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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
News Item

March 23, 2018 - A Message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

March 26, 2018

I want to begin this week by congratulating athletes from across Saskatchewan schools who were competing in this year's Hoopla Basketball Provincials in Prince Albert. Specifically, I want to congratulate our very own teams from Lake Lenore School (1A Boys Silver Medalist), Three Lakes School (1A Girls & 1A Boys Gold Medalists), St. Brieux School (1A Girls Bronze Medalist & 2A Boys Gold Medalist) and Wynyard Composite (2A Girls Gold Medalist). Your sportsmanship and athleticism have led to your success and you have been excellent ambassadors for our school division. Thank you to our athletes, coaches, volunteers, and family members for everything you have done this past year to make this another excellent season for our students.

We began this past week with our final Collaborative Learning Day of the year for Horizon School Division staff. The ability to have our staff come together and exchange ideas with their colleagues is invaluable for our system. As famed educator and author Douglas B. Reeves stated, "Collaboration, it turns out, is not a gift from the gods but a skill that requires effort and practice". Thank you to all of our participants, presenters, facilitators and organizers for exercising your efforts toward success for the students of Horizon School Division.

The Board's Governance Committee held a full day meeting at central office this week. This committee is chaired by Trustee, Jennifer Lemky and includes Trustees, Linda Mattock, Nathan Bitternose, and Lori-Anne Proznick. Jim Hack, Board Chair, joined the important discussions and the committee had a very productive meeting, reviewing our Board's Policy Handbook and other items of importance for the governance of our system.

I took some time to speak with Becky Zimmer, editor of the Humboldt Journal, regarding Horizon's Annual Report and our Board's recent Annual Meeting of Electors. I want to thank our local media sources for helping us share news about the important work that has been taking place in our system as we try to improve upon the success of our students through ongoing support of staff, communities, and families.

Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Marilyn Flaman and I sat down for budget discussions with other members of my Senior Leadership Team (SLT), which includes Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Superintendent of Operational Services, Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Human Resource Services, Todd Gjevre, Superintendent of Student Services, Darrell Paproski and Superintendent of Learning Services, Crandall Hrynkiw. I appreciate the work of the SLT members and their teams as well as Horizon's school-based administrators, to prepare for these critical budget conversations as we look closely into our 2018-2019 school year budget in preparation for the Board's deliberations.

My Director's Leadership Team (DLT) of principals, vice principals and central office staff met at the Humboldt Uniplex this week for a very full day of professional development. We continued a book study that I have been leading, focused on 7 Steps to Effective Instructional Leadership, by Elaine K. McEwan. We also enjoyed presentations from Foam Lake Elementary Principal, Cheryl Farrell and Foam Lake Composite Principal, Nevin Halyk, who shared their school's good to great journeys. The "Good to Great" journeys related to last year's book study of the same name by author Jim Collins. It is easily one of the best parts our DLT meetings for me as I get to hear the passion of our administrators and their staffs as they share their work that has led to improving student learning. Their stories are inspirational and humbling and are a tremendous learning opportunity for everyone in attendance.

Randy MacLEAN, led a discussion around case studies exploring policies and best practice in a couple of Human Relations scenarios while Darrell Paproski and Katherine Oviatt (Supervisor of Literacy & Early Learning Services) shared a presentation related to our Division's literacy success. We spent a good part of the afternoon with Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz, System Analyst, Kyle Lamont, and Justin Arendt who shared information and answered questions about SchoolMessenger Communicate, the parent/caregiver notification system that we have recently implemented in Horizon. More professional development has been planned as we prepare to support our school secretaries who will be involved in the practices related to the program. To close the PD session, I shared information on Open Space Technology (OST), a process for facilitating collaborative meetings and for information sharing among staff teams. We will be looking to implement the OST process for future DLT PD opportunities and I know the conversations will serve to improve the opportunities for administrators, staffs, and students.   

March 21st was both the "International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination" and "World Down Syndrome Day". In their own way, each of these days is about celebrating the diversity that exists in our society, and recognizing that diversity serves to make us stronger. I was proud to see that these days were being recognized with a number of activities and projects throughout our Division and are a tremendous segue to the Gender Diversity Awareness Week in Saskatchewan that takes place from March 25 to March 31. As educators, we work to foster a culture of inclusion in our classrooms, to support the development of every student, and to demonstrate to our young people that we welcome and celebrate all identities and cultures. Guided by the Ministry of Education's curriculum, we explore and articulate an understanding of socio-economic class, gender, and culture as attributes of identity that are ascribed to groups of people, and the ways that preconceptions about people based on these designations can be false, limiting, and harmful. As we head into this week, consider the words of Ava DuVernay, film director and screenwriter, who said: "When we're talking about diversity, it's not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us."

Finally, I can't overstate the importance of student voice. Recently, Horizon School Division has been provided the honour of sharing our work on providing voice to students across our system at the Saskatchewan School Boards Association spring general assembly. Everyday, students in our schools are given the opportunity to share their perspectives and learn from their peers through interactions that have become part of our pedagogical practice. As a system, we are also finding opportunities for student voice through a number of practices including but not limited to: our ROSE process, our Author in Residency publications, our student leadership events such as The Leader in Me and Student Day, and OurSchool Surveys. Truly seeking to understand what our students are telling us, the practice of empathic listening, is one of the most important skills we, as adults can learn. Over 800 student marches took place this weekend by youth from across the globe, with thousands marching in Canadian cities alone. Students are expressing their need to be part of the solution to society's problems and expressing their need to be heard. Obviously, the elimination of school-related violence is acutely necessary and there are answers to a better world in the thoughts, words, and deeds of our kids. As a Horizon team, we will continue to advocate for our children and do everything we can to ensure that our students are safe and that they have a voice. As adults, we understand the need to truly listen to our kids and I challenge each of us to do this more deeply than we ever have. As Canadian author and youth engagement specialist, Adam Fletcher stated, "It is not enough to simply listen to student voice. Educators have an ethical imperative to do something with students, and that is why meaningful student involvement is vital to school improvement".

Have a great week, everyone.

- Kevin

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