December is Here

Good Morning; December  is Here!

I have been asked on occasion over the past few years, about how I go about choosing or sharing when I send out posts to the system and to all staff, both current and retired; interesting we have a number of folks who also read these posts from outside of the KPDSB too. I have often wondered why, and have felt that I should forewarn them that if they are looking for something profound, it likely won’t be coming from me. The truth is, that while I do try to be consistent and connect with all of you about every 4 to 6 weeks, I don’t have a set or pre-determined focus or theme; usually so much occurs or something has agitated me, that I share all with you and likely do so for selfish therapeutic reasons!!!! I guess that’s why the phrase “We are all human” makes so much sense to us?!

But in recent weeks several events have occurred that have impacted myself personally, and many in the system directly. On a personal level it was three weeks ago on a November morning, having just arrived at the office in Dryden when I got a call from the hospital in Kenora and was told “Sean, Dad had a heart attack and is in Intensive Care at the hospital; they’re preparing to fly him out.” Now for those who live in Kenora, most will know my Dad “John” and have had the fortune (or misfortune!) to run into him walking down Valley Drive, biking, or out on the lake. You simply cannot get away from him with out spending 15 minutes of your life talking, often about fishing, your family and loved ones and even politics on occasion. Once in while he might rail about his only son and comment that “he still doesn’t listen”, just as I didn’t when I was teenager! Many of the female staff often comment to me that he “so cute” and resembles some sort of Smurf character, given that he stands about 5’1”. And I have to admit, there is something endearing about driving to work in Kenora and seeing my parents walk down the street together waving at me and me back to them in the mornings. Life in a small northern town…

So when I got the call that he was in the ICU and had a heart attack, I informed Mary I was turning around and driving right back to Kenora; and I have to admit for the first time in my life I put that cruise control and pedal on 95 km/hour and did not take it off until I was back in Kenora and had slowed down going through Vermilion Bay, even though my adrenaline was pumping and I wanted to drive twice that fast. Seeing one’s own parent (like I know many of you have yourselves), hooked up to monitors and tubes; IV lines and oxygen is a rather unnerving experience. Dad is only 67 years old, and in great health or so we thought; he actually had his heart attack while out on his morning walk. Over the following nine days he spent time in a couple of ICU’s, flying between Kenora and Thunder Bay, in and out surgery, and in and out of pain. I have nothing but amazing things to say about our health care professionals. Inter-provincial wrangling over who has responsibility for Ontario patients in Northwestern Ontario…well that is a whole other thing. But the one thing I will never forget is when Dad arrived at the Thunder Bay hospital from the airport there and upon having had another heart attack, how he looked as I waited for him. He looked old, grey and he looked very wore out…he didn’t actually even look like my Dad.

We often talk about taking care of ones’ self and making sure we have balance in our work/personal lives; I know I speak of it, not only because I believe in it but because we all know how important it is. It is important to ourselves, to our families and loved ones, and it is important to our students and colleagues. But here is the thing about taking care of ones’ own well-being…that I have found to be difficult at times: it is simply easy to say, much tougher to do, isn’t it? However, it is critically important. Candice sent out yesterday a great newsletter about taking care of yourselves over this Festive month which for some people can be tough; please read what she has shared. The Daily Physical Activity Pilot is demonstrating that the majority of this system is utilizing it and making good on their pledge. Later today we will be drawing for 10 Fit Bit Surges as promised by me to all of you last week for those that completed the survey of participation. I was reluctant to send the survey out because what is the first thing you think of or say when someone asks you to complete a survey?? (maybe don’t say it!). But you know what, almost 500 of you completed that survey, and 75% of you did so in the first 24 hours!! I have never seen such staff empowerment and a feeling of investment in ourselves and in this organization like I am seeing now; and I am very pleased. The data we are collecting and what you have told us is compelling and profound. And it is invaluable; we are already hearing that people want to continue to have us carry forward the concept of the DPA Lieu Day and share practices with each other and your colleagues. Continue to share your stories; I need to hear them!

Over the next few weeks, you will likely be enjoying seasonal parties and socials that celebrate comraderie, and each other and of course the holidays. Apparently in Kenora at the Board office we are participating in a “muder-mystery” Christmas Party…where I am expected to play a young male reindeer named “Dusty”; an ornery young ungulate who can’t seem to quite make the cut for Santa’s Reindeer team and consequentially has a grudge against Rudolph.…….Sounds more like a B-rated movie that airs at 3 in the morning!

And I thought we signed up for curling; thanks Daina!!!!  Anyways, whatever it is you do, or wherever you go for the holidays, I am asking and frankly appealing to you to enjoy yourself and each other. We need to, and while I can’t believe that December is here, the reality is that in 3 weeks, you will be on our annual Christmas recess, and a well-deserved one at that. I plan on continuing to check in on Dad, although his recent crankiness suggests that “he is back to normal”!

In the new year, I plan on reconnecting with all staff and based on the recent Efficacy Year 3 Summary and Recommendations that I received last week and acting on the direction and feedback taken from you, will act accordingly. I will be making a commitment to come again between January and May, to visit and attend a staff meeting with all of you in your schools and worksites where we will able to discuss matters of Efficacy, direction of the organization and the future of the KPDSB. Questions around our continued work with NAN/KO can be discussed, the needs of our students and yourselves and our communities. There is great change afoot in the organization right now, with a full-system restructuring underway involving Senior Administration and Administration, and those changes will continue until they are complete, and I will be happy to share with you what those changes when the time is right and we are ready. In addition and in an effort to support transparency, once I have shared the Efficacy Executive Summary with the P/VP’s and Managers next week, I will send it out to the entire system, all of you to review as well.

But for now, the message is this; enjoy the month with your students and colleagues, take care of yourselves, and remember to stop and smell the roses, because if you don’t you may find yourself forced into doing just that driving the highway back to your home hoping that your Dad is OK.

Stay in touch and take care,

Sean