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Horizon School Division
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November 16, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

November 16, 2020

INTRODUCTION

I hope our families and school staff had a safe and relaxing extra-long weekend following the Remembrance Day holiday. As a grandson of two veterans who fought in WWII, I appreciate that our schools took the time before the holiday to recognize and honour all those who have and continue to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today. My paternal grandfather was shot in the back on the shores of Dieppe and was a prisoner of war right up until he was liberated in 1945. He spent the rest of his life following his liberation with a very keen understanding of how important freedom is in our world. Honouring him and so many others who fought and continue to fight is the least we can do within our schools, so thank you for taking that time to honour our current and past Canadian veterans. Lest we never forget…

COVID-19 & EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITY

Our world continues to be challenged daily by Covid-19, and our great province of Saskatchewan is no different. The impact of this disease continues to challenge our health systems, our businesses, our homes, and our schools. This weekend saw a record 489 cases and although the government has announced additional public health requirements, the fact that the virus is more active and resilient in the cold weather means we have a greater challenge to curtail its transmission. In all this, we continue to be inspired by the efforts of our students and staff and the relatively limited impact of the disease in our Horizon schools as a result of these efforts. As much as we have strong protocols to manage what happens in our schools, we also know that we have been somewhat lucky. I’ve always believed that you have to be good to be lucky (and lucky to be good). Well, now is the time not to push our luck. We need to continue our efforts in our schools to manage the spread, and continuing our excellent practices will be necessary. However, we also need to eliminate some of the activities that can lead to risks of spread. In recognizing our collective effort to operate out of care and caution and to mitigate risk during these difficult times, effective Monday, November 16, 2020, all extra-curricular school sports will be placed on pause. As a firm advocate of providing opportunities for our kids, this is not an easy decision to make or even to convey. Still, it is a decision that is necessary. The pause will be in effect until at least the beginning of January. I will be certain to share more information regarding Horizon’s Return to Sport following the Christmas break. In the meantime, schools can continue to practice in their schools with their current teams, while following the necessary health and safety requirements. If teachers or coaches have questions, please contact your school principal. On behalf of students and families across Horizon, thank you for your understanding and commitment to doing what you have been able to do over the last couple of months of school sports.  

BOARD ELECTIONS

Our Board elections concluded on Monday, November 9. I want to thank our Returning Officer, Sarah Reding and Deputy Returning Officer, Melanie Gray and all who helped in the coordination, planning, and execution of this year’s election. I know this is an enormous undertaking and I can't thank each of you enough. I also want to thank all who took the time to vote, either in the advanced polls or in the regular polls on Monday. Our democratic process for local governance is so important. It is one of the important ways we ensure our communities have a voice in education. I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate our candidates and Trustees. For the candidates who were not elected in this term, I thank you for your willingness to get involved in the democratic process. Your community and your school division appreciate your advocacy and voice. For our Horizon Trustees who will not be serving another term, I can’t thank you enough for your work on the Board. You have left our school division in a better place than when you joined our Board, and your legacies will continue to be observed in the success of our students and staff for years to come. To our new and returning Trustees, congratulations. I look very forward to continuing the great work within Horizon with you as our newest governing members.

THOUGHTEXCHANGE

Horizon staff, you can expect to receive a Thoughtexchange survey with two simple questions early this week. With everything we have been through so far these past several months, I want to conduct a wellness check and get a sense of how things are going for you, and what we might be able to add in support of the work going on in the system. You can watch for a link to this Thoughtexchange in your email, and I ask that you take a literally a couple of minutes of your time at some point this week and offer your thoughts and feedback. All responses will be anonymous and you will be able to see the anonymous responses of your fellow staff members across Horizon. We will share a summary of the results once the Thoughtexchange is closed. Your feedback will be used to guide our supports in the coming weeks and months. You have given so much to your coworkers, students, families, and communities – always – but, especially these last 9 months. We want to be sure each of you has what you need to feel supported and cared for within Horizon School Division.

A SHORT WEEK

Last week was a short one for our students and school staff, with Remembrance Day on Wednesday and no school on Thursday and Friday per the school year calendar. At the office, I started the day on Tuesday with a conference call meeting regarding pandemic planning in the education sector. We had another small group of principals and vice principals at central office on Tuesday for our Literacy and Numeracy Symposium lead by the Literacy & Numeracy Team. That afternoon, we held a meeting with our current Board Chair, Jim Hack, and Vice Chair, Linda Mattock, to set the agenda for our Board’s Operational Meeting and Regular Meeting on Tuesday, November 17. Following the agenda meeting, I held a meeting with my Senior Leadership Team.

MINISTRY and DIRECTOR MEETINGS

I finished the week in meetings with Board Chairs and Directors from across Saskatchewan, a meeting with the League of Educational Administrators, Directors, and Superintendents (LEADS) Professional Relations Committee, and another meeting with Saskatchewan Directors of Education. As you may be aware, there has been a change in the Ministry as Dustin Duncan has been provided with the portfolio of Minister of Education. We certainly welcome Mr Duncan to our sector and know he will continue to provide strong leadership for all of us. We also thank Mr Gordon Wyant, our outgoing Minister who has been an enormous support for all of us across Horizon as we dealt with the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos accident and now a global pandemic. We have also had a change in Deputy Minister’s a Donna Johnson, former Assistant Deputy Minister, returns to Education as our Deputy. She takes over from Rob Currie who was an incredible support for us during the aftermath of the accident and through the entire pandemic. I thank Rob immensely for what he has done to continue to move education forward in Saskatchewan and wish him all the best in his future endeavours. We will look forward to having Donna return and continue the great leadership she has provided us in the past and that Rob has certainly modelled.

CHRISTMAS HAMPERS

Once again, I want to close this week by sharing a reminder about Horizon’s Christmas Hamper Project. As I shared last week, we are looking at a record number of families and students that we hope to support this year. Anyone can make a personal donation to this worthwhile cause through either a payroll deduction over one pay period or multiple pay periods (contact Corinne Thoms at corinne.thoms@horizonsd.ca) or by donating in whatever manner you choose by connecting with my office and Marni Sogge at marni.sogge@horizonsd.ca. Every bit helps in this important, worthwhile cause to spread holiday cheer to families in need across our system.

Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon.

 

- Kevin

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