I begin "This Week" with a heavy heart as I join with so many in mourning the loss of a true friend of Horizon School Division. Kevin Grieman, Horizon Trustee, passed away on Wednesday, February 24. The Horizon family is even still experiencing the shock of the tremendous loss of a passionate advocate for our students, a dedicated basketball coach, a thoughtful leader and a caring friend. Since becoming a Trustee in 2012, Kevin's focus was always on doing what was in the best interest of each and every Horizon school and each Horizon student. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Susan, daughters, Kaitlyn and Haley and everyone who was fortunate enough to know Mr. Grieman. The Horizon family had already suffered a loss on February 13, with the passing of Cecil Crowe-Buffalo, brother of Trustee, Paul Crowe-Buffalo. Many of you will remember Cecil as one of the drumming circle at our opening day celebration this past August. Paul and the Crowe-Buffalo family are in our thoughts and prayers as we join them in mourning Cecil's loss. During these difficult times, it helps to know that we are not alone in our grief. I am encouraged by the outpouring of sympathy and support that I have seen in the wake of these heartbreaks and I hope that the families can find strength in the knowledge that their loved ones were cared for and respected by so many. In this time of grief and loss, I am harkened to the writings of one of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom. Albom, who wrote such titles as Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, stated in another of his novels For One More Day, "I love you every day. And now I will miss you every day."
Gary Schmidt (The Wednesday Wars, 2007) tells us that, "Teachers plant in the fall and harvest in the spring." We have carefully planted, nourished developing seedlings and watered with care to ensure that we have created the most optimal conditions for success. Those who farm know that the last part of the growing season is critical as the plant emerges and matures. This is when all of the labour and work can be destroyed by a single act of nature, a hail storm or heat wave or drought that upset the careful planning and growth it has taken a full season to build. While we are experiencing spring-like weather, we know that there is time left until winter officially passes and as we look forward to spring, we know that this is a critical learning time for children. I have celebrated the news of the growth we have experienced so far as teachers and administrators report mid-year running record results and successes. But I am reminded that we are not there yet and we have this final stretch to make sure that the learning is sound and that our students have everything they need to be successful. The problem with my analogy is that we don't have crop insurance that will carry us through if we fail. We are the insurance, we are the risk takers and we are the best hope our kids have of being successful as we strive toward the three goals of Horizon School Division in the areas of Literacy, Safe and Caring Schools, and Assessment.
With this thought in mind, I am anticipating Horizon's Review of School Effectiveness (ROSE) process in the coming weeks. This process is based on Dr. Larry Lezotte's 7 Correlates of Effective Schools and will give us the opportunity to gather data and support one another with respect to Learning Improvement Plans and improved student outcomes as we celebrate the positive work happening in our schools and reflect on areas to build upon. I had the chance to attend the Effective Schools Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona along with a small group of school administrators, SLT members and central office staff. We learned from Dr. Lezotte and Dr. Tom Guskey around principles of effective schools and high quality assessment as well as Dr. Marcia Tate and Dr. John Mighton who shared their work around brain-based research strategies and numerical literacy. It is true that using a principled approach to becoming effective will lead to Dr. Lezotte's vision of "Learning for All". I look forward to the upcoming weeks when we can illuminate this critical process for our staffs in Horizon. While in Arizona, I had the opportunity to meet with other Directors' of Education from Saskatchewan who were in attendance at the conference. It was a good chance for Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and I to meet with the leadership from Southeast Cornerstone including Director Lynn Little, to discuss deeper understanding surrounding items such as ISSI agreements. You may recall that Horizon was engaged in a partnership agreement of this nature with Treaty 4 Education Authority, which ended last spring.
My Senior Leadership Team held a quick meeting on Monday morning. Following the meeting, I met with Kam Kiland, Manager of Facility Services, Lionel Diederichs, Chief Financial Officer and our architect regarding plans for our central office. As these plans move forward, I am very appreciative of the expertise our team brings to the table to ensure that this project offers the best value for our system.
On Tuesday, I was on the road travelling to a number of schools and had the chance to speak with school administrators and staff. I started out with a brief stop in Drake to see principal Donna Appel, stopped in at the Rillings bus shop in Lanigan and then travelled to Foam Lake for a meeting with principal of Foam Lake Comp and current admin association chair, Nevin Halyk. I turned my sights to Englefeld and headed there for a brief meeting with principal, Patsy Knafelc before heading back to the office in the afternoon to catch up on a number of matters. It was great to see our students and staff getting back into the swing of things following the break as I was witness to grades 6-8 students focusing on one of the 7 Keys to Comprehension and grade 10's involved in a dance class. One of these matters related to a media release which was sent out on Tuesday announcing the partnership between Junior Achievement, the Humboldt & District Chamber of Commerce and Horizon. This is the first partnership of its kind in Canada and represents a positive opportunity for our students and schools to participate in Junior Achievement programs relating to financial literacy. I had the opportunity to speak with our local media here in Humboldt and as always, I greatly appreciate their willingness to help us share Horizon's stories. Through critical community partnerships like these, we are able to equip our students with the tools and knowledge to continue their success beyond the classroom.
The Director's Leadership Team was on Wednesday and it was great to see everyone showing their support for anti-bullying initiatives with pink shirts and other items of clothing. I have been actively "re-tweeting" the many social media tweets that have been showcasing the work of our schools around raising awareness with respect to the important issue of bullying. The sea of pink shirts is a great visual reminder of the work we do each and every day to promote Safe & Caring schools. I would like to thank our schools for making this a priority and for sharing pictures and stories from your schools through emails and social media. The various activities that our staffs have organized to bring an end to bullying make a huge impact on the culture of our schools. As with everything we do as a system, we can only reach our potential when we are working together. While we have worked toward being able to support students through the VTRA protocols and other initiatives, the real work will be done as we see kids supporting one another and not tolerating intimidation or bullying of any sort – passive or openly aggressive. Our mandate is to provide a safe and caring, nurturing learning environment for kids in each of our classrooms and schools and Pink Shirt Day is simply a reminder of the important work everyone has in "being the change we want to see".
On Thursday, Lionel and I met with Joseph Hoffer at Sask Central Hutterian Colony School. Mr. Hoffer is the Minister and German teacher. The meeting allowed us to discuss programming and facility needs at the school and to share in the culturally specific needs. We enjoyed the community and the warm hospitality and finished off the morning with a terrific lunch. While Lionel and I were on the road, Randy MacLean, Deputy Director and Todd Gjevre, Superintendent of HR Services were also on the road, continuing with their staffing meetings across Horizon. The opportunity to meet with principals and discuss the needs of each school as it relates to staffing is a new but necessary process. You may have also noticed Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Financial Services and Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Operational Services at schools as they too have been meeting with principals to discuss needs regarding technology and school-based budgets.
The Central Office Administrators Team (COAT) held a meeting on Friday morning where we had the honour of a presentation on First Nations culture delivered by our First Nation Liaison Officer, Lester Gardiner and Executive Assistant to Corporate Services, Melanie Gray. The presentation included a smudging ceremony and a description of this important ritual that dates back to Roman times. Lester also shared a prayer in Cree to honour the memory of Mr. Kevin Grieman. Crandall Hrynkiw, Superintendent of Learning Services, Supervisor of FNME Services, Joanne Cunningham and Coordinator of Learning Services, Jan Paproski, led us in a review of the Culturally Responsive Schools Module that has been developed by their team. The information has been shared with school administrators and many of them have had the opportunity to share it with their school staffs. The module is about encouraging a growth mindset in our students, developing empathy and recognizing that students each bring a unique cultural identity to our classrooms. We finished off the meeting as we reviewed Horizon's Strategic Plan and how each of our services contributes to achieving our goals.
Central office staff gathered for lunch on Friday to bid farewell to Jenna Hale as she moves on from her position as Human Resource Generalist for Horizon. Jenna has been a valuable member of our Horizon team for nearly a year and a half and while we are saddened to see her leave, we wish her all the best as she pursues other goals in her professional growth. In other personnel news, a memo went out on Friday announcing that Jocelyne Possberg has been hired for the position of Transportation Services Manager. Jocelyne has previously served as Admin Assistant to our Manager of Facility Services and I am looking forward to working with her in this new capacity.
On Friday afternoon, I joined a provincial teleconference meeting on school division quarterly reporting with Deputy Director, Lionel Diederichs, Superintendent of Finance Services, Marilyn Flaman and Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz. As a sector, it is important that each division is reporting in a consistent and informative manner and I appreciated this opportunity to learn more about this process.
I would like to remind everyone that the funeral for Mr. Kevin Grieman will be held on Tuesday, March 1 at 2:00 PM at the St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Humboldt. Please keep the Grieman family in your thoughts during this difficult time, along with all those who had the honour of knowing Kevin.
Have a good week, everyone.
Kevin C. Garinger, B.Ed, M.A.Ed
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205