Superintendent of Schools – June is an incredibly busy time in Human Resource departments in school divisions across Canada. In my past life I used to work in an HR department and was directly involved in staffing for all positions in a school jurisdiction. Now, I am involved to a much lesser extent with a focus on staffing for principals, assistant principals and senior leadership roles. No matter how much or little staffing I do, I enjoy the task.
I often describe the process of staffing to be like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The key is looking at the picture you are trying to build and then finding the right person to excel, while addressing that school’s/department’s specific need. The jigsaw analogy worked because each person’s skills, abilities and experiences are somewhat unique. No matter the person or role, we all add to what that school/department looks like. We are not all interchangeable and fit into any need or role. Each of our amazing RVS staff members bring unique skills, talents and experiences to their school/department.
Recently, I realized that maybe my analogy could use some adjustments. The puzzle analogy still resonates but may be too simplistic. Sometimes staffing is like a game of chess. You need to look multiple moves ahead. Earlier moves impact your ability to make future moves. There needs to be a strategy in the order you approach things. In the puzzle, that piece always fits beside its neighbours no matter what order you connect the pieces. In staffing you have an immediate need (e.g. a Grade 3 teacher for your school), but based on which great teacher you place in that role, it impacts the needs, culture and dynamics of a school. That Grade 3 teacher also has a passion for French and can help teach that in the school. Now the next move for the school is changed.
No matter which analogy works for you, the key is finding, supporting, nurturing, empowering and recognizing great staff to help your team. I can tell you that RVS is exceptional at doing that. A special shout out to all those people working hard these days trying to find the right person for the right move to the right position on the big board we call Rocky View.
Superintendent of Schools – June means graduation season for school jurisdictions. Over the past week I attended three separate graduation cap and gown ceremonies with one more to attend late in June. Each year I write a base speech and then customize it based on the school or theme of the graduation. Yes, I actually do the writing and try to have variations from year to year.
To be honest, I know that the graduates are not overly excited to hear most of the speeches at the ceremonies. I assume they wish we would hurry up and finish. While the majority of speeches are focused on them, the real audience is probably the parents. Here is my message to the graduates (okay, the parents) for 2018:
Good afternoon everyone. Graduates, today is an exciting day as we celebrate your completion of high school. For most of you, public schooling began back in the fall of 2005 with you rocking your Blue’s Clues t-shirt and SpongeBob lunch bag. You are the first graduating class of school X where most of you are born in this millennium. Look at you now; you’ve come a long way! Along the journey you made new friends, had many teachers, went on memorable field trips, were involved in clubs / teams / productions and even managed to meet the graduation requirements. Congratulations, you have made it through this stage.
You are ready to take on the “real” world. It is time to call upon the skills you have been building over these past 13 years with the assistance of your family, teachers and friends. These skills include: problem solving, overcoming challenges, communicating, handling adversity, thinking critically, collaborating with others, and utilizing the various literacies you have developed. These are the skills you will need to leverage in the next stage of your life. These are the competencies that we have been working hard to get you ready for, no matter what your next choice is – whether that be the world of work, post-secondary education, travelling the world or even living in your parents’ basement.
Remember that you are not alone. You have family, friends and teachers rooting for you and ready to provide assistance. Sorry parents, but the balance of power is shifting as the grads are making more of the important decisions and taking more responsibility for those decisions. Grads, you will make mistakes, all of us do, but it will be how you recover from those mistakes which is most important. I encourage you to keep your options open, believe it or not, you may need to change your mind and consider another option. Mistakes and changing your mind are part of the “real” world.
To all of the RVS staff who helped you get here, thank you! To the families here today, congrats – you were a big part of getting them to this point. To the grads, I encourage you to take some time this weekend to thank those who helped get you to this point. Say thanks to your parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, administrators and everyone who has helped along the way.
In closing, we are very excited about what you will do, where your journey will take you and the contributions you will make. Take care of each other and welcome to the “real” world.
Superintendent of Schools – Throughout our schools, there is an emphasis on providing meaningful student leadership opportunities for our students. I see that manifested in many different ways – from students of all ages MC’ing events, Grade 4 students touring trustees around back in the spring, the recent RVS middle school leadership conference, to this week’s Alberta Student Leadership Conference (ASLC2018). Providing students a meaningful voice in their school and opportunities to lead is something we should be proud of.
Last Sunday marked the kicked off ASLC2018 hosted by Bert Church High School, along with the assistance of students and admin from George McDougall High School, W.H. Croxford High School, W.G. Murdoch School and Beiseker Community School. Over 900 students from across Alberta are in attendance for the three days of workshops, activities and learning. The theme of the conference is Agents of Change and based on what I saw, we are in good hands moving forward.
The student delegates and their critically important faculty advisors arrived to a warm greeting from the many volunteers (both staff and community members). Students were broken up into superhero-based spirit groups led by our own high school leadership students. I had the chance to eat supper and play a few games with the Stan Lee spirit group led by two Bert Church Spirit Leaders, along with about 15 students from different high schools across Alberta.
Given the theme of Agents of Change, I took the opportunity to weave the theme into my greetings that I shared with the group:
On behalf of staff of Rocky View Schools, it is my pleasure to welcome you as Agents of Change. I’m not sure if the all-black outfit and dark sunglasses were in your welcome kit, but being an agent of change is an important opportunity. You have chosen a significant mission to be part of the team that makes positive change.
Your mission, should you wish to accept it, includes being an active leader in your school and through your efforts, you can help make change. Not change for the sake of change, but change to help make a positive difference. What that change needs to look like – that is specific to your situation. Whether that change is local or global – again, your call. I can tell you that without you advocating for, leading and demonstrating the change, it is not likely to make a difference.
I hope that when you leave this intensive agent training academy, you walk away with some new strategies to utilize in the field.
Good luck and be safe out there. Over and out.
The highlight of the opening ceremonies was an hour-long conversation by Canadian YouTuber, activist, spokesperson, and motivational speaker Molly Burke. Molly shared her story of losing her vision as a youngster and the path she has taken to overcome adversity and embrace diversity. Her blend of pop culture and deeply personal message of hope was very well received by all in attendance.
Thank you to all of our RVS family who provide student leadership opportunities. To the organizers, staff and volunteers involved in hosting ALSC2018 – a big thank you!
Superintendent of Schools – Last Sunday I had the opportunity to swing by W.H. Croxford to check out their third annual Show ‘n’ Shine car show. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning and it was packed with cars and people of all ages from across multiple communities within our area. I am not really a car buff, but it was a very impressive collection. While many were dazzled over the souped up ’60s and ’70s vehicles, I gravitated to the brand new $200K Tesla.
You might be wondering why a school would be hosting a car show. Schools are so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic these days. Schools have built and maintained an important position in the community. Schools are community hubs. It does not matter if the event is a paint night, a drama production, a sporting event, a band performance, a teepee rising, a celebration of learning or a car show. All of these types of events draw people in from the community to gather and share common experiences.
But why do schools organize event such as these? All of these types of events give opportunities for our students to show ‘n’ shine. They get to put into practice technical skills they learn in various curricular areas, along with the opportunity to demonstrate the critical competencies. When I am at such events, I see students taking on so many different roles and excelling at them. For some, these types of roles push us out of our comfort zone. For others, they get positive reinforcement that they are getting good at problem solving or communicating with adults. These become real world opportunities to connect with people while making their learning visible.
To all the staff in RVS who give their own time to put on events such as these, thank you! You are building community, connecting generations, demonstrating that you value learning outside of the four classroom walls, and so much more.
Superintendent of Schools – Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to be part of a couple of days where we have begun the process of building the next Four-Year Plan (4YP). Since 2008, Rocky View Schools has supported the transformation of its schools into innovative learning environments by maintaining a commitment to the implementation of its strategic plans, “2008-2011 Engaging 21st C Learners“, “2011-2014 Building the Power to Enrich”, and “2015-2019 Empower the Potential” – each for a full three or four-year window. The 2018-2019 school year marks the fourth year of RVS’ current plan and identifies the need to engage its stakeholders in the development of a four-year plan for the term 2019-2023.
RVS’ four-year planning process is premised on the desire to inspire, gain insight, and build capacity, with all stakeholder groups through the introduction of a learning narrative. This learning narrative will define how RVS teaches, learns, and assesses student learning, as well as solidifies an evaluative framework in which to monitor and assess the jurisdiction’s progress. The process will engage multiple stakeholder groups and employ a learning design approach, involving a myriad of activities, such as “learning walks”, “exhibitions of learning”, “inquiry”, and “mentorship and coaching”. Stakeholders will work in both small learning pods, as well as in large group consultation settings. Last week I participated in a full day of engaging conversations with colleagues using a variety of design protocols to begin the development of the learning narrative. We are using our own Learning Design Team members to facilitate most of the sessions over the next year.
Like the Board’s previous engagement strategy, the process will engage stakeholders only where they most appropriately can provide feedback. For example, all stakeholders will be involved in defining RVS’ learning narrative, inclusive of a new vision, mission, goals and outcomes, while various branches in the Education Centre will be charged with building learning and communication tools, such as the realignment of RVS’ 21st C Competencies to Alberta Education’s competency structures. You will have seen in the recent release of the professional learning day formats for 2018-2019, we are dedicating time in October for all staff to participate in the process. Once complete, representatives from the learning pods would identify performance measures, while Superintendent Working Committees would be charged to identify strategies for the plan. Following a second round of stakeholder consultation, the plan would be tabled with the Board for approval in March 2019.
I am personally looking forward to learning, sharing and growing throughout this process.
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