This Week in Horizon » December, 2023

December, 2023

A message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

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Good morning, Horizon and welcome to December! I, for one, did not expect that we would have such limited snow or amazing temperatures this far into the fall. I keep reminding myself that the first official day of winter is December 21st, so it shouldn’t be so shocking. That said, the Farmer’s Almanac states the meteorologic first day of winter is December 1st. Regardless, we are getting a beautiful kickoff to the season and we will take what we can get. After all, we live in Saskatchewan, and the weather is often unpredictable. For me, winter is getting shorter by the day!

We are seeing the creative, talented artwork of many Horizon students, as Christmas hamper boxes arrive at the division office. Christmas music is on in the stores, trees are up, and we have officially entered the festive season. The holiday season can also be extremely challenging. Author Noam Shpancer said, “Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going”. This is a poignant reminder to prioritize mental well-being during this bustling time of the year. In so many ways, we certainly hope the mental health challenges of the holiday season that so many face are lessened by our hamper project. After all, it is so important to remember to extend kindness, both to ourselves and to those around us. 

Directors’ Leadership Team Professional Development

Horizon administrators gathered in Humboldt for two days of professional learning on Monday and Tuesday. We began the week with an outdoor smudge ceremony led by Culture and Language Coach Patrick McNabb, who helped us clear our minds and begin our day with good intentions. We were extremely grateful to the following guests for sharing their time and passion for education with us; Sanford Strongarm - Elder and Knowledge Keeper, and Cadmus Delorme - Former Chief of Cowessess First Nation, Public Speaker, and Founder/CEO of OneHoop.

Horizon’s Leading to Learn Team presented the first of five signposts to our administrators, and we look forward to continuing this important work. Thanks to Principals Terry Braman, Darryl Dickson, Kalie Hendry, and Justine Wheeler, Indigenous Learning Coach Amanda Moosemay, and Superintendents Bryan McNabb and Cory Popoff for taking on this leadership role in the project.

Kevin Van Lagen, the Prairie Principal and Principal of the Altario School and Agricultural Academy, spoke to our administrators on Tuesday about the incredible community of agriculture, entrepreneurship, and educational growth that he leads in Altario, Alberta. Horizon is made up of agricultural communities, and it is exciting to think about the possibility of our schools being able to support more hands-on and land-based learning opportunities across our system. Setting goals to be great at things like agricultural education and reconciliation is necessary. I certainly see these learnings combined with our focus on literacy, numeracy, and safe and caring schools to be necessary aspects of what is important to be great at. 

Audit Committee Meeting

The Audit Committee, led by Committee Chair Mark Fedak, reviewed Horizon’s 2022-23 Annual Report as well as draft financial statements and audit findings. Once Horizon’s audited financial statements are approved by the Ministry of Education, we will submit our annual report. The committee also reviewed the Joint Operations Committee’s revenues and expenditures for 2022-23 and was presented with a financial services report from CFO Sandy Gessner. 

Horizon Teachers’ Association (HTA)

I met with HTA President Verna Lynn Gorrill on Wednesday afternoon where we discussed the first few months of the school year, upcoming opportunities to work together, and some preliminary discussions about the 2024-25 school year calendar. We have always had a great working relationship with the HTA and I am excited about the work that VernaLynn and I discussed.

Winnipeg Trip 

I took holidays for the last two days of the week, spending time with my son and his wife in Winnipeg. While there, we watched my beloved Jets fall to the Oilers and then watched my nephew who plays with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, beat their Chicago Black Hawks AHL affiliate. 

While in “Chicago of the North”, I also had the great opportunity to spend time on both days with my dear friend and owner of the Jets, Mr Mark Chipman. Besides discussing the important things in life like family and work, Mark and I also discussed a project he has developed over the last 12 years called Project 11. It focuses on mental wellness and resiliency and was developed in memory of former NHL hockey player Rick Rypien, who tragically lost his life to mental illness in 2011. 

Mark has a team of researchers and teachers who have developed a terrific K-12 curriculum and who support the training and delivery of P11. There are more than 85,000 students and teachers involved in the 15-week program that runs K-12 and is connected to curricular outcomes in Canadian provinces including Saskatchewan. The high school and a new adult component are in their final development stages, and I look forward to sharing more about how this important resource has successfully supported youth across Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Minnesota. 

I encourage all teachers and staff to peruse the resource at I look forward to sharing more in the upcoming weeks regarding potential access to the resource. There is nothing more significant we can do than to support the mental well-being of our children and ourselves.

Have a great week, everyone. 


Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.D. (Candidate)

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205

[email protected]


Good morning, Horizon!

The division office is in its official “North Pole” capacity as we are ready to assemble more than 150 Christmas hampers on Tuesday. We are always witness to so many acts of kindness from the many communities, schools, businesses, and individuals whose donations have helped us provide for those less fortunate during this important time of the year. We were also blessed with so many helping hands who joined our present-wrapping work bee on Wednesday night. We are extremely grateful to the RBC and MNP employees, volunteers, Horizon students, staff, and trustees whose many hands made light work as they wrapped books, toys, hygiene items, blankets, toques, and mittens. Of course, division office employees made bows and wrapped gifts during their coffee breaks, which helped the process along. Most of the boxes going out in the next week or so were made by the hands of our children from many of our schools. Their gifts of artwork add so much to our project. With so much kindness and generosity around us, I am reminded of the quote by author and orator Roy Bennett, who said, “Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of people.” 

Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association Sportsmanship Awards

A heartfelt congratulations goes to Foam Lake Composite’s team who won the 2023 2A Girls Sportsmanship Award, and to LeRoy School’s team who won the 1A Sportsmanship Award for their efforts during this year’s provincial volleyball championships. Thank you to the coaches for their commitment to our student athletics, and to the athletes for their dedication, respect, and work ethic! You, along with the many teams who have competed in various sports during the first half of the year, have represented your school and school division extremely well and we are proud of your efforts.

Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) Indigenous Council Meeting

I joined the SSBA Indigenous Council meeting on Monday morning along with many of our trustees. We were proud to hear from Superintendent Bryan McNabb and Instructional Coach Amanda Moosemay who spoke about Horizon's approach and work towards Treaty Education and Truth and Reconciliation. We heard loud and clear that Horizon is doing very positive work in this area, and we are grateful to each of you for your efforts and commitments that create a better world, one child at a time. Of course, we are so fortunate to have a progressive Board of Education that places great value on a world that creates, as Cadmus Delorme would say, “parity for Indigenous people.”

American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 

I joined a session with fellow AASA members to share thoughts on a new learning opportunity called Leadership Lessons from the Edge. Thought leader Jeremi Suri from the University of Texas spoke on ‘Strategic Thinking and Thinking Big: Learning from History,’ and we had an excellent discussion on the possibilities for this learning model. I then had the opportunity to meet with other Region 4 representatives of the AASA executive to review and suggest changes to a section of our Beliefs & Position Statements. 

Imperial Production of Shrek Jr

Trustee Dr Cheryl Vertefeuille and I attended the musical “Shrek Jr” at Imperial School last week. It is always a great production, and this year was no different. The students, staff, and volunteers did an exceptional job in every aspect of the production and I was certainly proud of their efforts. I have said it before, our students in Horizon possess some of the greatest talents in all of Saskatchewan. Congratulations to directors Alesha Webster and Jacquie Ullyott, along with Principal Skyler Hart and the rest of the staff and students for such an outstanding accomplishment!

Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA)

I joined the CASSA Executive Council Meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss numerous changes that are being made to our bylaws. As a member of the executive, I am responsible for working with the president, past president, and president-elect, as well as the executive director to set the governance and operation structure for the organization. CASSA is the national organization that includes all CEOs and superintendents in education.

Joint Administration Agreement (JAA) Review

CFO Sandy Gessner and I met with the Director of Education/CEO François Rivard and CFO Joel Lloyd from Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) to complete our review of the JAA. We revisited suggested changes to align Humboldt Collegiate Institute’s operations with relevant policy. It has been a great process and we are happy with the adjustments to the JAA. It is always great to spend this time with our partners at GSCS.

Carlton Trail College 50th Anniversary Gala

The College had its 50th-anniversary gala on Thursday evening, celebrating the many achievements and connections the organization has made over the past half-century. Carlton Trail has a great impact on students and communities across Horizon, and it was a wonderful event to mark their milestone year. 


Directors’ Leadership Team 

The DLT met on Friday morning for a quick virtual meeting where we discussed updates to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, SCC requirements, as well as information from the Senior Leadership Team. CFO Sandy Gessner discussed year-end processes and walked us through the transition plan for CFO Sarah Reding’s return to work in the new year. We have benefited from Sandy’s expertise as a CFO and corporate secretary to the Board of Education, and are extremely grateful for her willingness to return to Horizon during Sarah’s leave over the past year and a half.

Have a great week, everyone.  


Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.D. (Candidate)

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205

[email protected]


Good morning, Horizon! I hope you enjoyed a relaxing weekend. 

I want to begin this week by thanking students, SCCs, and staff who have done a remarkable job of supporting their communities with food drives and gift drives. We’re seeing hundreds of pounds of food being donated to local food banks and so much holiday kindness in our schools. I can’t express how much this excellent show of spirit and generosity is important for our children and communities. Well done, everyone! You are the epitome of safe and caring!

Christmas Hamper Project 

Another amazing and important way Horizon works together to give back to those less fortunate is through the Christmas Hamper Project. Trustees, staff, and some community members from MNP gathered at the division office on Tuesday to assemble Christmas hampers. The hampers will be delivered to 403 children from 153 families across Horizon this upcoming week. We are recognizing the many contributions to this project on our website and through social media, but I’d also like to recognize our Board of Education, who supports and contributes to the project each year. We couldn’t do it without their support of this significant project. Since its inception 10 Christmases ago, Horizon has supported 3300 children and 1258 families through this wonderful project. Thank you to each of you for your efforts in support of such a worthy cause. 

Horizon Teachers’ Association (HTA)

I joined Superintendent Cory Popoff in a meeting with HTA President Verna Lynn Gorrill, LINC chair Mark Laurie, and former LINC chair Rob Lissinna on Tuesday afternoon in a discussion focused on deepening our understanding of LINC-related matters. It was a very productive meeting with some important plans developed for addressing future matters related to the agreement. 

First and Second-Year Administrators Meeting/Aspiring Leaders Cohort

Superintendent Cory Popoff continued the series of meetings to support Horizon’s newest administrators on Tuesday. Cory does a great job of leading this work and the principals and vice principals are deeply engaged in the discussions that ensue. 

As we head into 2024, we are aware of several school admin jobs that will be available. Cory has advertised for teachers to express their interest in an Aspiring Leaders cohort that will meet at the end of January to learn about admin and to determine their interests in a potential position at one of our schools. I know Cory has already sent some information out to schools through their administrators, so if you are interested, please talk to your principal. 

Board Agenda Meeting

I met with Board Chair Linda Mattock, Vice Chair Mark Fedak, Superintendent Justin Arendt, Executive Assistant Marni Sogge, and Communications Officer Jesse Green on Wednesday afternoon to set the agenda for the last board meeting of 2023. It is incredible to think that we are planning the last meeting of 2023 and entering the last week of school before the Christmas break. There is a great deal to celebrate over this past year, and we look forward to discussing some of these accomplishments in the last edition of TWIH for 2023.

Provincial Directors’ Meeting

I joined colleagues from across Saskatchewan on Friday afternoon for an emergent meeting with the Deputy Minister’s office. The meeting was called to discuss a recent letter sent to school divisions regarding the plans for addressing noon-period supervision in the event the conciliation process with the STF results in a withdrawal of services. While we hope that conciliation leads to a successful conclusion to the bargaining process, we have also been preparing for the possibility that the desired result is unmet. We will certainly be keeping our fingers crossed that both sides can reach a tentative agreement, but also realize the option that exists for teachers to attempt to move the agreement forward. 

Sask DLC Meeting

Superintendent Trish Maxwell and I met with the CEO of the Sask DLC Darren Gasper and some of his staff on  Thursday to discuss issues related to supporting our students taking distance courses through the Centre. It was an important meeting and led to a heightened level of understanding on both parts related to managing our work at the system level. You may have noticed some new staff members in our schools who have been hired by the Sask DLC. Their position is Online Learning Facilitator (OLF) and their role is to support our students taking online courses. Thank you for welcoming them to your schools and providing them with such great hospitality. This is important for our students who may need their support as they take classes with the DLC. 

CASSA Meeting

I joined members of the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA) for a follow-up meeting regarding some of our by-law developments. It was good to connect with my colleagues from across Canada to finalize this important work for our organization. 

Presentation Concern

You may have heard about an issue related to a presentation by Ruby Swanson, author of “A Family Outing”. Ruby is a former graduate of Horizon, and her book is a memoir about her life as a mother of a gay son. She writes about her very valid life experiences and the issues that she and her family faced, as well as sharing lessons she has learned that is important for all of us to hear. In early September, Ruby requested to present to one of our student bodies and on October 18, her request was graciously declined due to a staff member’s interpretation of the Minister's directive that was in place at that time. The communication was unfortunate as the directive would not have prevented a presentation of this nature from occurring. It was also unfortunate that administration at the school and system level were not consulted, as the individuals were only trying to ensure they didn’t step outside the directive and provided what they thought was the appropriate direction to Ms. Swanson.

The issue has garnered a great deal of public concern. Of greatest concern to all of us, is our students and how they are doing at this time. It is always our goal to ensure all students are safe and cared for. Thank you for your continued work to ensure they know this is the case. 

Since we became aware of this last Monday, both the school and my office have reached out to Ms. Swanson expressing our apologies, and letting her know the directive would not have prohibited her from her book talk. There was certainly confusion during the directive as elements of it were being challenged in the courts and the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” serves to bring a level of clarity as it relates to these issues. The Bill is now silent on outside presenters, but presentations at the school level should always be prefaced with a communication to parents. Parents have always had the responsibility to choose educational opportunities for their children, including whether they want their children to attend any presentation or outing led by the school. This has been a great learning opportunity and I know it will lead to a deeper understanding as we continue to do our important work of supporting our students' learning. 

I hope you have an excellent last week of classes, filled with festivities to mark the season. I will follow up with a much shorter TWIH at the end of the week, and before everyone heads out on a wonderful and much-deserved winter holiday!  

Have a great week, Horizon!


Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.D. (Candidate)

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205

[email protected]


Good morning, Horizon. 

Although it was a short week, it was extremely busy around the office and in our schools. The holiday buzz was in the air, and spending time in some of our schools and with students and staff certainly amplified this excitement for me. It is always amazing to see so many of our children excited about Christmas and the holidays. There is no question that a break is great to recharge and get ready for the second half of the school year. 

I had the pleasure of attending a few Christmas concerts and Christmas lunches, and the positive energy heading into the break would even fill Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart with joy! In joining Principal Cori Harcourt in Englefeld for their Christmas concert, one of her students gave me a bag of cookies after the performance. When I was in Lake Lenore with Principal Ralph Viczko for their lunch, a student asked if I wanted to take a spot in front of her in line. When I met with Principal Kalie Hendry in Nokomis, one of her students out of the blue, gave me some chocolate. And when I finally got back to the office, I was greeted with a card from Principal Karma Knittig’s students in Annaheim who thanked me for being part of their provincial volleyball championships. Now, it’s not about the gifts and certainly not about me. It is about the acts of kindness that came from our students. I know most parents have a large part to play in helping our students be great citizens, but as I reminded a parent recently, when children are in our care, we are required by law to look after them as a kind, fair, and judicious parent would. And I know most parents would very much agree that each of you is helping our kids on their path toward being the kind of adults we need to see in our world. Kindness wins…always. Thank you for your part in making our future bright! 

Joint Operations Committee (JOC) 

I spent a good portion of this week working with the Board of Education. On Tuesday afternoon, the JOC sub-committee met in advance of our regular meeting with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) to discuss Humboldt Collegiate Institute’s budget and operations. Horizon Superintendents Cory Popoff and Justin Arendt along with GSCS Superintendent Terri Fradette provided reports to the JOC. Likely the most significant item for discussion was the work done by Directors/CEOs (Francois Rivard and me) and CFOs (Sandy Gessner and Joel Lloyd) on the Joint Administration Agreement (JAA) to align the practices of operating HCI with policy. The JAA was presented to Horizon Board Chair Linda Mattock, and trustee Dr Cheryl Vertefeuille who sit on the JOC, along with the GSCS trustees Wayne Stus and Sharon Zakreski-Werbicki. The trustees reviewed the document and the final steps in its finalization will involve having it vetted legally and then ratified at an upcoming JOC meeting. 

Board Meeting

The Board met for their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday. Although it was a long meeting, the comments echoed were all about the importance of the discussion. There were many important discussions and decisions made at the table, all with a focus on what is best for the students and staff of Horizon. Takeaways from the meeting can be found in December’s From the Board

Board and Staff Potluck

Trustees and division office staff enjoyed a delicious potluck lunch together on Wednesday afternoon. In doing so, the Board, who already does so much for their Christmas Hamper Project, donated the lunch funds to the Hamper. It is so true that the act of giving is so much greater than the act of receiving. I know you would agree that it is so good for the soul! 

Lanigan Capital Project Meeting

COO Justin Arendt, Manager of Facility Services Kameron Kiland, and I met with the Lanigan school project team for a virtual meeting and update on Thursday. The team is definitely taking advantage of the warm weather, and it is exciting to see the progress happening on-site. I had the pleasure of going on a recent tour of the school with Site Superintendent Shawn Strawford, and I can already visualize the form and function of the school. I can only imagine the excitement on the part of our students and staff as the building continues to be constructed!

Well, that is almost it for 2023! December was a whirlwind of Christmas crafts, concerts, drama productions, athletic competitions and practices, and, of course, curricular learning. I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing break and can spend time doing the things you enjoy over the holidays. As a Christmas wish from the Board and my office, we offer you the following from New York Times best-selling author and TV personality Sherryl Woods, “The light of the Christmas star to you. The warmth of home and hearth to you. The cheer and goodwill of friends to you.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for everything you have done for our children and families in 2023. We look forward to working with each of you in 2024!


Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.D. (Candidate)

Director of Education/CEO

Horizon School Division No. 205

[email protected]