75 Canadians had the life-changing diagnosis of breast cancer. Having come from a family where breast cancer has impacted both my mother (twice) and my sister (once), I know firsthand how difficult the battle against this deadly disease can be. Although more people are surviving breast cancer than ever, it is still one of the most common cancers for Canadian women. I have challenged myself to wear pink as much as I can to recognise those who continue to fight breast cancer or who have lost their battle. I want to extend that challenge to each of you. If you wish to find out other ways you might help, please see the Canadian Cancer Society website.


Trauma-Informed Leadership

During our PD session, renowned expert Kevin Cameron guided our Director Leadership Team through a valuable talk on Trauma-Informed Leadership on Monday. As most of you know, Kevin has led crisis responses through some of North America's most challenging events. He is the founding member of the North American Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. Kevin has also been instrumental in developing Canada's first comprehensive Violence Threat Risk Assessment Training Program with the RCMP Behavioural Sciences Unit. Recently, Kevin supported my office as Jason Neville, Superintendent of Student Supports, provided significant leadership in developing the Horizon VTRA Protocol. The protocol ensures that RCMP, health, emergency services, and other partners have a clear direction that will be followed regarding violence and threat. 


Kevin's extensive education and experience, combined with honesty and humour, made for an impactful session for Horizon's leadership team. He urged us to remember that we have already achieved so many incredible things in the face of adversity and that we are all allowed to have human, emotional reactions. He left us with these words: "It is clear there is no such thing as recovery from a significant trauma unless we first have hope." So, amidst trauma, change, and divisiveness, I wish for us to continue banding together and challenging each other to be kind...and to have hope.


Duke of Edinburgh Awards

The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is the world's leading youth self-development program, equipping young people with life skills to make a difference to themselves and their communities. The award aims to empower young people to discover their hidden talents and make a difference in their communities. Marian Donnelly is Western Canada's Regional Director and, along with Regional Program Officer and former Horizon graduate Gillian Huppee, presented to our leadership team on enrolling in the program and getting students involved. 


Medical Health Officer Schools Meeting

On Monday, we continued our regular meetings with the Medical Health Officers and staff from the Saskatchewan Health Authority-Regina Qu'appelle Health Region.  

Horizon also meets twice per month with the MHOs from Saskatoon Health Region. 

The meetings allow us to follow up on processes adopted last year and identify best practices to meet the needs of Covid-19 in our system. Superintendent of Inclusive Education Darrell Paproski was involved in the meeting and brought back several essential ideas. 


Provincial Education Plan Implementation Team (PEPIT) Meeting

Schools are identity-shaping institutions, with the average student spending 13,000 hours in school from Kindergarten to Grade 12. With this in mind, school division and education authorities have been working to develop a long-term Saskatchewan education plan called the Provincial Education Plan 2020-2030. The original framework was based on feedback from partners as well as public engagement and an online survey. On Tuesday, I attended the virtual October Provincial Education Plan Implementation Team (PEPIT) meeting along with Superintendent of Learning Katherine Oviatt. Our work for the day focused on reviewing prior work toward developing a final, long-term education plan for the sector.


Board Agenda Meeting and AP on Vaccination

On Wednesday, I met with Board Chair Jim Hack and Vice-Chair, Linda Mattock and members of my senior staff, including Randy, Justin, and Sandy Gessner, CFO. Executive Assistant Marni Sogge always does an incredible job at everything, including preparing the tentative agenda for us to review. Joining us for the first time was our new Communications Officer, Jesse Green. Jesse just finished her first week with Horizon, and she has already been instrumental in helping my office communicate the most recent news related to the Administrative Procedure on Vaccination. More information regarding the AP will be coming out in the next week or so. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to talk to your direct supervisor. I know these are significant changes, but we will get through these challenging times, as always, in a thoughtful and supportive manner.  


HTA President and Director Meeting

It is always so wonderful to engage in meetings with leaders from our professional and paraprofessional membership. On Wednesday evening, I had the fortune to have my monthly meeting with Gerard Frison, HTA President. Gerard and I have talked a great deal about the impact that these meetings have on the system. Of significant importance is the opportunity to address issues and discuss opportunities that result from the conversations.  


School Community Council (SCC) Committee Meeting

Our SCCs provide invaluable contributions to our schools. SCC members provide a community voice in local education while enhancing student wellbeing and learning. On Thursday, I met with our Board's SCC Engagement Committee, chair Dana Stefanson and members Dr Cheryl Vertefeuille, Jennifer Lemky, and Doug Armbruster. Jim Hack, board chair, and Linda Mattock, vice-chair, joined our meeting as ex-officio members. We set November 9th from 6:00 pm to 8:45 pm for the Virtual SCC Workshop. We will share more information with schools and SCCs in the upcoming days. 


Canadian School Mental Health Leadership Network Steering Committee

On Friday, I joined a meeting with steering committee members from across Canada to review "Thought Leader" feedback and to discuss emerging themes related to the ongoing work of supporting mental health. The steering committee aims to develop a comprehensive support system for students and staff while recognising the school system's role in nurturing skills, attitudes, and knowledge that promotes positive mental health. As one of only two provincial representatives on the committee, the discussions are important and serve to provide others across our nation with necessary guidance around the network's mandate. 


Truth and Reconciliation Professional Development Day in LINC Agreement

I am incredibly proud of the work that HTA President Gerard Frison, LINC Chair, Rob Lissinna, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, the Horizon Teachers' Association executive and members, and the Board of Education did to secure a clause for Horizon teachers to pursue learning focused on Truth and Reconciliation. This language is such a necessary clause and will allow our staff to continue to know the truths of our past and work towards honouring the work involved in reconciliation through the TRC's 94 Calls to Action. On Friday, I spoke to the STF communications office to discuss this vital clause and the opportunities for teachers, support staff, and students alike.  


In memoriam – Michelle Gyorfi

Our deepest condolences go to the family and friends of Michelle Gyorfi, who recently passed away. Michelle was the librarian at Punnichy Community High School, and her bright smile and selfless actions will be dearly missed. Our condolences go to her husband Darryl, her children Samantha and Kortlind, their extended families, and all at the Punnichy Community High School who knew her. Thank you to the school family for their donation to the Allan Blair Cancer Centre. 


In closing, I hope that each of you was able to rest, rejuvenate, and connect with loved ones over this Thanksgiving weekend. I feel fortunate to work in education, and I am thankful for our students, families, staff, and Board – we have amazing people in Horizon, and each of you is one of them! 

Have a wonderful week, Horizon. Thank you for all you do.


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

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205