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

October 18, 2021

I want to begin "This Week" by sharing some extremely difficult news. With the heaviest of hearts, we were made aware of the passing of one of our children from Wadena Elementary School.


A dear friend of mine who lost his child put it very eloquently. He said that living his life after the loss of a child has been like living with a hole in his heart that can never heal. I believe the quote indeed equates to what so many of us feel. I believe when loved ones are taken from us, a part of our heart is taken too. In all the heartache, pain, and sorrow, I know that our Board's thoughts and prayers and those of everyone in our system are with her family, friends, school family, and community during this incredibly challenging time.


We are so fortunate to work in education. Children come into our lives, and we get to love and care for them almost as if they were our own. I know these feelings for them never go away. We yearn to hear how they are doing as they head to high school or begin their lives after their time in our system. We never forget who they are or the impact they have had on our lives. Spending time at the elementary and high school, I listened to the beautiful memories of this amazing little person. It was so clear that she was loved deeply by all who knew her. Her stories will live within each of us forever, and her memories will result in all the emotions that come from missing a loved one. For a long time, the feelings will bring tears as the "memories saturate [your] heart and the story of [her] spills from [your] eyes" (Grace Andren, 2018). And as hard as it is to live without her, and as much as we would give anything for her to be with us again, we will be forever grateful that she came into our lives.


Learning for the Future - Education Week

We look forward to hearing about all the great activities schools have planned for Education Week. Please take the time to tag Horizon School Division on your social media posts. As we head into Education Week, I want to say happy Bus Driver Appreciation Day to our dedicated bus drivers. We are so fortunate to have each of them as part of our team. As always, we can't say enough how much we value their efforts and those of every school and central office staff member across Horizon School Division. Each of you, either directly or indirectly, contributes to our students' successes.   


School Meetings

On Tuesday, I visited several division schools in communities like Wadena, Quill Lake, Watson, and Englefeld. While in Englefeld, we discussed plans for a grand re-opening of the school following the significant upgrades that occurred recently. The greatest challenge for managing this opportunity is Covid-19. Stay tuned for further details on this. We are excited to show off the renovations.


I was also able to get out to Watrous and Rose Valley schools on Friday. Meeting with principals and staff or seeing learning in progress in our classrooms on a more regular basis is something I have dearly missed during these times of COVID-19. I am grateful to take advantage of more of these opportunities as the school year unfolds.


October is Agriculture Month

Our Division and our entire province are proud to have roots in agriculture. As October is Agriculture Month, I know our schools are likely planning opportunities to recognize its importance. For a complete list of Agriculture Month events or to learn how you can take part, visit Follow Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan on Twitter @FarmFoodCareSK, or Facebook at Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan and share your stories on social media using #CelebrateAg. Please don't forget to tag Horizon School Division so the entire Division can celebrate with you. As Wendell Berry puts it, "If you eat, you are involved in agriculture".


Medical Health Officer - Schools Meeting

On Tuesday, the regular meeting with the Medical Health Officers and staff from the Saskatchewan Health Authority-Saskatoon Health Region was held. Superintendents Darrell Paproski and Katherine Oviatt joined the call and discussed our region's current epidemiology and various challenges education and health face. We continue to work towards best practices as we work together to meet the needs of our students, staff, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Joint Operations Committee Meeting

On Tuesday afternoon, I joined trustees Linda Mattock and Christine Gradin and staff members Randy MacLEAN, Justin Arendt, Sandy Gessner, and Marni Sogge for our first of four meetings with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools' and their leadership team. As we have joint interests in operating HCI, these meetings are critical for building our relationships and discussing the ongoing work involved in managing Humboldt Collegiate Institute.  


October Horizon School Division Board Meeting

It was great to see most trustees in person for this month's Board meeting. The Board has been meeting virtually for much of the past 12 months they have been together, so following the required health and safety protocols that are consistent within our schools, we could spend the vast majority of the day together discussing and making decisions on several items. One of the biggest challenges we continue to face is the pandemic, so we spent significant time discussing our ever-changing Covid-19 Strategy for Safe School Operations. In addition, the Board heard about our current enrolment numbers, which are to be finalized this upcoming week when final student conflicts with other systems are addressed. I want to take this opportunity to thank school principals and secretaries for their due diligence when entering and editing enrolment data, as well as Justin and his team, including Ken Sogge (Coordinator of IT) and Linda Kindrachuk (SIS Administrator). They, along with Marni Sogge (Executive Assistant), help me address these conflicts, and I can't thank each of you enough. On Friday, Linda retired from Horizon, and there are simply no words to express the appreciation I know we all have for her efforts over the last 31 plus years.


The Board also heard reports from several committees, including Audit, Governance, Joint Operations, School Community Council Engagement, and Public Section. They also listened to an update about our fabulous Christmas Hamper Project, which supported 170 families and 440 children last year alone. Plans are underway for another great showing of support for Christmas 2021, and I want to take this opportunity to remind staff that they can donate to the project by emailing Corinne Thoms, Manager of Payroll Services. The Board also discussed items related to the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) and found out that their Fall General Assembly and AGM will be held virtually once again this year.


Our trustees also discussed their recent board evaluation, which Dr Leroy Sloan conducted. In particular, trustees did some fine-tuning to their Positive Path Forward, which focuses on accountability and governance-related goals.


As a reminder, the meeting minutes will be available on our website following our November meeting.


Director Appraisal

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of working with the Board on my annual appraisal. It is always an excellent opportunity to hear the Board's perspective on what things are going well and what areas should be considered for improvement. In addition, I value that the Board works through the appraisal session with me directly as we serve to recognize the past year's work while looking to an even greater future.


Take Me Outside Day – October 20

I just wanted to remind everyone that educators are asked to take their learners' outside for one hour to raise awareness for the importance of outdoor learning, providing tools, resources and a sense of community to help them. Last year more than 225,000 teachers and students across Canada participated. This year #TakeMeOutsideDay is on October 20, 2021. Virtual events, resources, and activities span the whole week, focusing on Indigenous knowledge, health and wellbeing, and environmental education. 


Highlights of the week include a talk from renowned naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall and the Take Me Outside for Learning Challenge. Last year, 2,700 teachers across the country made this commitment. All initiatives are free of charge. There are also over $6,000 in prizes from MECOutdoor Learning Store and Take Me Outside to give out throughout the week of Take Me Outside Day and the Learning Challenge, along with discount codes for outdoor learning supplies, and a grand prize of a 4-day trip to Banff National Park. For more information on the impact of TMO day, read the 2020 impact report.


The touch of frost earlier this week reminded me to take some time to enjoy the warm weather over the weekend. I got to spend the day on Saturday indoors refereeing volleyball in Rose Valley, and I wouldn't have changed it for anything. Seeing our students participate safely in something they love, whether in sports or the arts, provides us all with much more warmth than any sunny October day could. I know other members of the staff and volunteers from across Horizon were engaged in volleyball, football, and soccer, while still others were at Cross Country provincials at Dixon. From what I understand, it was an excellent day, and I can't thank Brian Grest and his committee for the work involved in hosting the event.


I did take the opportunity to spend some quality time outside on Sunday, even getting in a final round of golf for the 2021 year. I hope each of you had a chance to enjoy the weekend similarly.


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