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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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March 11, 2016 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

August 08, 2016

Tomorrow marks the final collaborative day for teachers for the 2015-16 school year along with the collaborative day for caretaking staff. I continue to find these days inspiring and motivating as educators and support staff share in a collegial fashion, how best to improve the learning environments for students. As we move forward into the 2016-17 school year, I am proud to say that our work will continue at an even deeper level. Collaboration is highly researched as a key to system level success and the commitment to sharing best practice is critical on our journey to reaching our goals as a Division. I have been excited to hear from teachers who are asking for a deeper commitment to common assessment practice and who are eager to share best practices around literacy instruction across all grades and disciplines. I am in awe from the work of our support staff members who continue to recognize that the answers can be found in the minds and hearts of colleagues, including themselves. While I am content that our course of action is both correct and necessary, I am also realistic that it is a journey that does not have an end anywhere in sight. Why is there no end? The response I have to this comes in an understanding of what it means to achieve excellence. For me, I cannot subscribe to the belief that we, as professionals and para-professional in a system that is focused on meeting individual student needs, will ever get to the pinnacle of this great mountain. Every student in Horizon School Division has needs that change on a daily and, sometimes, hourly basis. With these changes comes a need for us to respond in sometimes new and even more significant ways. I believe it is true that many of these same students are getting what they need from their teachers and support staff on an ongoing basis, but are we reaching all students? And if we ever do reach them all, I believe the next question we ask ourselves is, can we do more? The answer to these questions is found in the data we are seeking in our classrooms through assessments and survey tools like Fountas & Pinnell and Tell Them From Me (now called Our School Survey), respectively. The data provides us with a place to begin but the real work is found in our responses to the data. I have been reviewing and sharing with principals where we are with respect to our efforts and I am proud that we have moved our system forward in terms of these results. I am humbled by the efforts of each one of our staff members who has been willing to tie themselves into the harness and begin the climb. We may be a long way from scaling this rugged terrain, but regardless of how high the peak is and how difficult the path to the “summit’s edge”, I will continue to commit to sharing with and supporting you in our journey. At the same time, our Board and I also commit to ensuring the vision remains focused and our purpose fixed. Learning is a lifelong process for each of us, filled with great successes and humbling failures, but I relish in knowing that together we are stronger and our commitment to improving ourselves through this collaborative work will support our students in the most effective manner imaginable. As you continue your own collaboration, I want to thank each of you for your commitment to the same.  

My week began on Sunday, March 6, as I travelled to Saskatoon for the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS) Annual Policy Conference. I was joined by Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw, Deputy Director of Education, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Human Resource Services, Todd Gjevre, Supervisor of First Nation and Metis Education Services, Joanne Cunningham, Supervisor of Literacy & Early Learning Services, Katherine Oviatt and Supervisor of Student Services, Jason Neville. As many of you know, LEADS is the professional organization that I belong to within the province of Saskatchewan. I am not eligible to be a member of the STF so consider myself fortunate that this province has a professional organization that I am able to contribute toward. The APC, the annual meeting of our membership, provides us, as senior level leaders from across the province, an opportunity to discuss and further develop our leadership capacity as well as to build networks with others who share a similar responsibility in other school divisions. Although the intention was to be part of the discussions with the likes of former Prime Minister, Paul Martin, Jason, Randy and I left the conference early Monday morning to attend to a couple of important matters in our schools. As critical as conferences such as these are to the work of our organizations, our students and staff will always come first in everything we do.

On Monday night, following opportunities to meet with administrators and staff in Raymore and Strasbourg, we returned to Saskatoon for the superannuates banquet that evening and the development of the LEADS strategic plan on Tuesday morning. While in Strasbourg, I had the opportunity to congratulate Gerard Frison, teacher at William Derby School. Gerard was only recently announced as the incoming president of the Horizon Teachers’ Association (HTA) and I look forward to working with him in that capacity. On the same note, I also thank Dustin Hubick for his service as the outgoing president of the HTA. It takes people willing to take on roles of this magnitude in an organization and I thank Dustin for his undeniable focus on improving Horizon for the betterment of teachers. Part of our day on Tuesday was focused on reviewing both the LEADS strategic plan matrix and the review of the associated A3s. The term, “A3” (which really stands for the size of paper the plan is printed on), is a strategic planning document that has been utilized in the education sector to assist in strategic sector plan development. When I returned Monday evening, I was pleased to learn that Darrell Paproski was acclaimed as the “President Elect” for LEADS, a position we had discussed him running for months before he let his name stand. Darrell’s leadership will have a significant and lasting effect on the LEADS organization and I am proud of this success for both LEADS and Horizon School Division.

On Tuesday evening, I returned to Humboldt to meet with Deputy Director, Lionel Diederichs and then travelled to Englefeld to take part in the Englefeld Protestant Separate School Division (EPSSD) Board Meeting and Annual Meeting of Electors. As Director and CEO for EPSSD, I shared highlights from the 2014-2015 school year and had Lionel share a summary of our financial statements. As always, the EPSSD Board remains dedicated to student success and I appreciate the agreement with Horizon’s Board that provides leadership and support for their division.

Speaking of Horizon’s Board, they held their regular Board Meeting on Wednesday. During our meeting, we had a vase of flowers in a now vacant place at the table in honour of Mr. Kevin Grieman. As this was the first meeting since Kevin’s passing, I know the sentiments from the room were evident that he was sorely missed. Kevin’s legacy of kindness and passion for students and student learning is able to endure as the same passion exists in the remaining 13 trustees. It has been decided by the Board that, due to the timing of the general election (October, 2016), the Board will not call for a by-election to replace Kevin’s trusteeship for Sub-division 2. The “Local Government Elections Act” allows for trustees to decide not to call a by-election if the seat is vacated in the year of the general election. A great deal of discussion was held to this end as the work of trustees is already a very time intensive responsibility but due to summer only a few months away and the election right around the corner, Kevin’s responsibilities will be shared by other members of the Board.

At 1:00 pm on Wednesday, we paused the regular meeting to hold the Horizon School Division Annual Meeting of Electors. We were joined by Clark Stork of Bolt FM. As with the EPSSD Annual Meeting the evening before, I shared a number of highlights from the 2014-15 school year that Horizon enjoyed and Lionel shared a report regarding our finances. It was certainly a year of change and one that has served to set the foundation for our continued success as a system. Our future is in great hands thanks to the incredible work of our staff, students, community partners and, of course, our Board. I remain grateful that our local media such as Clark, are so willing to help us share the success of our Division.

Returning to our Board meeting, the trustees shared in discussions that included elections, budget and the recent announcement from the “Task Force on Teacher Time”. I had the opportunity to share my initial reactions to the Task Force’s work and the impact it will have on Horizon teachers and administrators. Two other items of discussion related to the Apology Letter from the Prime Minister to our First Nation people regarding residential schooling. I am already in process of ensuring that a framed copy of the letter hangs prominently in every school in Horizon, as well as Englefeld. I also shared the error that was found in reviewing the Task Force document related to our calendar. The Board has approved the slight change to the 2016-17 school year calendar resulting from the fact that March 31st was absent from the calendar that was initially approved. I sincerely apologize to everyone in Horizon for this oversight but I am thankful we had to remove a day, creating a long weekend in March for students, staff and parents.

Following the Board meeting and well into the evening, I led our trustees in a process that involved reviewing Horizon’s Mission, Vision and Values. This was a great opportunity for us to take a deep look at what makes us unique as a system, reviewing both our current state and our future state with a focus on what do we want to become and why we exist. This work, although not nearly complete, will continue focus our work on improving Horizon School Division. I appreciated greatly the time our Trustees took to conduct this initial step in the process.

While we were busy conducting these meetings at central office on Wednesday, approximately 500 students from across Horizon gathered at LeRoy School for their 3rd bi-annual Pink Day celebration. A number of students had the opportunity to present to this crowd on issues like bullying and student leadership, and our students were also treated to presentations from professional speakers, Ian Tyson and Scott Hammell. The celebration of our student leaders and anti-bullying initiatives is a great example of our safe & caring goal in action. I would like to thank our staff and students for making their work on this important societal issue.   

On Thursday morning, Lionel and I joined Trustees Denis Bergerman (Committee Chair), Albert Pinacie, Murray Proznick and Wil Lengyel for a meeting of the Audit Committee. The work of this committee ensures that our financial information remains transparent and accessible for our stakeholders.

After our committee meeting, I joined Darrell Paproski and the members of the LEAN Literacy Event team in our central office boardroom for a much appreciated meeting pertaining to the next steps related to the LEAN Literacy event. Our commitment to improved literacy for all students remains an important goal for Horizon and the work of this committee, led by chairperson, Kim Junk and LEAN leader, Janet Wagner, is important in supporting our goal. I travelled to Englefeld for a meeting with staff related to the approved school calendar prior to the end of the day.

My morning began on Friday with a brief call with Acting Deputy Minister, Lynne Allen regarding our Division’s use of CLEVR. CLEVR is the program we use for electronic data collection including Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) data and electronic inclusive education plans. I also had the opportunity to visit LeRoy School on Friday and meet with staff and students for a celebration of their bullying work. It was a rare honor to see the work the students have done in this area as students performed their Pink Day presentations. It was an emotional morning as I had the privilege to be part of a presentation by Andrel, mother to baby Theo Hartman. If you recall in last week’s edition of TWIH, I shared that Theo was diagnosed with a degenerative and very rare liver disorder called Biliary Atresia (BA) and is high on the donor list to receive a liver transplant. It was my honor to meet the little man who, in spite of all his discomfort and his many challenges, was one of the happiest little people I’ve met. I’ll continue to think about Theo and hope that his trials are soon eliminated through the support of an able donor.

On Friday, the Horizon/EPSSD e-Journalism Team met at central office for a training session prior to the National Congress on Rural Education taking place in Saskatoon on March 20-22. The e-Journalism team is made up of 16 Horizon students, two EPSSD students and staff members representing five of our schools. The students will be using their journalism and technology skills to provide coverage of the Rural Congress through blogs, social media, videos, pictures, interviews and more. I had the opportunity to see their skills in action on Friday afternoon when I shared a few words of thanks with the team and was then interviewed by three of the students. It is exciting that our students get to take part in this program, which has been one of the highlights of Rural Congress for the last number of years. It is an honour for Horizon to have been selected to provide this service and I am proud that our Horizon and Englefeld students are so engaged and eager to showcase and develop their skills.

I wrapped up my week officiating volleyball in Bruno on Friday evening and again on Saturday. As I reflect on this being Regional basketball weekend and that curling finished off last weekend, I would like to once again thank all the staff and community volunteers for your work to provide opportunity for building skill and teamwork to our students. I know very well that Horizon students regularly exhibit the highest levels of sportsmanship anywhere across the province…and for that, we thank them, their parents and their coaches and school staff.     

Have a great week, everyone.


-Kevin


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