Thanksgiving, and Thankful For Many Reasons

In spite of the temperatures and snow on the ground in some places across the Board, it is important to believe that we are only in the first week of October, school has been back in session for only a month essentially…and yes, I think we’re going to have some nice weather yet meaning some pretty impressive sunsets and warm evenings. At least I hope so!!

Good Morning, Everyone!

No, I am not a meteorologist nor do I have the desire to try to anticipate weather patterns, but I don’t think it can hurt to try and wish ourselves some promising forecasts for the weeks ahead! Trust me, I have every reason to hope for a prolonged fall, and one to make up for last year. Last weekend while out moose hunting, my partner and I faced 4 inches of snow and a blizzard where we were; someone did mutter “insanity” in my direction, and they probably weren’t far off the mark!!

I hope the start-up has been a good one and a smooth one as well for all of you. Around the system, and after checking in with the Senior Team almost daily, and with school administration and staff alike, I am hearing that it was one of the smoothest and measured start-ups we have ever had. Thank you all for that; starting a new year successfully cannot happen without the efforts and planning of everyone together. This upcoming Tuesday at our Senior Administration meeting, we will again go over start-up, look at enrolment in all schools, look at pressure points where they exist, make adjustments and take note for next year. Such is our responsibility. But for now, I can tell you that Senior Admin has already added more classroom teachers and support staff at four of our elementary schools, and one secondary on account of a strong enrolment increase. The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board continues to fire on all of its collective cylinders and making strides to get better. For that, I have to again, as I did in the new “Kids Come First” 2018 Board video…say thank you to all. In the next two weeks, I will be visiting our schools in Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Savant Lake and Pickle Lake; looking forward to seeing returning staff and meeting new ones for the first time.

Already in the first month, the Board has received acknowledgment for achievement: our schools achieved impressive gains in provincial EQAO results (in some cases, historic), we reached successful agreements with First Nations partners including Windigo Northern Chiefs, and Bimose Tribal Council, and hopefully one more with Wabauskang First Nation in the next few weeks, and have been visited this past week by the Federal Minister of Indigenous Crown Relations and Reconciliation the Honorable Carolyn Bennett (see photo below welcoming the Minister to Dryden High School this week). The feeling across the system is good and one of strength. As Caryl commented to me this week earlier in a private conversation, we “feel as if we are all on the same page, in these last couple years it has been really positive, I feel really optimistic.”

I feel the same way, but for me, I will add one more point; I also feel a tremendous sense of gratification for these gains having been hard earned and well-deserved after much, much heavy lifting.

But in the saying this, I also acknowledge, there remains much to do. We still have many kids needing all-around support; we have schools that need constant vigilance and families that we can never let off our radar. So for all of your on-going work, day in and out, I say one more time “Thank You” as we head into this annual Thanksgiving Long Weekend. We have much to be thankful for. And speaking of staff and being thankful, and why it is important to take a few seconds to express gratitude…I need to share an experience I had this week with everyone. It speaks to the pride that I feel in this organization and feel that you have in it as well.

As I was driving past Dryden High School Wednesday, and in anticipation of the Minister’s visit later that morning, it was noticeably quiet out front. Students weren’t outside like they often are in front of their high school; possibly on account of the rain that was beating down but even weather doesn’t keep kids from straying outside when we are talking about teenagers! However, there was one person working outside alone, in the rain and you could not miss her.

There with a couple of garbage bags, bent over, working solitarily was DHS custodian, Shirley Kotz picking up garbage and in effect rendering the entire front of the high school spotless. My initial thoughts were that she had been asked to do that specifically because the Minister was coming shortly. Those that know Shirley, would tell you “No, that’s not why, Shirley does that because she is Shirley, and she cares and is proud of Dryden High School.” Once inside the building, I went looking for her and when I tracked her down, I thanked her and asked her if she had been specifically requested that assignment that particular morning? Shirley replied, that no she hadn’t; in fact, she does this every morning because she can’t stand garbage and she wants her Dryden High School looking spotless…and besides, she gets exercise. She indicated to me that it really wasn’t a big deal (other than our side-bar conversation on why some people can’t understand garbage cans are for garbage, not the front lawn). Perhaps most impressively, she wasn’t even aware yet that the Minister was even coming. She just wanted things to look good, for her colleagues, the kids and the community.

I am very thankful for many things as we head into this weekend, and among them being blessed with 5 Star exceptional staff like Shirley Kotz, in every one of our schools, every one of our communities, everywhere.

From me to you, enjoy this long weekend, time with family and friends…by a fire, with a good book and ginger ale, or outside on one of our many roads wearing blaze orange!



Sean and Minister Bennett 2018