Trying to create a sense of urgency!

Last Wednesday, I presented our Board of Trustees with our October 2011 Accountability Pillar results. A quick review would suggest that Holy Spirit Catholic Schools is a good solid division. We received very high achievement and excellent overall in the areas of: Safe and Caring, Program of Studies, Drop Out Rate, Rutherford Scholarship Eligibility Rate, Transition Rate, Citizenship and School Improvement. Furthermore, we improved in 3 of 16 and maintained our results in 12 of 16 measure categories. In fact, in some of the categories, we are among the leaders in the province. Very impressive and I would be the first to congratulate our staff and students for those results. So, what’s the issue?

Our division like many divisions in the province of Alberta have good results. Yet, we are involved in talks about transformation. Why? Is good not good enough? To paraphrase Jim Collins, the natural enemy of greatness is goodness. The Alberta system is almost paralyzed because we are good. Although no leader including myself was hired to maintain the status quo, that is what we are doing. We lack the urgency to move to greatness and understandably so! A move toward greatness requires a major shift not a little tweak in our education structure and more importantly in our own educational beliefs. The question is how do we create that urgency and really address the needs of future society with students who are 21st century competent. How do we ensure that students leaving our schools possess these 21st century competencies:  problem solving; creativity; analytical thinking; collaboration; communication; ethics, action, and accountability? If these are the agreed competencies that need to be cultivated in our schools, what are we doing to instill them in our classrooms? That is the question to be addressed by the entire community!

Is that enough to create the urgency? I would suggest that it may not be for three reasons. The first is simply because until we are visibly failing our students and no longer solid in our results,  good will be good enough. Secondly, a complete overhaul of our system will likely result in a significant implementation dip as research would suggest. Do we have the patience either provincially or locally to ride that wave until we meet greatness? And thirdly, I would suggest that our measuring of “success” will continue to produce good enough results and therefore not create any urgency. Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Exams certainly have their place but fall considerably short of measuring a student’s achievement of 21st century competencies.

On Wednesday, we will begin a local conversation with staff, parents and other stakeholders to discuss how schooling needs to be transformed. It will be our initial conversation and will set the stage for many more conversations to govern the action that will be required. The work needed to ensure that every child is successful will be messy.  We cannot be satisfied with and continue to have a 3-year high school completion rate of 72.6% for the province. It is my belief that our society will suffer greatly with a less than stellar completion rate and result in an eradication of our middle class. I’ve written about transformation and inclusion in previous posts and strongly believe that it is a conversation that we need to fully engage our communities.

At the beginning of the school year, I indicated in my opening address that before Christmas, I would meet with every staff. Part of my meeting involves asking the question, “How do we make Holy Spirit School Division the best division in the province of Alberta?” But in essence, I’m really asking, “How do we create the urgency to move from good to great?” Transformation requires us to find that urgency and run with it!

Our conversation has already begun with our school leaders and will begin with a small group of stakeholders on Wednesday. I hope that each of you will also begin that conversation and… create a sense of urgency. Good luck!!!

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