On Friday, December 6th, I was honored by the Holy Spirit community at my retirement function. Below is the retirement speech that I gave that night. Enjoy!
I want to begin by thanking all of you here today on behalf of my entire family. It is most humbling to be recognized by so many. And a special thanks to all those who were part of organizing this event although during the secret planning I wasn’t sure whether this was going to be a toast or a roast.
There really are so many people to thank and I want to begin with the Board of Trustees, both past and present. When my employment came to a rather screeching halt in Medicine Hat, I was able to return home to Holy Spirit. That board could have seen me as damaged goods and not hired me, but instead they took a chance. I’ll be forever grateful for not only being able to come back to Holy Spirit but also to remain in Catholic Education. I’m not sure where we would have ended up if this opportunity had not come to fruition.
I’ve told my colleagues throughout the province and the nation, how fortunate I’ve been to work with our trustees past and present. It seems so simple but when you have a good understanding of roles, things go much smoother. The Board of Trustees have always held to a high standard, which they should, but have also allowed me to do my job without interfering in it. I can tell you how many superintendents out there would literally do anything for a board that understood the difference between governance and administration. They trusted me to lead and that is so very important. This board has allowed me to take on new challenges, to develop my own leadership skills, to lead innovation and most importantly to lead change. I cannot say how satisfying that is to be given the opportunity to challenge oneself and move forward a system within an extremely trusting environment. Thank you for that gift!
I mentioned Catholic education, because one of my highlights will be that I’ve been able to work in the Catholic system for my entire career. I didn’t necessarily “get it” when I first started as a teacher and often thought many of the things“we do as Catholics” were simply compliance activities. But I’ve come to realize how important the gift of faith is in our schools and how our uniqueness, doesn’t make us better or worse but rather a valued difference, especially in times of crisis, in times of sorrow and in even in times of joy! We always talk about being lifelong learners in education but being in the Catholic system has allowed me to be a lifelong faith learner, something that I could never have envisioned when I started back in 1985.
Success is never about one. During my almost 35 year career, I have been blessed to work with some of the very best. Some told me I was wrong (especially early in my career) and some said I was right. They took time to mentor me, guide me, encourage me and inspire me. Sometimes it was in a big action but more often than not, it was through a kind word. Regardless, I share my success here this afternoon to the many who have helped me and been a part of my educational journey.
While I can appreciate how it may be intimidating for a superintendent to visit a school, the opposite is also true because you really don’t know whether you are going to be welcomed or shunned. I’d be lying if I said that every school or staff member welcomed me with open arms but I can say as I retire, I feel so very welcome walking into all of our schools today. There will be some who will still not like my presence; some may have good reasons and others, well, quite honestly, even if Jesus walked in the door himself, they still wouldn’t be too friendly. But…what a gift I’ve received from the staff of our school system, to feel that welcome…for people to continue talking when you walk into a staff room, to be part of the laughter, to hear the stories and share news about new babies, new milestones, upcoming marriages or sadly, tough times too! While I know that my position always had authority attached, I am most appreciative to be recognized as simply a colleague, with just a different title.
That atmosphere comes first and foremost from the leaders in the school because they are the ones who set the tone. When I first came to Holy Spirit, we had a division of schools and today, I’m proud to call us a school division. That doesn’t happen without excellent leaders in the schools. And while I know that I push them hard to ensure a commitment to our faith and that high quality teaching and learning is occurring in their buildings, they respond because of the professionals that they are. When I look back at the differences in our schools today compared to when I started as a principal here in 1996, those improvements, those innovations have come as a result of our leaders, leading change and creating a culture of continuous improvement! Holy Spirit is well positioned to continue on the path, because of our principals and associate principals.
Last week, I was able to thank the closest working members of my team, SALT- Senior Administration Leadership Team. This is the group who I’ve come to trust the most and I so value their high quality of work. When you hire better than yourself and surround yourself with excellence whether at the system or school level and then let people do their jobs, great things happen. While I am truly humbled by the accolades here this afternoon, none of those accolades would ever occur without the excellence that I have here in this office and in our schools. You all are amazing!
The last group I want to thank is the staff here at St. Basil Catholic Education Centre. I can’t imagine getting up every morning and going to your place of work without at least a little bit of laughter. And my goodness, is there some great laughter here! It seems that whether I wanted to be a part of the topic being discussed or not, somehow I got drawn into it. It was always in good fun and given the seriousness of my job, I always appreciated the laughter, even if I was sometimes the target!
Holy Spirit has been a wonderful community to spend almost 17 years of my career. I’ve been fortunate not only to work with incredible staff, but get to know many students and parents and become part of the overall community. I’ve built some strong relationships with our First Nations people and have learned so much from our elders. It is the relationships that I have established and the people I’ve worked with that will miss the most.
But I look at my family here, my parents who provided me with such a great start in life, something that unfortunately is not as common as we would like in our society. I thank you mom and dad for your unfailing support! My wife, Donna, who I met on my first day of training camp in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, when I was 19. We married at 21, and she put me through my last 2 years of university. When I decided to go back to university to get my graduate degree, when Jordan was only 3 years old, she went back to work part time to pay for it. And every time I applied for a job out of town, she’s said, “You know you’re going to get it!” and then when I did, simply supported my career, packed up everything and started a new life wherever we went. The success I’ve achieved comes directly from her support.
She is always the constant, not only in my life but also in the lives of our two children Jordan and Jamieson who we hauled from Medicine Hat to High Prairie to Taber, to Medicine Hat and finally to Lethbridge. But even though some of those moves were pretty tough, and sometimes this dad wasn’t around, especially when either of you were in trouble, Jordan and Jamieson, you’ve grown to be such wonderful adults and I couldn’t be more proud. Then Jamie, you fell in love, finally no more “dummins” coming to the house and we welcomed Darren into our family and what a wonderful addition he is! And finally, your brought little one’s laughter back into our homes with the addition of Carter and Emerson. You see when I look at my family, I know it it is their time to have me. They’ve always known they were number one in my heart but now it is time to be number one with my time.
So I again say thank you to all of you who have been part of this journey. I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me in life and work and I wish each of you good health, much hope and eternal happiness in your future. God Bless!