Superintendent of Schools – This past week I was part of our first Board of Trustees meeting for the 2016/17 school year. Although it was my first board meeting with RVS, it was not unlike, and actually quite similar, to board meetings in my past life as a Supt in BC. Many people, even in our system, have never attended a public board meeting. Normally the meetings are sparsely attended by the public unless there is an issue that has engaged the public. It was great to have four reporters from our local media outlets present last week as they help get our messages out and ensure the public is aware of what is going on with their schools.
School trustees play an important role in our public education system; they are the elected officials chosen by their community to govern over public education. Over the last two years, our trustees have worked hard to clarify their role and what is asked of the Superintendent. Often people use the term Board and trustee interchangeably, but they actually are different. The Board is a legal corporate entity providing overall direction and leadership to the Division. The Board takes action as a collective and is accountable to the Minister of Education. For a decision to be implemented, it must garner majority support of the trustees present at a meeting. Individual trustees, unless delegated by the corporate Board, only has the authority and status of any other citizen.
Our Board’s role is multi-fold. It:
- has overall accountability for student learning;
- provides community assurance that it represents the interests of the entire Division;
- acts in accordance to provincial government requirements;
- establishes the four year plan;
- is fiscally accountable through overseeing the budget and various capital plans, and collective agreements/terms of employment;
- hires and delegates various responsibilities to a Superintendent;
- establishes policy;
- advocates for public education and the Division;
- and engages in Board development to ensure effectiveness.
As Superintendent I am not a member of the Board of Trustees, but am there to provide support to the group in its decision-making. Countless administrative and operational issues are delegated to me, which are then delegated to various staff members on our leadership team.
Trustees must prepare and engage in order to participate in Board business. Some may think that the job of a trustee is just to show up for a meeting every two weeks, but I can assure you that is not the case. They are required to read background materials, gather information, and consult with their constituents. Through a variety of strategies (including Board meetings), they engage parents, staff, students and the community-at-large. Trustees advocate for local issues and concerns, but must have an overall Division perspective as well. They refer administrative issues to me. Trustees often are called upon to listen to concerns and then direct the person to the appropriate person to help resolve the issue. They are required to act in the best interest of the Division. Even if a trustee personally vote on an issue in the minority, if the majority support it then he/she is required to support the motion as if it was unanimous. Being a trustee also involves committee work, regional work, professional learning, engaging with school councils, staying abreast with local / regional / provincial / national and international trends in education. Trustees even have their own code of conduct.
Why does this matter? Trustees through the Board of Trustees are tasked with overall leadership and ensuring that public education reflects the values, interests, and desires of our communities.
Superintendent of Schools – This past week I was able to attend a number of professional learning opportunities for our staff. It was a great chance for me to meet people, while listening in on the wide variety of professional conversations. We model and value lifelong learning and strive to work collaboratively to extend our practices to meet the needs of all our learners. We also must remember that all adults in our system need to be learners as well.
Over the four days that staff were back without students, there were countless professional learning activities spread throughout the division. I will share just a bit about some of the events I attended. Each of our schools sent a representative to work with Dr. Karen Loerke from the University of Alberta / Alberta Education and our own Learning Specialist Deb Rougeau-Bell on reading comprehension benchmarks. It is part of the literacy framework we are committed to in our 4-year plan. Another day I joined Muriel Clayton’s staff who were in a workshop focused on Lucy Calkin’s literacy work and a school-wide emphasis on common reading and writing approaches/strategies. I saw staff across all grade and subject areas discussing their shared responsibility to be literacy teachers, rather than the responsibility fall on the shoulders of Language Arts teachers. I swung by Bert Church High School for an impromptu visit, but forgot that they were all at Telus Spark working with our 21st C team on inquiry, design thinking, and project based learning. I also joined 25 brand new teachers who just completed their teaching degrees and now are working with a coach to help them settle into their first year of teaching. This group is lucky to have a coach focused on supporting them during their first year – something I wish I had when I started. These are literally just a few of the activities that were going on this week in RVS.
Some people question the value of professional learning for our staff, but I am a wholehearted believer in the value of our staff learning, growing, and innovating together! We need to be engaged in professional conversations and actions to ensure our learners are engaged, supported, and successful.
Superintendent of Schools – Welcome to my first post on Rocky View’s blog site. I hope to write once every week about something that has come up in my week. I may miss a week or two, but what I’ve found is that taking a few minutes to reflect on the week and write something about it is very helpful. I cannot promise it will be profound, but hopefully you will get to know what I’m up to and what makes me tick.
I started officially on Monday, August 22, in my new role as Superintendent of Schools ofRocky View Schools. It is a bit of a deja-vu as I actually worked in Rocky View from 2000-2003 as the Supervisor of Technology Services (see my attached old name tag which I found while packing to move here – pardon my breaking our branding strategy using the old colours, name, and logo – this cost me $1 for breaking the rules). Through the first week I had the pleasure of meeting our amazing RVS team. Some familiar faces from my last stint but many, many new ones.
For the past 11 years I’ve worked for a rural school division in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. It was quite a bit smaller (3,700 students in 10 schools), but equally committed to supporting the journey of all learners. When I left RVS in 2003 we had about 13,500 students and now we will be serving approximately 22,500 students. The growth became obvious to me when we had our first formal admin leadership team meeting last Thursday. We had around 125 people in the room – mostly school-based administrators along with some Ed Centre teammates.
At our first leadership team meeting I shared a bit about what people can expect from me so I thought I’d share those with you:
- It is important to me that we operate as a team and that we support each other; shared leadership is critical.
- I’m not a micro-manager, rather I’m here to support.
- Don’t expect any radical change in direction coming, my goal is to continue to focus on student success.
- We’re in Year 2 of a 4-Year Plan … it’s our collective responsibility to bring the three goals to life and to report on our progress.
- I fully recognize that we also have many other initiatives ongoing and just because we are sharing with the public these three strategic goals it does not mean nothing else is happening.
- In this order, I listen, think, ask questions.
- You’ll come to understand that I am consistent, thoughtful.
- I have and hold myself to high standards.
- I like to laugh.
- I believe in equity at all schools, yet not a one size fits all model – honour the uniqueness of each community/school culture.
- Together is better. I really believe we need to invest in our staff – together we are the people that help make the magic happen.
- I promise to be visible in schools.
So there we go, week 1’s blog hopefully lets you know a bit about myself and what you can expect from me.