It has been about six weeks since my last system post to all of you and in between that period much has happened; some events planned, others unexpected. It seemed to me that certain days bordered on euphoric while others felt tragic and full of heartbreak. In speaking with many of you these last few weeks, it would seem that this experience remembered as the “Fall of 2017”, is one that was relatable. And in spite of a very successful moose hunt with my youngest son Tristan and my Dad John, and a couple of memorable fall weather days full of purple and blue hued skies…this past fall, is one I will be looking forward to putting behind me. As if to ensure we were clear that the days of fall were indeed in our rearview mirrors, enter winter with full fury of snow and cold temperatures! Even following the first big snowfall just before Hallowe’en, I still held out hope (as I am sure many of you did) that warmer more climate-impacted temperatures would return and with it our lawns again and bare streets. Folks, winter is here; and as I drafted this iteration from my room in Pickle Lake where another foot of snow fell two days ago, I found myself chuckling at the unique and in many ways, endearing character of our Board.
I am in the midst of my committed DOE school-staff meetings with staff across the system. I had shared with all of the Principals and Vice-Principals in August following our Senior Administration planning meetings, that I would aim to get to every single school personally before Christmas. I did this three years ago at the onset of the Efficacy Agenda with the intention to share the current state of the union in the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (including enrolment and staffing growth), updates on Board restructuring, and in essence generally the future direction of the entire organization over the next number of years. I indicated I would address matters such Education Services Agreements and “Reverse” Education Service Agreements (aka “Tuition Agreements) with First Nation communities and Indigenous partners emphasizing that as last year was a year of fundamentally profound changes in the KPDSB, this 2017-2018 year would be one of “Reconciliation and Consolidation”, on many levels.
However, six funerals and two eulogies later on the personal front; in between trying to balance on the professional side of being tapped to working with the Minister’s Task Force on Provincial Tuition Discussions, and attempting to tackle head-on the sustainable long-term planning of our recognized “Graduation Coach/Four Directions” work…I have to admit, getting all of these school visits complete in entirety before Christmas has been particularly challenging. Internally, as a Board we have a terrific enrolment picture and even brighter future, a solid financial budget state, and two major capital projects on the docket (Ear Falls Public School and Sioux North High School). And all this buoyed by an obvious sense of pride in the KPDSB, allowing me as the DOE to share with all of you that the state of the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board is incredibly and formidably strong. In saying this, I will finish all of my committed school visits with you before the end of January. I referred to these last few weeks and next few weeks of travel within the Board as the “Full-On System Run” until a colleague offered the suggestion “Why don’t you refer to your school visits as your normal: Sean KPDSB March?’ You enjoy them don’t you?” So folks, I am in the midst of the end of 2017 DOE year-end “Fun Run”!
In saying this I would be remiss if I also didn’t share that these visits, and the visits of the SO’s in our schools, are also reinforcing the reality in harsh and cruel ways that the needs of our students continue to grow at an accelerated rate, compounded by the severity of needs and trauma…and in numbers that are simply unprecedented in many of our collective experiences. While the picture in the Board on a system level is very bright, the reality out there on the front lines in your schools, in your classrooms, in your communities is at times overwhelming. For the Senior Administration Team and those entrusted to make tough decisions, starting with myself, your challenges are well known and understood. Efficacy has allowed for a flattened organization approach making your reality in your kindergarten classrooms, in your OSSLC courses, and in your ISST meetings, ours and my reality because we know it is yours. As the DOE I continue to grapple with meeting all of these challenges, including time out of schools and classrooms in a sustainable way for teachers and administrators, which includes time lost due to employee absences. These challenges will remain a recurring theme over the rest of the year, into planning for 2018-2019.
I reiterated to the Sr Admin Team again last week, that we must as Superintendents and Director of Education…be the hardest working people in this organization, because we can never ever ask you in schools and on the front lines to give more of yourself than we are prepared to give ourselves. My job is easier than many of yours, I work with adults mostly (a challenge in itself admittedly at times); most of you work with kids who rely on you for everything, which is taxing you on many levels. I commit to all of you that the Board Administration will not ever lose sight of how difficult the work is and the importance of remaining acutely understanding of the realities in our schools. In saying this, I also remind you that being a staff member in the KPDSB makes you part of a growing movement and a principled cause that makes young people the center of our work and challenges us to make the lives of kids extraordinary.
We have (if you can believe it!) now one month before I will reach out to all of you and your families, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a restful holiday season; and when I do, the days will have started to become longer!
I wish you all the best and renewed efforts, for the remainder of 2017!
***Two Footnotes: 1) You will have all received an invitation for input into the draft 2018-2019 school year calendar; given the annual volume of staff asking me why we continue to start before Labour Day instead of after? I would offer that this is your chance to provide feedback into a calendar that works for you and your students; and…
2) A short two weeks after posting my last email to all of you, Antero Cabral Sr, an incredibly kind and sincere man whom I have referred to on a number of occasions these past few years including my recent blog, passed away with his family by his side after a sudden diagnosis of cancer. He never made it home for Thanksgiving; however, his Grandchildren did make it to him. I thank all of you who emailed me personally after the last blog.