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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
News Item

December 9, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

December 12, 2016

"We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact we haven't so far." This quote from Ronald Edmonds, who was an African-American educator, author and pioneer of effective schools research, speaks to the importance of continually reviewing and improving our methods and strategies for teaching. This process of continual review is something we are committed to through examining the practices in our classrooms and through systemic processes like our Learning Improvement Plans (LIPs) reviews and the Review of School Effectiveness (ROSE) events. By gathering feedback and data from our students, our staff, our administrators, our families and our community members, we can ensure that we best serve the interests of our children.

Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw and I travelled to Drake School, Lanigan Elementary, Lanigan High, LeRoy School and Muenster School for LIP reviews on Monday. I stepped out of these meetings on Monday afternoon for a brief conference call with Dan Perrins. As you may know, Mr. Perrins has been tasked with conducting a review of educational governance for the Ministry of Education, and he took time to speak with Horizon's Board Chair, Jim Hack, Board Vice Chair, Wil Lengyel and me.

The Director's Leadership Team (DLT) held our December Skype meeting on Tuesday morning, discussing a number of items relating to our system. I also joined a conference call with the Ministry to discuss Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, which were published and shared this past week. Although these results show that there is work to be done to support Saskatchewan students in reading, science and math, I remain grateful for the outstanding efforts of Horizon staff in working toward growth in these areas. As I reflect on the PISA results, it is obvious to me that it remains imperative that we continue our focus on literacy success for students through to grade 12. As research tells us, the best indicator of high school success for students is whether they achieve grade 3 in their reading scores. This is certainly true, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The second best indicator of high school success is whether students are at level in grade 4, then grade 5, then grade 6, and so on. Why then would we stop assessing our children in grade 3? In the spring of 2016, 23% of our children were not at level in grade 3 (77% were at or above), and this percentage was significantly below the provincial percentage of approximately 28% (approximately 72% were at or above). Like the Board, staff and stakeholders throughout Horizon, we have to continue measuring student growth beyond grade 3. Horizon has taken this stand and I am proud that we have chosen this significant direction for our system. As I've been in schools discussing the literacy growth of our students, I have observed first-hand the efforts of Horizon staff to change the success levels of our children. There are numerous schools who have already, in the fall of this year, demonstrated reading growth of all their children in grades 1-8 at 80% or better! There is no question in my mind we are doing the right work. When these students are required to write the PISA exams at the age of 15 years, I know this work will yield significantly improved results. However, like is the norm in Horizon, we are not only focusing on the future success of students, we continue to focus on the immediate growth of all students. This is the "why" behind our concerted efforts in OCA for grades 9-12 and our assessment focus that will see us begin to build common assessments in mathematics and writing. It is accurate that we're on a journey to a finish line that seems to shift every year but our continued willingness to change how we run the race will bring that end line keenly into view. Our children deserve our willingness and it makes me smile in the humblest way, as I watch how quickly we are creating a reality where all children are achieving their grade level in reading and all students are graduating from grade 12 in our schools.

Following the DLT meeting, I spoke with Bolt FM to share a reminder for our parents/caregivers to speak to their children about safety relating to strangers. There was an incident that occurred outside one of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools buildings in Humboldt on December 1st, and although it did not result in something more serious, the event serves as a great reminder that we need to speak with our children and ensure that they know how to handle a situation involving strangers. I would like to thank Bolt FM for helping share this important message.

Also on Tuesday, I met with the ROSE team to discuss our recent ROSE events at Cudworth School and Ituna School. We had the opportunity to review results from the final report from the events and begin the preparation for next week's Board meeting. I want to thank Crandall, Jason Neville, Supervisor of Student Services and Jan Paproski, Coordinator of Learning Services, for preparing the documentation that will be shared with the Board. Immediately following the ROSE meeting, I joined the Board's Governance Committee to discuss plans related to Board policy revisions and to discuss initial planning for a continued review of the Board's Mission, Vision and Values. Trustee, Jennifer Lemky, past committee member, was named the committee's chairperson and she is joined on the committee by trustees Linda Mattock, Murray Proznick and Nathan Bitternose. Jim Hack, Board Chair and Wil Lengyel, Vice Chair, were both in attendance for the meeting acting as "ex-officio" (non-voting) members.

Marie Moore, Secretary at Bruno School and President of CUPE Local 4799 met with me Tuesday afternoon to discuss an important member item. We enjoy a great relationship with CUPE and I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Marie about this matter in a collegial and collaborative manner.

Also on Tuesday afternoon, we held a meeting with Board Table Officers, Jim Hack, Chair and Wil Lengyel, Vice Chair, to plan the agenda for next week's regular meeting of the Board. We were joined by Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman and Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt as well as Executive Assistants, Melanie Gray and Marni Sogge and Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz.

The Joint Operations Committee met on Tuesday evening in order to discuss Horizon's agreement with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) in the operation of Humboldt Collegiate. The committee is made up of Horizon trustees, Linda Mattock and Dave Holinaty, as well as GSCS trustees, Debbie Berscheid and Wayne Stus. Staff present from GSCS were Director of Education, Greg Chatlain, Superintendent of Administrative Services/CFO, Joel Lloyd and Superintendent of HR, Al Boutin. Along with yours truly, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman, and Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt make up the administration team for Horizon on the committee.

Our LIP reviews continued on Wednesday at Punnichy High, Watson School, Lakeside Colony School and Quill Lake School. While at Watson School, we were joined by members of our Board of Education to celebrate Watson staff as winners of one of our Celebration Day lunches. We enjoyed pizza, cake and great company and gave staff well-deserved recognition for their work each and every day. On Thursday, Crandall, Darrell and I travelled to Schell School, Imperial School and Watrous Elementary School for more LIP discussions. 

I began my day on Friday with a conference call meeting of the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT). The PLT is made up of my fellow Directors of Education and representatives from the Ministry of Education. We discussed a number of Education Sector Strategic Plan items including updates on each of the outcomes and priorities in the plan. We finished off with a discussion related to the impending provincial budget that, as I'm sure we are all aware, is looking bleak for every sector in the province. I will continue to keep you appraised of ongoing updates related to budget and the governance review as this information becomes available.

The Board's Audit Committee, chaired by trustee Dave Holinaty and comprised of trustees, Mark Fedak, Wil Lengyel and Paul Crow-Buffalo, met on Friday to discuss Horizon's quarterly financial report. Jim Hack, Board Chair, joined the committee as an ex-officio member. I want to thank Marilyn and Assistant Superintendent of Finance Services, Jeff Swanston, for their work in preparing the report and taking the committee through the process of understanding its composition.

Following our Audit Committee meeting, I had a chance to talk with a parent from Cudworth School and continue a great conversation that began during our ROSE event, held back in October. It is always great to hear from parents and other stakeholders who share a keen interest in the education of their children and ours.

I joined Marni Sogge and Kim Loose Friday evening for a short period of time in setting up for the Christmas Hamper preparations that will be held at Horizon office Monday morning. Marni and Kim have been working tirelessly on securing gifts and other necessity items for our children and families who are less fortunate. The majority of our central office staff already began the process of wrapping and preparing the boxes and individual items that will be sent, in the upcoming week, to schools for delivery to the families. This holiday season, Horizon will provide these care packages to 98 families and a total of 247 children! Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart wrote, "Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone's life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance." Horizon principals, staffs, parents and communities have the opportunity to light candles every day in all children's lives. I believe we do this as well as any system, anywhere. The Board's Christmas Hamper project is certainly another small but significant way Horizon also provides light to those who may otherwise find it difficult to enjoy this time of year. I remain humbled by the incredible support the project has received, from cash donations to the numerous helping hands. The warm glow from these "candles of hope" provided to our children and families through the service of so many, is not only a true testament to what the season is all about, it is what life is all about. As famed artist, poet and author, Kahlil Gibran stated, "I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy."

On Friday evening, I joined countless other staff, parents, students and community members at Humboldt Collegiate Institute for the Kevin J. Grieman Memorial Pink Basketball Tournament. The proceeds of this awe-inspiring tournament are being donated to aid in cancer research. Prior to the "Pink" game between HCI and Lake Lenore, a multimedia presentation was shared to honour the lives, contributions and memories of Kevin Grieman, late Horizon Board trustee and HCI basketball coach, and Wade Weseen, late teacher and Lake Lenore School coach. It was truly moving to see the lasting impact that these two coaches had on countless students, colleagues and community members. A huge thank-you goes out to principal, Cory Popoff, his staff and volunteers who made this tournament not only a successful opportunity for student athletes, but also a successful remembrance of these two great men. A special heartfelt thank you also goes out to HCI teacher, Kerri Archibald. Kerri is on maternity leave and not only continues to coach the senior girls' basketball team from HCI, she was a major contributor to both the organization of the tournament and the tribute to Kevin and Wade. From all of us who were fortunate enough to know both of these great men and who have had or know people who have had cancer, we are indebted to you, Kerri.

On this final note, it is with deep sorrow that I share the loss of one of our Horizon family. Over the weekend, a father to one of our students and husband to one of our staff members from Winston High in Watrous, lost his battle with cancer. I ask that you keep the family in your thoughts or prayers during this very difficult time. Bestselling novelist, Terry Pratchett put it best in his novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, when he wrote, "Only time and tears take away grief; that is what they are for."

Have a great week, everyone. Only 7 days to a much-deserved break!

- Kevin

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