Superintendent of Schools – Recently a group of teachers, principals, assistant principals and Education Centre leaders met for one of our regular Administrative Procedure Advisory Committee (APAC) meetings. No matter what K-12 school division you look at, they will be guided by policy and procedures and RVS is no different. By documenting various processes about how we operate, it allows for consistency across our division and transparency.
About two years ago, the Board undertook a massive project to review their policy handbook. In the end, the Board kept about 25 of the former policies, while nearly 200 former policies were changed to be administrative procedures (AP). What is the difference between a policy and procedure? Policies are the work of Board and needs Board approval to add, modify or remove any policy. The Board actually has policy about how it reviews and develops its own policies (Policy 10). Administrative procedures are in the “sandbox” of the Superintendent. Authority is delegated by the board to the Superintendent to create, modify and delete procedures. The Board gets to decide what topics or items it is delegating and which they want to maintain. The Board can choose to move a matter from procedure back to policy.
This APAC meeting was similar to others where we sit together and review, word-by-word, a selection of new or modified procedures. Various departments in the Education Centre bring to me various changes or, in some cases, new administrative procedures for consideration. If the change is minor, then I just approve the change and we post the changed AP to our website and make note in the next Replay or Essentials eNewsletter. For larger changes or new APs, I will often bring them to the committee for review. Each of the committee members brings a different lens to the review and that can be very helpful. Ultimately, the responsibility for administrative procedures remain with the Superintendent.
A quick thank you to the various committee members for your contributions in helping shape RVS’ administrative procedures. Follow the links to see all of RVS’ policies and administrative procedures.
Superintendent of Schools – We are so lucky in RVS to have people step up and volunteer their time, energy and expertise in coaching sports teams, sponsoring clubs, leading student performances or directing bands to name a few. Like many of our students, I too have been positively impacted through the contributions of various coaches. A couple of weeks ago an important coach in my life passed away and I want to share a bit about Lyle Sanderson.
Some of you know that I used to be a sprinter back in “the day”. I started track and field when I hurt my shoulder, limiting my ability to play baseball in the spring of my Grade 10 year. A community volunteer coach from my high school, Brian, convinced me to come out after school to train while I was rehabbing my shoulder. It only took me a few days to realize that it was actually fun. I liked to compete and was naturally pretty quick, so track worked for me. My shoulder was feeling better, but I stuck with the training for track. By Grade 11, I had transitioned over to track from baseball as my primary sport. Over my Grade 11 summer I got to travel across the prairies sprinting and I was hooked. I met for the first time Mr. Lyle Sanderson, long time head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field team. Lyle was down to earth and an incredibly humble and kind man. Lyle already had built a very strong program at the U of S and trained a number of Olympians. He was a national team coach at numerous Olympics and World Championships, yet he came over to introduce himself to me, a decent Grade 11 sprinter and that made a lasting impression on me.
In Grade 12 I ended up winning the high school 100m provincial championship. One of the first people over to visit and congratulate me was Lyle. He was not putting on a sales pitch to get me to come to the U of S, but rather he was excited for me, a kid from Moose Jaw who only recently started track and was improving. Lyle was just as supportive for the kid from Piapot, SK (where Lyle actually grew up) who finished last. Lyle was just … supportive.
In the fall of 1985, I moved to Saskatoon to run track. Oh yeah, and get a teaching degree. Interestingly enough, Lyle was never my actual event coach. I was lucky to get connected with Ivan, a former sprinter who was a new sprint coach with the Huskies. Lyle was the head coach and coached a different group of athletes. Even with Ivan as my event coach, Lyle was always there. Always positive, supportive and caring. He asked the right questions at the right time. He had the ability to know or see what you needed at that specific time and offer some advice or positive comment. He just had that ability to connect with people. I was not special; Lyle connected with everyone.
For the next five years I spent much of my waking time related to track to field. I was training, racing, socializing with fellow athletes, helping football players with their off-season conditioning, coaching at schools/camps, being a leader on the sports council and anything else related to the sport. I managed to even go to class and get a degree and Lyle had a part of that too!
When we went on road trips for competitions or training camps often Lyle would be there. Lyle loved the time on buses as a time to bond, connect, play cards, tell stories or nap. We would be on a bus, heading to somewhere and when we got close to the track or hotel, then Lyle would get on the bus PA system and always start with two blows into the microphone to ensure the PA was working, “Fff, fff… okay listen up gang.” He ALWAYS started with that. To this day, I will often call a group of people a “gang”.
When I graduated university, I was blessed to still be connected to Lyle through coaching and friendship. Even after I left Saskatoon, I would come back for a week to coach at a camp. I always would run into Lyle at the track and we would have a great chat. We would laugh and remember something that happened on a training trip to LA or when I fell trying to pass the baton to Rogal. Lyle finally retired from the U of S in about 2005 after being the U of S track and field head coach for 39 years. Lyle’s accomplishments include being a member of the University of Saskatchewan Athletic Wall of Fame, the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Track and Field Hall of Fame. He has also represented Canada at the Olympic Games, FISU Games, Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games and the world track and field championships. He wore the red and white of Canada 54 times. He led the Huskies to 33 Canada West titles and 10 national championships, including the Huskies’ first-ever national title in 1968.
Thanks Lyle for all that you did for me. My thoughts are with your family. Many of Lyle’s athletes will return to Saskatoon this week to be a part of the celebration of his life and contributions.
Superintendent of Schools – Early in the term for the Board of Trustees, they take a massive road trip to visit each school / site in RVS. I join the group for the tours and get the opportunity to visit our schools too. It takes about nine full days to visit all the sites, but I believe it is a very important opportunity. Trustees are elected for a specific ward, but they are required to make decisions in the best interest of the entire division. Visiting every site helps put discussions about facilities, budget, and communities into perspective.
While lengthy in total time, visiting over 50 sites over nine days does mean each visit is a bit of a whirlwind. We are in a school for about 45 minutes and in that time, we walk throughout the facility and hear about the school. Principals are asked to organize a facilitated brief tour of each building, featuring initiatives that exemplify the school community. Often, we have students lead us on the tour, while other schools have the principal take us. No matter who the guide is, the tours are always enlightening even for someone who has been in the facility a few times. To me, one of my roles is the taskmaster to keep us on time. It is challenging as there are so many good things going on in our schools; we could stay for hours but it just is not possible.
After each site tour, we jump in a bus and head out to the next site. Often in that drive between sites, we discuss something we saw or heard about. Other times the tour will generate a bunch of questions for us to discuss. The ride time is an important part of the tours too.
I must say, as someone who has taken their fair share of bus trips for sports teams when I was younger, things have changed when on the bus. I remember an important coach in my life, Lyle Sanderson from the University of Saskatchewan, lamented when the Walkman and later the Discman became popular. (Yes, I know I’m dating myself again.) Lyle would say that team trips changed from card playing, chit chatting, highly interactive events to quieter, more individualistic trips when people put on their headphones and listened to the tunes. Having recently been on a few bus trips with 12 and 13-year-old hockey players, that is partially true, but there was still plenty of noise generated by those peewee hockey players. On these early tour days, I can tell you that between some schools it would be quiet as each of us pulled out our phone and got caught up on emails.
Thanks to the schools we have visited so far. The tours have been absolutely great!!! To those we have not visited yet, we will see you in the upcoming weeks.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week I spent about 48 hours in California’s Silicon Valley with 150-200 leaders from school divisions across Canada. The event was a leadership forum organized by IBM Canada’s K-12 division. They hold this event every two years and the focus is on emerging technologies that are believed to impact education. This was the first time I attended this event and the theme was around artificial or augmented intelligence (AI). I must say while the sessions were very interesting, I’m not sure of the imminent impact on schools, but I saw the impact on all our lives.
Being IBM, there was plenty of talk about Watson. For most of us, Watson was the computer that won Jeopardy back in 2011, but that technology has improved drastically since then. As computing power, connectivity and bandwidth have improved, so has the relevance of AI. New algorithms have been created to support experiential learning of systems based on experience. The field has grown through concepts like machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement learning and neural networks. Learning about how companies are using these technologies to make a positive difference in the world was very inspiring. We met 14 year old Canadian Tanmay Bakshi who fell in love with computers at five, released his first iPhone app at nine, and now at just 14 years old is working with IBM on artificial intelligence. He is a teen artificial intelligence superstar who challenges us to teach coding to all students. He shared examples of tools he built to improve the world (e.g. depression identification). He is a very impressive young man.
Part of the discussions also were about the use of technology to positively impact the world. Tanmay’s examples were just a few of how people are using AI to make a difference in the world. We also heard about a group that is supporting parent-child maker evenings across the globe as a means to broaden exposure about design thinking and the maker movement. This same group leads Technovation Challenge which invites teams of girls from all over the world to learn and apply the skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology. We met four high school students who are Technovation ambassadors from the Silicon Valley area who all participated in the global competition. Through their participation they learned to code, market, and pitch a solution for a real world challenge their community is facing. One Grade 12 student shared that she and her friends needed to pick a college, but want to know campus crime stats. These stats are not readily available, so they built an app to help expose those numbers so fellow students could make informed decisions.
We also heard from a panel of Canadians working in the sector in Silicon Valley. They are proud Canadians, but felt that for them to succeed they needed to be embedded in a culture of innovation, risk taking, and competition. They felt that Silicon Valley was the home of that culture and that in Canada people were more focused on why something could not work, rather than how to make it work. They all had early exposures to technology, but I was pleasantly surprised when each talked about the importance of competencies such as grit, creativity and communication. We also heard about how AI is being used to address human resources (or talent management) challenges in an effort to best place and support people in roles they can be successful in.
Lastly, we heard about Amazon’s innovation culture via a VP of Web Services. She shared various strategies used by the company in an effort to provide excellent customer experiences. She shared insights into their culture which helped me understand how Amazon can be so nimble and innovative. Their “two pizza” teams – any team working on a product or innovation should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas – and use of design thinking protocols all are examples of how they continue to build a culture where innovation and informed risk taking is delivering countless innovations, including Amazon’s Go store, which is a check-out free, no cashier store in Seattle.
It was a whirlwind trip, but good professional learning for me.
Superintendent of Schools – Shortly I will be joining the trustees as they tour every RVS site over a period of nine days. These visits provide both new and veteran trustees with the opportunity to physically see each school and learn a bit about it. We are riding on a bus to visit about six sites each day, so I’m sure we will have plenty of conversation between each visit.
A comment I’m sure to hear is that each school is unique. That is so true! Every school has a culture that reflects its community, physical space, staff and students. In RVS we do not have a cookie cutter approach to our schools. We support diversity in approaches while collectively working towards the goals of our Four-Year Plan. We try to effectively blend both choice and standards – and it can be a delicate balance. Most importantly, schools are responsive to the needs and aspirations of their students.
This past week we had grand opening ceremonies for two schools that opened this fall in RVS. Fireside School in Cochrane held their event in the morning and Windsong Heights School in Airdrie was held later that same day. Both schools have almost the same physical plant, but they are unique. These differences are more than just the colours on the walls; you can see the passion of staff and reflections of the community in the differences between the two schools. The schools are building their cultures around similar narratives, but not identical. And the ceremonies were both great. Like their cultures, each school’s event was similar, but not identical. Both celebrations were student-led and included speeches from dignitaries, videos and student performances, but the type of student performances varied due to the different people in each school.
Our schools, like the students and staff within, reflect the diversity of our communities. We come together to support each other while celebrating both our uniqueness and our common experience. In my humble opinion and to quote Martha Stewart, it’s a good thing.