Learning and Sharing with our Neighbours

Learning and Sharing with our Neighbours

Superintendent of Schools – This past week I attended the last of our regional College of School Superintendents (CASS) meetings for the year. CASS’ stated mission is to be “… the voice of system educational leaders, providing leadership, expertise, and advocacy to improve, promote, and champion student success”. It is made up of our senior educators who serve divisional leadership roles. It includes more than just Superintendents, but also Deputy/Associate/Assistant Superintendents and many Directors on the education side of our shop. Our zone includes: mega divisions like Calgary Public, and Calgary Catholic; divisions with similar geography like Foothills; adjourning neighbours like Golden Hills and Canadian Rockies to name a few. As a region, we meet four times a year to discuss topics of common interest.

The ability to sit and talk with others who fulfill a similar role is very important. It does not matter if those conversations involve fellow teachers, fellow administrative professionals, fellow coaches, fellow nurses, fellow parents or any other role specific groups. The ability to share issues and challenges allows for learning to occur for all parties. Hearing someone else’s perspective on an issue helps expand my knowledge – challenges me to revisit my thinking and often spurs new ideas. Often you walk away from such conversations with more options to consider and a few times you are just glad that you are not dealing with their specific challenge.

Working collaboratively makes all of us better. I do not feel we are in competition with our fellow school divisions. We all are here to serve our communities in providing the very best for our youth. We have lots of learn from each other. We do not need to reinvent the wheel time-and-time again. We know our local context and know when we can lift a great idea and implement it exactly as another division, when it could work but with some changes, and when it just will not work in our local environment. When we work together we amplify our individual strengths.

Thanks to my fellow CASS colleagues for sharing and helping me grow.

Greg

Bringing Learning to Life

Bringing Learning to Life

Superintendent of Schools – Recently I’ve been at a number of events where students have shared their learning with members of their community. The excitement is palatable when students are given the opportunity to share their learning. The first few times they present to people walking up to their station the conversation is typically quite scripted, but they start to relax and information starts to flow.

It is very encouraging to chat with students as they talk about what motivated them to tackle their specific topic. Students are provided ‘voice and choice’ to take their learning to places determined by their interests, experiences and passions. At Banded Peak School, grade 7 & 8’s shared very personal reasons about why they took on various projects as part of their Change Makers initiatives. In selecting the topics, you could see how they wanted to be part of a positive change in their world. Some of the changes were specific to their family, others were related to their community and some had changes that were global.

Grade 5 students at Prairie Waters Elementary School spent nine weeks on topics of their own choice where they were asked to bring countless competencies into action. At the exhibition, I even got to take part in a role-playing exercise where we learned about the youth justice system. I was able to channel my inner Law & Order prosecutor as part of the case of the stolen candy. Another young lady shared with me ideas I could do to make a positive contribution in my community. Another student shared information about what she learned about the national fentanyl crisis. There was great turnout from the community and I did notice a few parents beaming when their youngster was explaining information to other adults.

When students are provided an opportunity to dig deep into topics of their own interest, they get to bring key competencies to life. Engagement was clearly high and students received genuine, authentic feedback from the people asking questions at their displays. These nights are just a few examples of how we are making learning real, visible and for everyone in RVS.

Thanks to our many great RVS staff who create these opportunities for students to shine!

Greg

The Joys of Yardwork

The Joys of Yardwork

Superintendent of Schools – Like many of our RVS team, I spent some time away from work last week during RVS’ spring break. After spending a few days back in Saskatchewan celebrating a family milestone, we loaded up the van and returned home. I spent the good part of the next four days in the backyard landscaping. I have no green thumb, but shoveling, pushing the wheelbarrow, and installing edging is right up my alley. The immediate feedback of moving four cubic yards of garden mix from the front driveway to various beds in the backyard works for me. Like many challenges, at the beginning I thought we’d never get that all moved. Wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full and the pile was not changing. Suddenly I noticed the pile looked a bit smaller. A few loads later, it was smaller yet. A couple of loads later we were scraping the driveway to fill the last load. Wow, mission accomplished.

The next day it was three cubic yards of wood chips. The race was on. How fast can we move those light wood chips? 40 minutes – start to finish and that project was complete. We had time to tackle other pieces of the yard. The next day included three cubic yards of rock on the driveway. So much for another 40-minute job. The weight of the rock combined with my 15-year-old being at an umpiring clinic meant we labored away for 4 hours. Nevertheless, at the end of that day, all the major landscaping groundwork was complete. Now we are ready for the fun bits of planting trees, shrubs, and flowers.

By now you must be wondering, what is Greg writing about all this for? I guess my work is normally focused on the long game: next year’s budget; long-term student achievement growth; multi-year plans; and, creating the conditions for our staff to be successful. Looking back, this project was still about creating the conditions for future plantings to grow (which is not far off from my usual job). It was nice to tackle some tasks that had a defined start and end. I knew the tasks were complete when the piles were moved. I knew I was successful when the yard looked like what we drew up on our garden plan.

Sometimes it is just nice to have a sense of accomplishment with tangible results you can see from your deck!

Greg

Trustees and School Councils Working Together to Serve Students

Trustees and School Councils Working Together to Serve Students

Superintendent of Schools – Last week the Board hosted its second of two annual meetings with School Council executive members. Rocky View’s Board of Trustees values the contributions of its School Councils. School Councils can enhance student learning by engaging parents, staff, and community members to advise the Principal and the Board on matters concerning school improvement planning. The Division views each School Council as a means for parents and community members to work together with the school to support and enhance student learning. These joint meetings are opportunities to network, support the important work of our School Councils, and gather input. Trustees try and attend as many school council meetings in their wards throughout the year as possible.

In our administrative procedure about School Councils (AP110), it highlights a number of important functions and roles. Among many duties, the School Council will have an opportunity to provide advice on the development of the school’s: mission, vision and philosophy; procedures; annual education plan; annual results report, and budget.

In the fall, the joint meeting focused on hearing from Alberta Education staff about the curriculum refresh currently underway. The spring meeting included sharing with School Councils the recently completed three-year capital plan and a showing of the movie Screenagers, an award-winning documentary on mental health, which focuses on the challenges families face given social media, video games, and the internet. Screenagers offers solutions to empower kids to navigate the digital world and maintain a balance between home, school and academics.

We appreciate everyone who joined us for the evening. We know people are busy and have very full schedules. There was plenty of table talk after the movie that was a good sign that people were engaged and found the topic and content of the movie interesting. I know as a parent of a 15 and 11-year-old, some of the parenting strategies we have implemented were reinforced and I learned a few things by watching the movie.

Greg

Trustees – Serving Their Communities

Trustees – Serving Their Communities

Superintendent of Schools – Recently I attended a RVS Advocacy board committee meeting where one of the topics on the agenda was a discussion about how this Board can encourage, help, and support people considering running for trustee in the upcoming elections this fall. It is important to remember that I am not a Board member nor a trustee. A major part of my job is to actually support the Board and one of the ways is through supporting effective governance. I am a strong believer in public education and the important role that trustees have in providing the voice of the community.

The Alberta School Boards Association puts out a variety of materials to support potential trustees prior to each election. Locally, RVS has put out information packages for potential trustees, held an evening session to support candidates, published information about the election. Often people only have a vague idea of what a trustee does so I think it is important for people to gather plenty of information prior to making a decision to run for trustee. I can tell you it is a lot more work than the public two hour meeting every two weeks! Being a trustee is a rewarding opportunity to serve your community and does require dedication. In any given week/month trustees may also: attend committee meetings; attend school council meetings; meet with local government officials and MLAs; work and learn with other trustees in the zone/province; engage in professional learning related to the role; help parents navigate the system; research information; and countless other tasks.

According to the ASBA, “school board trustees are local politicians elected by and accountable to the community they serve. The school board has many responsibilities, including:

  • setting school division goals that ensure students have the knowledge and skills that enable them to be better prepared for life;
  • planning school division priorities based on provincial curriculum requirements, community input, available resources and best practices in education;
  • developing and implementing an annual budget for the school division based on curriculum requirements and strategic priorities;
  • developing policies to guide school division administration and employees toward division goals;
  • ensuring residents of the school division are regularly informed about the work and achievements of the school division;
  • advocating on behalf of the school community to decision-makers and stakeholders on important issues that affect education, and to ensure education is a top public priority;
  • ensuring regular opportunities for public input and access;
  • evaluating the school division’s chief executive officer – the superintendent of schools.”

According to our own RVS policy, here is what the role of a trustee is -> policy 3. Here is a link to information about what the Board does -> policy 2. These documents help provide the big picture view of what is expected of trustees.

If you know someone who is interested in running for in the fall election for a trustee, encourage them to attend a public meeting this spring, check out the ASBA website about the work of trustees and election information, continue to monitor the RVS website for more information, and/or talk to an existing trustee to gather more information. The nomination process will come up quickly in the fall (Sept 18th) so now is the time to think about the opportunity to serve your community by becoming a trustee.

Greg

p.s. As many of you reading this are RVS staff, there is rule which restricts your ability to run for trustee if, on nomination day, you are an employee of any school district, school division, charter school or private school as of nomination day – unless you take an unpaid leave of absence to run before the last working day prior to nomination day.