It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly the school year passes by, and given the recent weather, it is hard not to believe we are in early spring. However, no illusions here…old man winter will still come back and bite us! I hate to say that January was a busy month because all of us in education know that every month is busy! It is a sprint from the beginning of the school year until the end and most of us rarely look up during the process. So instead, I’ll provide the comment that January was just another ordinary month with some usual meetings and regular happenings!
January marked the beginning of our grade level meetings for all teachers (and interns) in grades 1-6. It has been a priority of mine to attend as many meetings (held at the board office), involving our teachers as possible. The importance of building relations with staff and having them get to know, Chris Smeaton, the person and not just Chris Smeaton, the superintendent cannot be understated. It also provides an excellent forum to hear from the grassroots, the successes and frustrations occurring in our schools each and every day! During these meetings, I’m always provided some time to communicate future directions or just say a few words and during this last round, I chose to discuss the topic of divisional data and how it can inform our practice, target our resources and communicate how we are a high performing school division. Our Learning Leadership Team is well versed in this topic and I would encourage all of us to find opportunities to continue this conversation.
Speaking of data and evidence, next week, SALT will be heading to schools where administrators will be presenting the progress on their goals and priorities. This midterm review of Continuous Improvement Plans allows schools to continually “pivot” as Simon Breakspear would say,in order to make slight alterations while still “in flight.” The reason that the data is so important is it provides a baseline and allows us a constant check on our progress. I’m consistently impressed with our schools as they navigate the data ensuring best practices are implemented. My latest blog post, Tracking progress with data speaks of the process.
The topic of inclusive communities has been in the media and Catholic schools have certainly faced a fair amount of negative criticism. Right or wrong, we’ve tried to keep a low profile and stay out of the media storm but please know that the issue is receiving full attention behind the scenes. Earlier this fall, I was part of the writing team that established the CCSSA Commitment to Inclusive Communities document. This is only the beginning of the work required to ensure we can categorically demonstrate how we fully support students of sexual minorities, recognizing we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Catholic school divisions from across the province are currently providing feedback to another writing team of which I’m involved in, to develop further protocols and practices. Earlier this month, I led a 3-hour workshop for a large group to provide further information on future plans. While this work is painstakingly slow, it is important to get it right!
The January board meeting focused on the future with a start to our three-year education planning. Trustees will be reviewing our results and current state of affairs on February 9th to begin setting the planning process in motion. There was also discussion on the status of our 10-Year facility plan. With the growth we are experiencing, there is a need to plan beyond the current 3 year time frame. The modernization of St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek will begin this summer and we should have shovels in the ground in early spring for our new elementary school in Legacy Ridge. We’ve also had the value management study confirmed for St. Patrick Taber for February 10-11. This process will finalize the scope of the modernization for the school. Beyond those projects, we know we have significant population growth in west Lethbridge that must be addressed as well as a need to update the facility at St. Francis. The board is requesting that the government provide a value management study for St. Francis to begin that process.
Although February is a short month, it brings about some excellent professional learning opportunities for our staff and some extended rest for our students during Family Week. Senior administration will meet with our Zone 6 colleagues in Brooks late next week and then our Catholic colleagues later in the month. Additionally, I’ll be travelling to Toronto as part of C21 Canada’s CEO Academy for Learning Innovation and Technology. This is an exciting opportunity to be invited to be part of C21 Canada and I’m looking forward to interacting with 20 other educational leaders from across Canada.
Most importantly, we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday on February 18th. Unfortunately, this date falls within the Family Week, but I do hope that families keep the tradition of ashes alive in their homes just as the students would experience in schools. Please contact your local parish for times of Ash Wednesday services.
As students begin a new semester or quarter, I wish them the best of luck. For those travelling during the Family Week, be safe and have a wonderful time. And finally, may God’s blessing be upon all as we enter the season of Lent.