The first month of the school year is always filled with great excitement and seems to fly by! Parents are busy renewing routines after the summer months and schools are a bedlam of activity- opening masses and celebrations, orientation days, new family blessings and barbecues. It is certainly a highlight for me to get into the schools at this time and witness the enthusiasm of both staff and students.
This September has seen our Holy Spirit enrolment numbers grow slightly from last year and our projected budget. This is always great news and has allowed us to add a number of staffing positions throughout the division. Our preliminary enrolment is available in our September board meeting package. One of our strongest trends in enrolment is in our elementary schools. We continue to gain students in this area no doubt due to our provincially recognized early learning programs. Our survey results continue to communicate great satisfaction with the high quality of education offered in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools from students, parents and staff. For a review of the September board meeting, check our our Board Meeting Briefs.
With the beautiful weather we are having, it is difficult to imagine we are entering October and beginning the second month of the school year. October will continue to be an action packed month for the division and individual schools. On October 5th, I will be involved in my annual evaluation. There is no doubt that this can be a stressful time. My areas of responsibility are outlined in Board Policy #9- Role of the Superintendent. During my evaluation, I present to the Board of Trustees and an outside facilitator evidence I believe demonstrates that I have met the conditions of my role. Although stressful, (there is no job security for a superintendent), it is also most affirming and provides a tremendous opportunity for professional growth. The Board of Trustees is also held to that same level of scrutiny on a yearly basis. They too, will provide evidence to the outside facilitator on how effective their work has been based on Board Policy #2- Role of the Board. Even though it is a demanding process it speaks to the Board’s commitment to fulfilling the mission and vision of the division.
An initiative I will be undertaking this year is the establishment of a student advisory committee to the superintendent. The first step of the process is currently underway and involves me informally meeting with Holy Spirit students from grades 9-12. These opening conversations are typically fairly light as my first intent is to build some rapport. I ask them questions like, “What do you like and dislike about school?, “How they like to learn?”, “Favorite subjects and why?” and finally, “What they think a student advisory committee should look like?” Even though I’ve only met with students from two schools, I’m already amazed at their insights and their willingness to be open and honest with me. My goal for this initiative is to allow students to have an improved voice. As adults, we often believe we know what is best for our children and in most cases we are probably right. But nobody, including us adults likes things done to us if they can be done with us. Students must be part of the transformative changes required in education and they can only be part of the process if we invite them to be involved. I’m looking forward to the next 4-6 weeks having these conversations with our students.
Teaching and learning has become extremely complex in the last number of years. Our desire for all students to be successful and our need to move away from the industrial model of education requires the highest quality of teaching. During the next three years, our division as decided through an intensive consultation process to focus on Learner Engagement. The research is quite clear that students more engaged in their studies, who see a connection to their own lives and are able to move from what to learn to how to learn experience greater success. Increased learner engagement requires differentiated instruction, enhanced formative assessment, a focus on 21st century competencies and project based learning. These strategies are far different from the lecture only methods of yester years. That is why our PD day on October 9th and all other professional learning that teachers engage in on a yearly basis is so critical for our students.
October also brings the organizational meeting of the board. At this meeting, the board chair and vice chair are chosen and all committee representation is finalized. Due to our involvement this year with Team Lethbridge, the organizational and regular board meetings will be held on October 17th beginning at 7:00 PM at St. Basil Catholic Education Centre.
Finally, we celebrate Thanksgiving this coming weekend. As new “empty nesters”, it will be an exciting time at the Smeaton household with both our son and daughter coming home. May your upcoming weekend be also spent with loved ones and may God continue to bless you and your family.