March 2017: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South!

It’s hard to believe that March is nearly over, and that we are embarking on the last stage of another year in Prairie South Schools.  I hope that you had a chance to get outside over the weekend and enjoy the great weather.  I managed to get my old barbeque fired up on Sunday and, despite having to stand in the middle of the frozen lake that is my yard, cooked supper without getting wet!

I wanted to make some contact with you today in anticipation of the provincial budget that will be tabled in the Legislature on Wednesday.  If you are feeling like I am, you’ll be getting sick of the steady stream of media reports in advance of the budget; I’m looking forward to budget day so that we can begin to get a sense of what the facts are rather than the ongoing speculation and political discourse that we have been managing for the past several months.  I’m very proud of everyone in Prairie South for your (our!) ability to keep focused on teaching kids and learning in schools when there are so many distractions in the environment.

In my perfect world, several questions would be answered in detail on budget day:

  1. What level of resources will the provincial government provide next year as we work to support the children and families who rely on our services?
  2. What restrictions will the provincial government impose related to how these resources are allocated?
  3. What changes will the provincial government make related to governance and school division boundaries beginning in the fall?
  4. What direction will the provincial government provide related to school calendars in the future?
  5. How will the provincial government’s budget affect individual people who are members of our Prairie South staff?

I’m sure there are a variety of other things that people want to know, but these are the big five for me; if we get clarity related to these, we will be able to move on with the local budgeting process in Prairie South.  Together with Bernie Girardin and some members of the Board of Education, I will be meeting with Ministry representatives on Wednesday morning in advance of the budget and again on Friday.  These sessions are designed to help us unpack the budget documents, which tend to be pretty complex.  Bernie and I are meeting on Saturday to finish this process and I hope that we will have a handle on exactly what the revenue side of the equation looks like by Monday next week.  The Board of Education has provided some initial budget guidance for us, and this work will continue on March 29th during our planning day, and again on April 24th at another planning session.  My hope is that we will have a budget ready to present at the regular meeting of the Board of Education on May 2nd.  I know this additional waiting creates some additional stresses and strains; if you have particular questions that I might be able to answer, don’t be shy to zip me off an email.

Now for the good stuff, and there is a ton of it!  I was so pleased with the work of students and staff in February during Staff Appreciation Week!  Part of the improvement plan that we developed last year after our staff survey included trying to unpack some of the cool jobs that members of our staff have, and show how lucky we are to work as a team in support of kids.  I was worried on the first day that we wouldn’t get any pictures, but we were drowning in them by the end of the week – I know that many of you helped in the background to make sure that others were recognized during the week – thank you for this support!  If you want a chuckle, have a look at the archive of pictures on the main page of the Prairie South website – my personal favourite is Troy Wist being mobbed by kids during plaid day in Central Butte – if he didn’t have the best job on the planet that day, I don’t know who did!

We had a great day on March 14th with the VTEC (Voices to Encourage Change) student leadership group and the Board of Education.  This is the second year of the VTEC project, which is an opportunity for Trustees and youth to talk together about things that are important to students.  We had an amazing group of students, mostly in grade 11,  from 9 Prairie South schools.  Their presentation to the Board will be available on video, and it’s worth a look.  Much of the message provided by the students focused on the importance of relationships, and the Board appreciated that their interests and those of the VTEC students were aligned.  Speaking of video, our PSTV project has some super videos featuring Grade 7 and 8 students from different schools on the Prairie South website – just click the PSTV tab on the main page!  If your school has students who want to be part of the PSTV project, please email Kim Novak and let him know!

This time of year marks the end of the extra-curricular curling and basketball seasons.  We have a ton of staff and community volunteers who make these and other programs work for students, and I appreciate the time you spend outside of the school day working with kids.  I know from experience that extra-curricular activities with kids can be the best part of working for a school division, but I also know that it takes a tremendous commitment of time – thank you to those who support curling and  basketball … and to coaches of all kinds of arts and sports activities across Prairie South.  The lessons kids learn while working with you outside of the classroom will serve them well as they live their lives.

We continue to see many gains in reading levels in Prairie South.  This is a result of excellent work by teachers and others who are helping children achieve at higher levels – reading is the single most important gift we can give a child, and we are doing a great job of this.  On behalf of our students and their families, thank you.

I’ve had the chance to be in some schools since Christmas, which is always a highlight for me.  Earlier in March  I managed to get into a snowpitch game at Rose Valley Colony – Sara, the girl who was pitching, didn’t show any mercy, but I didn’t feel too badly about striking out until the German teacher hit a home run during the next at bat.  Maybe next time.

Happy Spring – see you soon,

Tony

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