Superintendent of Schools – Probably not a huge stretch given my role, but I think every week should be Education Week. This year from April 30 to May 4, Albertans are celebrating education across the province. Education Week in one form or other dates back to the late 1920s in Alberta, while other provinces celebrate education at different times in the school year. It is meant to be an opportunity to celebrate the great work of schools.
The theme of Education Week in Alberta is Learning is a Journey. The theme is meant to “highlight the importance that education plays in shaping the future of our province”. In RVS, we take pride in the education we provide to our students and communities. The quality is a direct result of the amazing team we have supporting the journey. That team involves teachers, caretakers, human resources professionals, bus drivers, principals, secretaries, finance staff, maintenance workers, education assistants, directors, IT techs, trustees, family school liaisons, purchasers, communications staff, learning specialists, success coaches, OT/PT/SLPs, and superintendents. Together we put students first and focus our efforts to ensure learners are successful, learners are engaged, and learners are supported.
Each learning journey looks a little bit different. For some the journey is from point A to B, while others need a different route. One way is not better than another. We increasingly are trying to personalize and customize the journey based on the learners’ interests and needs. We want students to have a voice and choice in the journey. We want to leverage the expertise of the tour guides to ensure students are getting to see the key markers along the route. We build on the strengths and experiences of our staff to make the journey engaging. We also try and make sure that there is plenty of fun along the path too.
One only needs to watch the #rvsed hashtag for a week to get a sense of the many ways we support the learning journey in a week. We serve our students and communities through challenging work and we are proud to be part of the public education system.
Thank you to all of the RVS team members for all that you do. As we celebrate Education Week, this week we are celebrating your efforts.
Superintendent of Schools – Wednesday, April 25 is Administrative Professionals’ Day for 2018. It is a day where we celebrate the amazing work of our admin team members and what they do for students, parents and colleagues. This incredibly hard-working group are on the front line of our schools and departments. They are most often the person who will greet a parent or student when they walk into the office or call into the school. Most are amazing at remembering names and faces. With a smile, they work to address the needs of the person in front of them and then seamlessly, they move on to the phone which is ringing, the courier who is waiting for a signature, and the youngster who desperately needs an ice pack or band-aid. Somewhere along the way, they have mastered the incredible healing powers of the ice pack.
When I rejoined RVS in August 2016, it was comforting as I walked into many school offices and found colleagues that I knew from my stint here in the early 2000s. Still as friendly as ever, they are like the circus master managing way more than three different activities going on all around them. Their role requires them to masterfully manage complex tasks and they typically are exceptional multitaskers. They are constantly required to learn new processes and software applications.
The work often goes without much fanfare, but it is appreciated. The countless ways they support the school/staff makes a real positive difference for the entire school community. On behalf of the entire RVS team, thank you for what you do for the kids, families, school, department and community. We are so lucky to have you as part of our team.
Superintendent of Schools – Spring is budget season for most school jurisdictions. By the time we are into March, most of our planning efforts are focused on the following school year. You might be thinking spending $250-$275 million would be fun and easy, but you would be surprised. There is never enough money to do everything you want to, so it comes down to tough choices. When building a budget, it is important to remember that we are spending taxpayers’ money and our focus needs to be on students. Other guiding documents are the Four Year Plan, Guide to Education, Board budget priorities, collective agreements/terms of employment, ongoing contracts and others.
In RVS we have a distributed budget development model. There are many groups and individuals that are part of the budget development process. The main budget process ends with me (as Superintendent) bringing forward a budget recommendation to our Board of Trustees. It is the Board’s responsibility to pass the final budget. In the fall, the Board will also pass a revised budget once we know how many actual students we have at the end of September.
The majority of the money goes out to schools. In the end, we will spend over $200 million on staff in RVS. How do we allocate money out to schools? A committee of Education Centre staff and school principals work on an allocation formula. Our Schools department reviews enrolment projections and builds a school configuration for every K-8/9 school based on our class size guidelines. That configuration tells us how many teachers we need to allocate and fund for each K-8/9 school. Additionally, at elementary, we allocate support for a number of areas including: learning support, inclusive education supports, Child Development Advisor (CDA) time, admin time, tech support time, supply money, and about another dozen items. Our high schools are given a per student allocation along with a few targeted allocations (e.g. inclusive education supports, instructional resource fee replacement, supervision, ESL). Principals build their budget, in consultation with School Council, based on the funds generated through enrolments and specific allocations. School budgets vary mostly based on the student population of the school with our smallest schools working with about $1.6 million and our largest with about $6.2 million. I anticipate school-based budgets will total over $187 million in 2018/19.
On top of school budgets, there will be approximately $70 million allocated to staff leaves, centralized learning supports, technology, preschool intervention programs, health and safety, HR, central administration, finance, maintenance, caretaking, student transportation, grounds, trustees, communications, and other centralized functions supporting schools and students. These centralized budgets are developed by each department/branch and are brought to the senior executive table for review. We review every line request. We need to tie our centralized expenditures to the Four Year Plan and Board’s budget priorities, while addressing the operational needs of the division along with centralized supports for our schools and staff.
We have amazing people on our finance team that help schools and departments through this process. In the end, we can never afford everything we would like to do and support. We make sure our focus is on students and how we can allocate the money to support their learning. We have about a month before the Board ultimately decides on the budget.
Superintendent of Schools – Multiple times this past weekend when I sat at the keyboard to compose this week’s blog, I tried to write about different topics, but I just could not. My brain, heart and fingers needed to write about the Humboldt Broncos. The tragedy struck close to home for many of us with direct and indirect connections to the incident.
I had many tears this weekend as the news broke and the enormity sunk it. Like many of you, my house is a hockey household. Riding buses with sports teams is part of our life. These bus trips are not unique to hockey, as I spent many hours riding a bus to track events when I was younger. Travel is a big part of teams, clubs, and activities, and that travel can be some of the most memorable parts of the event. That said, every parent is relieved when the bus pulls around the corner and is back at the pick-up point, no matter what time it is in the middle of the night.
Given we have almost 27,500 students and staff, unfortunately we face loss all too often in our extended RVS family. We have many people in our communities directly impacted by this accident. To those people, please understand that you are in our thoughts! We also know that our students and staff are travelling to and from school for field trips, sporting events, and non-curricular travel outside of our communities, province and country. Just like parents, we are relieved when the bus or flight lands with everyone safe and sound. One only needs to remember the Boys in Red from Bathurst, New Brunswick where seven high school basketball players and the coach’s wife died in an accident returning home from games.
We also know that schools, not only in Humboldt, but also in the hometowns of all who were injured or died, will be hurting. The impact will be felt not just this week, but for a significant amount of time and will never be forgotten. To those school communities, we are with you in your sorrow and want to support you.
Others who have experienced loss or trauma in their life will be impacted by this tragedy. We know that events such as these bring up difficult memories and experiences. Please reach out and talk to someone. Albert Health Services has posted the following information for people looking for support – AHS Grieving Together site.
I encourage you to join me on Thursday, April 12 in wearing a sports team jersey of any kind to show your support and be part of the team supporting the victims.
Lastly, I want to share my deepest sympathy and condolences to the players, families, friends, and organization. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you to the many first responders for all that you did and your efforts. You are in my thoughts too.
Superintendent of Schools – This past week I have been in Boston for ASCD‘s annual teaching and learning conference – Empower18. Since their founding in 1943, “ASCD has been a leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner.” I have been to this conference once before in 2014 and I quite enjoyed it. This year’s event drew 7,500 teachers, principals, and division leaders from across the globe. The event has a blend of major national/international presenters beside people like you and me from school divisions across the US and Canada.
In each session I try and tweet out a few tweets about key messages I heard. Rather than write a separate piece about my experience, I thought I would highlight a few of the key tweets that I wrote over the days of the conference.
If you are interested, next year’s event is in Chicago on March 16–18, 2019.