I hope each of you had as great a first week of school as is possible. Welcoming our children back is the epitome of my school year. We have our entire Horizon family together for purposes of learning and growing and there can be no better journey than that. I had the pleasure of spending the first day of school visiting Bulyea School, William Derby School, Nokomis School, Drake School, Lanigan Elementary, and Lanigan Central High School. It is always great to spend time with students and staff in schools, but there’s something about the first day of school – the excitement, the energy – there’s no better place to be. Across Horizon, thank you for an excellent first day.I want to share my personal thanks with Horizon staff for their efforts throughout our transition to the new student information system, MySchoolSask. While there are often challenges with any change, especially a change that incorporates technology, our staff is working through these growing pains and ensuring that the necessary data is collected within our new system. When I was in Englefeld, I listened to secretary Marie Stockbrugger talk about how she figured out two significant ideas with the program just that day. Last year, Marie had to learn Maplewood only to realize that this program would only be in place for a year. Sometimes we have to remember that as challenging as our situation is, others might be even more so. But as I reflect back on discussion with her and other secretaries in this system, this is exactly how the implementation of a new program proceeds…with a journey of learning that includes and requires a positive attitude. Marie and every secretary I have talked to and every staff member in Horizon has taken on this attitude and because of it, I know the challenges will soon be less and the effectiveness and efficiencies of Aspen will soon be realized. As Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (and also of Little Men) said, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship”. I believe the storm has brewed around the need for a new provincial system and the ship we sail together is MySchoolSask. I am deeply grateful for the work and willingness to learn and know that this provincial data system will ultimately be a much better resource for students, families, and staff across Saskatchewan. Thank you to each of you for being “all aboard” and for taking your turn at the helm. The calmer waters are fast approaching.On Wednesday, I spent the majority of the day with my executive assistant, Marni Sogge, as we prepared documentation for my upcoming appraisal by our Board of Education. As I have said in the past, she plays a critical role in my office and I greatly appreciate her support. As this document reflects my work, it reflects the work of each member of my staff and office, so I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you as all of you make up the work that is reviewed and celebrated.My Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) met via videoconference on Thursday morning. Our discussions related to reminders about the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (LAFOIP) Act, educational trips, information from our Student Services, Human Resource Services, and Operational Services departments, and a discussion around how we will continue supporting staff as we continue with the implementation of MySchoolSask. While we work through this transition, we want to provide every support and resource available for staff to be successful in the new program. In particular, we will be bringing our secretaries in for additional training related to MySchoolSask (Aspen) during our September Collaboration Day. Having talked to some of our secretaries, they have shared that some additional training specific to their unique circumstance would likely help them continue to implement Aspen successfully. Following our online DLT meeting, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, and I met with Don Rempel, Director of Education for the North East School Division, and Randy Emmerson, Superintendent with Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division. Our meeting was in relation to my work with the League of Educational Administrators, Directors, and Superintendents (LEADS) executive. I appreciate Don and Randy making the trip to meet with us in Humboldt at our Horizon central office. Later in the afternoon, I travelled to Englefeld to spend some time discussing some future renovations at their school that are awaiting the final stages of approval. As I discussed earlier, Principal, Cori Harcourt and I also discussed the implementation of Aspen and it was then that I was reminded by Marie about attitude and learning.On Friday, I was in Regina meeting with the provincial Student Transportation Working Advisory Group (WAG). Our previous meeting was in June of last year, and this meeting was an opportunity to discuss updates and direction received from the Minister of Education, Gordon Wyant, regarding school buses. We also discussed updates on the continued work of Transport Canada’s task force advisory panel to improve student safety in and around school buses.Lastly this week, it is with a heavy heart that I share that a student from Watrous Elementary School passed away on Thursday. I spoke to the staff on Friday morning to share my deepest sentiments as they deal with the heartbreak and loss I know each of us is feeling. I ask that you keep the family, community, students, staff, and friends in your thoughts and/or prayers at this difficult time. I want to thank Darrell Paproski, Jason Neville, and Jan Paproski who, in support of my office, mobilized Horizon’s Traumatic Event Response Team (TERT). The members of TERT offered incredible levels of support at the elementary and high school on Friday morning and I am so very grateful that in challenging times, we have staff and partner organizations to turn to and lean on to help us as we grieve and try to eventually figure out our new normal that may not include those we love and cherish.
As author Mitch Albom said, “I love you every day and now I miss you every day”. It is especially at times like this that I am reminded why each of us needs to remain #HorizonStrong.I wish each of you as great a week as possible.- Kevin
Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205