The Power of Learning Together

The Power of Learning Together

Superintendent of Schools – Last week we had our third Leadership Team Meeting (LTM) of the school year. These LTM meetings involve Education Centre leadership staff sharing and learning along with school principals and assistant principals. We keep them to a morning only, so time is tight. Yet for the past year, we have included some form of professional learning in each of these meetings.

We spent about an hour with colleagues from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre (SKCAC) and Alberta Children’s Services. We watched and discussed the recently developed video about a school’s role in keeping our kids safe. The 28-minute video highlights what child abuse is, how to recognize the signs of child abuse and how to respond / report suspected abuse. It is a tough topic but the video does a nice job in walking people through the basics. We spent an additional 30 minutes asking questions to the experts from SKCAC and Children’s Services. We learned together by watching the video together and through the subsequent discussion that followed. All of our schools will be showing this video in the upcoming months to help our staff.

The second part of the meeting was some self-directed professional learning led by a variety of our divisional learning specialists. These sessions included topics such as: documenting literacy assessments; numeracy; physical literacy; assistive technology; digital literacies; project planning; e-portfolio tool for younger learners; supporting our indigenous learners; and others. People self-selected based on their personal interest and school goals and for one hour they dug into the topic in their groups of 5 to 25 participants. The value of people learning and sharing together is powerful. At the table I was at in the numeracy session, schools shared strategies that were working for their struggling math learners. People were nodding and writing down ideas that they could consider for their school. I was reminded that often schools are not aware of what another school are trying. The importance of getting people in small groups and let them share and talk was affirmed.

The last part of LTM was some information sharing. As much as we try and minimize these “stand and deliver” pieces, they still have value. People appreciate each department highlighting an item or two from their multi-page update, which was previously included in the agenda package. We try and keep it to a minimum, but walking people through a complex item and allowing for nuance to be shared remains to be valuable. A quick question at the right time is valuable to almost everyone in the room.

So, there you have a recap of last week’s leadership team meeting and a bit about why I think it is important to get people together to share and learn together.

Greg

Looking Back at 2017

Looking Back at 2017

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.

Greg

Holiday Message of Appreciation to RVS Staff

Holiday Message of Appreciation to RVS Staff

Superintendent of Schools – The following holiday message of appreciation was shared with the staff of RVS this past weekend:

As the calendar year comes to a close and we reach the Christmas break, I want to take a minute to share my appreciation. I am consistently impressed by the efforts of our RVS team. I see, read about, and hear about many of the amazing things you do and the differences you make in the school and community. I know that for every one story I hear, there are countless other positive stories that I never hear about. You make these differences through your actions, your words, your dedication. Many of these differences are made in volunteer efforts that you give of your own time to help our students and our communities.

We all have different roles yet together we make a greater difference. It is the collective efforts of many that yield the largest impacts. I also need to recognize that sometimes it is the quiet one-on-one conversation you have with a student, a parent or a colleague that makes a profound difference in their life. One is not more important than another but collectively our RVS family makes a difference in our communities. For this, I am truly grateful to be part of the team.

Given the size of our team, over 2,400 team members, I am unable to acknowledge each of your efforts individually. I try and highlight the good work through various channels, but certainly there is way more going on than I will ever be able to share. Please understand that I appreciate all that you do.

Having recently completed the first term report cards, fall sports seasons, and Christmas concert season, the break comes at an important time. It is time to unplug for a bit, spend important time with our families, find some time to do what you like to do and recharge the batteries.

Be safe, have fun, take care and enjoy the holiday season!

Greg

#WeAreRVS #TogetherWeAreBetter #ProudSupt #RVSed

Add Another One to the List

Add Another One to the List

Superintendent of Schools – There are so many jobs I could not do. I am consistently impressed with the skills of others and after watching them for a bit, I start to wonder if I could pull off what they are doing. Upon reflection, I normally come to the conclusion that I probably could not. I don’t think I am really different from most because each of us has a unique set of skills and experiences that allow us to be successful at different things.

The latest job I realized I could not do is music/band teacher. I am, and was, a pretty good teacher, but I do not think I could be a music teacher. I honestly do not think I could do it. I was at two winter concerts this past week and while I was impressed by the student performances, it was the two teachers who gained the majority of my attention. They were so generous and positive with their young performers. They beamed with excitement. They were so encouraging with their students, who had only begun playing that instrument two months before. Every so often, I could see the teachers in that “flow” state described by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The work appeared effortless; they seemed lost in the moment. Yet through the movement of the baton, the encouraging prompting, or the rise of an eyebrow, they supported the young musicians. I saw pride in the teacher as a youngster hit the note that they had been struggling with. When the teacher put their arm around the struggling soloist, I saw care, support and encouragement for the young risk taker. It was a lot more than just a winter concert!

So, add music teacher to the list of yet another job I could not do. For all of you who are music teachers (including my niece who is going to school to be one), kudos to you. Thanks for all that you do!

Greg

Digging into Our Results

Digging into Our Results

Superintendent of Schools – This week we will present our proposed Annual Education Results Report (AERR) to the Board. I blogged about this earlier this fall, but now we’ve laid out the various survey results, achievement measures, transition data, drop-out rates, and information from our audited financial statement and capital plans, into an incredibly ‘readable’ format to share our story about the 2016/17 school year.

It is important to remember that the jurisdictional results are the compilation of all the individual school results. Over the fall, schools have been looking at their specific school results as a staff and with parent council. Principals build a School Annual Results Report as a summary document, which highlights their accomplishments related to our three divisional goals (Learners are Successful; Learners are Engaged; and Learners are Supported), priority areas for future school education plans, and their specific school results on both the provincial measures and RVS’ satisfaction survey.

In RVS we have many reasons to be proud. Specific accomplishments we are highlighting this year in our AERR include:

  • Increased satisfaction about the efforts we are making to build foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Maintenance of an incredibly low drop-out rate and very strong high school completion rates.
  • Provision of safe and caring schools where people believe they are receiving a high quality of education.
  • Our stakeholders noting that we are focused on continuous improvement.
  • Our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students performing significantly higher than their provincial First Nations, Métis and Inuit peers on many academic measures.
  • Putting supports in place to increase students’ regular attendance.
  • Utilization of inquiry and project-based learning along with balanced assessment practices.
  • Learners taking ownership for their learning.

While we have much to be proud of, we must address those items where our results are not where we want them to be. All of these challenges will take time and effort to address and we do not believe that we can resolve them in one year. Specific areas for improvement identified in our AERR include:

  • Math performance from K through 12.
  • Providing students voice and choice in their learning, which will improve student engagement.
  • Eliminating the performance gap between RVS students and our RVS students who self-identify as First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
  • Building connections, confidence and resiliency for our students.
  • Enhancing parental involvement in their child’s education.
  • Supporting students with special needs achieve their learning goals.
  • Improving a student-centred focus across our jurisdiction.

One other item in our AERR shares how we spent our money for the 2016/17 school year. Based on a cost breakdown per student, RVS spent: $8,828.44 on instruction, $1,559.87 on Plant Operations and Maintenance, $726.54 on Transportation, and $327.32 on Governance and System Administration.

We are committed to continuous improvement and supporting students to be successful. Thank you to our staff for all of your work.

Greg

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