Superintendent of Schools – Last week I spent three days in Edmonton – with all eight RVS trustees on Monday and Tuesday for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) fall annual general meeting, and then with a group of four trustees for the new trustee orientation put on by the ASBA on Wednesday. These ASBA meetings happen twice a year where trustees from across Alberta get together to discuss policy issues, as well as partake in professional learning. As a staff member, my role is to learn with our trustees and be there to support them as they have questions about the policy topics being discussed.
At the business session, there were four policy motions put forward from boards from across Alberta. One policy position was put forward from RVS trustees. The Board took the opportunity to bring up the topic of high school funding when they met with the Minister of Education last spring, but also decided to use the ASBA as a further advocacy approach. The Board wrote up a motion urging government to adjust the funding for high schools participating in Moving Forward With High School Design (MFWHSR). Many school divisions have embraced the approach of MFWHSR and are leveraging the pilot to create flexible learning environments for students. Alberta Education originally stated that high schools would be funded on a three (3) year rolling average (2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 schools years) of the credit enrolment units (CEUs) earned by students. This rolling average funding model would recognize, via additional funding, schools that were able to help students achieve the outcomes of a course. If students generated more CEUs over time, then funding would be provided to recognize and support the provision of the additional learning opportunities. However, Alberta Education has since frozen funding at the 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/2013 historical rates and has not rolled forward the average based on the actual CEU earned by students in the pilot. For RVS, this means we are getting about one million less dollars each year because the grants do not reflect actual CEUs earned by our students since 2013. Providing these additional learning opportunities costs money and schools are having to revisit providing more opportunities for students as a result of the funding in the MFWHSR pilot not keeping pace with the credits students are generating.
Good news is that the vast majority of other Boards agreed that ASBA should urge government to update the funding model to reflect the original intent of a three-year rolling average. The ASBA can only urge / request government to make changes, but it is important to have the support of ASBA for proposed changes.
I just wanted to share an example of how our Board uses multiple advocacy streams as a mean to address issues.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week the Board of Trustees hosted school council representatives and school administrators at their semi-annual Joint Board/School Council meeting. The evening started with Ms. Jill Quirk from Heloise Lorimer School and her STEAM team of student leaders who work in the school to help with coding, robotics and more. We had Ms. Krista Wunsch, also from Heloise Lorimer, with four of her students who have been learning with Elders and Knowledge Keepers on the topic of Treaty 7. Lastly, we had Mr. Vernon Gray from W.H. Croxford in attendance with five students who shared their photography from the Visual Arts & Media Academy. It was great to get the event started with a focus on how we make learning visible and real in our schools.
The emphasis for the rest of the evening was digging deeper into a question we ask annually as part of our parent satisfaction survey. We wanted to hear from parents specifically about if they feel informed about their child’s progress and achievement, what schools are doing that is working to help inform them, and what strategies we could attempt in an effort to improve communication about their child’s progress.
We used on online polling tool where people answered questions on their mobile device and instantly their comments were collected and shared back with the group. The technology worked flawlessly and over about 45 minutes, we were able to collect some really good feedback. The results were interesting because for one person strategy X was a strength and for another person strategy X was listed as something we could do to improve. For one person strategy Z was seen as a positive, while someone else rated that same strategy as not really working for them.
We will take those results and see how we can use that information to improve satisfaction in that area. After collecting the feedback, we shared a brief presentation about how we are attempting to communicate student learning. We had hoped to dig into one other area from our satisfaction survey, but ran out of time. I guess we already have one topic for our spring meeting!
Thanks to all parents and school administrators who were able to attend and share their thoughts with us on that evening.
Superintendent of Schools – My major in my B.Ed is in computer science. When I went to university in the late ’80s, I was the only new teacher (for about three years) graduating from from the College of Education that had a computer science major. At that time, computer science meant programming (or as we now call it, coding). If I did not get a teaching job after graduating, I was going to finish a B.Sc. in computer science and who knows where that might have led me.
Now coding is being embedded into curriculum starting in the earliest of grades. Just before I left BC, the Minister of the day announced that all students from K-12 would be involved in some form of coding throughout their K-12 career.
Five year olds, who cannot yet read, can learn and apply fundamental coding practices through drag and drop tools like Blockly. Apps can be created using fully online tools with no specific programming language knowledge nor specialized software. Groups are helping teach computer science concepts using popular genres like Minecraft, Star Wars and Frozen to appeal to young learners.
As you get older, coding skills are built and students increase their ability to be able to use computers not just to consume media, but to create apps to solve real world issues. The foundational concepts taught earlier are built upon and gradually become more sophisticated.
Very few teachers are trained in this world, but you just need the courage to explore with your students. There are many tools out there that guide you through an age appropriate process to get kids going. Let kids be the experts and allow them to support each other. Who knows, you might be the next teacher who can say, “yeah, I taught Suzie about programming and now she is the person who invented the latest killer app”.
Want to learn more? Try code.org as a first step. Try hosting an Hour of Code event during the week of December 4-10 where your kids can join over 460 million other students who have given it a try. You do not need to be an expert to try this as the guides and tools are built for novice teachers/students. We have had a number of schools in RVS host an Hour of Code event previously and maybe this year you can join them.
Superintendent of Schools – One of my favourite business/management-type authors is Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni has written 11 books, many reaching the national best seller list for his genre. His most ‘famous’ business book is likely The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but other popular titles include: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars; Death by Meeting; and The Advantage.
Lencioni typically has about two-thirdsof the book written as a story/fable with the final one-third connecting the story to research/practice. His books address leadership practices, how to enhance organizational health and build effective teams. I’ve read almost every one of his books due to personal and professional interest.
In the last month, I powered through (on a bus trip to/from Lethbridge for hockey) his latest book – The Ideal Team Player. It was an easy read as Lencioni used his fable approach to walk through a fictional situation whereby a new leader had to hire a new member to their leadership team. At the end of the book Lencioni circles back and tells readers what he believes are the three most essential virtues that an effective teammate must demonstrate. He shares his thoughts on the best way to identify if a person possesses those traits and how you can develop/enhance those traits if they require strengthening.
So, what would you describe as the three quintessential virtues that an effective team member must possess to be part of a high functioning team? What should we look for when trying to bring new people into a team? We all know people who a natural team players, but what do they demonstrate that makes us feel that way?
Lencioni boils it down to three critical virtues: humility, hunger and people smarts. If people demonstrate those traits then he says they will be a team member that others will embrace and collaboratively they will produce results. These ideal team players take every opportunity to praise and recognize others and shy away from the limelight. They are driven and highly self-motivated to take more things on, help out in different ways, and fill gaps in the team. They just “get” people and know how to get the best out of them while maximizing the effectiveness of each individual. Lencioni contents that when you can find a person that is humble and hungry with people smarts then you want them to be on your team.
Superintendent of Schools – On Monday, Oct. 16, voters from across Alberta elected new mayors, councilors and trustees and the shape of local government changed. In RVS, due to ward boundary changes and incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, we were going to have a minimum of five new trustees on our Board of eight. A few of us waited up until the wee hours on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to see the final results. At that moment we had three acclaimed trustees and five trustee elects, and within those eight we had three veteran trustees (we don’t call them “old” trustees) and five first time trustees.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the results became official and our eight trustees were sworn in / affirmed at a public ceremony at our Education Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Upon swearing in, the “old” Board finished their work and a “new” Board was formed. Congratulations to our new trustees and thank you so much to our former trustees.
While the eight officially were trustees on Oct. 24, the work had already started. Emails were flying around 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 as I congratulated them on their elections/acclamation and asked them to book a bunch of dates in their calendar. We had two orientation type events prior to the election date for all candidates. We had our first official orientation session on Thursday, Oct. 19 where we spent time getting to know each other, walked through the orientation plan, dealt with some of the required paperwork and forms, got them setup with technology, and walked through the swearing in ceremony.
Our second full day of orientation was on Tuesday, Oct. 24 where we discussed topics such as: trustee code of conduct, conflict of interest, organization meeting, how board meetings are organized, their role in emergency school closures related to inclement weather, how to do their own timesheets/expenses, and previous motions from the past couple of years. Then they had pictures taken. It was an incredibly busy day and we ran out of time so some other topics will need to be rescheduled.
The third orientation day was Thursday, Oct. 26 where the Board and myself spent the majority of the day with Dr. Leroy Sloan. The focus was on discussing what makes effective governance and clarifying the roles of trustees, the corporate Board and the Superintendent. Leroy connected the legislative framework that boards operate under along with a governance framework. A number of key policies were discussed, all intermixed with a bunch of interesting stories from Leroy. Trustees were also introduced and had a brief “meet and greet” event with Education Centre staff late in the day.
The orientation work continues with three days of Alberta School Boards Association work in late November followed by specific orientation meetings in December and January. We also integrate at least one orientation item after every Board meeting starting on Nov. 16 until April.
Being a trustee is tough work and, as staff, we work hard and spend lots of time early in the term to help trustees get off to a great start.