March 2018: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Staff,

I hope some great spring weather finds you well!

I need to begin with some thank you messages – they are the most important part of what I have to say, and I know that not everyone makes it to the end of my emails.  Thank you to Barry, Heather, Sandee, our 114 regular route drivers, and the mechanic staff who led us through the “snow event” last week.  We had four days in a row where we didn’t have a hope of doing a bus pick-up on a Moose Jaw side street safely, and our transportation staff managed this impeccably.  Well done.  Also, thank you to the AA, HFO/FO, and EA staff who participated in the CUPE inservice day last week.  It was great to see you together talking about how we can continue to get better serving kids and families throughout Prairie South.  Thank you to the staff and parent volunteer coaches for our curling, basketball, drama, choir (and a million other things that are great for kids) programs throughout the school division.  We know that these activities create time pressure on the rest of your lives, and we appreciate your willingness to volunteer.  Thank you to my friend, Bernie Girardin, who will be retiring in July after 10 years as the CFO at Prairie South.  The office won’t be as colourful without you here; we wish you a long, prosperous, laughter-filled retirement.

The Ministry of Education has given us notice that the total budget for school division operations for 2018-2019 will be 1.87 billion dollars, which is 30 million more than the current year and 24.2 million less than last year.  Although inflation will account for much of this increase, it is certainly a more positive message than we were facing last year, and I appreciate the early notice provided by the Ministry and the government, as it allows us to do our pre-budget work with much more certainty than we are used to.

Thank you to the 500 staff members who provided feedback through the staff satisfaction survey in January.  This data has been collated and reviewed by three different groups: a Board committee reviewed the teacher data, the principals reviewed the CUPE data, and the Senior Admin team reviewed the OOS data.  I have attached a summary of the results, and will be meeting with representatives of the employee groups to chart the way forward.  As you will see, in general people are highly satisfied as employees of Prairie South, which is very nice to see.  With this in mind, there are a number of trends in the data that point us to specific areas where we could work to move staff satisfaction levels even higher.  Once again this year, I appreciate the detailed and honest responses in the survey.  Some of these are quite critical, and it is important to me that you know that the Chair of the Board Committee and I have read every word of every comment; it is easy to see the passion for our work that exists throughout the system, and it is impossible to improve when we can’t be honest with one another.  Thank you for that honesty.

CUPE Positive Relationships Coworkers 94.2%
OOS Role Expectations Understood 93.0%
PSTA Positive Relationships Coworkers 92.8%
CUPE Role Expectations Understood 92.0%
PSTA Role Expectations Understood 91.9%
OOS Positive Relationships Coworkers 90.7%
OOS Respected in Workplace 90.5%
PSTA Respected in Workplace 90.0%
CUPE Positive Relationships Supervisors 89.9%
PSTA Positive Relationships Supervisors 89.2%
PSTA Valued in Workplace 89.1%
OOS Positive Relationships Supervisors 88.4%
OOS Tools/Resources Available 88.4%
CUPE Respected in Workplace 88.2%
OOS Physical Work Environment 86.0%
OOS Valued in Workplace 86.0%
PSTA Included in Workplace 85.8%
CUPE Physical Work Environment 85.5%
CUPE Valued in Workplace 83.8%
OOS Work/Life Balance 83.7%
OOS Respected in Division 83.3%
CUPE Tools/Resources Available 83.3%
PSTA Effective Communication – Workplace 81.5%
OOS Valued in Division 81.4%
OOS Included in Workplace 80.5%
OOS Overall Satisfaction 1-4 79.1%
OOS Effective Communication – Workplace 79.1%
CUPE Work/Life Balance 78.8%
CUPE Overall Satisfaction 1-4 78.3%
CUPE Included in Workplace 75.4%
OOS Effective Communication – Division 74.4%
PSTA Effective Communication – Division 73.9%
CUPE Effective Communication – Workplace 73.9%
CUPE Effective Communication – Division 73.9%
PSTA Respected in Division 73.2%
CUPE Respected in Division 72.3%
PSTA Overall Satisfaction 1-4 72.1%
PSTA Physical Work Environment 71.6%
CUPE Valued in Division 69.9%
CUPE Included in Division 68.6%
PSTA Tools/Resources Available 68.5%
PSTA Valued in Division 66.2%
OOS Included in Division 65.9%
PSTA Included in Division 61.6%
PSTA Work/Life Balance 54.5%

We are moving slowly toward completed school division calendars (both traditional and alternate) for the 2018-2019 school year.  As I lead this work for the first time I am learning lots of things about the details of calendar planning in Prairie South!  The Board will review the calendars as part of their April meeting, as these need to be provided to the Ministry by May 1st.  Our process has been slowed somewhat this year by an initial attempt to coordinate calendars with Holy Trinity School Division.  The Boards from both divisions have agreed to work toward a common transportation system in the City of Moose Jaw, which will provide some savings in the transportation area that both school divisions will be able to move to other areas – this is a good example of great governance work, and I think Trustees from both Boards should be commended for their willingness to work collaboratively in this area.

At the end of February, the Ministry announced the results of a purchasing process related to a new student information system for school divisions in Saskatchewan.  Beginning next fall the new system, Aspen, will replace SIRS in Prairie South.  8 other school divisions will be doing the cutover with us this summer, and the other 19 divisions will switch for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.  This will be a big project, and it will certainly be a headache at times – the gain will be worth the pain, as we will have a far greater ability to monitor individual children, align with the provincial curriculum, and share information related to student outcomes.  The good news for us is that we needed to change in any case, as SIRS will no longer be supported next fall, so the timing works.  I have led this kind of cutover once before – please know that I get it on the days you feel like throwing your computer on the floor!  We will work through the process together, and as always, a positive attitude and sense of humour will get us through.  Nobody has ever died as a result of a change in computer systems!

The Saskatchewan Cannabis Framework was released by the government yesterday.  We live in interesting times.

Take care of yourselves, your families and your students.  See you soon,

Tony

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