September 2017: A Note From Tony

Good Morning Prairie South Staff,

Welcome to 2017-2018!  Although the summer seemed to go quickly, I feel excited to be back in the swing of supporting you as you work with children and youth in our 19 Prairie South communities.  I hope each of you had a restful, fun summer, and that you’re ready to get back to work too!  Having said this, I know that there are members of the staff who didn’t take a summer holiday so that they could have things ready for the rest of us today – thank you to the school and division level facilities and transportation staff for your work over the summer months – now that we’re up and running, I hope you have a chance for some well-deserved holiday time!

I have two things that are top of mind as we begin the school year.  First, I know that we are a very different school division now than we were in June as a result of the changes associated with the budget last spring.  With approximately 25 fewer staff, we will need to be careful to ensure that important work isn’t missed and that things that are less important are put on hold.  With as many different assessments of what is important and what isn’t as we have staff members, this will take some time.  For myself, I know that the two most important tasks are making sure that our students have the learning experiences they need to be successful and ensuring that staff are supported as they complete their work connected to this, whether that work is teaching or administration or any of the other jobs that are necessary to keep things on the go in Prairie South.

I had the chance to visit with bus drivers, administrative assistants, and teachers at start-of-the-year inservice days, and in some cases I spoke about the importance of working at 100% as we support teaching and learning.  In times of diminishing resources for schools, I think there is a tendency to want to fill the gaps; while I know this is done with the best intentions in mind, I also know that working at more than 100% isn’t sustainable in the long term, and leads to more challenges than it solves.  At the same time, we don’t have time for people to be working at 95% either – our kids deserve our very best every day, and I’m proud to be a part of a school division where this is understood.

The other thing that I’m thinking about as the year begins is the provincial work that is underway connected to making a change in graduation rates around the province.  In September, Prairie South will host the second annual Graduation Rates Symposium, where teachers and administrators from around the province will meet to plan how to improve outcomes for Saskatchewan students in this area.  I am very proud that Prairie South has taken a leadership role in this work, and was excited this summer to learn that our own graduation rate was higher last year than it has been since Prairie South was established in 2006.  This success happens because of dedicated and caring staff members who refuse to give up on kids.  Thank you.

As we begin the year, I’m thinking of students, staff, and families in Glentworth and Chaplin.  Yesterday, there was a very large prairie fire south of Glentworth that extended all the way south of the American border, and many of our families there lost a significant part of their crops and hay land.  Sometime over the weekend, we had what we believe was a fire main break in the school in Chaplin, so staff and students there are returning to pumps and a mess instead of shiny floors and excitement for the first day.  Kathy Rieder, the principal in Glentworth, said it well yesterday when she talked about the amazing community spirit in the face of adversity that we have in Saskatchewan.  We’re thinking about you!

My family is completely in back-to-school mode, with Sandra returning to her position at Davidson School where she teaches math, chemistry, and physics and all three kids back at the University of Saskatchewan.  The house seems pretty quiet after the action of the summer, but it’s a good quiet.

Have a great day, a fun week, and a fulfilling year.  See you soon,

Tony

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