I’m writing this blog post while in beautiful Kananaskis, having just finished attending the annual SPICE Conference hosted by Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA). I’ll be here for a couple of more days for Catholic superintendent meetings and then be back in the office on Wednesday morning. This is my first time attending SPICE since it tends to focus more on teachers and support staff, while Blueprints (which begins Tuesday evening) is more geared to administration. I wanted to attend SPICE rather than Blueprints for a number of reasons this year. Firstly, our Excellence in Catholic Education Award recipient, Sandra Cormican was being recognized at a banquet on Friday night and whenever possible, I really like to be present for that event. Secondly, being out of the office for only part of Thursday and all day Friday really appealed to me given the amount of time I’ve spent travelling in the last couple of months. Finally, I wanted to spend some time with our staff since I don’t have as much direct contact with them compared to our administrators. What a gift! I’m so very thankful for the thirteen staff who attended, laughed and prayed with me during this retreat.
While the mountain getaway is certainly an opportunity to be more reflective, this year’s speaker, Father Richard Leonard proved to be one of my favorites. This Jesuit priest from Australia used his gift of storytelling to provide a theology message that was both simple to understand and accessible to everyone. His message challenged our thinking and it shook our hearts and guts. To all of us, but especially our first time attendees, the retreat was emotionally draining and spiritually uplifting. I can’t say enough about the class of these two conferences organized by ACSTA and I would encourage everybody who works in Catholic Education to attend at least one in their career. In all likelihood, your presence at either of these conferences will change you forever.
Dare I say it…spring has arrived! While I’m grateful for the warmer temperatures, we must also keep in our prayers those who have been impacted by the flooding around our school division. Last weekend returning from Edmonton, I was shocked to see water flowing off the fields into ditches and looking like a fast-moving river in many areas. Pray…it is something we can do in our Catholic Education systems and it is something that we are ALL called to do especially when others are facing tragedy and turmoil.
May is budget month and so we are looking carefully at enrolments and class sizes, programs and essentials to ensure that we do our best to meet our highest needs within the division. While I don’t shy away from this duty, budgeting and staffing are typically high stress times. With us moving from site based to needs based budgeting, we have created more equity throughout the division. But, every need must be considered and unfortunately not all needs are the same and not all can be adequately supported. In the end the Board of Trustees will receive a budget that I believe recognizes the diversity of our division and is fiscally responsible for this year and into the future.
We did receive some good news from the Minister late last week that the Classroom Improvement Fund has been reinstated. At this point, I’m unaware of the amount of the grant or the regulations around the use. I know, that it has been extremely beneficial in our system with the addition of staff and increased professional learning opportunities. This year we received an additional $636,000 and the dollars were distributed through a collaborative approach with our local ATA, board and senior administration.
I’m looking forward to attending FLVT’s musical Switched next week and then celebrating with our graduating classes of Catholic Central High School and St. Michael’s Pincher Creek. The start of the graduation season means we are closing in on the end of the school year. I’ve heard a couple of versions of this quote lately, “The days go slow but the years pass quickly” and I can’t disagree. May will turn into June and June into July and summer holidays. Enjoy these next two months because they’ll be gone soon.
Have a wonderful May and God Bless!