All Things Northern Ontario…

Good Morning, welcome back to most of you, welcome home to some of you, and simply “Welcome” to those of you who are starting with Keewatin-Patricia and today is your first day!

Welcome! I am proud to say that as the Director of Education, you  cannot have chosen a better more solid organization to come work for than the KPDSB! Admittedly I am biased, but yes, the KPDSB is in the midst of extraordinarily special times!

I hope all of you had a terrific summer, and if you were like me and stayed in Northern Ontario, specifically Northwestern Ontario for all of it, you would have been able to enjoy a typical “Sunset Country” holiday. The weather was great, the sunrises amazing and the sunsets spectacular. And yes, the fishing….was typically incredible as it always is here at home. I hope you found time for friends and family, time for a good book and cold ginger ale…time for you. A couple of years back, in my last post for the school year I referenced a song by the Motels called “Suddenly Last Summer” as we entered our annual summer break at that time. As “Serendipity” would have it, as I was driving home from camp this weekend thinking about the days and months ahead, but smiling about the amazing fishing trips and bonfires of the past two months…you guessed it, the same song came on the radio! Indeed, it suddenly is now, last summer. I really hope you had an amazing one!

This morning, as you prepare for your first day of the 2017-2018 school year, you will undoubtedly have the annual energy that accompanies the “First Day of School” with our kids. Your school principal and vice-principal will have some critically important messaging to share with all of you, from the Senior Administration Team, and from myself directly. As I said, we are in the midst of extraordinarily special and unprecedented times. The messages your school administration will share this morning are powerful reminders of what has happened in KPDSB these last few years and what continues to unfold, even today as we speak. And they will start off this morning’s first staff meeting with the “2017 Kids Come First” video. As you watch the powerful images in the video alongside the music, please keep in mind that with extraordinary times come the requirement to celebrate in extraordinary ways. This year’s video, I think you will agree is the best we have ever put together and shared with all of you. The images and scenes, all of them, are us in Keewatin-Patricia; they are our schools, our highways, our bridges and rivers, our kids and our staff. They are, and we are, Northwestern Ontario.

As you attend your first staff meeting for the year, I want to publicly share that while 2016-2017 was the “Year for Change and Restructuring” in Keewatin-Patricia, that heavy lifting and most difficult undertakings, are now complete. I acknowledge that for some last year, the changes were very difficult and in some cases upsetting. Change is often not inconsequential and without disruption; but through the efforts and diligence of the Efficacy Agenda and Working Group, it became apparent change was necessary. But that change is now complete and as a result 2017-2018 will be a “Year of Reconciliation and Consolidation”. We will be working hard this year, with a new realigned Senior Admin Team, to bring a level of coherence that we frankly need in KPDSB. I welcome on all of our behalf, both Tania Sterling and Richard Findlay as new Superintendents of Education and Business respectively. They will bring fresh perspectives, new ideas and enthusiasm that I hope we can all harness into our own.

And as I commented to the Premier of Ontario last week, and as move towards addressing the issue of tuition collection for Indigenous students, our growing and rapidly expanding work with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), our highly anticipated graduation successes; and the small matter of the successful completion of our brand new Sioux North High School in Sioux Lookout, as 2017-18 will be a Year of Reconciliation, 2018-2019 will mark our finest hour, and will be a “Year of Celebration”.

For today though, celebrate with me the arrival of a new school year, full of the hope and promises that only a new beginning can provide, and feel gratified that we are working in one of the best organizations an educator could and in the best part of the country; a place affectionately known for being “All Things Northern Ontario.”

I look forward to seeing you all very soon; Good Luck!!