Did everybody survive Halloween? As I made my way through schools yesterday, there might have been just a little bit of excitement! Today unfortunately, there will probably be a fair amount of sugar highs!!!
I want to begin this message with some reference to our October board meeting. Every October, the Board holds their organizational meeting where committees are filled and most importantly, the board chair and vice chair are chosen. I’m very pleased that both Judy Lane (Board Chair) and Bob Spitzig (Vice Chair) have been re-elected or acclaimed back into these positions. Like previous board chairs and vice chairs I’ve had the pleasure to work with, Judy and Bob make a great governance team and will provide excellent consistency for new senior leadership beginning in January. For more information on the public meeting, please review the monthly Board Meeting Briefs.
We had some great conversations around continuous improvement plans with school and system education leaders in mid-October. While accountability always tends to focus on simply “the numbers”, assurance listens to the data story. Sometimes, context is everything and learning about the stories behind the numbers is far more important than the numbers in isolation. The honesty of our administrators is so valued and appreciated.
October has been a busy month for me visiting schools and working with our school administrators on their instructional leadership practice as part of their own new standard. These new standards for teachers, school and system leaders are the bedrock for conversations and reflective questions. Getting into schools and working with our leaders is still a highlight of my work. I’ll continue that work throughout the remainder of my time in Holy Spirit.
The biggest news coming out of October, was the announcement of the provincial budget. Even with some “transitional funding”, the elimination of class size funding, classroom improvement funding and the school fee reduction grant hit all school divisions across Alberta hard. For us, when you include the operating reserves that the board was already prepared to access, to balance the spring budget, the shortfall in funding is $1.6 million dollars. To be blunt, that amount will require some staff reductions and some reorganization. However, the board has decided that making any staffing reductions or reorganizations during this school year is not prudent. I’m extremely proud that the board has gone this way as it will not cause any disruptions mid-year. They will cover the shortfall with operating reserves and have asked me to find all possible efficiencies this coming year. This is important because using that amount of surplus dollars to balance the budget, leaves less than $1 million in operating reserves. Knowing that education funding will be static for the next three years, that amount of surplus is not sustainable and tough decisions will need to be made. While I know everybody’s reality around retirement is different, I’m hopeful that the voluntary retirement option for all staff is highly considered this year and reductions next year are through attrition and not termination. Never a message that I want to deliver but most know that I’m pretty transparent in my leadership and would rather let you know than make you guess.
November is a busy month for board members and superintendent(s) as the annual general meetings of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association (ACSTA) and the Alberta School Boards’ Association (ASBA) are held. When you add in the Catholic superintendents meeting that occurs just prior to these two events, it is a long time spent in Edmonton. Both Ken and I will also in Edmonton next week as part of Team Lethbridge. But, I will be back in time and looking forward to our division wide day with Dr. Jody Carrington. Given all the negative talk in the media, Jody will remind us about the importance of the work we do, something that seems to be often lost in the public today.
While it may be difficult, keep your head held high, be proud of what you do and always place your trust in God!