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Horizon School Division
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February 23, 2018 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

February 26, 2018

I want to begin This Week in Horizon with the hope that everyone had a relaxing February break. As we were travelling from school to school the last week before the holiday, I heard a number of staff members discussing an impending “trip down south” and a much needed break from the frigid temperatures we had been experiencing. There is something about escaping to the warmth that seems to put people in a very positive frame of mind. I suppose that seems quite obvious. However, research has shown that simply having time to reframe our purpose by getting out of our “normal” routines, is often all that is necessary to recharge. I’m sure a sandy beach in a warm tropical area doesn’t hurt either! Regardless of whether you were in the warmth of the south or the warmth of your home, I trust your travel plans worked well and you are feeling refreshed and ready for our students tomorrow morning.

I really felt the break came at an opportune time for all of us, families and staff alike. I am grateful for the Board’s vision in selecting a calendar that will continue to honour this break. I spent the majority of the break in meetings getting caught up on a number of items which included continuing the planning on our new office project, discussing the potential of international students, and building the agenda for a “mathematics outcome sharing day” for the province. Of course, I ended this past week engaging in a professional development session along with a number of Horizon staff members, as we participated in the inaugural Google Summit Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. I was only able to attend the Friday session but I truly felt I learned more about Google in those few hours than I knew from my last five years of working with the product. Saturday and Sunday involved over 50 Horizon staff members who were part of a contingent of 140 educators and IT staff from across the country who were engaged in learning about Google. I can’t say enough about the Summit and the work that the Teacher Efficacy and Workload Intensification committee did to bring the experience to Saskatchewan. I want to thank teacher leaders, Erin Richard, Rob Lissinna, Verna Lynn Gorrill, Jim Swan, Nadine Jennison, Colleen Whitford, and Sean Pratchler, who were part of the committee along with the Board members, Albert Pinacie, Cheryl Vertefeuille, and Mark Fedak. Also as part of the committee, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN worked with his entire HR staff, to ensure that the vision of the committee around having a first ever Google Summit in Saskatchewan, would be realized. A special shout out also goes to admin assistant, Nicole Fitzpatrick, who did a great deal to support Randy and the committee. It is obvious that Google will make things more efficient and effective for teachers, staff, and students across Horizon School Division. The next steps required for Horizon to “Go Google” will be taken in order that we take aim toward full implementation by the fall. “Google” times ahead for our system!

As we headed into the February break, it was not without a heavy heart. I know you continue to join with me in extending our thoughts and/or prayers to the students, educators, and families in Parkland, Florida, who continue to deal with loss and grief after the senseless tragedy in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I feel that I have had to write a similar message to this one, far too frequently in the last four years as Director. It will always be my hope that proactivity and preventative protocols obviates future tragedies such as Parkland. Arthur Golden put it this way in his book, Memoires of a Geisha, “At the temple there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it”.

As I mentioned, I spent the past week on the road with Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw, and Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski, visiting schools to review Learning Improvement Plans (LIPs) with principals. The LIP review meetings are a critical part of the strategic planning process for our schools and are an opportunity for Darrell, Crandall, and me to listen deeply to the work that is continuing to dramatically improve the learning conditions for our children. I believe that the planning and the commitment to the collective plan in the school continues to produce real and lasting improvements for students.

During my meetings, I took time out to have a teleconference with Bolt FM in order to discuss the recent provincial funding announcement and the potential of international student recruitment. I also participated in a meeting that discussed the final vendor for the Universal Student Information System (USIS) that was being explored for the education sector. As you may know, school divisions across Saskatchewan use a number of different student information systems (in Horizon, we currently use Maplewood) and the sector established a committee to explore the potential efficiencies and cost savings that could be found through using a single system for the whole province. A final decision has been made and a system has been selected. Therefore, by the 2019-20 school year, all school divisions in the province, along with the Ministry of Education, will be using one system to support all aspects of student information. I recognize the challenges that lie before including training and support for our school and system-level staff. However, I also see significant advantages to our sector and ultimately our families and students. I also took time to travel to Melfort for a meeting with Don Rempel, Director of Education for North East School Division. Cory Popoff, principal of HCI joined me for the meeting as it was an opportunity for Horizon to share the work we have done in developing common assessments in the number strand for use by teachers in our system and to plan a sharing day for the entire sector. I look forward to sharing more about this upcoming day.

If you have passed through Humboldt while on your holiday this past week, you may have seen that the walls are starting to go up on our new administration building. It is exciting to see the months and years of planning taking shape in the space that will be our new central office home for Horizon. I want to once again thank our Board for their support of this work, our Facility Services Team for keeping the planning and development on schedule, and the insights from our staff and stakeholders. This much-needed building will be a great benefit for our entire system and I am excited to watch with eagerness toward an anticipated completion date of December 1, 2018.

Have a great week back, everyone!

- Kevin

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