December 2017: A Note From Tony

Happy (almost) Holidays to Everyone in Prairie South!

I’ve been meaning to sit down and send a note for about three weeks, so I’m glad that I’m finally doing it!  It started feeling quite a bit like Christmas for me on Wednesday, as I had the chance to attend the Christmas program at Rose Valley Colony with the Deputy Minister of Education, Rob Currie.  Yesterday was Rob’s first experience at a colony, and he had a great day, with a personalized tour of Belle Plaine Colony in the morning and a chance to be at the concert at Rose Valley in the afternoon.

In addition to helping the Ministry staff understand more about the diversity of schools in Prairie South, the Board has been busy helping other elected folks understand our needs as well.  Last week three Trustees, Tim McLeod, Giselle Wilson and Darcy Pryor, met in Regina with Bronwyn Eyre, the Minister of Education.  During the meeting, Trustees reviewed the elements of the 2017-2021 Prairie South Strategic Plan with the Minister, and outlined the great work being done by Prairie South staff in the areas of Student Outcomes, Infrastructure (facilities, transportation, and information technology) and Innovation.  Trustees did an excellent job of outlining their fears that recent funding levels for school divisions would prevent further gains in these areas, and explained to the Minister that, when student numbers and inflation are taken into account, our Board has access to 11% fewer resources to serve kids in 2017 than they had available in 2014 – more than a 9 million dollar loss in spending power in a four year timespan.  I appreciate the advocacy of the Board on behalf of kids and schools in Prairie South, and while we won’t know for several months if this advocacy has been successful, I am confident that the government has been made aware of the resource needs that we face on a daily basis as we try to maintain a world class school division for students, families, and staff.

Speaking of the Strategic Plan, the Board has finished a year-long process of renewal in this area.  I will be working with a variety of groups in the new year to explore how we can work together to make the vision of the Board a reality.  One of the questions I will be asking during these times is about how individuals see themselves reflected in the plan – each of us is in there somewhere!

I’m very excited to see the process of curriculum renewal at the high school level restarted after a lengthy pause imposed provincially several years ago.  We have been working with schools and parents to bolster understanding of the outcomes based assessment practices that match the elementary curriculum, and it will be good to see some movement in this area at other grade levels.  We have several schools who are piloting an outcomes based focus from K-12, and we have some great examples of this work from other school divisions to draw on as we work toward assessment practices that more closely match what students need in the 21st Century.  I really appreciate the great support that has been provided by the Learning staff and the Superintendents of Operations as we work our way through the renewal process – there are always lots of kinks to work out when we change practice, but we will be doing an even better job for kids at the end of the road.

This fall, the Partnerships and Teambuilding Committee of the Board visited two school staffs to learn about the celebrations and challenges that are unique to their schools and communities.  Thank you to the staffs at Prince Arthur Elementary School and Coronach School for taking the time to meet with Trustees to share your work.  The same committee is planning on meeting with another Moose Jaw staff and another rural staff in the new year, and a couple of Trustees have commented about how much they have enjoyed being in schools.

In January, we will be doing our third Staff Satisfaction Survey with all Prairie South staff.  We have been working for the past two years on several things that emerged from the last survey, and I’m hopeful that the results of the 2018 survey will let us know that we are moving in the right direction.  Past surveys have told us that in general, people enjoy their work with Prairie South, however I know that we need to keep doing better as a division for our staff in the same way we are asking our staff to continue to do better for kids.  The 2018 survey was created by folks from the PSTA, our CUPE local, and two members of the non-unionized office staff together with several Trustees.  Once the survey has been completed in late January, we will collate and share the data, and then in March we should be up and running with the next version of our improvement plan.  Please have a look for the survey in your inbox when you return from the holidays.

Sandra and I will be spending most of the holiday with our daughters and our moms at Pike Lake.  I’m looking forward to a few days of playing cards and enjoying some time outside.  Wherever your holiday finds you, and whoever you choose to spend it with, I’d like to wish you peace and happiness.  Don’t overeat.

See you soon,

Tony

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