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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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March 17, 2017 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

March 20, 2017

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day everyone! I know St. Patty's day brings out the green clothing, green food and drink and green trinkets for our students and staff. For me, it is an opportunity to say "Happy Birthday" to my oldest son who happened to be the first St. Patty's day baby born in Saskatoon in 1991. I suppose it also tells me how quickly our years have flown by. He is a huge hockey fanatic, having played four years for Macewan University in the Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference (ACAC). It was through thinking of him and his hockey roots he received in rinks across Saskatchewan, that I focus on what may be an historic opportunity for the province of Saskatchewan. The town of Ituna, just another one of the many gems in our vast system of rural schools and communities, has advanced to the final round of voting for Kraft Hockeyville 2017! They are now one of only two communities in the running to host a pre-season NHL game. Voting concludes on the evening of March 20 (tonight), so if you're reading this today, there is still time to cast your vote. Congratulations on making it this far, Ituna, and best of luck in the finals!

Continuing with the theme of great success stories, I have a few more to share with you. I am very proud to announce that Dylan Haussecker, student at Watson School, has been awarded the Chancellors' Circle of Honour Scholarship from the University of Saskatchewan, valued at $30,000. Dylan earned the scholarship through exceptional academic achievement and an application essay submitted earlier this year. Dylan's award is a tribute to personal effort and will but also is a tribute to the efforts of teachers, parents and support staff. It is true that, "It takes a village to raise a child" and Watson can be very proud of Dylan and all their children. Of course, they can also share in Dylan's outstanding achievement for no matter how small or how great, any impact adults have had has certainly helped him persevere. I am also very happy to report that two Horizon students are provincial medalists in Tae-Kwon-Do. Tiara Pelletier (student at Punnichy Community High School) won two gold medals and her younger sister, Natalie Bitternose (student at George Gordon Education Centre), won two bronze -- one each in the categories of Sparring and Patterns. On top of all this, we had numerous teams from numerous schools across Horizon, qualify this weekend for Hoopla March 24 and 25. Congratulations and best of luck to our coaches and students.

On Monday, our Wall of Fame Committee met to determine which nominees would be chosen as this year's Horizon Wall of Fame Inductees. The committee is comprised of Trustees, Linda Mattock, Cheryl Vertefeuille, Paul Crow-Buffalo and Jolene Koopman along with staff members, Marni Sogge (Executive Assistant), Kim Loose (Admin Assistant), Lance Hiltz (Communications Services Officer) and me. The work of our committee, albeit somewhat challenged due to the outstanding list of nominees, was able to select the potential inductees ahead of our Opening Day Celebration on September 1, 2017. 

On Monday afternoon, I joined two of my Directors of Education colleagues on a conference call to discuss the current state of Distance Education in the province. Horizon has made great strides in our Distance Education program in recent years, and our conversation was a great opportunity to share our journeys, including our successes and our hurdles.

Horizon Principals and Vice Principals gathered at the Humboldt Uniplex on Tuesday for a number of professional development sessions, as members of the Director's Leadership Team (DLT). The morning breakout sessions, arranged by Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and Supervisor of Student Services, Jason Neville, gave principals and vice-principals the opportunity to learn more about educational psychology, self-regulation, SaskCareers, and SafeTalk. The sessions were led by Student Counselor, Paula Kessler, Horizon Psychologist, Kevin Tunney, Career Counselors, Brent Loehr and Paul Raycroft and Occupational Therapist, Katherine Tittemore. In the afternoon, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, led a discussion focused on case studies relative to Human Resource Services and I continued our DLT book study discussion of "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. We wrapped up our day with Humboldt Collegiate Institute Principal, Cory Popoff, leading a session on Assessment practice for administrators. I want to thank everyone involved for sharing their knowledge and helping one another build their capacity as "lead learners" in our system. Following the DLT meeting, Marilyn Flaman (Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO) and I travelled to Saskatoon for a very worthwhile evening meeting to discuss a number of relevant risk management matters.  

On Wednesday morning, while many of our students, staff and even some of our trustees were at WE Day in Saskatoon, I had the pleasure of travelling to Punnichy Community High School, where a TV crew from Global Regina was on-hand talking to students and staff about last year's project with Horizon Writer-In-Residence, Sigmund Brouwer. The project focused on the development of Sigmund's latest book, Innocent Heroes, and saw last year's Grade 9 class at PCHS work closely with Sigmund as First Nation consultants on the book. Due in part to this work, these same students have since seen a significant increase in their literacy levels. In fact, on average, grade nine students saw growth of 5 reading levels between the fall and spring F and P assessments. I can share with you that I was inspired as I listened to the voices of our students sharing the impact of the project on their lives. Many commented about how the project, which focused on the power of storytelling, helped them engage or sometimes reengage their love of reading. The broadcast was being produced for a weekend segment called, "Focus Saskatchewan" and will be aired in the coming weeks on Global TV. I would like to thank the show's host, Blake Lough, for providing a platform for our students and staff to share this inspiring story with people across our province. I also want to thank Sigmund, who took time to video conference with the class and share his perspective with Blake and his crew.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, Darrell, Crandall and I travelled to LeRoy School to review their LIP and discuss how this document, which is aligned with Horizon's Strategic Plan, has helped guide the work of their staff in support of our students.

Members of Horizon's Board of Education met with the Chief and Council of George Gordon First Nation on Thursday. Trustees, Nathan Bitternose, Albert Pinacie, Paul Crow-Buffalo, Christine Gradin, Board Vice Chair, Wil Lengyel and Board Chair, Jim Hack joined myself, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw, Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and Supervisor of Literacy and Early Learning Services, Katherine Oviatt. We have a great partnership with George Gordon, and our regular meetings with Chief and Council are opportunities to share the successes of our collaborative work and to discuss ways to improve the supports for our students and families. On my way home from George Gordon, I stopped at Englefeld School for a meeting with Principal, Patsy Knafelc before wrapping up the day at the office.

On Friday morning, Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw, Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and I met with Principal Debbie Hollis of Sask Central Hutterian School to review her school's Learning Improvement Plan (LIP). On Friday afternoon, and following a meeting in Saskatoon, I had the opportunity to catch up on a number of items around the office leading up to the weekend.  

As I close out this week's message, I am reminded that next week is surely to be "one to remember" in Saskatchewan with the announcement of the provincial budget and the "transformational change" agenda for the education sector.  Amid the news reports and the hype that is casting a dark cloud over all public sectors including education, I remain optimistic that our future will remain bright. I do believe, as educators in our province, that we will be challenged to do things significantly different than we ever have before. We can expect to do this most important of any work with ominously fewer supports and resources. However, I remain optimistic for one simple reason. My reason stretches back to what I have felt and continue to feel has been the most critical change agent in the success of our system…great people! Jim Collins, in his book, "Good to Great", explained it this way, "Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people." Michael Fullan, in his book "Leading in a Culture of Change", qualified Collins' assertion by stating that "…in a successful enterprise, what caused the success,…it is actually the relationships that make the difference". I believe in the relationships that exist in Horizon between senior leaders and school leaders, between our unions and our management, between our children, our parents and our school staff. I believe these relationships will endure as we overcome any challenges that lie ahead. Our Board has been transformational. They have set the conditions for staff and stakeholders to succeed through forced amalgamation eleven short years ago, and have turned that transformation into a success story. Our system has been transformational. Horizon, has changed from a system of schools with multi-layered, legacy school divisions into a large rural entity with a renewed focus and vision for measurable success for our children. Our staff has been transformational. I have observed students succeeding at the hands of teachers and support staff who are willing to work collaboratively to transform practice and, in doing so, do things even greater today than yesterday. As this next phase of change looms, I have no question that we will require a willingness to maintain the same work ethic that has enabled us to realize the current success of our students. Then again, in the many hours I have spent in our schools, I have yet to find a Horizon staff member who is afraid of hard work or who is unwilling to change practice to better serve the needs of children. To each of you, I want to echo the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi when he spoke of the need for personal and social transformation. Gandhi indicated that it takes all of us, the "social enterprise", so to speak, to bring about the changes we need to see in our world. On behalf of my Board, my office, and students and parents across our system, thank you for being the change needed today and, equally for being the change needed for our future. You can be rest assured that I will share the budget and the future of education in our province with you just as soon as I am made aware.

Have a great week, everyone.   

- Kevin

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