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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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October 6, 2017 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 10, 2017

With the heaviest of hearts, I need to share that one of our Horizon students at Raymore School passed away suddenly on Friday afternoon. Our student experienced a significant health incident toward the end of the school day, prompting school staff to immediately contact caregivers and emergency medical services. STARS Air Ambulance was sent to the school and on the scene in addition to First Responders, EMS personnel, the fire department and RCMP. Such a tremendous loss impacts everyone in different ways, and in the days and weeks ahead we will be supporting one another through this loss in a number of ways. In an effort to aid our students, staff and community in dealing with the suddenness and sadness of this tragedy, the Traumatic Event Response Team will be onsite Tuesday morning when students and staff return to school. The Traumatic Event Response Team includes counselors, teachers and other members of Horizon’s staff trained in trauma response. In addition to the supports they provide, this team will also assist in connecting individuals and families with health professionals, as needed. As this tragedy happened near the end of the day, supports were also in place to assist students and staff over the weekend. We ask that your thoughts and/or prayers remain with the family, friends, staff, community and all who have been touched by this tremendous loss.

I hope you all found many reasons to be thankful this past weekend. I know that when I look around Horizon, at our 41 schools, our numerous communities, our students, our staff, our partners and our friends found across the system, I am often overwhelmed by all the things I experience for which I am truly thankful. In times of deep sorrow, as we are experiencing following the incredible loss in Raymore, I am grateful that we have each other. As I have said many times in the past, Horizon School Division is a family. When tragedy strikes one part of our family, it is felt by all of us. We grieve together and we support one another and I am extremely thankful for that.

I am thankful for our Board of Education whose leadership not only provides direction, also provides support for the work we are doing across our system. Their passion for doing what is best for our students and ensuring reporting processes are in place to support this vision is critical for any school division. They are also very involved in the school division’s audit processes and on Tuesday, the Board’s audit committee met to review the unaudited financial statements as well as to prepare for their review of the audited financials that are being conducted by MNP. The Audit Committee is made up of trustees David Holinaty (chair), Paul Crow-Buffalo, Mark Fedak and Wil Lengyel. Our audit needs to be completed in early November and this year, for the first time since I’ve been Director, the provincial auditor will be involved in our audit process. Every year, between 6 and 8 school divisions in the province are audited and my office and the Board are looking forward to this process. The provincial auditor’s process involves looking at the audited statements developed by MNP and will make recommendations based on their findings. I am very thankful for my Finance Services team, led by Marilyn Flaman, CFO, for their work in preparing the financials and providing the information to our auditor.

I am also very thankful for our Board for their work in preparing for their Board meetings where they make significant decisions regarding the system. In order to plan for the meeting, we hold an agenda meeting with Board Chair, Jim Hack and Vice Chair, Wil Lengyel. I remain grateful for my staff and the table officers for their efforts in ensuring necessary preparation is done for the Board.

I held a Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) meeting via Skype with principals, vice principals and central office staff on Wednesday morning. Former principal of HPS, Dave Hill joined our meeting and discussed the Junior Achievement program that exists in many of Horizon’s schools. I can’t say enough about this program and the opportunity it provides our students with respect to money management, entrepreneurship and other matters of financial interest. I implore all schools to be involved and I know last year we had over 15 Horizon schools involved. My hope is that every school who can will be involved. I see financial literacy as one of the most important skills we can provide our youth after they have learned to read and write and have developed numerical literacy skills.

I followed up our DLT meeting by having a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meeting in order to review a number of items, including Horizon’s Strategic Plan. Superintendents, Darrell Paproski, Todd Gjevre, Marilyn Flaman, Crandall Hyrnkiw and Deputy Director Randy MacLEAN were part of the discussions. Justin Arendt was away at a procurement workshop, an important part of our work in finding efficiencies that allow us to put resources back in our classrooms. As an example, this year we have moved to one vendor for purchasing our caretaking supplies. We know that by procuring caretaking supplies in a system, we will find significant efficiencies. As our work continues around the A3 planning documents we have developed for our Safe & Caring, Literacy and Assessment goals, we have included a plan around Graduation Rates and I look forward to our ongoing work in our classrooms across Horizon toward improving our own rate, which currently sits at 84%.

I am also grateful for the relationship that exists between my office and our teachers and support staff. Every year, I have the great opportunity to sit down with Gerard Frison, teacher at William Derby School and President of the Horizon Teachers’ Association. I always value the opportunity to sit down with Gerard and discuss the many ways in which we work together to provide supports for our students and staff.

On Wednesday evening, I travelled to Englefeld School with Marilyn Flaman, Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, where we met with the Englefeld Protestant Separate School Division (EPSSD) LINC negotiating committee. The EPSSD Board was represented by Chair, Deanna Miskolczi, and Vice Chair, Larry Muller. Englefeld teachers, members of the Horizon Teachers’ Association but who have their own LINC agreement, were represented by, Cori Harcourt and Jeff Burton. Following only two negotiation meetings, the new LINC Agreement was ratified by both parties in September. Our Wednesday evening meeting was an opportunity for us to sign and finalized document. I greatly appreciate the work and commitment of everyone involved in getting this agreement in place for the remainder of the school year.

In keeping with my theme of thankfulness, I wanted to share this wonderful story I heard this weekend while visiting family in Alberta. In my view, it signifies what each of us in education holds dear during Thanksgiving, and everyday.
When Mrs. Johnson told her first graders to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful, she thought how little these children, who lived in a deteriorating neighborhood, actually had to be thankful for. She knew that most of the class would draw pictures of turkeys or of bountifully laden Thanksgiving tables. That was what they believed was expected of them, and many of them did.
What took Mrs. Johnson aback was Douglas’ picture. Douglas was so forlorn and likely to be found close in her shadow when they went outside for recess. Douglas’ drawing was simply a hand. This was obvious, but whose hand was it?
The class was captivated by his image.
“I think it must be the hand of his Father that brings him love,” said one student.
“It’s a farmer,” said another, “because they grow the turkeys we get to eat.”
Still another student said, “It looks more like a policeman, and they protect us.”
“I think,” said Pyper, who was always very serious, “that it is supposed to be all the hands that help us. But Douglas only had room to draw one of them on his paper.”
Mrs. Johnson had almost forgotten Douglas in her pleasure at finding the class so responsive. When she had the other students reading, she bent over his desk and asked, “Whose hand did you draw, Douglas?”
Douglas mumbled, “It’s yours, Teacher.”
Then Mrs. Johnson recalled that she had taken Douglas by the hand from time to time, as she did with other students, when he was feeling anxious, angry or sad, or felt lonely or withdrawn. That it meant so much to Douglas brought tears to her eyes.

Perhaps, she reflected, this was her Thanksgiving lesson, and everybody’s Thanksgiving lesson—not the material things given unto us, but the small ways that we give to others with the true gift being how we make them feel.
Have a great week, everyone.

- Kevin

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