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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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September 30, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 03, 2016

On September 30, people across Canada honoured the Indigenous victims of residential schools by wearing orange as part of Orange Shirt Day. In Horizon, we are diligent in our work to provide Safe & Caring environments for students and staff, and we are very fortunate to have many partners in this work, including caregivers, community organizations, First Nations and government agencies. As we all do our part to support students in becoming the culturally responsive citizens of Canada's future, we must never forget the events of our nation's past. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for conversations about residential schools – to listen, be heard, learn, and honour the Indigenous children affected by this dark chapter of our history. It is a day for reconciliation, for all of us to stand together and proclaim: Every Child Matters. If you would like to read more about the history of residential schools, reconciliation and how Orange Shirt Day came to be, please visit http://www.orangeshirtday.org/. To read the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who inspired this day, you can simply click on the following link: http://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the Ministry of Education conducted diagnosis and review meetings relating to the various outcomes of the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP). These meetings were attended remotely by Ministry personnel and school division representatives via Adobe Connect and teleconference. The first of these, which was held Monday, was related to Sector-wide Efficiencies, the outcome of which I am owner. Later Monday, we spent time reviewing the Reading, Writing & Math Outcome and Reading Priority. Writing assessments will be mandatory in 2017-18 while numerical literacy assessments will be mandatory for school divisions in 2018-19. I will share more as this work becomes more granular.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a meeting with Cory Popoff, Principal of Humboldt Collegiate Institute. In addition to his role as Principal, Cory has been working in a new capacity providing support to my office in providing leadership to the area of "Assessment" for Horizon. Cory and I have been working closely to develop new plans and processes that relate to our goal and he has spent a considerable amount of time developing our A3 for the system that will be shared with the Board at their next regular meeting. Cory's focus on looking at assessment before, during and after instruction aligns very well with the intent of our assessment goal and I look forward to the impact of this work in our classrooms. Part of Cory's focus aligns extremely well with the some of the work of the Teacher Efficacy and Workload Intensification Committee's commitment to establishing a repository for Horizon teachers to share common assessments that are curriculum focused.

Following my meeting with Cory, I took part in further diagnosis & review sessions on Tuesday morning and afternoon. The three sessions on Tuesday looked at priorities and outcomes that included First Nation/Metis Engagement and Graduation Rate, Following Their Voices, and Early Years. Our province and sector have done important work to improve these outcomes and that work continues as we work together in support of the students of this province.

On Tuesday evening, I travelled to Englefeld to take part in the Englefeld Protestant Separate School Division regular Board meeting, along with Superintendent of Operations/COO, Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman, and Executive Assistant, Melanie Gray. In addition to other EPSSD business discussed at this meeting, we heard from Katherine Oviatt, Supervisor of Literacy & Early Learning, who shared information with the Board related to the implementation of the Ontario Comprehension Assessment (OCA) tool. Prior to this year and the use of OCA in both Englefeld and Horizon, we did not have an assessment tool that was geared specifically towards high school students. Using this new tool, we look forward to having a much clearer picture of where our high school students are at in terms of literacy, which will help us recognize where instruction is effective and where improvements can been made, in the same way that F&P assessments have helped us support Grade 1-8 students and teachers. 

On Wednesday morning, I met with Marilyn as we reviewed a number of items related to her portfolio. Marilyn has been doing a yeoman's job preparing for the numerous elections that will exist in Horizon School Division this October as she has also taken on the responsibility of being the Returning Officer for Horizon and Englefeld Protestant Separate School Divisions. I travelled to Lake Lenore for a meeting with principal, Ralph Viczko to discuss emergent needs of his school and community before returning to Humboldt for the last of the "Diagnosis & Review" meetings regarding the sector plan. I joined Justin in his office as we listened intently to the Unified Student Information System (USIS) discussion before returning to my office to meet with Crandall Hrynkiw, Superintendent of Learning Services, having heard about the Grad Rate Priority. USIS has a focus on establishing a student information or data system that will be common across the sector and that should, if it is implemented in the distant future, eliminate the need for individual systems at the division level. At this point, the sector work is focused on building a business case that will help in determining the potential need of such a system so it will be a number of months before any final direction is able to be provided. Graduation rates is a concern for the province and continues to be an ongoing focus of our school division. We have been fortunate to see small growth in our graduation rates in Horizon and currently sit at nearly 84%, one percent below the 2020 goal of the province. However, our rates for our First Nation children are significantly lower than the remainder of the system so we continue our work in establishing processes that will improve these results.

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with Gerard Frison, President of the Horizon Teachers' Association (HTA) and teacher at William Derby School in Strasbourg. In the last two years, I began meeting with the HTA president and these meetings are a continuation of that established practice. Gerard and I had a very productive meeting that lasted well into the evening and that was focused on transparency and open discussion. Organizational trust is very important to the success of any system and as we discussed questions that were brought forward, it was apparent that these meetings will be necessary for our continued growth as a system. I appreciated Gerard's willingness to share the paradigms of some of our teachers and to listen to the shared needs of the system. We will continue these meetings throughout the school year and I encourage teachers to continue to share their paradigms with the leadership of the HTA and Horizon School Division.   

I spent the entire day on Thursday at a Director's meeting held at the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division office in Saskatoon. The meeting was called as a follow-up from our meetings with Boards and Directors the week prior. Transformational change in the education sector continues to be a hot topic so it is necessary to continue our discussions not only as Directors, but as each of us in our roles as stakeholders within the sector.

My Senior Leadership Team (SLT) met early Friday morning at central office. We discussed items such as data handling protocols, Principal and teacher evaluations, and USIS engagement, among others. I always appreciate the work and support of my senior administrators and I am extremely proud of their work and that of their teams to provide exceptional support to our students, staff and schools.

On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to join friends and family of Wade Weseen at a memorial service held in Lake Lenore. It was clear that Wade made a major impact on his community and beyond throughout his teaching and coaching career and into retirement. I was very grateful to be a part of the service remembering this great educator and member of the Horizon community. I was equally humbled by the words of teacher, Curtis Strueby, who shared a wonderful tribute to Wade. Curtis had been Mr. Weseen's intern and had taken over for Wade upon his retirement. It is reassuring to know that the lessons from Wade will live on in the minds and hearts of his students and his colleagues, alike.

As we have come to the end of the busy first month of school, we have great reason to be optimistic for this school year. Teachers have been working diligently in ensuring our Fountas and Pinnell assessments are completed and I remain humbled by the work of our staffs as they continue to find the most efficient and effective way in which to manage these assessments. Teachers have quickly become experts at the assessment process and we have seen reduced need for substitute teaching time for the first time since we started this system-wide practice. Collaboration remains a significant manner by which we all work together and it is through this focus that Horizon continues to grow and emerge as an outstanding school system within the education sector. As Henry Ford stated, "If everyone is moving forward together, success takes care of itself." The key is to move forward together and I am reminded of Dori from "Finding Nemo" who reminds me that it will take each of us to, "just keep swimming". And so…I keep "swimming" with each of you.  

Have a great week, everyone.

- Kevin

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