Last week, I attended my last Education Research Development and Innovation (ERDI) conference as a current superintendent. Since it was my last conference, I was recognized as a retiring education partner. As part of the recognition, I was given the opportunity for me to address the delegates, which began the start of my goodbye speeches in my transition to retirement. While I won’t bore you with the entire speech, I want to highlight what I believe are some essential messages for both corporate and education partners.
“Thanks to all of the corporate partners here tonight and those from previous conferences. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting on many of your panels. I really don’t fully understand the education partner selection process but I always felt blessed that whether I was chosen specifically for a panel or I was in the “he’s the only one left” group, to be part of your panels. But I especially want to thank the corporate partners who have recognized that there is a bigger world than just any province, that education does happen south of Calgary and that small divisions can be quick to respond, sometimes more flexible and highly innovative and creative. As you move forward with ERDI, please don’t forget the impact that a small rurban division can make to your own company. I’ve always believed that the corporate and education world could co-exist and learn from one another and ERDI is a shining example of that synergy. We learn together not for profit margin or education domination but simply because it is the right thing to do.”
“A long time ago, a retiring superintendent said, “It’s lonely at the top.” I didn’t quite understand that until I became a superintendent over 10 years ago. Even with the very best people who you surround yourself with, there is no one in your organization who fully understands your role as Director or Superintendent. And so twice a year, I get to glean on the expertise of some of the finest educational leaders in Canada and I would say likely the world. I get to rub shoulders with colleagues who understand the role that I live regardless of the size of the division and that is both comforting and motivating. I know we have opportunities to experience that provincially, but seldom is it just only directors and/or superintendents… We continue to lead education systems that people anywhere else outside of Canada could only wish to have systems like ours in their countries. And we don’t stop, because as professionals we all believe in continuous improvement. Our moral imperative is so strong because we know that ALL students but especially our most marginalized need to be at the core of every decision we make. How can I, from the small city of Lethbridge not be motivated when I’m surrounded by the greatness of all those in this room.”
It was truly a gift to be involved with ERDI since 2013, not simply because of my own learning but for the advantages provided to the staff and students of Holy Spirit. Education is not typically dissimilar throughout the nation, and sometimes a common issue is solved by looking through a different lens or a corporate solution. Business and education do and should mix because the lessons of leadership and change management are far more common than not. When the people in the room are in it for the sole benefit of student learning… you can’t lose!