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Apr 08

Chris Smeaton

From the Desk of the Superintendent- April 2015

The Easter weekend has come and gone. We’ve passed through a most solemn time where we experienced the crucifixion of Christ and then witnessed the joyous event of the resurrection. The importance of this past weekend is why we define ourselves as a resurrection people and believers of eternal life. With schools closed for the remainder of the week, staff and students continue to rest, rejuvenate and gather strength for the last months of the academic year. Even with the odd snow storm, spring is right around the corner and the end of the year will come before we know it. It is hard to believe that we are already in April but as I’ve said before, the school year passes like a sprint and not a marathon.

The March board meeting had two valuable presentations on the importance of international education and global citizenship. The first presentation highlighted the ongoing sister school partnership that exists between Catholic Central High School and St. Ursula School in Sendai, Japan. Carol Koran, principal of CCH and two teachers from St. Ursula spoke of the value of this exchange program and the lessons learned by both students and staff over the years. Following this presentation, the Board of Trustees heard about our own international program from Wendy Urquhart, French Language and International Education Consultant. Our international program continues to grow and provides wonderful global opportunities for our students. In fact, international education aligns perfectly with the goal of developing an ethical citizen as stated in the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, “WHEREAS an Ethical Citizen understands that it is not all about them…engages with many cultures, religions and languages, values diversity in all people and adapts to any situation;” While international education will generate revenue, the reason for the program will always need to be about enhancing the educational experience of our students.

Another highlight for March was our involvement in the international uLead conference held in Banff. Twenty system and school leaders attended this conference where we heard keynote presentations from some of the best known educators around the world. The conference provided for some excellent learning as well as further opportunities to engage with other provincial, national and international leaders. The exceptional work that our Division is doing is well recognized on an increasingly global stage and it is one of the reasons why we provided four presentations about that work at the conference. Since our return from uLead I have received requests to partner with and share our expertise with other jurisdictions both nationally and internationally.

It is sometimes hard to imagine why a small Catholic school division from southwest Alberta can garner so much attention, but quite simply it is a credit to everyone within. While it may be seen internally as that is “just how we do it,” others want to know more about our innovative practices. I would suggest that part of our success comes from our desire to be constant adult learners. The high quality and number of professional learning opportunities in our system is not the norm. Learning is a priority in our system and this fact is demonstrated in that a third of all teacher absences are directly linked to professional development.  Success for students in this 21st Century requires ongoing learning for all educators and Holy Spirit Catholic Schools continues to put a premium on this fact!

Beginning April 13th, we will be engaging in an online survey tool called ThoughtExchange to gather information about our schools and system. Over the years we have used various methods to seek public consultation and feedback and now will be trying a format that divisions in the province, piloting the assurance model, are employing. We will be asking parents, staff and community members three straightforward questions:

  • What concerns do you have about our school(s)?
  • What do you appreciate about our school(s)?
  • What are your thoughts about the direction of our school division?

ThoughtExchange uses open-ended questions to gather a broad range of perspectives and we encourage you to contribute your thoughts. It is a three-step process. Stakeholders begin by sharing their thoughts. Then they review and star the thoughts of others before discovering what the community values. The process is confidential. The names and email addresses of participants will never be publicly associated with a thought or response. However, participants will see each other’s thoughts. A number of our schools have utilized this tool in the past and have been provided excellent data and we are hoping the same.

The provincial budget was also released in late March. Rather than wreck the positive message about our work, I will submit a separate blog post on the impacts of the budget on the education system. So, I applaud everyone again who ensures that learning is a priority for their students and themselves. Enjoy April!

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