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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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September 9, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

September 12, 2016

Carl Sagan, the famed astronomer and author, once said: "What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." On September 8, people around the earth celebrated the magic of books and reading on World Literacy Day. Across Horizon School Division, students, teachers and staff enjoyed the love of reading and activities that focused on the importance of literacy. Although I was away on the 8th, I too shared in my passion for reading with my staff and students engaging in the new book by Donalyn Miller called, "Reading in the Wild". As I quickly found out, it's a great book for any adult engaging children in the world of literacy and I highly recommend it. 

With the long weekend tied into our second week with our students, it was a short, but busy week for all of us. I began my week on Monday travelling to Winnipeg. On Tuesday morning, I joined the rest of the Director's Leadership Team (DLT) for our first "Skype" meeting of the year. From initial reports, the meeting seemed to go very well with very few technological hiccups and we accomplished a great deal within our two hour time slot from 8am to 10am. Our intention, as I've shared before, is to have the Skype meetings more often which will serve to allow the DLT to connect more often but do so without the significant travel. This has been a positive, transformational change in our DLT. 

Following the DLT, I joined a meeting that was set up with famed NHL'er and Team Canada Summit '72 defenceman, Pat Stapleton and some of his staff and our Writer in Residence, Sigmund Brouwer, to discuss an exciting initiative involving a Team Canada School Leadership program. We had the pleasure of having Bob Clarke and Serge Savard join us during the meeting for a brief time as we discussed the potential of the development of a leadership program for Canadian school divisions. The program is only in the initial stages and Pat has asked that I discuss the potential of having Horizon support the development and implementation of the program. It is an exciting opportunity to say the least and I look forward to sharing more with the Board at their next general meeting and Horizon staff. Before heading home early Wednesday morning, I was fortunate to take in the '72 Summit Series Tour: "An evening with Canada’s Team of the Century" on Tuesday night. The tour featured 8 members of the famous 1972 Canadian hockey team, speaking about their experiences during the historic and iconic Summit '72 hockey series.

I returned to the office Wednesday morning to join our Board’s Governance Committee meeting, where they discussed plans for a new board member orientation, a need that will exist following this fall’s election. The committee, chaired by trustee Leslie Lewis, also had a great deal of discussion on the development of additional policy related to personal professional development for Board Members.

Following the governance meeting, we held our agenda meeting with Board of Education table officers, Jim Hack (chair) and Wil Lengyel (vice chair), to plan for the regular board meeting on September 14. We were joined by Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Operation Services/COO, Justin Arendt, Executive Assistants, Marni Sogge and Melanie Gray and Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz. With the change in our contracted bussing service provider and new policies and procedures they have implemented, the greatest amount of discussion was focused on transportation. I have been finalizing a new procedure related to school dismissal times and will soon have a document ready from which schools will align their practices. As this procedure is implemented, please feel free to discuss it with principals or by contacting my office and speaking to Justin, Crandall Hrynkiw (Superintendent of Learning Services) or me.

I was back on the road immediately following the agenda meeting, this time for a planned 4 day weekend holiday to Pittsburgh, where I enjoyed a few ball games with my beloved team, the Pirates.

While I was on the road, Sigmund Brouwer, began the first of his 2016-17 school visits on September 7, 8 and 9, meeting with students from Wakaw, Cudworth, Bruno, Humboldt Public, Nokomis, Raymore, Punnichy, George Gordon Edication Centre, Lanigan, Drake and Viscount. We are fortunate to have Sigmund back for the second year of the program, supporting students and teachers in our literacy work. Last year Sigmund was focused on grades 5 to 9 but will work more directly this year with our Grade 3 staff and students in support of our literacy goal.

Right from the first day our students joined us, we have been closely tracking our student numbers. As of the end of this week, we were just over 6400 students, very close to our 2016-17 projected totals. Of course, we'll be watching this number closely as the month moves along and I will be sure to provide you with a final total in early October.

As I mentioned, Thursday was World Literacy Day. I greatly enjoyed seeing how this day was celebrated around our division through social media posts and emails and I thank our principals and their respective staff for passing these along to my office. Our staff and students appeared to have a tremendous day of reading, writing and other activities in support of literacy. If you were listening to Bolt FM on Thursday, you may have heard my interview discussing the importance of literacy in Horizon as well as World Literacy Day. As always, I greatly appreciate our media for helping spread our message.

I wrapped up my week on Friday morning engaging in a Provincial Leadership Team (PLT) teleconference. The PLT is made up of Directors of Education, First Nation Directors and representatives from the Ministry of Education. Among other topics, we discussed the Education Sector Strategic Plan, the Transformational Change agenda, and the standards of professional conduct survey that has been put out by Saskatchewan Professional Teacher Regulatory Board (SPTRB).

Finally, Sunday is the 15th anniversary of 9-11. In a much different way than the Summit Series, it too was iconic. Many of us remember where we were when the planes crashed into the The World Trade Center, the Pentagon or Shanksville, PA that terrible September day. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of the victims at this difficult time. 

As we head into our first full week of the school year, it is very encouraging to see the great work that has already begun across our school division. It remains extremely obvious to me that our students success, in large part, sits on the shoulders of Horizon staff members and parents who diligently expect the most out of themselves and who recognize that working closely and collaboratively helps our students reach beyond what they thought was their potential. As hard as it can get for us, it is even more challenging for our children. We need to help them believe in the same philosophy as many of us share and one that Theoren Fleury challenged all of us to regard daily, "relentless positivity". 2016-17 is certainly shaping up to be a fantastic year.

Have a great week, everyone.

- Kevin

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

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205