Catholic Education Sunday Message- November 2017

The following message was read by trustees and administrators at all masses in parishes linked to Holy Spirit Catholic School Division. In addition, I’m including a short video message providing a supplementary statement from the Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division is a regional division that serves students in Bow Island, Coaldale, Lethbridge, Picture Butte, Pincher Creek, Taber, and surrounding communities. Today we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday, a special day that recognizes the gift of publicly funded Catholic Education in the province of Alberta.

Over the last number of years this annual message has highlighted the threat to publicly funded Catholic Education. That threat continues and, in fact, has intensified this past year. However, our message this year is not going to focus on fear, but rather on celebration and hope.

We celebrate Catholic Education because it stands for what is good in our world. It stands for the truth and is not seduced by secular thinking. It recognizes that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. In the words of Pope Francis, “All human persons, all of us, are important in God’s eyes.” Our faith tells us that God loves us unconditionally even though He knows we will sin tomorrow. The gift of Catholic Education is that it provides our students and families strength to wrestle with and combat against a world that wants to force God out of all things.

Our focus for year two of our faith plan is “Growing in Spirit.” We are called to deepen our experience with prayer. It is not enough to know about Jesus,  we must know Jesus personally. Through the lens of truth, Jesus puts everything in its proper place, bringing order to every aspect of life, and thereby demonstrating the true value of things. We must allow God to put our lives in order. Catholic Education, in partnership with home, school, and parish, calls each one of us to know Jesus and to seek holiness. There is great beauty when, through that partnership, we become who God created us to be.

St. Paul tells us that hope has a name. Hope is Jesus. We have hope in Jesus, a person who is alive, that lives in the Eucharist, that is present in His word. Jesus gives us life. We are rooted in Him. It is that message of hope that we wish to carry into our schools and classrooms everyday.

We stand committed to offering high quality Catholic Education to over 5000 students in our care. We celebrate our educational and accountability results and, most importantly, we provide hope, in the name of Jesus, in all that we do. There will always be forces, both internal and external, that will challenge our existence. But we continue to be strong and continue to be relevant in our world today!

Please keep praying for all involved in Catholic Education as we strive to make a difference in the lives of our students through knowing Jesus. Have a wonderful Catholic Education Sunday and God Bless!


From the Desk of the Superintendent- November 2017

Since Wednesday, I’ve been in Calgary attending our annual CASS Fall Conference. This year, it was structured as a team format and led by education gurus Michael Fullan and Santiago Rincon-Gallardo . While I’m less familiar with the work of Santiago, you would be hard pressed to find an educational leader who hasn’t read a Michael Fullan book. Working with these two gentlemen was certainly affirming because of many of the practices that currently exist in our schools and school division. But to suggest that they support the status quo would be wrong and so our work with them also pushed us to look beyond what we are currently doing to what we could be doing even better? In other words, we should pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and then get going to get better.

The relentless focus or as Fullan likes to call precision on a small number of priorities is key to deep learning and system improvement. By exploiting upwards (a Fullan term) we’ve been able to implement a true 3-Year Education Plan with a commitment to only three priorities: Faith, Literacy/Numeracy and First Nations, Metis and Inuit learning. While each of our schools will individualize strategies to fit their own context, the alignment that exists around these priorities and the measures used for assurance speak to the high quality of our system. Our most recent Accountability Pillar Report  tells a great story where we outperformed the province in 13 of 16 measurement categories. Some of the greatest achievements were a 3-year high school completion rate almost 10% higher than the province, a transition rate that was nearly 15% higher and a Rutherford Scholarship Eligibility Rate that was 12% more than the province. Going deeper into the data we found that our participation rates were generally higher than the province and we typically had a higher percentage of English as a Second Language Learners and students with special needs writing the Provincial Achievement Tests. In other words, we want more of our students having the opportunity to succeed in these exams. My comment is quite simple, “Well Done!”

Before I move forward to November, I want to highlight our trustee election. Given the support received and leadership shown from our previous board, I was very pleased that all of our incumbents running were either acclaimed or elected. The two final positions, one in Picture Butte and the other in Lethbridge were filled by Phillip Mack and Keith McDonald. Our nine member board has already had their first meeting, been provided a full day of orientation on their governance role and will have a work session next Monday. At the organizational meeting, board members selected Judy Lane as the new board chair and Bob Spitzig as the new vice chair. I would like to congratulate both Judy and Bob on their new roles and also recognize and thank former chair Bryan Kranzler and vice chair Pat Bremner for their support and leadership. The trustees and I will be heading to Edmonton in a couple of weeks for our marathon of annual general meetings (ACSTA and ASBA). I’ll be up in Edmonton a couple of days earlier for CCSSA.

This weekend we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday. At each mass in all of the parishes connected to Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, a message will be delivered by trustees or administration. The Bishops of Alberta have also provided a letter for Catholic Education Sunday and parish priests will be providing a further message. Given some of the latest public bashing and increased threat to Catholic Education, these messages are important to be shared with our Catholic faithful. As you walk into church this coming weekend as a staff member of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division be proud of the difference you make within our Catholic milieu. May God continue to bless you in the work that you do!


Knowing the why

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to Sarah Prevette, Founder and CEO of Future Design School. She is a strong advocate for ensuring that students develop a strong creative confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset.  She also speaks passionately about equipping students with the right tools to be successful in life. While assisting students to be successful in life has always been a goal in education, having creative confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset is something quite different for many of us who graduated 10 plus years ago.

But why? Why is there such a shift in education? Why does school need to be so different since, by in large, it “worked” for many of us who are now in adulthood. Adding to the confusion is that education in Canada, and even more so in Alberta, is considered one of the highest performing publicly funded systems in the world. So, if that is the case, then why are school systems continually pushing forward on school improvement?

Let’s begin with a 2017 statistic from the World Economic Forum shared by Ms. Prevette:

“65% of children currently entering primary school will have jobs that don’t exist yet.”

That statistic alone should challenge our education systems as to whether we are actually equipping our students with the right tools for that unknown workplace. What tools will be required of our students to fill those unknown jobs and be successful in life? Employers are already stating that future employees will be required to excel in entrepreneurialism, grit, resilience, mindfulness, creativity and resourcefulness. They will need people who can communicate and collaborate with and without technology, and be critical thinkers who can problem solve. Much of our older curriculum, and many current teaching practices or assessments, don’t necessarily align with a focus on competencies and yet, that is what will be required now and into the future.

Literacy and numeracy have not been forgotten in this school redesign. In fact, literacy and numeracy hold a greater focus than what we previously referred to as simply reading, writing and arithmetic. Students need to be well versed in multiple literacies in order to discern fact from fiction, and the need to be numerate in our world is ever increasing. But being competent in only literacy and numeracy is not sufficient for students to see success in their lives. Students need more!

Individuals like Sarah Prevette, who vocally question and challenge the status quo, are essential to be able to define the why for schools, encouraging them to become more like hubs for innovation. While developing strong foundational skills in literacy and numeracy, students must also encounter opportunities to create, to experiment and to find their own passion for learning. The ability to be a learner, not simply learned, will serve students well in their future lives. Let’s make sure that schools continue to transform to meet those needs.

This blog was published in the Lethbridge Herald on October 18, 2017.

Trustee Elections- October 16th

Municipal elections in Alberta are just around the corner and part of those elections include trustees for school boards. Initially I wanted to write this blog post for nomination day, which was September 18th, but between the excuse of time and maybe waffling a little bit, I didn’t get around to it until right now.

The waffling as to whether to write this or not is still there. As a superintendent, my boss, the corporate school board is made up of trustees who will be elected (or who have already been acclaimed) on October 16th. That’s definitely a reason not to “stir the pot.” But on the flip side, my ability to retire tomorrow if needed, allows me to be more outspoken than some of my superintendent colleagues. And even with an election in one of our wards, the success of our school division would suggest minimal changes around the board table.

The real reason however, that I write this blog post is to support all of the children who come into our schools in Alberta every single day. You see, being a trustee is about supporting ALL students in the absence of any political agendas or single-minded issues and most importantly, without inflated egos. Unfortunately, that is not what I’m seeing on social media as I view the campaigning throughout the province. It is disappointing that we are slowly replicating the attack and smear politics that seems to be common with our southern neighbours.

I’ve worked closely with trustees since 2001 and I’ve seen the gamut of support/non-support for teachers, government or administration. I’ve worked with trustees who thought they were the superintendent and didn’t have a clue about their roles in the world of governance. I’ve also been around trustees who came in with a single issue focus. They usually became pretty disengaged when either the issue was solved or through a better understanding it became a non-issue.

But I’ve also been surrounded by excellent trustees who through stakeholder engagement set direction for the division and then held my feet to the fire to get us there. I’ve worked with trustees who made every decision based on what was best for students, were relationship focused and supported the work of staff in order to offer the highest quality of education. They took their generative, fiduciary and strategic roles to heart.

The education of students is far too important for “me personalities” to be involved. Ego can’t overrun the vocation of the school trustee which is to serve. On election day, vote for those trustees who you believe will serve all and not those who simply have political agendas. Vote for those who can see the big picture and not get lost in their own small details. The work of trustees should always be honourable and integrity driven and those who follow that mantra need to be the ones who sit at their board tables after the election!

From the Desk of the Superintendent- October 2017

October 1st…it is hard to believe that we’ve already galloped through September and I’m shocked because 30 years ago, Donna and I welcomed our first child, Jordan into the world. Time does seem to fly by and so I start this blog post with my reminder from our opening of ensuring to keep our priorities in order; faith, family and then the job. Some who may not know me, might assume that I don’t have high work expectations of myself or our staff, but the contrary is actually true. I’m a firm believer that if one don’t emphasize faith and family in one’s life, one will seldom get the most out of one’s work.

Our increased call to prayer in year two of our faith plan helps set the stage for our first priority; so does regular attendance at mass or other Christian services. It is not always easy to commit time to faith. There is always another task to complete or an activity to attend. And if you’ve fallen out of the good habit of church attendance or daily prayer and reflection, it is sometimes very difficult to bring it back. But one of the beauties of being in Catholic Education is that we are a faith-based organization where support without judgment is always present. Help keep faith alive not only for yourself and the students in our schools but for the adults too!

On September 25th, we hosted our first ever Catholic Education Roundtable. Our PD Centre was packed with over 100 participants including five of our parish priests and one deacon. While most school staffs are familiar with the attack on Catholic Education, many in our parishes are not as well informed. While it is expected that attacks come from outside the system, it is very disheartening when they come from within our Catholic community. I was able to provide some background on Catholic Education for those in attendance  and then had table groups discuss the following three questions.

  1. Why is Catholic Education worth defending?
  2. How might you as an individual or as part of an organization outwardly demonstrate more support for Catholic Education?  
  3. What are some ways to welcome families back to the church and to Catholic Education?

From the comments I’ve heard, it was a very powerful and engaging evening and I would like to thank all who were in attendance. We are currently reviewing the feedback received from the evening and will share a summary with our new Board of Trustees, Bishop McGrattan and our community. Look for more details in the coming weeks!

Municipal elections are right around the corner. That means that our September Board meeting was the last for this current board. I would like to thank this current board for their leadership and support. They have governed well and have ensured that Holy Spirit Catholic School Division continued to grow, to innovate and to support staff and students during their term. I would also like to say a special thanks to trustee Terry O’Donnell who is not seeking re-election. Terry was on the board when I first came to Holy Spirit and so I know his commitment firsthand to his community of Picture Butte and to the entire school division. He has served both as Chair and Vice Chair. His storytelling and great sense of humour will certainly be missed around the board table. Thanks Terry for your years of service.

Four trustees have been acclaimed in our rural communities but there will be an election in Ward 2 (Lethbridge and area) with seven candidates running for five positions. Candidate profiles can be found here.

While we continue to tear down one school, St. Patrick’s in Taber for modernization, we were able to celebrate the re-dedication of St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek. On September 29th, the Feast of St. Michael, a large contingent from both inside and outside of the community gathered for the blessing. Many thanks to the architectural firm FWBA Architects for envisioning a space that truly encompasses our Catholic faith and supports the needs of our current and future students and to Ward Bros. Construction Ltd for their work as the general contractor. Tremendous accolades need to also be extended to our Plant Operations Coordinator Mike Herauf and his team for the many hours of work behind the scenes. Finally, I want to acknowledge the staff and students of St. Michael’s School. A phased modernization, especially when you need to operate out of two separate campuses during the life of the project is not easy. Yet, the staff and students accepted this inconvenience, rolled with the punches and made the best of it. Congratulations and welcome to your new home!

Just around the corner is the Thanksgiving long weekend. While we can be grateful for many things in our lives, especially living here in Canada, we also know that many near and far suffer greatly. As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, I would ask that your prayers be filled with gratitude but also be offered to those most in need. Many in our classrooms, our schools next door and the world throughout need our prayers. Please be generous and keep all those in need in your prayers.

Have a wonderful month of October and God Bless!

Focusing on our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students

Let’s begin by confronting the brutal facts, the education system throughout Canada has failed our aboriginal students. While there may be pockets of excellence scattered across our country, there are too few examples where our aboriginal students are achieving equitable outcomes compared to their non-aboriginal counterparts. The stats are too clear for anyone to dispute this fact.

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division understands this fact and has established a three-year priority that focuses on equitable outcomes for our First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students. This priority has two global goals that ALL schools work on.

  1. By the end of 2019, the gap in achievement between First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students and non-First Nations, Métis and Inuit students will be decreased by, a minimum of, 10%.
  2. By the end of 2019, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students will feel a better sense of belonging and all students and staff will have a greater understanding of culture, traditions and ceremonies.

The two goals are connected (as you will see) but the first, raising achievement should be the easier to accomplish. We are educators! We understand the importance of creating safe learning environments, delivering engaging curriculum, utilizing innovative teaching strategies and ensuring both support and high expectations are provided. But unfortunately, until we address goal number 2, we will have difficulty in raising the bar and closing the gap. But why?

During the recent white supremacists activities in the United States, a tweet from former President Obama went viral.

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.

There is a part of me that feels a little ashamed (even though I’m Canadian) to be a white man when I watch movies like Mississippi Burning or A Time to Kill and witness the hate toward another human being because of skin color. But I would be arrogant to believe that Canada doesn’t have the same level of racism towards our indigenous peoples. We have a long history of hatred that can be best summed up by the words of Duncan Campbell Scott, head of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 -1932

I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.

The problem is that many Canadians think this statement is acceptable or only somewhat offensive. We don’t see ourselves as a racist nation and yet we continue to treat our aboriginal people with less dignity and respect than second class citizens. Our history, written by white men, has created a slanted and erroneous view of our indigenous peoples’ contributions to this country. We focus on the result without ever understanding the cause. We lay blame and provide “if only” remedies without ever appreciating the root cause of the misfortunes of our aboriginal people. When the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was released Justice Murray Sinclair stated, “Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide.” 

The legacy of residential schools is a black mark on Canada as a nation. Yet, it continues to be a hidden mystery in our schools, either untouched or superficially taught. And although ugly, it must be taught in our schools to help Canadians better understand our aboriginal people. A number of years ago while travelling in Germany, I learned that their students were required to visit a concentration camp so that they would always know the truth and not allow history to repeat itself. Confronting the brutal facts means knowing the honest truth!

There are two parts to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and truth is the most difficult. – Darren McKee

While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last number of years in Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, I know there is still much work to be done. Our own attitudes will be challenged, our language will be questioned and our actions will be evaluated. It will be messy but our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students deserve it and Canada needs it!

Focusing on literacy and numeracy

Each school year, prior to the start of students, our entire staff comes together as one community and I have the distinct pleasure of providing opening comments. Due to the structure of the day this year, I was able to provide more of a presentation around our three priorities as opposed to simply making opening remarks. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of our division’s work addressing our strategic priorities, beginning today with literacy and numeracy.

There is no doubt of the importance of students possessing strong literacy and numeracy skills. Reading, a component of literacy, is essential for present and future student success. The transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” cannot be stressed enough. In my presentation, I showed this short video that hammers home (literally) the reality that reading opens so many doors. Last year, we hired our first learning coach to coincide with our priority and this year we’ve added a second coach to work with our teachers, especially at the division I level. The research is clear about the importance of reading competently by grade 3 and so our focus remains on those early years. We’ve also purchased Fountas and Pinnell resources and provided significant time for teachers to administer the assessments. We will also continue to host grade level meetings where teachers work collaboratively, interpreting the results in order to review their instructional practice.

But we know that strong literacy skills cannot be fully developed with only a focus on reading. Writing and other forms of communication literacies must also be attended to in order to provide the breadth of literacy learning. In past years, we’ve provided time for teachers to collectively mark writing samples to better understand standards and this is a practice we are hoping to continue into the future. In discussion with our Director of Learning and our two learning coaches last week, developing writing standards throughout the grades and system and building in collective professional judgment in assessment is a goal.

As teachers and parents, it is easy to support a literacy focus in our schools and homes but the importance of numeracy cannot be ignored. In fact, there is evidence that numeracy is a better predictor of school success than literacy.

“Good numeracy is the best protection against unemployment, low wages and poor health.”- Andreas Schleicher, OECD

Research from the UK paints a bleak future for those who don’t possess adequate numeracy skills.

  • People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed
  • There is a strong correlation between poor numeracy and poor health and depression
  • 14 year olds who have poor math skills at 11 are more than twice as likely to be truant
  • A quarter of young people in custody have a numeracy level below that expected of a 7-year-old, and 65% of adult prisoners have numeracy skills at or below the level expected for an 11-year-old

The development of a common math assessment by our own teachers from grades 1-9 has been instrumental in our journey. The assessment is again a springboard for conversations amongst our teachers around instructional practice. I remember when Alberta Education officials visited one of our grade level meetings with me and heard one teacher openly say, “My students didn’t do well on this concept. Who had good results on that concept and how did you teach it?” That was so powerful and it demonstrated the level of trust built within our grade level groupings. This year we have partnered with the University of Lethbridge to offer further support to our teachers on math instruction through our locally developed collaborative peer mentor program.

Before you think that our focus on literacy and numeracy is a call “back to the basics,” I want to reiterate how our priority is articulated.

All students will develop literacy and numeracy skills that will prepare them for a changing future.

Developing literacy and numeracy skills in themselves is what I consider a floor level practice. It is non-negotiable and should be foundational in every elementary classroom. However, the expectation in our Division is not to be satisfied with floor level practices but rather aspire to ceiling level, which are characterized as engaging and enriching in order to take those literacy and numeracy skills to prepare students for a changing future.

Literacy and numeracy instruction plays out differently in junior and senior high school. Underpinning this instruction and guiding the work in schools is Alberta Education’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework. The framework has five policy directions which are integrated and infused at various levels in our schools. Additionally, the work of C21 Canada and the CEO Academy in the development of the 7 C’s: Competencies for Learning and Leading provides support in preparing students for an ever-changing future.

Going forward we know there are critical considerations for our students. They will be entering an unknown, ever-changing world, with new careers, new opportunities and new problems to solve. They will be required to work in environments that are collaborative, innovative, with different hours for work, and possibly working remotely or from home. And students will need to have an inquiry, questioning approach to learning. Literacy and numeracy is not a jazzed up version of reading, writing and arithmetic. It is much deeper, far more intense and increasingly complex…and it is what our students need and deserve in schools today!  


From the Desk of the Superintendent- August 2017

The summer is quickly coming to an end and this week we welcome back staff officially on Wednesday and administrators (LLT) tomorrow. Our first Learning Leadership Team is always characterized with a fair amount of “need to know” information preparing our leaders for the first staff meeting and first day of school. But it would not be typical if we didn’t incorporate professional learning into our meeting and this year we will be spending the afternoon with assessment guru, Dr. Thomas Guskey. His presentation is entitled, Beyond Assessments For Learning: Assessments That Improve Learning and it should affirm our practice in Holy Spirit where data is used to improve instruction and assure parents of high quality learning rather than simple accountability and compliance. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Guskey speak a couple of times at major conferences but am looking forward to this smaller and more intimate setting. If you are interested here is a quick article, “Starting the School Year Right” for your reading pleasure.

Even after 32 years in education, I’m always excited at the start of a new school year. There is a comfort in understanding the culture and the direction of the division and knowing so many of the high quality staff that make up Holy Spirit. But there is also great excitement as we welcome new staff and build on our existing practices for continuous improvement. It is those innovative practices, out of box thinking and creative ideas from all staff that always fosters great enthusiasm.

I’m certainly anticipating a great start to the year with our Spiritual Development Day featuring David Wells. This is a return visit for David and so many of you have heard him, but his message is so powerful (and quite comical) that one could listen to him multiple times without tiring. This past year David presented at both SPICE and Blueprints and his message on Pope’s Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love) was both moving and uplifting. His presentation will set us up well as we begin Year 2 of our faith plan, Growing in Spirit”. I’ll provide more context on our faith plan during my opening address on Thursday.

2017-18 will be our second year as well of our Three Year Continuous Improvement Plan. Our priorities remain unchanged with a continued focus on the following:

  1. Staff and students will grow in their faith and experience the richness of Catholic Education.
  2. All students will develop literacy and numeracy skills that will prepare them for a changing future.
  3. First Nations, Metis and Inuit students will achieve equitable educational outcomes.

While the goals are consistent throughout the division, individual schools will continue to personalize them to best fit their context. This process, which we have honed over a number of years, has the strength of an overarching framework (Division Priorities) combined with the flexibility within our schools to develop strategies that meet their individual needs. The result allows for focused resource allocation to support creative ideas and innovative practice. Add the fact, that our schools work together as collaborative teams rather than competitive sites. This provides our schools with the ability to prototype and evaluate ideas and practices and then scale them up and out through the division. While this process may seem like common sense and simple, it is not necessarily a norm in school divisions across North America and is one of the reasons why we continue to excel as a system.

Finally, while the summer was busy for some and restful for others, I want to recognize that many in our midst dealt with some personal tragedies and heartache, some known but most unknown. As a reminder, please keep all of our colleagues in your prayers as they journey now and into the future. May God bless you as you begin this 2017-18 school year!


Life’s a dance- St. Michael’s Bow Island Graduation Address

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests and St. Michael’s Graduates of 2017.

I want to begin by thanking the graduating class for choosing a theme that has a song that I actually know and don’t have to Google to find out the words! “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.”

Tonight, I want to focus on two key aspects from those lines in that song, learning and leadership. One of my favourite quotes on learning and one that I use often is provided by philosopher Eric Hoffer. He says,

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Why is learning so important…because we are in times of drastic change and we live in a global economy. The stats say that you will have 10-14 jobs in your lifetime and many of these jobs haven’t even been invented yet. For example, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. 75 billion devices are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020 and 10 million self-driving cars will also be on the road. As a farming community, think of the technological advances in the equipment you use in your fields today as compared to even 10 years ago.

It is unrealistic and I would go as far as saying that it is arrogant to think that one can live successfully in this ever changing world without being a learner. But it is important to remember that learning opportunities come to us both formally and informally, through schooling and through life. Being a learner is not just about a destination like post-secondary, it is a life long journey. Never stop being a learner and always be open to learn from everyone you interact with. Lessons can be learned from princes and paupers.

“Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow” reminds us that great leaders do both. And boy, do we need great leaders because we are currently experiencing a leadership void in many areas of our society. Sometimes that leadership void is created because of a “greying” population. For example in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools, we could potentially lose 22 administrators in the system to retirement in the next 5 years. But often the leadership void is created not because of a lack of people in the position but rather a lack of ability to lead. Just because you can host a reality TV show and fire people doesn’t necessarily provide you with the right skills to lead.

No, if you want to lead, if you want to learn about leadership watch Pope Francis. In his book, Pope Francis Why He Leads The Way He Leads, author Chris Lowney references the Pope’s leadership by saying,

“You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. But you can’t lead others if you use power primarily to serve yourself and your ego. Leadership is not about you, it about the rest of us- your family, community, colleagues, or customers.” (pg 41)

In order to lead effectively you must serve others. He goes on to say,

“The new leader will sweep away the idols of self-interest and lead us toward what serves the common good, what respects all people’s rights and freedoms, and what protects our beloved children, and their children after them.” (pg 52)

Many of you have been gifted to grow up in this community and in this school where service to others and where that type of leadership is the norm. Leave St. Michael’s with that frame of leadership always in your actions. Lead for the right reasons and follow the right people!

As I close, I want to leave you with words from our Holy Father,

“We are not alone; we do not walk alone…We walk in front in order to guide the community, in the middle in order to encourage and support, and at the back so that no one lags too far behind, to keep them united.”

On behalf of the entire school division, I wish you congratulations and God’s blessings! Thank you!



Learn from yesterday, live for today, dream for tomorrow- St. Mary’s Taber Graduation Address

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, Honoured Guests and especially to our St. Mary’s Graduates of 2017. It is always a pleasure to attend our graduation ceremonies and bring greetings on behalf of the entire school division.

I want to speak briefly about your grad theme, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, dream for tomorrow” but I want to really focus on the scripture reading you have chosen from the Book of Esther, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” Our education system is built on learn from yesterday. Other than pre-tests, you are generally assessed on what you learned in the past. Each day your foundational knowledge builds from what you learned yesterday and those building blocks continue to grow in preparation for what you may want to do into your future. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” There is a strong connection between what you have done in your past or what you have learned and what you do or want to dream about in the future. In the world of HR and business, we often use the statement and hire on the basis that, “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” Your community at the school and your family and friends hope that you have learned enough from yesterday in order not only to dream of tomorrow but rather achieve tomorrow.

And that leads me to living for today and recognizing that “perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” The superficial version of living for today is carefree, with no responsibilities, and no care for anything or anyone else. It is about what is best for me and not what is best for the community. And while all of us here tonight have had moments of that superficial version of ourselves, it is not what we have been called to be or do. We have been created for today to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. This is where we are supposed to be, at this time and in this place. The moment is now, it is tomorrow and it will be always for which you have been created.

Live for today knowing that you have been created in the image and likeness of God. Live for today not for your own greatness, not for your own sake or own benefit. Rather live for today by what St. Teresa of Calcutta says, “Do small things with great love.”  You have learned from yesterday and dreamed of tomorrow but it is what you do today, what you have been created to do each day that will make your tomorrow pleasing to God. Live your life so that you honour every moment as the moment that you have been created for.

On behalf of the entire school division, I wish you congratulations and God’s blessings! Thank you!