From the Desk of the Superintendent- June 2019

June is here and two common statements that you’ll often here in the education world are, “It has finally arrived” or “I can’t believe it is June already!” Regardless, we are about to enter into the last month of the 2018-19 school year.  It will be a busy month but then again, so have the previous nine. However, this month has students writing final exams which can bring about some added stress to even our most confident students. This is where our Catholic faith can assist with the teaching and modeling of prayer as part of a calming routine. I have come to recognize the importance of that quiet conversation with God during each busy day. I know that it is a blessing for all of us to quietly listen to the voice of God on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. As our students prepare for and write exams and as many become anxious about their future over the summer, please keep them in your prayers.

It is official, Ken Sampson has been appointed by the Minister of Education as the new Superintendent of Schools beginning Monday, January 6th. The transition to lead learner of the Division will begin with Ken assuming the role of Deputy Superintendent on August 1st. I am extremely pleased with the Board’s selection of Ken and believe he will serve Holy Spirit and Catholic Education as a whole with great faith, integrity and compassion. It will be different for me when Ken comes in, as the only Deputy Superintendent I’ve every worked with in my tenure as Superintendent is our soon to be retired Brian Macauley. I cannot begin to say enough good things about Brian and his loyal support of me through not only these years here at Holy Spirit but throughout most of my career. He shys away from the limelight and prefers to do his work in the background which generally sees him get few positive strokes and more often listen to a brunt of complaints. Having lived his world for many years, I know how thankless the human resources role is and yet he always strives to make those tough decisions, deal with some nasty issues and respond to some outrageous requests through the eyes of a Catholic leader. You have to develop a very thick skin and learn to bite your tongue when people throw negative comments your way about a range of issues without losing a compassionate heart and Brian has never lost his compassionate heart. He is a man of great integrity, a faithful Catholic leader and I will miss him greatly!

We also announced our new Director of Learning, Carmen Larsen earlier this month. What a great choice for this position in so many ways given her many talents, background and experience. She will be able to pick up from our current Director of Learning, Lorelie Lenaour and carry on that strong learning culture that has been developed in our division. Carmen is Ken’s first official hire for his, not my team and Lorelie was my first hire in central office as I became Superintendent. Looking back, I remember there was some pretty significant friction (that might be an understatement) between central office and leaders, schools, parents and the overall community. I needed someone who could develop a strong learning culture but most importantly, build immediate rapport with first our Learning Leadership Team and then teachers as a whole. There was only one natural fit and that was Lorelie Lenaour. Looking back over the last 10 years that she has been in central office, I’m truly amazed at the learning journey she has led us on. We do so many things right in our Division and lead in so many areas provincially and nationally because of her quiet leadership. I have learned so much from her over these years and her influence has made me a better Superintendent.

What a blessing it has been to work with Brian and Lorelie and all those who will be “hanging up the blades” at the end of the school year. While I’ll speak more at the Board’s Retirement Banquet, I just want to say how grateful I am for the years of commitment to Catholic Education, all of our retirees have given. May God bless you with good health, abundant joy and much hope in your next journey.

We’ve already celebrated two high school graduations this year and at the end of June, our grade 12 students from St. Mary’s Taber and St. Michael’s Bow Island will be walking across the stage. It is always a pleasure for me to attend these four graduations, provide my remarks and witness the various traditions and uniqueness of each. St. Michael’s will be the last graduation ceremony that I will attend as Superintendent and it will be special for some obvious reasons but especially given my history with Bow Island. As we get closer to the end of June, I would ask that you keep our graduates in your thoughts and prayers.

I’ll provide my year-end message as our school year comes to a close but until then, enjoy the month of June. God Bless!

Developing Strong Resilient Kids

The following article was written for the Lethbridge Herald and published on May 15, 2019.

During my career in education, and especially these past ten years as Superintendent of Schools, I’ve witnessed an almost epidemic rise in student anxiety. School systems continue to support the hiring of more counselling staff and offer programs to build resiliency in students, but unfortunately the cost continues to outstrip the resources available. Most often a reactive approach does not fix a problem and so the question becomes, “What might be some proactive strategies at home and in school to foster healthy students?”

Let’s begin with play and, more specifically, unstructured play. Too often our children are not permitted to engage in unstructured play. The Canadian Public Health Association lists these benefits from unstructured play: promotes creativity, strengthens problem solving and conflict resolution skills, promotes positive self-concept and self-esteem, promotes healthy weight, improves gross motor skills, positively impacts learning and attention at school and promotes resilience and independence. It is time to stop bubble wrapping our children, get them away from the TV or other electronic devices and let them head outside and experience age appropriate risky play.  

Secondly, it is time to stop giving stress a bad name. As suggested by Dr. Sharron Spicer, a pediatrician in Calgary, “It is a normal, even healthy, part of life for all of us.” There are different types of stress and children need to understand the difference and respond accordingly. The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative has some great resources to assist parents and educators in understanding the differences between positive, tolerable and toxic stress. Supportive adults who work to calm a child’s stress response and teach coping skills are necessary for brain architecture to develop resiliency. Jumping in and “saving” children rather than helping them through that “tummy ache” or other stress indicators may make the adult feel better but does nothing to build a resilient child. MyHealth.Alberta.ca also has some great suggestions for adults like keeping calm, encouraging rational thinking and talking openly.

Thirdly, we need to allow our children to fail. That is a hard one for many adults, especially parents, but failure should be seen as a process of learning and not a permanent condition. I’ve used the term “fail forward” in our school division for most of my tenure and, though some don’t like that terminology, it really allows for students to be learning and engagement driven rather than simply achievement focused and perfection seeking. Learning is a process and if we continue to not allow our children to fall and scuff their knees or stumble, we are doing a disservice to them. They will learn that perfection is everything and will almost become paralyzed at trying anything new for fear of not being successful right out of the gate. I like to use the FAIL acronym – First Attempt In Learning – to support my belief in this strategy.  

All kids, just like all adults, will experience some sort of anxiety in their lifetimes. Simple strategies like ensuring proper sleep and good nutrition are excellent at mitigating that anxiety. Finding the right balance so that children are not negatively stressed with competition or overloaded with schedules is also important. Kids, just like adults, need time to decompress. Finally, real social connections, NOT via social media, have to be encouraged and maintained. Our society can ill afford to raise a generation who are unable to talk face to face to one another and build real friends, not just simple “likes” on social media. We are a busy society, but if we don’t slow down and put some proactive strategies in place, our children will not grow into the resilient and healthy adults we desire.     

“Shine your Light! Follow your Path!”- Graduation Address for St. Michael’s Pincher Creek 2019

Oki! Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. It is always a pleasure to come to Pincher Creek and celebrate the graduation of our students from St. Michael’s. Congratulations to our St. Michael’s Graduates of 2019.

What a great theme you have chosen for your graduation this year, “Shine your Light; Follow your Path.” I want to begin my comments by quoting a passage from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a cellar or under a basket. Instead, he sets it on a lampstand, so those who enter can see the light.” The reason that passage is so important is that Jesus is not speaking about a lamp but rather about you and me. He wants us to shine our lights brightly for the whole world to see. And what are our lights? Well, they are our own gifts, talents and treasures. They are what define us and what make us unique from one another.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t always want us to shine our lights brightly or worse don’t see the benefits of our lights. Our media in general and society as a whole gravitates to power and monetary success and we get sucked into believing that is the path to follow. Violence is glamourized, sex sells, inappropriate role models are idolized and we are told time and time again that we are just not good enough! And if we believe we are not good enough, then we put others down to make ourselves feel better. We attack each other verbally or physically, through social media or face to face. We play favorites, express jealousy or shun people altogether. By doing so, we want another person’s light to be hidden.

What a sad commentary on our society and if the truth be told, we’ve all had moments where we didn’t feel good enough and we’ve also had moments when we wanted to keep the light of others hidden. But what if… we all took your grad theme to heart and began to shine our own lights, to share our gifts and talents not solely for our own personal gain but for the betterment of one another? What if our light shone so brightly that we not only followed our own path toward a more kind and just world but, it lit the way for others to follow that same path?  

Remember that God doesn’t create junk!  You are good enough and the only thing that God wishes is for you is to become the best version of yourself. You won’t know that if you don’t let your light shine. You may be tricked to follow a dark and wrong path because you didn’t shine your light first. Each of you has so many gifts right now. Some of these gifts may already be well known to you while others may need to be teased out and the rough edges buffed up. But they are there and so find them and then shine them brightly.

Life is not always easy and there will be times when it is pretty dark. It is especially in those times that you must let those God given gifts and talents provided to you, to shine brightest. Shine your light and follow your path. Go forth and live the life that God intended for you! You are unique and you are special!     

Congratulations on your graduation and may you always continue to shine your light brightly and follow your path. Thank you and God Bless!

“Place I Belong”- Graduation Address for Catholic Central High School 2019

Oki! Bonjour Mesdames et Monsieurs and Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and a warm welcome to the stars of the weekend, our 2019 Graduating Class of Catholic Central High School.

I want to begin by thanking the grads for choosing a song, Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver, that I can play on my guitar, I can sing and I actually can recognize the words when I hear it on the radio. Your theme taken from the lyrics of the song, “Place I Belong” has many profound messages that I would like to share briefly in my comments.

Belonging, one of the most important needs for all of us. We all need to find that sense of belonging in our lives. Schools have a responsibility to provide a sense of belonging for students. Catholic Central does an incredible job in offering numerous activities and experiences for students to create a sense of belonging. While that is very important when you are in high school, you will soon learn that it is not the be all and end all.

Take me home… now that’s a place where we should all belong. As parents and guardians, grandparents and extended family, we owe it to our children to ensure they feel that home is a place they belong. Graduates, most of you will become parents in the future- please make sure that you create a home environment where your own children feel loved, supported and know that they belong!

But we know that as humans, we all make mistakes and sometimes don’t offer places of belonging to those in our lives. And that is why it is important to remember that your faith, your church are always places where you belong. I cannot stress this fact enough because there are some out there who do not agree. When you truly believe that you are gift from God, that you were born in the image and likeness of God and that every gift you’ve been given, from your gender to your sexuality, to your physical characteristics or your mental capabilities, make no mistake, YOU BELONG!

Two of our greatest examples of understanding the importance of belonging and community are St. Teresa of Calcutta and the late Jean Vanier who said, Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.”

You see, there was a time when most of us often believed belonging was all about fitting in. Not being true to our own selves and more worried about what others thought about us instead of simply understanding that God created us in hopes of being the best version of ourselves and not the best version for someone else. The place you belong is here and now, today and tomorrow.

Belonging is not about what God wants from you but rather what God wants for you! The place you belong will always be in the loving presence of God, experiencing His unconditional love.  You belong to the CCH Class of 2019! You belong as a graduate of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division and most importantly you belong as a precious child in God’s kingdom. Always know that YOU BELONG!  

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours and all of God’s blessings. Thank you!

From the Desk of the Superintendent- Catholic Education Week

Good morning,
Today we begin celebrating Catholic Education Week throughout Canada.  Later this month, on May 30th, we will also recognize World Catholic Education Day.
I’m also pleased today to release a video on Catholic Education in Holy Spirit. This video was a joint project of the Holy Spirit ATA Local and the Board of Trustees, and was filmed and produced by Erv Fehr.  I’m very proud of the results. Please take some time to view Public Education- The Catholic Way (http://bit.ly/publiceducation-thecatholicwayat your leisure, or come to a special screening on World Catholic Education Day on the evening of May 30th.
In the past I’ve spoken at length of the threat to Catholic Education and, while that is true, I want to focus my comments today on the strength of what we do in our schools and throughout our system. Catholic Education works, not just in Holy Spirit but throughout Alberta and throughout Canada. We always strive to do something very unique, form in faith ourselves and our students. We do this to build a stronger society that recognizes the dignity of all and to be counter cultural just as Jesus was in his time. Catholic Education has the potential, if we do it well, to develop people of faith – not just people of spirituality. Jesus was faithful, not just spiritual.
Over the past three years we’ve worked with an incredible faith plan that has brought all of us back to scripture through the weekly Gospels. We learned about and practiced different forms of prayer. And this year we culminated our plan by sharing our bounty- sharing our time, treasures and talents. What a beautiful way to end this year’s theme and begin to move to our next three year faith plan.
This week all staff will be gifted with Catholic Education pins that I hope you wear with great pride. We will gather in our schools each Thursday for common prayers and I would ask that you wear blue each of the next four Thursdays to show solidarity for Catholic Education.
Our job in Catholic Education will never end since faith is a journey and not a destination. Continue to give your colleagues, your students and your communities the gift of faith. As St. Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” We will always be judged by our actions and while there is always work to do, our actions speak well of Catholic Education in Holy Spirit.
May God continue to bless you as we celebrate Catholic Education Week.

From the Desk of the Superintendent- May 2019

I’m a day late in sending my monthly message out but I did this purposely, since I wanted to complete our Team Continuous Improvement Plan Reviews first to able to share some of my perspective. Over the last two days, teams of three schools came to the St. Basil Catholic Education Centre to provide year-end reviews. We asked four guiding questions to focus the conversation.

  1. What are some ways that you know (beyond a list of activities) that your Catholic culture has grown this past year?
  2. What are you seeing in the classrooms that demonstrates that student learning has been impacted by improved instruction in literacy and numeracy?
  3. How has the work you’ve done in the First Nations, Metis and Inuit priority impacted student and staff learning?
  4. What might be some strategies you will be implementing next year to build on these priorities?

As senior administration reflected at the conclusion, all of us were first and foremost very proud of the work occurring in our schools. Shifts in language from my students to our students, intentional collaboration, reviewing data to improve instruction, support for Collaborative Response Model and extreme gratefulness for the work of our Learning Coaches were common themes.  But something else was present which I might be most proud of; raw honesty of things that were not perfect and still needed work and the desire of our school administrators to look to their colleagues to collaborate for solutions. While we might believe that is the norm to be that open and honest in front of the superintendent and his senior team, it simply is not. This speaks to the trust that our administrators have and the willingness to share beauty marks and warts! I just cannot say enough about the work of our leaders and the dedication of our staff!

Speaking of dedication, it is always a great celebration at our Long Service Awards. This year we honoured over 80 individuals and close to 30 have 20+ years of experience.  In my closing comments, I spoke about the loyalty of an organization to staff and the loyalty of staff to an organization. When the new norm is that people are changing careers around 7 times in their work life, we have employees who believe in Holy Spirit and remain for a long number of years. The Board’s desire to host these long service awards each year is a small token of appreciation for that loyalty. I’m personally grateful for the loyalty shown to me by staff throughout my tenure in Holy Spirit. As I said in my comments, I am blessed to feel so welcomed when I walk into our schools and will certainly miss that connection once retired.

Obviously the biggest news in April was the election. As I have said previously, I need to stay pretty apolitical as I must work with whatever government is in power. But, Catholic Education should be very excited with the naming of Adriana LaGrange as our new Education Minister. Mrs. LaGrange is a former board chair of Red Deer Catholic and prior to throwing her hat in the provincial ring was the President of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association.  There have been a lot of rumours on what the budget will look like. Speculating on the budget, we are planning for a status quo budget with likely no enrolment growth and no classroom improvement funding. We will need to wait and see!

Many of you may not realize that I sign off on all international trips. Even though the planning for these trips are exemplary, I’m always looking forward to the daily texts (I request from the lead teacher) when at the end of each day, students are back in the hotel and tucked into bed. This year we had two trips to Europe and one to New York. I’m not sure the general public has any idea how much work goes into the planning and while it may be a holiday for students, it is plain intense for chaperones. This year we had some students and staff get sick right at the end of one of the trips. I watched with such pride how chaperones across the ocean worked closely with administration here and the tour company to look after sick students and colleagues. It was amazing the care and compassion shown by our staff. Being pretty blunt, it frustrates the hell out of me, when people with little to no knowledge of the situation take “pot shots” at our procedures. Our kids were well taken care of throughout their ordeal. I’m thankful and so should all parents for the organization, the work and the overall care our staff provides on international trips. Without that commitment, I wouldn’t be signing off on any international trips! Well done chaperones, past, present and future!

By the way, with Easter being so late, does everybody realize that there are only 8 more Mondays left in the school year! The remainder of the year will pass by quickly. With the naming of our new Deputy Superintendent, Ken Sampson, we will be interviewing for the Director of Learning position this coming Saturday. There are a couple of associate principal positions that will be finalized within a couple of weeks and Brian and I are reviewing overall staffing numbers tomorrow afternoon. Before we know it June will be here and then…2018-19 school year will be done!

As we get closer to the end of the school year, I want to remind all of our school staffs that some students’ behaviours may become increasingly negative. For some students, the thought of not being able to come to school where there exists a stable and safe environment is very difficult. It is in these times that we must show those students our greatest patience and give them our most love. Remember that you may be the only caring adult in the life of some of the children in our schools!

Keep doing what you are doing because YOU ARE GREAT!

 

Enhancing leadership capacity

One of my core beliefs as a superintendent is to provide support and build the capacity of our school leaders.  While somewhat of an over exaggeration, in many cases, “how goes the principal is how goes the school.” This doesn’t mean that everything good or bad needs to be laid on the lap of the school administrator but at the same time, without strong leadership at the helm, schools and ultimately students suffer. The only caveat I have here is that if you are in one of these schools without effective leadership, you might want to do a little self-reflection as most often toxic culture is bred within school staffs too!

A key consideration for building leadership capacity is to be visible in schools and available at the office. I remember the day-to-day frustrations of school administration and if you as a senior leader are not available when the times are tough…you are not much use.  In working with leaders from across the province I hear about the “distance” self-imposed between senior and school administration. This is simply unacceptable! There is a hierarchy no doubt, and so it is essential for senior leaders to find ways to honor that hierarchy AND build strong relationships. My position requires me to have tough conversations and make difficult decisions but my school leaders are still my colleagues! The stronger the relationship, the more honesty you are going to get and the greater the ability to support.

While relationships are key, relationships in themselves are not enough. Senior leaders need to be able to support school leaders through issues and challenges, highs and lows and just plain struggles. It is not about solving problems but rather listening, questioning, causing reflection and ultimately building efficacy.

Listening- experienced leaders have a tendency to know the answer and want to just share their advice. It is easy and it is quick but it doesn’t necessarily stick and become part of the individual’s toolkit of strategies. Listening means that you just “shut up” and suspend judgment. You cannot get to the next stage of questioning if you are not fully aware of the context.

Questioning/Reflection- Most of our administrators are trained in the cognitive coaching model where asking the right questions is key to the process. To be honest, if you ask the right questions, reflective practice is enhanced and most often efficacy increases. Great questions are pluralistic in nature (i.e. What might be…) and are always open-ended. You won’t get much reflection from a yes or no question. The person doing the thinking is the person doing the learning, so make them think with reflective questions and ensure that you cast no judgment.

Efficacy- this has been a late learning for me but is proving to be the missing piece in the process. I like to tie situations back to when the individual was successful with a similar issue. For example, I might ask, “Looking back, what are some of the ways that you have been able to overcome a similar situation?” As you tweeze answers out, you can begin to place these successes front and center and looked for connections between past and future actions. It is powerful when people are able to see how they’ve been successful in the past and then build their own sense of efficacy.

I’ve never gotten it all right and the method I use works better with some leaders compared to others. However, when it works, leadership flourishes and staff and students excel. It is overdue for senior leaders to break down the positional barriers that exist, “get in the trenches” and support leadership development!

 

Shifting our Focus

The following blog post was written for the Lethbridge Herald, April 03, 3019.

Sometimes it is very difficult to let go of the past. It is comfortable, even though we know that it is likely remembered far better than it was actually lived. Similarly, we often hold on to our traditional beliefs about schooling and education. Traditionalists like to say, “If it was good enough for us, it is good enough for them.” The truth is that in many cases the education of the past wasn’t good enough for most and, given the complexity of our society, we can no longer view the world through only our own eyes. We are simply failing our children if we chose to remain in that paradigm of thinking.

There was a time when power was held by those who had the knowledge. Students needed to be in school to learn that knowledge because it wasn’t universally accessible. But now knowledge is universally accessible. So where does that leave us in education? Smarter was defined as those who could score better, which meant those who could regurgitate the knowledge back in the form of some test. Google has recently stated that GPAs are worthless criteria for hiring, yet we continue to sort students based solely on their ability to give us back what we gave them in the first place. The ability to memorize, though not a bad skill in itself, was in high demand. The rewards we have provided have not been about the learning, but rather the grades received.

Research would say that the reward of grades or that type of external motivation for most students is quite dangerous. According to the Hechinger Report on intrinsic motivation in the classroom, “one of the consequences is that students stop challenging themselves for fear of trying something hard and failing at it.” The carrot and stick method of motivation is not only archaic in today’s society, but harmful in our schools, organizations and governments. We need to find ways to motivate students intrinsically because that leads to higher student engagement.

According to Gallup, student engagement continues to fall as students become less interested in what they are learning. In the 2016 Gallup Student Poll, 74% of grade 5 students were engaged with school, while only 34% were in grade 12. Why is this important? Because there is a link between engagement and academic growth and post-secondary readiness. Even more important is that those disengaged students are almost 7.5 times more likely to feel discouraged about the future and students without hope often don’t have a successful future!   

During my 10-year tenure as Superintendent of Schools for Holy Spirit, we’ve tried to focus less on simply remembering the dots and more about connecting the dots. Our high schools, through the redesign process, have looked at flex opportunities and course design to engage students through more hands-on problem solving activities. We are being creative in what we offer to students in terms of investigative options at the junior high level and more STEM and STEAM programming at the elementary level. The freedom to do things differently within our schools has produced some great student engagement growth and our achievement has not suffered.

We live in an area that has one of the highest rates of child poverty in Alberta.  One in five students are not ready for kindergarten. Yet, as seen in our last Accountability Pillar survey, our division’s three-year averages outperform the province’s in 13 out of 16 categories.  This demonstrates that we don’t have to do what’s always been done and compromise excellence. Today’s students deserve a freshness in their schooling and parents deserve assurances of high quality learning. But that freshness and that assurance won’t come without the continual shift in our beliefs in education and our practices in schools.   

From the Desk of the Superintendent- April 2019

Usually, I begin my monthly message a couple of days before the end of the month. However, my ideas began to percolate after listening to Sarah Hart at our annual Spiritual Development Day and continued while attending the Religious Education Congress. Therefore, most of this blog post was written much earlier than usual and can be sent out today.

As I said in my brief comments, I didn’t always appreciate these types of days. Part of the reason was that my faith journey was fairly new or maybe more truthfully, my own faith was pretty immature. Now, truly knowing the gift that we have in Catholic Education, I’ve begun to really look forward to these days, in which gather us as one large faith community. I also feel most blessed  when we all come together to celebrate mass at the conclusion of the day. The entire day from opening comments to our closing mass allows all of us to grow a little more in our own faith. This one was probably a little more special as I realized it is my last Spiritual Development Day as Superintendent of Schools.

But there are a couple more reasons why I often came away from any professional development largely disappointed. The first and I’m sure you’ll find this hard to believe (HA! HA!), was my own ego. Being pretty successful in most endeavours throughout my youth and early adulthood, I think the saying might have been something like, “I already know that! or What is he/she going to teach me?” When you believe you won’t learn anything at a session, guess what, you won’t! The second reason I often came away feeling indifferent was that I put a higher value on entertainment compared to the key messages. Now don’t get me wrong, speakers should certainly be engaging but, sometimes entertainment and learning value may not necessarily align. So while I still desire someone who can touch my heart and mind, I’m more apt to be open to hearing the nuggets that I can apply to my own practice. There are very few speakers who don’t have at least something to offer regardless of the delivery.

And so I’ll circle back to our Spiritual Development Day and Sarah Hart. The quick feedback I received throughout the day was extremely positive. It is not easy to find speakers and plan days like this for the wide scope of employees we have. But I want to commend Joann Bartley, Lorelie Lenaour and Michelle MacKinnon (and their supports) who typically are largely responsible for our division days for trying to always find the right fit. The resources allocated and the high quality of professional learning offered in Holy Spirit has little to do with me. If you didn’t get anything out of one of our division days, I would challenge you (nicely) to be reflective on your own mindset. Is it your ego or attitude or something else that is holding you back from finding the learning?

Well, it is election time and together with our ATA locals, Holy Spirit and Lethbridge School Division are hosting two election forums focusing on education. The first for Lethbridge West will be held on April 2nd at Chinook High School. St. Francis will be hosting the forum for Lethbridge East on April 8th. Both forums are scheduled for 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Education is and always should be a high priority for any government and so I would invite all who are able to attend, to come out and hear candidates’ thoughts and party platforms. In my role as Superintendent, I need to be apolitical. However, Alberta Education officials know me well enough that I’m their biggest supporter when they make good decisions and their toughest critic when they make poor ones. Let’s hope that I can be supportive after the votes are counted!

The paperwork is in for the new superintendent but, with the election being called, it is unlikely that the individual will be publicly named until a new government is formed. Given that, and in consultation with the Learning Leadership Team, I made the suggestion to the Board of Trustees (and they’ve agreed) that rather than initiate a new three-year education plan under my direction, the Board extend our current plan an additional year and allow the new superintendent to guide the process beginning in 2020. We will implement our new 3 Year Faith Plan but continue with the priorities of literacy, numeracy and First Nations, Metis and Inuit learning. The beauty is that these priorities still align well with new curriculum and the Leadership/Teacher Quality Standards being implemented in September 2019.

For the past two years we’ve partnered with the U of L (thanks Valerie) to offer some phenomenal STEM/STEAM opportunities for students and staff. We are formalizing this partnership for next year again as it is evident that many of our classrooms/schools are taking advantage of this PD and providing some great learning experiences. One such experience, at St. Patrick School in Taber was provided to the Board of Trustees at the regular meeting in March. Associate Principal Sean Ethier and grade 2/3 teacher Nicole Caputo demonstrated their work with technology integration. For complete highlights of the board meeting please click here.

We are about to begin the fourth week of Lent. I hope that your Lenten journey has been spiritually fulfilling. It is not easy to be committed to increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving for any amount of time, let alone 40 days. However, I do pray that you make each day an opportunity to invest in your own spiritual growth as we all prepare for the Easter Season and the ultimate resurrection of Jesus Christ.

May God Bless you throughout this Lenten Season and into the season of the risen Lord.

3 tips for becoming a more relational leader

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a fairly harsh blog post entitled, “If you can’t get along with people…don’t be a leader!” Demonstrating honesty, integrity and trust are all key characteristics for getting along with people. But what else? No matter where you are in your leadership journey, improvement or honing your skills should always be at the forefront of your development. Even if you are well-known as a relational leader, these snippets of advice are still great reminders.

  • Listen:
    • There is good reason why God gave us two ears and only one mouth.
    • Matthew Kelly provides this powerful quote, “To be a great listener requires patience, focus, awareness, and most of all it requires us to set aside our own agenda.”
    • Please don’t interrupt even though you may have the right answer. People need to be heard and if you are constantly interrupting, when they tell their story and you won’t know it.
  • Lead with questions:
    • The person doing the thinking is likely the person doing the learning. Start with questions that ask them to think about the situation to provide you perspective. “What do you think you know about…?
    • Advice should only be given when there is no other option or someone is going to get hurt without the advice.
    • Use pluralistic questions. “What might be some ways…?” This gives options to the person not to get stuck on only one answer.
  • Show you care and are interested:
    • This really begins with simply listening but you can’t be relational without showing an interest in the other person.
    • Please don’t pull out your phone when they are talking to anything else that distracts you. They deserve your full attention not partial!
    • There is always a story…find out what it is!

Being a relational leader is never easy. It calls us to go beyond the superficial but then again, what great leadership doesn’t require that!