Superintendent of Schools – Happy New Year to all! It is somewhat strange to say that in January for schools because school divisions in Canada run on a September to June calendar. The New Year celebration is a somewhat confusing time as the new calendar year neither marks the end of a term nor semester for us. We are 40% through our school year, so it is not necessarily a natural time for us to look back on the “year”.
That said, I will look back over the past calendar year and share a few reflections as they relate to my work life in RVS. I was still the newbie when 2017 came around, having returned to RVS the previous August. It was apparent that the “I’m the new guy” card had expired. I was warmly welcomed by people with so much support that I felt I was a full-fledged member of the team by January 2017.
Much of my work is supporting our Board of Trustees and the important work they do. It was quite early in 2017 when the Board made a decision to request from the Minister of Education a variance to the ward boundaries and to add another trustee. By early spring, the approval had been granted and RVS was set to move from seven to eight trustees. Over the summer, we were rocked with the passing of Trustee Helen Clease. It was very challenging as it occurred at a time when many of us were away on vacation and the Board was not meeting. The reality of the loss of Helen truly hit home at our first Board meeting in late August when her chair sat empty. September saw the election cycle begin and three trustees, who I had spent a fair bit of time with over the past 12 months, chose not to run again. It was tough to say good-bye to Sylvia, Bev and Colleen. In mid-October, we added five new trustees to the Board and the important work of building relationships with the team and providing important orientation information began. A very busy October, November and December window has positioned the new Board for success.
Another component of my work is dealing with legislative changes over the year. School divisions have to operate within the law and over 2017 we saw a number of bills passed that impact our operations. In the spring sitting, Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees made major changes to our system. We hustled to deal with all the changes resulting from that legislation. Further changes via Bill 8: An Act to Strength Municipal Government, Bill 17: Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, Bill 26: An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis, and Bill 28: School Amendment Act all impact us in one way or another. Each time new legislation is passed, we need to review the implications, make changes and help communicate those changes.
Another major area was the opening of new schools in 2017. The fall saw two new school openings in RVS. Windsong Heights School opened on the first day of school for children in southwest Airdrie. It was a massive push, right through the long weekend, to get occupancy and then get the classrooms ready. Fireside School in south Cochrane opened in mid-November with the same last-minute panic. In both cases, it was exceptional to see the effort from so many different RVS staff to get the school open and ready for students. Also, in the spring of 2017, we received approval for a new elementary school in Hillcrest in south-central Airdrie, so that was definitely exciting.
Throughout all of this, what I saw in RVS was steadfast commitment to public education and the children in our communities. Whether it be trustees or staff, we are here to serve our communities. The focus on goals within our four-year plan (learners being successful, engaged and supported) was clearly evident. Through the efforts of our team, we managed another fall with almost five percent student enrolment growth.
To our RVS community, I wish you the very best of the new calendar year. Good luck in all that you do. Aim high. Take care of each other.