The holidays are upon us! As the excitement of the season grows for students, December can be a challenging month for staff who need to keep the focus on learning, and I’ve been excited to see many examples of great teaching and learning happening as I have visited schools in the last month. I’ve also had the opportunity to see some great Christmas concert activity, which I know is an additional time commitment for staff who are busy preparing for the holidays with their own families. Thank you for the time you have spent making schools and classrooms in Prairie South engaging for children and families!
It’s a really interesting time to be working in the education sector. The Ministry of Education is leading a process where they hope to be able to identify areas for growth for public education in Saskatchewan for the next several years, and several provincial partners are supporting this process. This is being watched closely by the Board, as one of their roles is to set overall direction for the school division, and they see the importance of ensuring that provincial priorities are aligned with Prairie South priorities. Misalignment here results in unnecessary work for staff and less benefit for students and families, so the stakes are quite high. If you have the opportunity to provide feedback connected to this work, please be sure to share your thoughts – the more voices that describe the needs of our kids, the better a new plan will meet their needs. In the last couple of weeks, principals and trustees worked through the next round of plans for the current Educational Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) and provided feedback for the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT), so our voices are being heard! A very nice side effect of this planning is that the profile of the sector is higher than it has been for several years, and politicians are talking about the importance of properly funding schools so we can continue our good work with kids. Let’s keep them talking that way!
In January we will be starting our calendar process for 2019-2020. The recent Provincial Collective Agreement with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation provides some additional support for us as we plan school division calendars; in the past we have had a legislated minimum threshold of 950 student contact hours but no real guidance on a maximum threshold. With the new agreement, the bargaining partners have agreed on a maximum of 1044 hours of assignable time for teachers, so this helps define a “time bracket” as we plan for calendar development. We continue to work closely with our partners at Holy Trinity School Division to find ways to harmonize calendars as much as possible, and I anticipate that we will have a calendar draft available for staff feedback before the end of January. Spoiler alert: It looks like we will be able to schedule a full 2-week Christmas holiday in 2019-2020, which I know will make many people happy!
I want to acknowledge staff from the PSTA and CUPE who have been busy recently negotiating on behalf of the membership of those employee groups. I was thrilled to learn that the LINC agreement with teachers had been ratified by the PSTA membership with a strong 83% vote this week – this is a credit to the leadership of the LINC bargaining committee made up of 9 teachers: from Assiniboia – Jeff Feeley and Patty Mergel; from Moose Jaw – Suzanne Vance, Sharon Schafer, Kurt Gillett, Tayler Gardner, and Karen Scott; from Coronach – Belinda Spagrud; and from Kincaid – Roger Morgan. We continue to have productive conversations with the CUPE bargaining committee as well, with leadership from 4 Facility Operators: from Moose Jaw – Dale Smith, Jason Gregoire, and Bill Johnston; from Craik – Wade Hassett; and 1 Administrative Assistant: from Moose Jaw – Diane Rasmussen. Staff from the school division who are part of one or both bargaining committees include Diana Welter and Ryan Boughen as well as trustees Shawn Davidson from Kincaid, Tim McLeod from Moose Jaw, and Robert Bachmann from Caronport. Please take a minute to thank these folks for representing their staff group and the school division when you have a chance!
I’m looking forward to a few days off over Christmas. Sandra and I are happy to have our daughters Nicole, Kim and Kaitlyn home for the holiday, and we hope to spend most of our time playing cards, being outside in the fresh air and relaxing. I hope each of you enjoys some well-deserved holiday time, filled with laughter, friends and family. If you’re travelling, please be safe. See you in 2019!