Preparing for a very different future!

The following blog post was written for the Lethbridge Herald on October 3, 2018.

Last week, Holy Spirit hosted an event with Apple Canada entitled, “Preparing students for today’s mobile workplace.” Our division was well supported through the attendance of board members, senior and school leaders and students. The conversation about preparing students for the future is of critical importance, not just for educators but business and industry and the general public at large. So it was refreshing that some of our local leaders were able to be present.

Why is it so important for business and industry to be present and, more importantly, involved in this conversation? In the just released report, Humans Wanted – How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption, RBC predicts that, “more than 25% of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade. Fully half will go through a significant overhaul of the skills required.” Disruption most commonly means automation and a significant overhaul of skills is complete re-training.

Even with the Canadian economy expected to grow by 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, much different skills will be required for workers to stay employed and employers to remain competitive in the global market. Unfortunately, the paper suggests that, “Canada’s education system, training programs and labour market initiatives are inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.” Arguably, Canada (when you factor in that most students access publicly funded education and we educate one of the most diverse populations) has the best K-12 education system in the world and our post-secondary system ranks well too! But even with these strong supports, our youth will be left unable to transition from one career to another without a more concentrated effort on skill development. And it doesn’t get better as the report further suggests that, “Canadian employers are generally not prepared, through hiring, training or retraining, to recruit and develop the skills needed to make their organizations more competitive in a digital economy.”

Canada is a small country and, with the speed of technological change occurring, we must get ahead of the curve to stay globally competitive. That means that our students need digital fluency at a level that is far more in depth than simply searching for something on Google or interacting with the latest social media tool. We need students and youth to be critical thinkers in cross disciplines with the ability to see interconnections. Future jobs will require employees who can think outside the box, are resilient and adaptable. We must be constantly and collectively building for tomorrow.

Our solutions must revolve around collaborative partnerships between education, business and industry. We can ill-afford to fall into an “if only” mentality or the blame game. Rather, we must begin having productive discussions on how we can eliminate our silo thinking and look at learning through life instead of just learning in school. They say the youth is our future and, if we want to demonstrate our belief in that statement, we need to invest in them now at all levels and in all areas.

From the Desk of the Superintendent- October 2018

On Friday, like so many of our schools, we honored Orange Shirt Day at St. Basil Catholic Education Centre. As part of the day, we engaged all of our central office staff in the Blanket Exercise. It was powerful learning for all! This is my second time through the exercise and I was struck by my new learning. I’ve long spoken about my own perspective on the impacts of Residential Schools and while that was not new for me, this time it hit home even deeper. I cannot imagine as a father and grandfather being forced to give up the opportunity to raise my own children/grandchildren and knowing that all of my family traditions, language and culture would be seen and taught as evil! But my new learning came around the subject that I would call “white arrogance.”  We assume like our European ancestors, that our ways of living and/or governing are the correct way and all other forms are less suitable or worse unacceptable. Our indigenous peoples had strong societal norms when Europeans came to their country. They governed well, shared better than any previous culture and lived a whole life. But because it was different from the monarchy driven society the first immigrants came from, it was seen as “savage.” What a mess we’ve created by arrogantly believing that what we do or how we act is the only right way! This is our time, especially as a Catholic School Division to right the wrongs, to act with compassion and to commit to social justice not half way around the world but in our own backyard.   

We started the year on a great note, beginning with our opening mass and carrying on with various professional learning opportunities. Unfortunately, our enrollment projections didn’t quite get to where we had hoped, although we still had a slight increase overall from last year. We had over 100 families move out of the area to different parts of Alberta or Canada, which likely signifies that we have places within our boundaries that the economy is not particularly strong. This migration out certainly impacts our smaller rural schools but it has a negative net effect as well. This is not to say that we didn’t have some strong growth areas, like west Lethbridge, but without the announcement of a new school soon, we won’t be able to accommodate any further growth.

The announcement of the continuation of the Classroom Improvement Fund (CIF) from last year with the sole target of staffing will assist in supporting schools. Our proposal to the government calls for an increase of 2-3 FTE teaching staff and between 7-10 FTE support staff to assist students with the most complex needs. Last year’s CIF report has been sent into the government as well. The $636,000 of funding was allocated as follows:

  • Teachers- $247,143
  • Support Staff- $77,077
  •  PD (Registrations, Travel, etc)- $58,499
  • Substitute costs $112,127
  • Resources/Technology- $141,430

Last year, were able to leverage these funds very well, especially in supporting our literacy and numeracy priority. Our elementary schools have a great baseline with Fountas & Pinnell materials and our literacy/numeracy interventions are becoming stronger and more effective with this support. With the first continuous improvement plan reviews just around the corner, I’m excited to hear about the great work occurring in our schools in this final year of our 3-Year Education Plan.

We are living in a very different world and unfortunately are experiencing more litigious paranoia. That doesn’t mean however,  that new legislation is necessarily bad or risky practices should not be eliminated. And so on September 20th, all staff received an email with your first personal list of Health and Safety Courses required to be completed by December 31st. I have 14 on my to do list and recognize that this is now, just part of a “new professional responsibility.” I believe that health and safety has always been in the forefront for our school division but with the legislation now in effect, it takes on a more compliant priority. October 17th is going to be a big day as well because on that day, cannabis becomes legal. And legal, is how we are going to have to maneuver through it. On Tuesday this week, I’ll be sharing the legal opinion and newest administrative procedure being developed. Not why I became an educator but is now part of our world!

But let’s get back to celebrating the “good” stuff. I was headhunted earlier this September for a superintendent job out of the province. And while there were significant advantages, namely monetary, the bottom line is that I love my job, the people I work with and I know that I’m blessed to be part of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division.  Each of you contribute, in your own way, to making the lives of our students and their families better. That’s a blessing and why I am always to proud to call Holy Spirit, home!

Have a great year everyone and God Bless!

 

A Mobile, Skilled Workforce

This morning, I read the RBC document, Humans Wanted- How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption. It is a fascinating read for politicians, business and industry leaders, post-secondary and K-12 educators. I would suggest that it is important for the general public to understand this skill crisis  facing our Canadian youth. However, it is especially critical that the “back to the basic pundits” (who want to have schools teach how they were taught and content they are familiar with) are knowledgeable that “Canada’s education system, training programs and labour market initiatives are inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.” (pg 3)

Interesting enough, our school division is hosting an Apple event this coming Wednesday entitled, Preparing Students for Today’s Mobile Workforce.  While a small conversation will be had, the topic needs to be highlighted with more intention and greater intensity, if we want our youth to be gainfully employed into the future rather than being automated out! But what does that look like for the 2.4 million forecasted job openings between 2018-2021?

First of all, the top five projected skills demand for all occupations are: Active Listening, Speaking, Critical Thinking, Reading Comprehension and Monitoring. (pg 12) Communication and critical thinking, two of the big three C’s are crucial in all occupations. And breadth of skills is said to be more critical than proficiency. As Montreal IT conglomerate CGI says, “We look for people who can go wide and then go deep.” (pg 35)

Among cross-functional skills, which help us perform more complicated tasks, our research shows that social skills such as co-ordination and social perceptiveness will be nearly as important across all occupations, followed by analytical skills such as judgment and decision-making. (pg 16)

Social skills, imagine that!

In the report, a decision is made to  group occupations into six broad clusters: Solvers, Providers, Facilitators, Technicians, Crafters and Doers and provide their vulnerability for technology disruption. Technology is not going away and the future of work in Canada and throughout the world is changing. They provide six things that you need to know about the future of work which supports the shift to these new skills while still recognizing the importance of education traditions. (pg 26-27)

  1. Analytics are trending
  2. Math is a big plus
  3. Firms want flexibility
  4. Digital is non-negotiable
  5. The three C’s are crucial
  6. Mobility is a thing

I’ve always contended that the learning of foundational skills, literacy and numeracy are non-negotiable in any education system. But they need to be taught in such a way to enhance other skills that are becoming increasingly important in today’s world. “We need to build resilient, persevering young people who are fluent in cultural diversity” says Paul Davidson from Universities Canada.

Instead of training people for the certainties of the past, we need to help them prepare for the ambiguities of the future. Which means preparing youth to work with knowledge that doesn’t yet exist, using practices that haven’t been developed and thinking about jobs that have yet to be created. (pg 35)

Our current provincial/national assessment practices can somewhat provide politicians and the general public with accountability in meeting standards of reading, writing and arithmetic. But, so many of the other skills that are necessary for future success are less able to be formally assessed. School systems need some flexibility in accountability procedures to allow for richer and more authentic learning opportunities. “The Canadian economy is expected to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, all of which will require this new mix of skills.” (pg 3) School systems, simply must be allowed to prepare for this realization… NOW!

Grandparents and early learning

Last week, I was able to spend a day with our two grandchildren, Carter, a little over 2 1/2 years old and his sister Emerson who is now 3 1/2 months old. While I played with our own two children when they were that age, my body of knowledge (even as a teacher at the time) of early learning was limited. Being high school trained, early learning was never part of my education. You might say, that I was even a little uppity (as most high school teachers were at  that time) to “those teachers” who taught kindergarten or even elementary grades.

I’ve always been very comfortable around young ones. In other words babies don’t scare me. People that I work with know my baby rule, which states, “When babies come to central office, my office is their first stop.” But being comfortable around young ones is not enough when it comes to the importance of early learning. I’ve only become better informed since our Division started working with the likes of Dr. Robbin Gibb from the University of Lethbridge and the Palix Foundation. Their work with the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative has provided some of the best resources for parents, grandparents and dare I say community leaders throughout. How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development is a must introductory watch for all.

But now let’s get back to grandparents and early learning. One thing for sure, I certainly have more dedicated time to spend with our grandchildren than I did as a parent with our own children. And, for some reason, I have more patience and don’t get nearly as stressed out about non-perfect behaviour. Two-year olds are going to be two-year olds because that is part of how they develop. They don’t wake up every morning and think, “How am I going to annoy mommy, daddy, caregiver today?” I know that is hard for parents to understand when it is their child who is screaming at the top of his/her lungs wanting that toy, etc. And worse, are the looks from those who believe that their own children never behaved that way or the insinuation that if the parents were only more strict those tantrums wouldn’t occur! Yeah right!!! Shame on any of you who judge parents in those situations!

As a grandparent I can simply be more present. I get to play and teach at the same time with far greater patience with not an expectation of rules but rather fun, laughter and learning. When I play with Play-Doh with my grandson, I get to ask, “How many planes did we make and let’s count them” or “What color is that car?” or “What sound does the train make?” When I hold my granddaughter in my lap, I gaze into her eyes and ask her to tell me a story or play peek-a-boo or just cuddle her so she knows that she is safe. And it goes without saying that story time is a must!

I know that our society has put such burdens on parents these days that just being present to their children in natural play is very difficult. While I hope that desire of parents to be present to their children and to be their child’s first educators is never ignored or omitted, grandparents have a great ability to impact early learning by getting involved and supporting the toughest and most important job of parenting. It is a great gift and I can’t wait for the next time to interact with our two grandchildren.

 

Leading and Learning

Leaders do! They lead by doing! Take a look at their work plans and it is evident that they work diligently in leading their organizations. For many years now, I’ve met with our school and system leaders to review their professional growth plans. Invariably, I get a great plan from them, carefully outlining the work they would be pursuing in the coming year to improve their school or department. It took a fair amount of effort for me to refocus their plans from what they were going to do or lead to what they were going to learn.  That effort has not been lost on me as I try to communicate a growth plan rather than a work plan to my own Board of Trustees.

I often believe that we get so busy leading that we forget to learn. We work so hard at implementing ideas, building collaborative environments and searching for innovative practices that we forget the importance of learning ourselves. It is not because we have become satisfied with being learned, it is that we are typically too damn busy leading! But wait, aren’t we constantly asking our staffs to be learners and if that is our request, then shouldn’t we be role models of learning?

This visual came across my Twitter feed this morning and speaks exactly to what I mean. Leaders, the very best leaders need to be learners at all times and in all occasions. Simply “doing” is not good enough and even more frightening is an ego based belief that we don’t need to know anything more. No matter your talent, you will hit a plateau (and sometimes a pretty low plateau) if you are not constantly learning to be a better leader.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

 

Leadership practice has changed considerably over the last number decades. The days of intimidation, threats and unilateral decision making “should be” almost extinct, even if a certain president continues that practice. Just as coaches have a different athlete today, leaders have different employees who will not or should not follow simply because they’ve been told. What we may have done years ago (learned) may not be overly successful in our current environments. The result is that leaders must strike the balance in the work they do (leading) and their own personal growth (learning).

This year, we’ve been able to utilize a Practice Profile based on competencies for both our school and system leaders. A set of indicators has been provided and individual leaders are also able to add indicators based on their own practice. An indicator in our standards document is defined as, “actions that are likely to lead to the achievement of a competency and which, together with the competency, are measurable and observable.” (Alberta Education Leadership Quality Standard) From there, they are able to be reflective on their own evidence in practice leading to potential areas of growth that are generally self selected.

Leading and learning are intertwined for leaders and without equal focus on both, neither will be exceptional. Excellent organizations require excellent leaders and excellent leaders need to be committed learners.

 

Eliminating Excuses- Pre-Mortem Activity

Let’s be honest, we all make excuses. It is really difficult to accept our own failures and much easier to lay blame on something or someone else. This is especially prevalent in team environments. In her book, Teach Your Team to Fish, Laurie Beth Jones states, “Fewer than 15% of team blockages are caused by external factors- or ‘them.’ Yet these are the variables that consumes 90% of the team’s vital thought time.”

We want to believe that the problem is out there and it is someone else’s job to solve it. Left unbridled, we fall into the trap of employing “if only” strategies or simply making excuses. Don’t get me wrong, there are valid excuses, but we are in trouble if that is our default position. Leaders need to find ways to eliminate or at the very least, minimize excuses for not achieving goals and priorities.

An interesting and proactive approach to eliminating excuses is an activity that I led my leaders through last week called Pre-Mortem. The activity begins by listing the goals you want to achieve in a given time frame on the top of a T-chart. Groups brainstorm and respond to the following question, “What might be some reasons why at the end of year (or whatever time frame) we have not achieved this goal?”  Each possible reason is recorded on the left side of the chart. Then groups are asked to come up with at least one strategy to address each of the reasons for not achieving the intended goal and write them on the right side of the chart. The premise is if you know the barriers of achieving your goals to begin with you can initiate strategies to address them early.  The listed strategies now become part of your plan and provide a more targeted approach for success.

The last piece of the activity that I employed with my leaders was to review the chart below and have them define whether the reasons for not succeeding were problems or conditions? This is an important part of the exercise because too often we get stuck in trying to find solutions that are simply beyond our influence or are really not that much of an issue.

PROBLEMS CONDITIONS
These are issues…

  • Within our sphere of influence or control.
  • That we want to spend time and resources on.
  • That can be resolved.
These are issues…

  • Over which we have not influence or control.
  • That we do not have enough resources to change.
  • That we do not want to change at this time.
Barth, R., Darnell, B., Lipton, LO. and Wellman, B. (2003) Guide for Instructional Leaders, Guide 1: An ASCD Action Tool

The main purpose of this activity is to really hone in on effective strategies that will see your goals better met and many of your excuses eliminated. It is not full proof, nothing ever is but it does bring attention to what you can do as opposed to what you can’t.

Finally, I would like to say that I invented this activity but the truth is I was led through it myself working with a provincial group on Adverse Childhood Experiences. The beauty is that it can be utilized in any sector, business, education or non-profit. Give it a try and see what happens to your end results!!!

From the Desk of the Superintendent- Opening Staff Address 2018

Good morning,

Before I begin my short address, I would like to introduce the leaders of our employment groups: President of the local ATA, John Templin, CUPE 1825 Jane Meeker and representing CUPE 290, Robert Reid. Thank you for your service to not only your respective organizations but to Holy Spirit Catholic School Division as a whole.

While most of you know my love of a microphone and a crowd, we are recognizing four Share the Mission Award winners today, lunch is scheduled for noon and we have training back at the board office at 1:00 PM and therefore my comments will be very brief.

I want to begin by welcoming back all of our staff and welcoming all of our new staff to Holy Spirit. I hope you had a great summer, whether it be  connecting with family, travelling, studying or just doing a “staycation” like I did. Regardless, I hope that you are well rested and feeling a sense of great enthusiasm and excitement as we begin 2018-19.

Those who work close to me saw a person who ended the school year a bit jaded because of decisions made and conditions set that were beyond my control. I got sucked into a vortex of frustration, with maybe a little anger and I was definitively negative. Not necessarily the person I want to be or the leader that you deserve. Obviously some time spent with our grandchildren helped my mood but I think the real shift came while sitting in church this summer and watching some of our own students with their parents. I realized, (after God smacked me across the head), that this work that I do is not about me and it is also not about government decisions or policies or anything else; its about them…the children, our students! And that is what it is about for all of us, no matter your position in the division.

I made a conscious decision that day when I left church that my frustration wouldn’t rule my world and cause me to forget that it is always about the students in our schools.  

When our students walk back into our schools and buildings next Tuesday we need to remind ourselves that our three priorities and therefore our focus must be on achieving our goals of faith, literacy/numeracy and First Nations, Metis and Inuit learning. Leave the noise behind and shut out the clutter because if we continue to build on what we’ve done in the last 2 years, our students will continue to benefit from our laser focus.

We are not perfect, we all have flaws that we will always need to work on but I’d put us up against any other school division. As I said yesterday at our new teacher orientation, we may be the best kept secret in Southern Alberta because by and large, you (all of you) do just what you are supposed to do and with little to no fanfare. I continue to be so proud to lead this Holy Spirit community and am so very grateful to be able to witness day in and day out the commitment of each of you to the students in our system.

May God bless you in your work this year. May you continue to walk in holiness and may you share your holiness with your school community each and every day!

Support for Instructional Leadership

Tomorrow we will be gathering with our entire Learning Leadership Team to start the school year. I always start with an address to set the tone and share my excitement and enthusiasm for the upcoming school year. In last week’s blog post, Quality School Leadership, Teaching and Optimum Learning, I touched on the importance of being an instructional leader and therefore I would be remiss if I didn’t focus on that role in tomorrow’s address.

It is easy for people to hold on to the truth that the teacher the student has makes a difference. Research is pretty clear that the teacher has the most in school influence on student learning. Teaching quality matters! What is less well-known or ignored by some is the impact of leadership on student learning. While not as important as teaching quality, it is still number two!!!

Given the importance of school leadership on student learning, it makes great sense to support the role of instructional leader. That support must begin at the top, with the Superintendent of Schools and must be operationalized in a couple of ways. One, as I’ve stated before, is my own commitment to being an instructional leader and that comes from research AND practice. Although I still teach adults, I left the classroom in 2001 and so it is imperative that I keep up with current research on practice. Lead learner  cannot just be a title, it must be the ongoing action of the superintendent. Practice comes not only from sharpening my own skills through cognitive coaching but also getting into schools and working elbow to elbow with our school leaders. I’ve committed to being in every school in our division (morning or afternoon) for formal instructional leadership work twice per year. It is in my schedule and principals will sign up their preferred dates tomorrow.

The second way to operationalize commitment to instructional leadership is my direction to senior staff. I’ve asked each of them to have the same focus on instructional leadership in their own work. In other words, it should be part of all that they do. Now, this makes sense for our educational leaders but I’ve also requested our business services personnel to do the same. Obviously they are not providing instructional leadership direct, but I have asked them to in essence, “Create efficiencies and effective processes to free up time for all leaders to focus their time and efforts on instructional leadership.”

I’m not suggesting that because I’ve made this an expectation, it is going to suddenly free up time in our principals’ days to become more involved in instructional leadership. Education is still a multi-billion dollar business and there are procedures that are non-negotiable and internal controls that are simply law. Insurance and liability concerns are grossly limiting learning opportunities in today’s educational world and although new health and safety legislation is positive, the time commitment of our principals to support and manage is exceedingly high.

But, if there is not commitment from all senior staff and we are all singing from the same page, instructional leadership will fall down on the list of just another thing to do when there is time. My message tomorrow will be quite clear, “Quality teaching and optimum learning requires instructional leadership.” Without clearing my own calendar and making it a priority, I can’t ask any of my leaders to do the same. This year and going forward, make the commitment to support instructional leadership.

 

 

 

Quality School Leadership, Teaching and Optimum Learning

This past week, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating with our Director of Learning, Lorelie Lenaour, the “Leading Learning” module at the inaugural CASS/ASBOA Summer Conference. The focus of the conference was to bring all system leaders in the province of Alberta together under one roof and begin to support the implementation of the new Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard as well as offer other learning opportunities for our business and financial leaders.

The Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard reads as follows: “Quality superintendent leadership occurs when the superintendent’s ongoing analysis of the context, and the superintendent’s decisions about what leadership knowledge abilities to apply, result in quality school leadership, quality teaching and optimum learning for all students in the school authority.” Leading learning is one of seven competencies attached to the standard and requires that, “A superintendent establishes and sustains a learning culture in the school community that promotes ongoing critical reflection on practice, shared responsibility for student success and continuous improvement.” While this is the standard specific for superintendents, ALL system leaders must be working toward achievement of this competency.

The learning cultures within the entire system and individual schools are of critical importance. They must support quality leadership and teaching in order to achieve optimum learning for all students. Our division has a very strong focus on quality leadership because, quite honestly, the most powerful position in any system is the principal. Providing the right type of support and mentoring to your leaders will result in quality teaching and optimum learning.  But what is the right support and mentoring?

I’ll always believed in transformational leadership, which focuses on relationships. Every education standard that you read and the vast majority of business excellence literature understands the importance of fostering effective relationships with your people.  It is impossible to move from good to great and then sustain greatness without first cultivating a culture of trust. That trust is most effectively developed through face to face interactions and that means getting out of my office and into schools to connect. But even though I’ve committed to spending a half day in each of our schools twice during the school year, my attention to transformational leadership won’t impact quality teaching and optimum learning to the level necessary.

What is required is a shift from transformational to instructional leadership. This shift, which results in the greatest impact on student learning, is best explained in a short conversation with Viviane Robinson. http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB7wP8WJZeU  You may also read more about her research in this short brief entitled, “The impact of leadership on student outcomes: Making sense of the evidence.”

My visits therefore, must be focused on assisting our school leaders to become stronger in their role of instructional leader.  It makes no sense and is truly a waste of time, if teachers do not receive any relevant feedback on their practice when being observed (supervised) by a leader. The purpose of teacher observations must be on growth or affirmation of practice and not simply a check in the box of the supervision plan. It is an opportunity for leaders to engage their teachers to be reflective of their own practice. This is a skill, and in our division we have committed to the process of Cognitive Coaching to assist us. Reflective practice requires us to lead with questions and not simply provide advice.

Regardless of the position you hold in system or school administration, fostering a learning culture to enhance quality leadership and teaching in order to provide optimum learning for students is part of your job. It may not be an easy shift but given the research, it needs to be non-negotiable!

“New Roads to Travel” 2018 Graduation Address for St. Michael’s Bow Island

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests and St. Michael’s Graduates of 2018. I always look forward to attending this graduation ceremony and am honored to bring greetings on behalf of the school division. St. Michael’s Bow Island is so unique not just because it is a small early learning to grade 12 school but more importantly because it functions as a true community. I believe it is because of that community spirit and that family atmosphere that the graduates of 2018 will be able to fully embrace their grad theme this year, “New Worlds to Travel.”    

There is an assumption that your grad theme, “New Worlds to Travel” means leaving Bow Island and for some or even all of you, that might be the case. But I think your grad theme speaks more about the new opportunities you will have in front of you. The question for you then is, “Will you take on those opportunities or will you simply be content with playing it safe and maintaining the status quo? “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

You weren’t formed by God, educated in St. Michael’s and reared with love by your parents and families to simply play it safe! And although we could use people like authors J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, entrepreneurs like Colonel Sanders or artists like Shania Twain to demonstrate how one can overcome adversity in life and persevere to make it to the top, it is not about becoming rich and famous! It is more importantly about stretching your own self, failing forward to learn and grow, and continually getting better. What I’m asking of you, along with your family and community, is to always strive to be the best version of yourself and not of anybody else.

The safe confines of this school, which you have come to depend on for many years is no more. You are about to embark on a new journey that is not necessarily physical in nature (i.e. a move) but rather a journey that will impact you socially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Embrace it! Accept the challenges head on! Welcome the twists and turns that you will face as you live your life to the fullest! I’m not talking about reckless abandon but rather living a life with passion and purpose. Passion… and purpose!

Although you are just starting out on this wonderful journey, I want you to imagine yourself 25 or 30 years from now. What legacy do you want to create? How do you want to be remembered? It seems so far away but I’ll guarantee your parents will say how quickly these last 12 years have gone by. Imagine your preferred future and begin setting the stage to move closer each and every day.

New worlds to travel doesn’t begin out there but in here. It begins with your heart, your desires, your passions and your purpose. Your community has positioned you well to go forward and so… go forward!

I wish you my sincerest congratulations on behalf of the school division and may God bless you in your opportunities taken, challenges faced and roads travelled! Thank you!