January 30-February 3, 2023
Good evening, everyone.
This past week has been as challenging as they get, and quite frankly, was as difficult a TWIH as I have had to write. It is with great sadness that I share the difficult news that late last Thursday night, a nine-year-old from George Gordon Education Centre tragically passed away.
Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss and stand in support of all impacted; the families, the community of George Gordon First Nation, and the school communities of George Gordon Education Centre and Punnichy Community High School. As I have been thinking about how to share this message, the following quote by one of my favourite authors, Richard Wagamese, came to mind. In the face of this tragic loss of one of our own, “I’ve come to understand that the pain of a wound or a loss is over as it happens. What follows is the pain of getting well.” Getting well is about learning to live with the hole in our hearts that will never truly heal. It is about figuring out how to deal with life without a loved one with us.
To all those who have and will continue to endure this loss, I would share this poem by author D. Simone who said,
May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.
I do want to extend my deepest gratitude to the staff and communities of GGEC and PCHS who were available to provide support over the weekend, and to our Student Supports team including our counsellors and TERT team members for providing exemplary care during and in the days following this tragedy. There is more that is left to do, and we will work with the George Gordon community and our school staffs to understand and address these needs.
Strategic Budgeting Short Course
Horizon’s Senior Leadership Team and I joined a short course on strategic budgeting and risk mitigation hosted by the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (LEADS) on Tuesday.
Facilitators were Greg Chatlain, former Director of Education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and Bob Bayles, Deputy Director/CFO for Prairie Spirit School Division. It was an extremely useful course that I know we’ll all be able to use in future budget planning.
Online Learning Update
On Tuesday, I joined other Saskatchewan Directors of Education for an update from the Ministry of Education regarding the future plans for online learning. There is a lot that is changing and I look forward to joining Horizon distance education teachers, principal Garth Anderson, and Superintendents Trish Maxwell and Cory Popoff in an upcoming meeting to share more about the plans that the government has provided.
Directors of Education from Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions met on Thursday for a virtual meeting. Our conversations involved a deep discussion with our Deputy Minister and her staff regarding matters such as the Online Corporation.
Lanigan School Consolidation Project
Our team met with representatives from the Ministry of Sask Builds and Procurement to review the Lanigan School project on Thursday afternoon. We have been working to revamp the plan without losing any programming needs. More information will be shared in the upcoming weeks as we continue to hope for an impending approval that would see the construction begin in the spring.
Canadian School Mental Health Leadership Network Meeting
The Canadian School Mental Health Leadership Network Steering Committee met on Friday afternoon and I joined following spending time with the staff and students at GGEC. The national focus on mental health has been a tremendous learning opportunity for all those who are part of the network. I look forward to sharing more information in the coming weeks and months.
The process for arriving at a Board approved calendar continues to involve the consultation of our staff and SCC members. Recently, Verna Lynn Gorrill, president of the HTA and I sent out a survey to teachers to provide their responses to having either an August or November teachers’ convention. With just over 55% of teachers voting in favour of a November convention, we include this in the calendar for the Board’s final consideration and approval. I look forward to sharing more about your feedback in the upcoming days.
Marea Olafson is a former Horizon teacher who pursues her love of art through her pottery studio near Wynyard. She often supports and promotes fine arts for our schools with fundraising initiatives. If you are interested in supporting Marea and other local small businesses, you are welcome to view their Valentine's Day themed offerings at this link.
Have a great week, everyone. The weather is beautiful and we are blessed to be in such an amazing community of learners.
February 6-10, 2023
Welcome to Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week! The theme this year is, “Champions of Learning.” I am grateful for our Horizon School Division staff and their unwavering dedication to champion learning. Each member of the Horizon team makes a positive impact on our students' lives and helps to “create a better world, one student at a time”. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, "Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere”. To all of you, thank you for your service during Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week, and beyond. Your commitment to children and families is truly amazing and valued. I know our students of today will follow the learning paths we have set for them.
Directors’ Leadership Team (DLT) Meetings
We met with Horizon’s principals and vice principals virtually on Monday morning for updates from the Senior Leadership Team including a draft of the 2023-24 school year calendar. We are seeking input from all staff on the calendar. As a reminder, please submit your suggestions on this survey by 4p.m., today.
On Tuesday, administrators travelled to Humboldt for a full day of professional development. We heard an excellent presentation on cyber security and privacy from Superintendent of Operations and COO Justin Arendt. These two websites are extremely useful around LAFOIP: saskschoolsprivacy.com and knowsecurity.ca. Justin and Manager Ken Sogge also covered bus supervision processes and common expectations for student transportation before we heard from Superintendent of HR Cory Popoff. Cory led the session with support from Superintendent Jacquie Bergerman on spring staffing plans and procedures. The admin group then broke out into sessions on Behavior Challenges in the Classroom led by Jacquie; Readers: Understanding the Latest Literacy Research by Superintendent Trish Maxwell; and Using OurSCHOOL Survey Data to Create a Safe and Caring School by Superintendent Terry Leibel. It was a full and productive day, and is always wonderful to spend time with the DLT.
Board Agenda Meeting
On Monday afternoon, we held an agenda meeting to prepare for the upcoming regular Board meeting. Board Chair Jim Hack and Vice Chair Linda Mattock joined me and my staff consisting of Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO Sandy Gessner, Superintendent of Operations Justin and Arendt, Executive Assistant Marni Sogge, and Communications Officer Jesse Green. We are ready for our regular board meeting to be held on February 14, 2023.
Provincial Education Plan Implementation Team (PEPIT) Meeting
Superintendent of Learning Trish Maxwell attended the Provincial Education Plan with project managers, support team, membership and observers for this team meeting. The PEP plan is nearing completion and I look forward to sharing more with our Board and system as the final components of the plan are established.
Humboldt and District Museum and Gallery Board Meeting
I am excited and honoured to share that I have been appointed by City Council to the Humboldt & District Museum and Gallery’s Board of Directors. I attended my first Board meeting on Thursday, and it was a tremendous learning experience. I’m looking forward to working with the other board members and executive director Jennifer Fitzpatrick as we contribute to the excellent work of the museum, gallery, and committees. Jennfier and the HDMG do a great deal to support our schools in Horizon by putting on numerous art exhibitions, hosting district events, and even bringing in guest artists to our schools.
School Division Collaboration Session with SaskTel
On Friday, Justin joined a number of school division representatives for a virtual meeting with SaskTel. They told us of their plans for encouraging technical grads to stay in the province, introduced us to their new Indigenous Engagement Manager, Melanie Beatty, and had a general roundtable discussion. SaskTel has been a great partner in education and although I had hoped to make it to the meeting, Justin did a great job representing us and ensuring our needs across the system were understood at the SaskTel table.
I hope you have a great week and an even better Family Day and winter break next week! I’ll be back with TWIH when you return on February 27. I will be sending out information regarding the calendar after the Board considers the final recommendation from my office. Until then, have a tremendous time with your children this week and your loved ones next week!
February 13-24, 2023
Welcome back, Horizon! I certainly hope each of you had a chance to recharge your batteries over the break this past week. “Work-life balance means that you have managed to find that sweet spot where you're pushing yourself at work, and then taking time off to recharge”
Canadian actor Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing. It's everything,”. I tend to agree with him, and I am certain every one of you does, as well. Although I did not get much time with my immediate family during the break, I did have the chance to enjoy time with others who are special in my life. That said, I have already begun plans for the next break to spend the time needed with my three sons and their families in Alberta. It seems like a long time away, but it will come so very quickly. In the meantime, I will savour my time with all of you - my work family - and look forward to continuing to learn and grow as we collectively and continuously do our ultimate best to make things better for our children and students.
I suppose this sentiment is so timely, as our last week before the break was teacher/staff appreciation week. Although appreciation should be a regularly occurring phenomenon, the week is always a great chance to demonstrate how much our staff are valued. The late American motivational writer William Arthur Ward has coined many phrases including the likes of, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”. I am betting you have heard this quote and others from his pen. He also said that “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings”. I have the greatest gratitude for the amazing people who make a difference in our students’ lives every day. From our Board to our staff, thank you all for being true champions who work every day to create a better world, one child at a time!
Englefeld Eagles - provincial sportsmanship banner
I want to extend a huge congratulations to Englefeld School for winning the 2022 Sportsmanship banner for the 1A Boys Volleyball Championship. Just prior to the break, the SHSAA was out to present the banner to the team and school. Thank you to Coach Drew Ross, the boys volleyball team, and the entire Englefeld School community, including principal Corinne Harcourt, for your commitment to representing your school and Horizon in such a terrific way.
Leading to Learn - Signpost 3
On Monday, Superintendents Bryan McNabb and Cory Popoff, along with a number of principals from Horizon, attended the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation workshop on Leading to Learn in Yorkton, SK. The Leading to Learn initiative has been a worthwhile endeavour for school divisions and their leadership teams and we look forward to bringing the next session to our division office in Humboldt later in March.
February Board Meeting
The Board of Education and staff present welcomed Irma Anderson, Subdivision 11 Trustee, to her first meeting on Tuesday. So much was discussed and I am grateful to Communications Officer Jesse Green who will be sharing the many details in From the Board newsletter in the upcoming week or so.
Pink Shirt Day
It’s been 16 years since Berwick, N.S. classmates David Shepherd and Travis Price stood up for a student who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Their willingness to stand up and challenge such a significant societal issue kicked off a national anti-bullying initiative that continues to this day. It’s always so heartwarming to see many of our students and staff empowering others and making it known that bullying should not and will not be tolerated in our school communities.
The School Superintendents Association (AASA)
As a member of the executive of the Canadian Association of School System Administrators, I had the great opportunity to attend the National Conference on Education, presented by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) in the United States. This was an exceptional conference with leadership superstars like Stephen M.R. Covey presenting, as well as lots of time for peer-to-peer networking. Over 5000 superintendents and directors attended the sessions from Thursday to Saturday prior to the break, and I know a great deal will be realized in the upcoming weeks related to the collective learning that took place. I was able to join my CASSA colleagues for our executive meeting on February 22 and share in the tremendous learning that took place. I greatly value my involvement with the CASSA organization and I find that I learn something new each time I meet, and am able to bring these insights back to Horizon. One such insight that was significant for our system was in relation to the Microsoft funding opportunity that occurred, where our system has realized over 2 million dollars, due to the application process that Superintendent Justin Arendt led.
Public Section Executive Meeting
Also on February 22, I had the opportunity to join Board Chairs and Directors for an executive meeting of the Public Section. There was a great deal discussed that I will share with the Board at their next regular meeting in March.
One Book, One Province
The 2023 One Book, One Province title is Five Little Indians by Indigenous author, Michelle Good. Five Little Indians was released in April 2020 and has won numerous awards over the last two years, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Amazon First Novel Award, and the Kobo Emerging Author Prize. To learn about author Michelle Good, the 2023 One Book, One Province events, and where to find the book, please click here.
Well, that’s about it for now. I look forward to you returning later this morning and having our children back on February 28th. Have a great week, everyone!