Superintendent’s Message – November 2013 #PSD70

Well, you’ll probably notice something a little different about my monthly message. Yes, we have changed things a bit – moving to a video message instead of a written message. And, there is a good reason for that. As an innovative school division we are always looking for new ways to communicate with parents, community and our staff. It’s our plan to use my monthly video messages this year to highlight many of the unique programs, successes and milestones we see across all PSD schools. It’s my hope that you’ll find my monthly messages informative and engaging. I look forward to you checking back each month to see what’s new and exciting in PSD.

Superintendent’s Message for October

Well, you’ll probably notice something a little different about my monthly message. Yes, we have changed things a bit – moving to a video message instead of a written message. And, there is a good reason for that. As an innovative school division we are always looking for new ways to communicate with parents, community and our staff. It’s our plan to use my monthly video messages this year to highlight many of the unique programs, successes and milestones we see across all PSD schools. It’s my hope that you’ll find my monthly messages informative and engaging. I look forward to you checking back each month to see what’s new and exciting in PSD.

Please check the video below for my October message and have a great month!

Tim

Dreams for the Future

Wow – what an amazing day to start the year in PSD! It was our hope to share an engaging, informative and entertaining morning with over 1,200 PSD staff on our Opening Day, and based on the feedback we have received from many staff across PSD we seem to have delivered on that goal.

Our program for the day PSD Talks was designed to bring together engaging and motivational staff and student speakers, dynamic and though-provoking videos, and captivating performances – all designed to inspire, motivate, and imagine future possibilities.  All of our speakers were from PSD, after all as David Weinberger said, “The smartest person in the room, is the room.”   We have amazing talent in PSD!

Most importantly, we wanted to connect all of these things back to our Division’s overarching vision that guides so much of the work we do to ensure that PSD is a place where imagination, creativity and exploration making learning exciting and all learners aspire to reach their dreams.

The Storify we have compiled from the social media activity on the #psd70 hashtag for the day, highlights just how engaged, motivated, and inspired our talented PSD staff are as we now embark on an exciting new school year. I would ask that as we settle in for the year ahead, take a moment to recall the ‘dreams for the future’ showcased by our PSD students in our new video and the vitally important role that we all play in helping those future dreams come true. Lastly, take a moment to think about your own dreams and aspirations for the year ahead and reflect on how this statement can apply to you: “Believe in your dreams and they may come true: believe in yourself and they will come true.” Have a wonderful year!

Why Open the World

I had the privilege of presenting at CASA 2013 yesterday with George Couros.  We shared the work underway in PSD70 as it relates to our motto of “Where the World Opens Up”.  The theme of the conference is “Pedagogy to Technology: Hardware to Headwear”.

One of the slides I spoke to was “Start with the Why”.  I shared statements like the following:

  • We know that this archaic system of education we inherited needs to change to meet the needs of the 21 century learner

  • There has been a lot of chat about the 21 century learner…preparing for the 21 century learner…well it is 2013…time to move on!


Most recently the new Alberta Education Ministerial Order speaks to

  • Bringing the work Of Inspiring Education to life
  • Every student will develop competencies of
  • Being an Engaged thinker
  • Being an Ethical citizen with an entrepreneurial spirit
  • All contributing to a strong and prosperous economy and society
  • Will be less emphasis on content and more on skills, values and attitudes that will make students successful in the future

The ministerial order signals a change in the education system resulting from a re-examination of student needs, how we teach students, what we teach them, how to engage communities and how to use research to inform change

In Parkland School Division we were thrilled how the order aligned to the work we are currently doing.

Upon reflection there is an even greater reason for ensuring our education system is progressive and innovative.  A system that is prepared to meet the needs of the 21st Century Learner and the world that is opening up so quickly.  The reason for me I became a Grandpa!

On Saturday June 29 my daughter Chelsey and her husband Jordan had a baby boy!  Nathaniel weighed in at 7lbs and my wife Patty and I are absolutely over the top.  We have four amazing children I spoke about during opening day this past year and  I talked about their dreams and how that aligned to our new vision which has a focus on dreaming.  They have completed k-12 schooling and have three university degrees, and one is currently completing her pharmacy degree.  With the addition of Nate, I reflected as a new grandparent on the importance of getting it right in education for our children.  While it has always been a passion of mine that we do what is right for our kids and prepare them for an ever changing world, when I saw that new baby, the passion grew twofold!

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Becoming a grandpa has reminded me of what our young parents want for their child.  I want my grandson to be successful, challenged, welcomed in a safe world that is open promoting great citizenship.  Schools should stoke his imagination, creativity and give him the opportunity to explore and dream!  While we also need to continue to ensure students have skills in literacy and numeracy, let’s not be afraid ask challenging questions and dream big.  We really do have the opportunity to touch the future in education.

Message From the Board Chair (June 2013)

Quite simply, 2012-2013 was a remarkable year for Parkland School Division (PSD). As a Division, we achieved a great deal together and we have much to celebrate. As I have the opportunity to meet Trustees from around the province I am continually amazed by how other divisions are aware of what we are doing, and how they see us as a leader in so many areas – youth resiliency, innovation in teaching and learning, community engagement, and our learning coach program – to name but a few, are all initiatives where PSD is seen as a provincial and national innovator. I am often asked how we do it, and my response is fairly simple – we have incredibly talented and capable people who are supported by a culture that embraces excellence, innovation and risk-taking.

But, beyond just supporting a culture of innovation and risk-taking, our Board, to its credit, has strongly advanced a philosophy where everyone can make a meaningful contribution to education, and everyone has the right to know what decisions we are making and to have their voices heard. Actively engaging our community and education stakeholders has been a significant priority for this Board, as has being transparent with the decisions that we make regarding public education. I’m pleased to report that in 2012-2013, we continued to make significant strides in delivering on this philosophy.

We have been committed to community engagement and feedback through our System Review which has previously evaluated our facility capacity needs in Spruce Grove, and this year examined enrolment trends and facility requirements for west end schools (Phase III), while also examining Stony Plain attendance boundaries (Phase IV). The feedback we have received from our stakeholders through our System Review is very valuable as we plan for the future in PSD.

As a Board, we are keenly aware how important it is to walk the talk – and when it comes to demonstrating our commitment to transparency we have taken a number of significant steps this year.  Most recently, as of June 7, our Board began to post our expenses publicly on our website. Expenses from our Trustees and two of our senior administrators will be posted regularly. This information provides details on travel, accommodation, meal and hospitality expenses, and is a part of Parkland School Division’s continued commitment to transparency.

As we look to the future for what 2013-2014 has in store, we know that there are challenges before us. One of the biggest challenges we will face is the lack of stable and predictable funding from the Government of Alberta. As we initially reported in March, PSD is facing budget cuts as a result of the 2013 budget. Our preliminary budgeted revenues for 2013-2014 are $110.4 million. This represents a 2.81% decrease from 2012-2013. While some difficult decisions will have to be made as a result of these funding cuts, we will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of children.

While we do have challenges ahead, I’m also pleased to report that we will not rest on our laurels and past successes – we will continue to move forward with a bold vision for the future. We are planning today in order to meet the needs of tomorrow.

In May, we welcomed the announcement by the Government of Alberta that PSD is the recipient of a new K-9 school for the City of Spruce Grove. The new K-9 school, designed to accommodate between 750-900 students is anticipated for completion in 2016. Since that announcement, we have busily been moving forward with an innovative concept for a ‘community learning centre’ that would expand the possibilities of what the new K-9 school could be. This vision for a future-focused ‘community learning centre’ would include a K-9 school, wellness centre and an innovation studio. We are actively working with our government and community partners to make this dream a reality.

As a Board, we were also pleased to ease some of the growth pressures in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain schools with the addition of seven new modular classrooms for next school year for Brookwood (3), Millgrove (2) and High Park (3) schools. With some creativity, we were able to re-profile one additional modular from our existing inventory for use at High Park School.

These are indeed exciting times in PSD. We have a great deal to be proud of as an organization for what we have achieved together, and our future holds much promise. While we do have some challenges before us, I have no doubt that with the dedicated and capable team including our Senior Executive, administrators and staff we have another success year before us. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank-you for your contributions. Have a happy and safe summer holiday. I look forward to seeing everyone again as we kick off our 2013-2014 school year in August.

If you have any questions, please direct them to rgilchrist@psd70.ab.ca or TheBoard@psd70.ab.ca

Richard Gilchrist
Board Chair
Parkland School Division

#PSD70′S Innovative Journey Continues…

In Parkland School Division we talk about having “jumped” and are focused on preparing our children for the 21st Century and the ever-changing global community. For a number of years now, we have been hearing about 21st Century learning skills. Well, we are now in 2013!  We are well into the 21st Century and it is safe to say that innovative practices are changing the way that students learn and our teachers teach in PSD schools.

A great figurative example can be found in August of last year, when PSD’s 1,100 staff gathered at MCHS to start the school year. One of the videos shown for our staff on opening day was of a young skier about to launch from a much bigger ski jump than she had ever tried previously. The most compelling part of the video was how she talked herself through it, and the pride she felt once she made the ‘jump’. In PSD, – whether as educators, support staff, or administrators – we regularly talk, share, and show how we have also made that jump.

Our work to move PSD’s Three Year Education Plan forward is grounded in research but more and more it is becoming research in motion – as we see innovation and best-practices from around Alberta and the world, we adapt, we model, and we change our course when necessary.  Few people question that the education system we have known for over a hundred years will serve our children in the same way it did our generation. But, shouldn’t we be questioning if a school system established in the 19th century can meet the needs and expectations of 21st century learners? Can we do things just a bit differently? Don’t we owe it to our kids to try?  Our children have entered a global community where technology is a tool used daily to support the work in many organizations. That is why, in PSD, our updated mission is all about preparing, engaging and inspiring our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community.

We have heard in recent media accounts that Alberta’s new standardized tests will likely emphasize competency over content, and that Provincial Achievement Tests will be replaced with prototype tests focused on literacy skills and competency. Other exciting innovative opportunities include Alberta Education recently announcing an expansion of the High School Flexibility Enhancement Project that will enable more high schools in Alberta to become involved. Spruce Grove Composite High School was one of the first pilot schools in Alberta over the last three years. During the pilot project at SGCHS, the high school completion rate has risen to 82.1%, which is 8% higher than the provincial average for Alberta.

PSD’s ultimate goal of student success and well-being keeps us focused. Whether it is literacy, numeracy, competency-based report cards, learning coaches, professional learning, resiliency work, or the use of technology as a learning tool, we continue our journey toward every child being successful, sharing and learning in our local and global community.  A few highlights of recent innovative work underway in PSD include:

  • Greystone Centennial Middle School Innovation in Education Week. 260 school projects approved by administration were completed, culminating in a showcase at the end of the week for the student body.  The overall purpose was to create learning experiences for students that help them develop and grow in innovative ways.  Learning outcomes were met while allowing students to pursue an area of interest.
  • Supporting PSD’s commitment to inclusion involved implementing a Learning Coach program to facilitate job-embedded and ongoing professional learning for teachers.  We are moving from a model of special education to one where “all’ students are special.  Dedicated learning coaches have been sharing the learning in a blog.
  • Development of a youth resiliency project through hiring a resiliency coordinator to facilitate a division-wide comprehensive school health plan with every PSD school. This project aligns to PSD’s ultimate goal of student success and well-being. PSD is focused on enhancing the resiliency and health of all students, nurturing partnerships and maintaining a commitment to the development of the whole child at all levels of their education.
  • Development of a Learning Leader project where staff and students have opportunities to learn how to use tools such as the iPad to facilitate their learning.  This project highlights how technology is there to support/facilitate our learning in many ways.

Our future is exciting in PSD!  Our children will have opportunities to enjoy, experience and discover new careers we could not even dream of only 10 or 20 years ago.  Our role as schools, educators and school communities is to ensure that students have the skills they need to be ready for this wonderful opportunity.

Wellness Matters

Wellness Matters

This past weekend I visited my mother.

It is close to a year since my dad passed away from a very aggressive cancer.  On February 24, they would have been married 59 years. In Parkland School Division we talk about the importance of relationships and modeling. I have said to our Lead Team that we must find ways to balance the demanding lives of educators so we can be the best we can be both at home and at work. My visit was about focusing on personal relationships so I may be stronger in my position as a Superintendent. Sharing personal stories is not something I like to do, so why today? Well, I want to say to all of our PSD staff that while our ultimate goal of “Student Success and Well-Being” expressly focuses on students, the success and well-being of our staff is equally as important.  Without you, our 1,100 dedicated staff, our Division would not be the leader we are today.

Well-being to me means striving to be the best we can be at our work place as we educate the amazing youth we work with. It also means looking after oneself and one another. Former CEO of Coca Cola, Bryan Dyson said it well in a 30 second speech:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.

Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends, and have proper rest.

Value has a value only if its value is valued.

My mentor shared this with me in my first year of being a Superintendent.  I have not forgotten it.  I do not always model it, however, I do strive to.  There are few careers where you leave on time and only work during office hours, but that does not mean we should not strive to look after all five balls.  If we are truly dedicated to our profession, we will likely be challenged to strike the balance.   However, if we remind ourselves to focus on our wellness, our students will certainly benefit.

We do want our staff in PSD to give it your all: to share your passion, and do what is best for our children and community and model the way forward.   One of our teachers, Jessie McLean said it well in a recent post:

Don’t underestimate the impact you have on your students. It’s a power that comes with a great deal of responsibility.

Together, we will continue to do what is right for our future leaders/citizens in Parkland School Division. Thank you for your dedication to our youth! And, thank-you for the continued contributions you are making to ensure our students will be their best in a quickly changing global community.

PSD Shows Leadership in All Places

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

While this quote from the 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, was penned almost 200 years ago, his words have as much impact today as they did in the early 19th century. Indeed, this practice of inspiring others to dream more, learn more and do more captures the very type of leadership we are building in PSD – with parents, students, staff, administrators, and community partners.

In PSD, we believe that leadership has more to do with the actions you inspire than the position that you hold. As our values and beliefs statements highlights, “We value leadership in all places – everyone in our Division has the potential to be a leader.” For me personally, I believe it is incredibly important for PSD to build capacity and provide leadership opportunities for all staff, students, and parents and to provide encouragement along the way. Our success as a school division is dependent upon us working together in moving our vision and mission forward. We all have a meaningful role to play in these exciting times for PSD.

For those of you who might be wondering about the leadership and engagement opportunities that I’m referring to, here are but a few.

Student representatives from grades 9-12 meet with the PSD Board of Trustees throughout the year.  The purpose of the Student Advisory Committee is to have direct conversation with the Trustees about any matters related to education in Parkland.  Schools Councils play a significant role in advising administration at each school and their collective organization, the Council of School Councils (COSC), is a voice focused on the bigger picture of the School Division and provincial initiatives.  Exploring Leadership is a cohort group of teachers who are participating in a program that provides opportunity to learn and reflect on their own professional journeys and the multitude of leadership situations that arise for teachers.  And finally we have many staff, students and parents who participate in presentations and activities that teach others.  In Parkland School Division we are very public about our learning and very generous in sharing and so we are called upon regularly to celebrate our successes and to assist other school divisions and organizations.  Some recent examples include presentations at Teacher’s Convention and at the Shaping the Future - Engaging Healthy School Communities Conference.

I’m not saying that building leadership has to be a formal process – through a program, course, or committee. While we do have a number of quality opportunities like this, building leadership can be as simple as teachers collaborating with grade-level colleagues, students leading fundraising or awareness initiatives, or school council members working with community partners to build a playground or coordinate school lunch and snack programs.

We are incredibly fortunate in PSD to have so many talented leaders helping us become a place where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams. Your actions are inspiring others to dream more, learn more, and do more. While we still have more to achieve in moving our new vision forward, it is inspiring to see so many leaders emerging throughout our division.