December 2015: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Friends,

Merry Christmas!  I wanted to send a brief note before I leave for some holiday time – I hope you aren’t reading this before Christmas – if you are, shut off your email and go spend some time with people you love!

November and December were interesting months for me on a number of fronts.  I had my first experience with bargaining from the management perspective, and learned a ton about the process.  It was great to be able to learn from teachers and staff at the office who have lots of experience in this area.  As many of you will know, we reached a tentative agreement in November, however this was defeated by the PSTA when it went to a ratification vote in early December.  I’m a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to arrive at an agreement that met the needs of teachers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with the PSTA members who volunteered to be a part of the bargaining process.  Lots of laughter and fun, and a chance to build even better relationships, so the investment of time was definitely worth it!  I’m looking forward to continuing the process after Christmas; bargaining is hard work, but I know that working together is the best way to solve difficult problems.

The Board has been very active in committee work this fall, which has also been a good learning opportunity for me.  The Smooth Transitions Committee has been looking at early learning programming and Prekindergarten transportation in Prairie South, and Trustees have spent some time in classrooms with Prekindergarten students to see what their days look like.  In early December, Trustees from this committee interviewed 24 school bus drivers (12 rural and 12 urban) to gain some perspective on the challenges faced when transporting young students.  The Equitable Opportunities Committee reviewed the Human Resources Accountability Report in November, and will be examining issues related to the recruitment and retention of school-based administrators in the new year.  The Rural Catchment Committee has met with School Community Councils from schools in Mortlach, Caronport, and Moose Jaw to discuss the possibility of a new catchment area around Caronport, and the Advocacy and Networking Committee has had supper and a visit with the PSTA and CUPE to talk about how things are going in Prairie South in a number of different areas.  Three other committees are also hard at work, and I appreciate the commitment of Trustees as they work to learn more about the work you do every day.

In January, we will be sending our second annual staff satisfaction survey to all staff members.  This is an opportunity to let us know how we are doing as a school division, and will result in an updated improvement plan for 2016.  Last year the staff survey led to several initiatives as we attempted to support work-life balance for teachers, increased professional development choice and sense of team for CUPE, and better communication for out-of-scope staff.  I’m excited to see the data from this year’s survey, as this will tell us whether these efforts have been successful.  I believe they will be, but even if they aren’t, the spirit of collaboration and common vision that comes from the survey process is a valuable outcome.

In early 2016, I’ll be starting to think about budget process for 2016-2017, and about some work I have volunteered to lead provincially on graduation rates.  I’ve managed to get to about half of the schools for at least one visit this fall, so if I haven’t been to yours, I’ll look forward to seeing you sometime in the spring as well.  I love visiting with teachers and kids, so if you need a guest reader or want to do a Q&A session on anything at all with staff or students, just let me know.  I can’t promise to have all of the answers, but we will work together to get some answers for the ones I don’t know.

I am looking forward to the Christmas break with my family.  We spent a day with my dad and his partner last weekend, and will spend part of Boxing Day with my mom.  Sandra’s mom is in Arizona and isn’t coming home for the holiday, so we will be spending Christmas Day with friends in Davidson.  Sandra, Kim, Kaitlyn and I are going to Cuba for a week after Christmas; this is a place I have always wanted to see, so I am looking forward to that very much.  Nicole is still working with NATO in Europe, and although we are missing her, we are grateful that she has had the opportunity to do the work she is doing.  She and 150 other crew members from HMCS Winnipeg will be attending Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican, likely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I know that the Christmas break provides an important time for staff to unwind and reclaim some balance that can be lost during fall activities and November report cards.  I hope that the holiday finds you well, and that you are able to enjoy some time with family and friends.  Have a peaceful break; see you in 2016!

Tony

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