April 2019: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Friends,

Happy belated Easter!  I hope you had a peaceful Easter weekend and managed some time with family and friends.  For those of you who are away from work this week, the weather looks great – be sure to take some time to enjoy it.  If you’re at work, take advantage of the slower pace to enjoy a cup of coffee somewhere in the sunshine.  I’m at work today and tomorrow, and looking forward to a couple of vacation days on Thursday and Friday.

We’ve had an eventful couple of months at Prairie South.  The biggest news on the media front was related to the provincial budget, which was both good and bad news for Prairie South.  On the bad front, the operational budget for the school division did not increase enough to cover the additional expenses associated with the STF contract that was signed by the government last fall.  There was no additional funding provided for any other cost pressures associated with wages, inflation, carbon tax costs, the Canadian dollar, or international tariffs that impact items we purchase from the USA, particularly school buses.  The Saskatchewan School Boards Association has been working to help provincial politicians understand the impact of insufficient funding for school division operations, and I appreciate their efforts on behalf of children and youth in Prairie South and around the province.  In more positive news, the government did announce funding for design of a new school in Moose Jaw, which is the initial step in Prairie South opening a new school to replace two aging facilities in southern Moose Jaw.  While I have some questions related to this government’s understanding of cost pressures and school divisions, I also think they should be commended for the infrastructure commitments they are making in the education sector, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to support the Board’s vision of a new school facility in our largest community.

I’ve had a chance to spend some time with staff participating in MySchoolSask inservice work over the past several weeks.  MySchoolSask, which will replace our SIRS student information system and the provincial student data system next fall, is a significant undertaking in Prairie South and around the province.  When it is fully implemented, it will allow school divisions to track children around the province which will result in better service for students and their families, particularly those who are vulnerable because of transitions from school to school.  While this makes it worth it, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that there will be lots of headaches before the implementation is complete!  I’d like to recognize Kathie Alm and Jason Froats who are taking care of us on the data front, Jenn Chan, Amanda McCann, Danielle Gossard and Melissa Brooks who are taking care of us on the inservice and reporting front, and Derrick Huschi and Lori Meyer, who have ably represented Prairie South on the provincial front as we plan for implementation.  Very special thanks to the staff at the division office who have arranged their summer holidays around data validation sessions for MySchoolSask data to ensure that our August 12th go live date features data that is clean and ready to go.

The Board has had lots on the go recently as well.  The Ministry of Education is leading a consultation process connected to the development of a provincial education plan to guide sector planning from 2020 to 2030, and trustees have been collecting feedback from stakeholders around Prairie South to support this work.  Trustees have supported committee work related to facilities, transportation, the Comprehensive Learning Framework, SCC outreach, and student outcomes in all areas.  Their focus on school-level innovation continues, and I’m looking forward to reviewing innovation fund proposals for next year in the coming weeks.  Next week the Board will be working on the budget for next year on Monday, and on Tuesday will be working with a facilitator to review their own effectiveness over the past year and complete a performance appraisal for me.  Like any appraisal process, this is a bit nerve wracking, but I always appreciate the candid feedback from the Board and the honesty with which they review their own work.  These conversations are absolutely critical as we complete our mandate of learning together.

On May 14th, I’m excited to see Dr. Jody Carrington who will be speaking to SCC members, parents, and staff at Central Collegiate in 2 sessions that focus on relationships and wellness.  You’re all invited – registration is through your School Community Council.  April is SCC Annual General Meeting month, and this will be a great opportunity to meet new SCC faces in Prairie South.  If you haven’t heard Dr. Carrington speak before, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

I attended my first graduation ceremony of the year at Belle Plaine Colony School earlier this month, and enjoyed it immensely as I always do.  Graduates Braden, Miranda, and Amy are going to make a difference in the world, and the partnership between parents and school staff has a lot to do with their success.  Thank you to everyone in Prairie South who has supported young men and women who are graduating this spring – whether you are (or were) their teacher, drive their bus, clean up after them, keep them organized, or support them or their school in countless other ways, your work has helped them become the people they were meant to be.

Happy spring – see you soon,

Tony

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