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May 01

Chris Smeaton

From the Desk of the Superintendent- May 2015

Less than two months to final exams, year-end field trips, closing masses and to saying goodbye to our classes of 2015. For some reason, maybe it is just my age, each year seems to pass more quickly than the previous one. The next two months will see all of us hurdling with break neck speed to the end of the school year and summer vacation. For graduates in one of our four high schools, this will be their last dash as a Holy Spirit Catholic Schools’ student. During the month of May, graduation ceremonies are held for students at Catholic Central High School, St. Michael’s Pincher Creek and, our newest addition, St. Michael’s Bow Island.  St. Mary School in Taber holds their graduation at the end of June. It is important for me to attend all of the ceremonies, to provide greetings and wish our graduates the best of luck in their future endeavours. Regardless of the school they attend, they are all graduating as part of the Holy Spirit family. As we prepare for this season, I would ask that you say a special prayer for our graduates; for their safety, their future success and most of all for knowing the love of God is ever-present in their lives.

On May 5th, the Board of Trustees hosts the annual Long Service Awards at St. Martha’s Church. Like the appreciation lunches held at each school, these awards are provided by the Board to recognize the excellent service of our staff – from the rookies of five years to the veterans of 40 years. It is a small token of appreciation for the work that each of you do, day in and day out. I am hopeful that, if you are an award recipient, you will be able to attend this evening, which is an important part of the culture of our division. For all those receiving awards, please accept my sincere gratitude for your dedication to Catholic Education in Holy Spirit Catholic School Division.

While there are so many things to celebrate in our schools, it is hard not to discuss funding in this message. Earlier this month, I wrote a blog outlining the impact of the budget on our division. The news was not positive and the mixed messaging received on the use of reserves has caused undue stress and frustration. But rather than play victim, we went to work, rolled up our sleeves and began to make as many cuts away from staff as we possibly could. I’m so proud of our school administrators.  They came to the table solution-focused and looked at non-staffing areas within their resource allocations that could be reduced to reverse the negative impact of the provincial budget. I reviewed the budgets of each of our senior administration team and asked them to carve out more money to support front-line staff. We took the same approach as we’ve done with curriculum, ascertaining the difference between ‘need to know’ and ‘nice to know’ and focused on the ‘need to have’ instead of the ‘nice to have.’ The result was significant reductions in travel and professional development, further efficiencies in operations, and bare bones budgeting away from the classroom.  The Board also motioned to use (if approved by the Minister) up to $855,000 in reserves to support front-line staff and balance a devastated plant operations and maintenance budget. There is still much work to do before a balanced budget is passed and submitted to Alberta Education at the end of the month, but what we’ve accomplished so far recognizes the commitment to all involved. With that said, please make sure you cast your ballot on May 5th.

To finish off, I want to share some of my favourite articles that I’ve come across through my Twitter feed. Enjoy and have a wonderful May!

  1. Top Six Tips for Instilling Pride in High Performing Teams
  2. Pushing Past Groupthink
  3. Sir Ken Robinson: Creativity is in Everything, Especially Teaching
  4. Pediatricians urge province to make early education top priority

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