Superintendent of Schools – Last week I continued my formal tours with visits to our schools in Beiseker, Crossfield and our three colony schools. It was my first time at our colony schools (Fairview Colony School, Tschetter Colony School, and West Haven Colony School). I was unsure of what to truly expect, but knew they were essentially one room school houses. These visits ended up being one of the highlights of my tours so far.
My thoughts about what the colony schools might look like were shaped by my mom’s stories about her time attending a one-room schoolhouse in rural Saskatchewan
and my memories of the movie adaptation of W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind. Each school is on the site of a colony and each is somewhat unique with many similarities. There is one teacher, an assistant, and 10-18 students in one large room spanning Kindergarten to grade 10 at each school. There are breakout spaces for when the students are grouped into age groups to work on age-specific tasks. Once the garden is harvested in the fall, students 6 and over will learn German before their regular school day.
The kids were very friendly and we chatted about Thanksgiving, fall harvest celebrations, brothers and sisters. We laughed and discussed their favourite subjects as well.
The staff were incredibly warm and welcoming. They truly know their students and are called upon to teach all the grades and subjects. A pretty amazing task given the times. Thanks for the great visit and tour. I am looking forward to another visit.
Superintendent of Schools – This past week I spent two days in Edmonton at the Alberta School Boards Association’s Fall Issues Forum. We had four of our trustees attending the forum where discussions were focused on big picture issues impacting schools and school boards. Topics included: Alberta’s political environment; communicating your messages in the modern era; legal changes impacting schools; child and youth advocate act review; joint commitment to action on First Nations, Metis and Inuit student success; curriculum development; and a number of other topics. Our Deputy Minister, Dr. Curtis Clarke, joined the assembly to share some highlights from the Ministry and answer questions from trustees. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the Alberta political environment as it relates to public education.
I spent two other days last week touring 11 of our schools on the east side of the division. These were the beginning of my formal school tours along with the ward’s trustee. The visits are quick, but highlight that our schools are unique and are doing great things for our kids and communities. Whether it was a large high school or a smaller K-9 school, what was clearly evident is that staff care for kids; that people are dedicated to supporting student learning; that our student and staff come from diverse backgrounds; and that each school has programs and offerings to address their local needs. Some tours were led by students, while others were led by school administration. We visited many classrooms and chatted with both staff and students. We were treated extremely well and I want to thank all those involved. Over the upcoming weeks I’ll have the pleasure of visiting every school in RVS along with their ward trustee. Watch my Twitter feed for various highlights from the tours.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at our Administrative Leadership Program (ALP) kick-off event for the year. This is our ALP-3 group, which consists of 18 new RVS Assistant Principals. Shortly I’ll be meeting and chatting with our ALP-1 and ALP-2 cohorts. Our ALP is broken into three groups – group one and two consist of RVS teachers who aspire to be in formal leadership positions. Group three is for beginning administrators. It is great to be in a division, which is actively developing their leadership team with a program such as ALP.
My part for the morning was to bring greetings and share a bit about my thoughts on leadership. These are new AP’s who generally are finishing their first month in the formal role of Assistant Principal. The timing is good because the reality of what being a school based administrator was settling in. A month ago the conversation may have been a bit more theoretical, but now they are living the role and dealing with the practical realities of being a new administrator. The first month has challenged them to be educational leaders, while helping to manage a school and the endless administrative requirements of public education.
I was able to share with them a few thoughts, tips, and experiences I’ve had along my own journey that have impacted my leadership style. Some of the themes I shared with the group:
• It’s critical important to show people you care.
• What you do, not what you say, tells your story.
• It is okay to show vulnerability and ask for help.
• Always take a team approach.
• Build trust among your colleagues.
• Seek first to understand then to be understood.
• Reflection is important.
• Begin with the end in mind.
• It can be lonely.
• It’s important to ask yourself, if no one is following, are you really leading?
• Stay plugged in.
• Find your voice.
Manny Ferreirinha, Sharon Rhodes, Ira Stroh, Murray Besenski, Pam Davidson, Jim Forrest and Penny Beaudry also shared their thoughts on leadership, building school cultures, and instilling instructional leadership. It was an enjoyable morning together and I look forward to meeting with the ALP 1 & 2 cohorts in the upcoming weeks.
P.S. Full disclosure – I’ve never been a school-based administrator but know their work quite well though supporting them for 15+ years in various divisional roles.
Superintendent of Schools – RVS has a wide variety of platforms and an amazing communication department which helps communicate about the work of the division. We leverage websites, blogs, YouTube, Twitter posts, email, electronic newsletters (Replay, On Track, etc.) to communicate both internally and with our broader communities. Our corporate communications are always professional, informative and very well done.
As Superintendent, I help tell the story of the division through my own perspective. Via this blog and my Twitter account I have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts and experiences as I engage in my work throughout the division. The communication need not be profound or necessarily overly exciting but it helps to let staff, parents, community members know about their division. Clearly, I am not a professional writer nor proof reader. I do enjoy the opportunity to talk about the great things going on. I’ve maintained a blog for about five years (ever since my first year as Supt in BC) and generally it has been well received. Some weeks are tough as I never found the time to write, but generally I’ll talk about something that I experienced that week or about a topic that has been top of mind.
New for me has been taking a more active role on Twitter. I have found Twitter to be great professional learning through the diverse group I follow. I jumped on Twitter quite early and I’ve kept my list of those I follow to a small, manageable list (just under 100 as of today) because it can be quite overwhelming if some of the people you follow are prolific tweeters. I very rarely search for one of the hashtags displayed onscreen when viewing one of my favourite reality TV shows (guilty pleasure). This fall I’m tweeting almost daily about some event, meeting, visit, etc. Along with a quick picture it documents just a glimpse of what is going on in RVS. If you want, follow me @gregluterbach to see what I’m up to.
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.