November 2016: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Friends,

Happy November!  I know this time of year is hectic in schools, with report card preparation underway, mud in the playground, and lots on the go with kids and families.  Thank you for everything you are doing to support our students and one another.  I hope that you’ve had a chance to get outside a bit in the beautiful fall weather that we’ve been having for the past few days.

I had a great response to my message last month, and want to thank all of you who took the time to email or stop me on the street to talk about my thoughts.  I even got a bowl of homemade turkey soup out of the deal – awesome!  I know that not everyone agrees with all of my comments, but I am grateful that people are comfortable asking challenging questions – we won’t be able to move forward as an organization unless we can all say what we think!  Your questions allowed me to talk about a bunch of things with you as individuals:  medical days taken are generally the same regardless of whether a school is on a traditional or alternative calendar, substitute teachers are covered under Workman’s Compensation, some of our substitute days are the result of the division pulling teachers out of school for various initiatives, etc.  I’m not sure that I have any answers to my questions yet, but I know that we can solve things together if we put our minds to it.  The conversation is the first step!

I spoke with the Board this morning about changes to the funding formula for school division budgets that are on the way for next fall.  The history on this is that the provincial government asked in the spring of 2015 for a review of how operational funds were divided up among school divisions in Saskatchewan.  This isn’t connected with overall funding levels for the education sector, but with how the dollars allocated for education are divided up.  The funding formula looks at things like facility costs, transportation, division-level supports for learning, teacher numbers, and instructional resources.  Unfortunately, Prairie South is on the wrong side of the proposed changes to the funding formula, which will lead to a reduction in funding next fall.  Because of this, I have begun the process of reducing the Superintendent staff by 20% for next year, and have let Kim Novak know that he won’t be back with Prairie South in the fall.  Kim has done excellent work for us since coming to Prairie South from Warman several years ago, and his leadership will be missed in our schools.  Kim’s work will be continuing until the end of this school year, and I have been humbled by his positive outlook on this change in his career path.  There will be other difficult decisions as the year goes on related to funding in Prairie South.

I was very interested in the school board election process on October 26th.  On behalf of all of you, I have sent a letter of thanks to each candidate who was unsuccessful in their bid to become a member of the Board, and have also sent a let of congratulations to those candidates who were successful.  School division governance is important and rewarding work, but it is also a personal sacrifice for Trustees.  Our governance team, the Board, is an essential part of our learning team; please take the time to introduce yourselves to new and returning Trustees.  At the Organizational Meeting in November, the Board selected Shawn Davidson as Board Chair and Tim McLeod as Board Vice-Chair.

With the new Board in place, we will be moving into a process of strategic planning to set direction for the school division for the coming years.  We have a great deal of data connected to staff satisfaction surveys and inservice feedback that the Board will want to work through as they engage in this process, and I know they will want to talk with staff to gather information on how we might move forward as a world class school division.  I will have more information on how this will happen as the process unfolds.

My work provincially connected to on-time graduation rates has been very interesting this fall, and I have been both encouraged by amazing stories of school success in this area and saddened by instances where schools have been ineffective in meeting the needs of kids.  We have lots of work to do as a system as we move to a Student First mentality where we take responsibility for ensuring success for every student.  I’m excited to be a part of this with all of you.

Have a great November and a peaceful Remembrance Day.  Whether you have the opportunity to attend a service on November 11th or not, please take some time to think about past and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces and others who have contributed so much to the world we enjoy today.

Respectfully,

Tony

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