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!