Learning from the past, as we embrace the future in PSD

Welcome back! I hope everyone had the opportunity to enjoy some well-deserved time off with family and friends as well as making some new memories during the holiday season. We had a very rewarding and productive year for PSD in 2012, and I know we have much to look forward to across the division in 2013.

Over the Christmas season I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my family. On one of those occasions we watched the movie “Stepmom” with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon.  A scene from the movie really did stick with me, and I began to think how it applied to what we are doing in PSD.  It is the scene where Susan Sarandon meets with Julia Roberts in a restaurant.   They are talking about Susan’s daughter getting married some day and how Susan’s character will not have the opportunity to be there as she will have passed away of cancer.  Julia, as the stepmom, talks candidly about how she is afraid all her stepdaughter will ask for is Susan, her mom.  Sarandon, on the other hand, is afraid her daughter will not ask for her at her wedding.  At this point, Susan makes a statement that has really stood out for me.  She talks about Julia as the stepmom having her daughter’s future and Susan having her past.  They talk about how their daughter will have the best of both worlds because she will have the past and the future.

This has stuck with me as I have often spoken about how as we continue to move forward in the 21st century meeting the needs of our children, we have to balance our established practices with future-focused goals and competencies.  In many ways, we must respect the past, while continuing to strive for a better future – just as Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon captured so eloquently in Stepmom. I continue to say we will not throw the baby out with the bath water. This approach of respecting past-practice is particularly evident in the current transition in Alberta Education from accountability pillars to an assurance model of education. Additionally, Alberta Education’s competency wheel still has literacy and numeracy in the centre, focused on the child.  We, in PSD, do too!  As we look to the future and embrace our vision of exploration, creativity, and imagination making learning exciting, where all learners aspire to reach their dreams; we must never forget the past.

We are focused on engaging our students, staff and community as we prepare our students for a world that is fast paced, connected and global.  To do this, we will continue to teach what many of us call the “basics”, including literacy and numeracy.  We will also focus on the competencies outlined by Alberta Education; engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit.

We are in exciting times, where together we can ensure our children are well prepared for a future many of us couldn’t imagine 10 or 20 years ago.  But imagine we do!  Whether it is project-based learning, authentic assessment or ensuring our students do well on provincial exams, it is about ensuring our children are ready for a global community with a commitment to life-long learning.

Wishing each of you a Happy New Year and all the best in 2013.


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Reflecting on a Great Year and Spreading Holiday Cheer

As the holiday season approaches, and the days get just a little snowier and just a bit colder, we have the opportunity to reflect on the school year we’ve had to date in PSD, but also to look ahead at the promise and potential for 2013. And, of course, it’s a given that we are all incredibly excited to be joining our PSD schools for their annual Christmas concerts – a highlight for many, myself included.

While it does seem that the school year has moved along pretty quickly, it’s reassuring to see so many positive and exciting things happening in our schools and within the Division. We are incredibly pleased to see that PSD’s new vision, mission, values and priority areas are being embraced within our schools. To see our vision that captures exploration, creativity, and imagination come to life in so many different ways in classrooms and staffrooms across PSD has been very powerful to see. Our new three-year education plan is also anchored by our four corporate priorities of engaging our students, staff, and community, in addition to stewardship of our resources. This streamlined approach in defining our priority areas will assist schools with planning, while also making our reporting back to the community more meaningful.

It is indeed a long list of accomplishments for PSD that we’ve seen this fall. We have much to be proud of. The introduction of learning coaches, a transition to the new report card format for all K-9 schools, a continued focus on facility improvements, and innovations with student bussing, have all contributed to meaningful improvement in PSD. We’ve also been seeing a little more about our schools through our local media. Anytime we have the opportunity to showcase student success and innovative school programming with broader community audiences, we increase the understanding of how PSD is committed to student success and well-being.

Ahead of the holiday season, we are also seeing just how important citizenship and social responsibility are to staff and students in PSD. The spirit of giving and helping others is certainly visible in many PSD schools as food drives, clothing donations and other charitable causes are being supported in very meaningful ways. In some cases, we are even seeing individual students lead these initiatives. As our corporate values and beliefs highlight, we are a caring and compassionate organization.

On behalf of our Senior Team, I’d like to extend our sincerest best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy and safe holiday season. Your ongoing support and contributions play a meaningful role in supporting quality education for all students in PSD. We look forward to an equally successful New Year in 2013!

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The PSD Story!

As we continue our journey focused on our vision of making Parkland School Division a place where exploration, creativity and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams…we are telling our story! Parkland School Division is honoured to share our passion for learning together as we prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community. We continue to share our stories through local newspapers, our website, our you tube channel, blogging and through PSD70 twitter.

Parkland School Division has a focused communication plan on sharing our work, our learning and engaging our students, staff and community. Many educators from Parkland School Division are using Twitter to share their learning openly on professional learning days across the division. It is exciting to see how our teachers trying to openly connect with one another and share what is happening at different physical locations, while also sharing their learning with both the local and global community. Staff are invited to collaborate, create and learn together to ensure our children are prepared for the 21st century. No one is expected to use twitter, blog or connect with the global community. That said, it is exciting to see our staff sharing beyond their classroom and school. Learning from one another will only make us better and support our ultimate goal of student success and well-being.

I invite you to take a look at some of the learning amongst #PSD70 staff from November 30, 2012 and beyond as aggregated by our Division Principal through a Storify.

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Message From the Board Chair (November 2012)

We are now well into the 2012-2013 school year, the weather has turned wintery and the children in Parkland schools are continuing their learning journey.

A lot is happening in the province at this time. As I previously mentioned, the new Education Act is before the legislature as Bill 3. This Act is designed to replace the School Act which has been in place for over two decades. The Education Act is one of the more important pieces of provincial legislation as it will provide a framework for the governance of Education in the province for the years to come. As I write this message, Bill 3 has passed first and second readings and third reading should happen shortly. Once passed by the legislature, it will take about a year for the regulations supporting the Act to be developed. Hopefully by the fall of 2013, the Act will be proclaimed and become law.

Probably the most publicised feature of the Act is the very strong attempt to address the issue of bullying. Boards will be charged with ensuring “a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that includes the establishment of a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviour”. In addition, the definition of bullying has been extended to include “cyber-bullying” and the Board’s authority to act has been extended beyond the school and school day to include any bullying that affects the school community.

In other business, the board approved the operating budget for the 2012-2013 school year. Some of the highlights are:

  • Total Revenue of $113,631,142 – up over $6 million from last year, due largely to increased enrolment
  • Total Expenditures of $113,631,142 of which approximately:
    • $82M for Instruction (k-12)
    • $7.75M for Operation and Maintenance
    • $10M for Transportation
    • $4M for Governance and System Administration
    • $9M for such things as school generated funds, infrastructure renewal, debt servicing, etc.
  • This year the Board provides service to 9,839 students, employing over 1,000 teachers, education assistants, support staff and custodians

2012-2013 Final Budget Report

Work continues on our System Review with the focus this year on the Stony Plain and area enrolment and accommodation. This is a continuation of previous years’ focus on Spruce Grove and the West End schools.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at rgilchrist@psd70.ab.ca

Richard Gilchrist
Board Chair
Parkland School Division

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The World Opens Up

September has been an exciting month in Parkland School Division.  We had a wonderful start up with many special guests including the Minister of Education, Honourable Jeff Johnson, bringing greetings from the Government of Alberta to1100 PSD staff on our opening day.  In the past month, you have also probably noticed that we have been focused on our sharing our new vision and ultimate goal with many stakeholders in our schools and communities. We are also talking a lot more about our vision in PSD where exploration, creativity, imagination, and aspiring to reach dreams, aligns with our ultimate goal of student success and well-being.

We see every day in each of our schools and alternate sites how teachers, support staff, and administrators are committed to providing a quality education where our children are engaged and successful. In many ways, we are seeing first-hand how our schools in PSD are bringing our new vision, mission and values to life. In my role as Superintendent, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many educational leaders, elected officials, administrators from other school divisions, and stakeholders from across North America over the past month. A common theme emerged from these discussions – that PSD is seen as a leader, an innovator, and a school division where we provide many paths and opportunities for our students.

Seeing PSD through this lens has also made me think about our new motto or tagline as well – where the world opens up. This really is a great description of the opportunities provided to all of our students, but also the extent to which PSD’s stories of success and accomplishment are being shared throughout our communities, across the province, and, in fact, around the world. There are a few recent examples from PSD that I wanted to share to highlight just how the world is opening up in PSD.

Just this past week, Grade 4 students at Millgrove School opened their Millgrove Arcade. The students modelled their cardboard arcade after Caine’s Arcade, which was created by a nine year-old boy in Los Angeles, Caine Monroy. Caine’s touching story was profiled by a film-maker and became a social media video sensation earlier this year. Our very own Millgrove Arcade was showcased on Global Edmonton and in our local paper. Not only did Millgrove Arcade showcase how students are learning and modelling from others, but it also highlighted how students are being engaged and inspired by others around the world. All the proceeds collected through Millgrove Arcade are being donated to the Imagination Foundation, which was created to support youth entrepreneurs following Caine’s story going public.

Also last week, we saw a great feature in the Reporter/Examiner on the real world experiences offered at Memorial Composite High School. Whether it is woodworking, mechanics or metal fabrication being offered through the Registered Apprenticeship Program, or the unique opportunities available through the Modified Academic Program, the diversity of educational options are opening the world up for these students. All high school students across PSD have a wonderful opportunity to explore, imagine and aspire to reach their dreams.

We are also seeing how the world is opening up in PSD, through our ‘184 Days of Learning’ blog. On Day 8 of 184 Days, we saw an inspiring post from a Grade 4 student named Maddisyn. Maddisyn’s post was in response to a video talk from author Peter Reynolds (author of The Dot and Ish) whose comments around making your mark and making it matter really struck a chord with Maddisyn. In her blog, Maddisyn commented on just how she is making her mark with her classmates through her writing. In a great twist to this story, and very much in line with the world opening up in PSD, author Peter Reynolds posted a response to Maddisyn’s blog post on 184 Days. In his response, Reynolds stated that he enjoyed seeing Maddisyn’s art and her thoughts on The Dot. He also wanted her to keep the creativity flowing. Maddisyn’s story is an incredible example of how PSD is opening up to the world, as our stories are being shared, and commented on, around the world. Who knows what the next story might be?

While I have shared only a few recent examples of the world opening up in PSD, I know there are hundreds and thousands more stories around PSD that we have to share – in our schools, in our communities, and with broader audiences around the world. And, we want to share these stories. The common theme that enables our students to explore, imagine, create, and aspire to reach their dreams are the remarkable staff we see in each and every PSD school. It’s this commitment of time and dedication that is ensuring PSD is a place where the world opens up.

Tim Monds
Superintendent of Schools

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Ready, Set, Go!

The start of this school year brings a lot of excitement for me.  As articulated in PSD’s new vision statement, through exploration, creativity and imagination we created a Learning Coach Program designed to help all learners reach their dreams.

Our journey last year exemplifies the spirit of our vision.  Together, with a group of dedicated and passionate educators, we spent the 2011-2012 school year exploring, learning and growing our understanding of inclusive education and gaining skills that would support our work as potential learning coaches.  As a result of the year’s learning we created a district wide Learning Coach Program and our school division was able to find the resources to support it for the next three years.  This is the first year of implementation.

Currently, we have 16 learning coaches each of whom have a minimum 0.5 FTE assigned to them as a learning coach.  It was important to us that our learning coaches have this minimum FTE so they have the time necessary to work with teachers without wearing too many other hats.  Five of our coaches have full time positions as learning coaches and many of those support two or more smaller schools.  As we collect evidence of the success of our Learning Coach Program, it will be interesting to hear about the challenges and successes of both being a full time and half time learning coach.

The ultimate focus is student learning, for ALL studentsOur learning coaches are in schools to facilitate job-embedded and ongoing professional development for teachers.    The learning coach will work with individual teachers and/or groups of teachers.  The coach can:

  • support collaborative work
  • model lessons
  • observe students and provide feedback
  • facilitate lesson study or other professional learning structures
  • promote reflection
  • support joint problem-resolving efforts
  • assist in planning – curriculum, environment, supports (technology, human, and others)
  • team teach
  • facilitate data conversations
  • supply resources with follow-up reflection
  • promote continuous learning experiences.

All teachers will work with the coach but how they work with the coach is flexible.  The teacher is in the driver’s seat; he/she will determine what kind of supports they need and how they will work with the coach.  The coach will use inclusion, assessment and critical thinking as a lens through which they have conversations with their colleagues.

Learning Services facilitators and I are the “Coaches of Coaches”, our job, along with Principals, is to support the learning coaches in this journey.  We will continue to provide professional learning opportunities to increase learning coaches’ knowledge and skills and facilitate reflection, networking and decision making amongst the group.

I can’t wait to hear the many successes that I know we will have this year with our Learning Coach Program.  As a learning organization we will learn, reflect and continuously work to refine the program.  Together we will support our division’s new mission where our purpose is to prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community!

Leah Andrews, Director, Learning Services


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Welcome Back PSD!

By Parkland School Division Superintendent Tim Monds (Storify provided by Brian Leadbetter, Director of Communications)

Wow, what an amazing opening week for PSD! I had the opportunity to visit a number of schools across our Division this morning, along with members our senior executive team. It was great to see so many bright, smiling faces of our students ready for another great year in PSD. Our staff in the schools were also incredibly engaged and eager to start off the year, and were very complimentary of last week’s Division PD Day. Thank-you to all of our staff for making this year’s professional development day very memorable as we took the opportunity to unveil PSD’s new vision, mission, values statements, and priorities. The excitement, passion, and collaboration was shining brightly. As you can see from the #psd70 tweets from the day below, we certainly have an engaged and committed staff. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to move forward together with our new vision, and mission and to build on the momentum we’ve begun the school year with. Some of the words I’ve heard to describe our opening day were passion, inspiration, amazing, and opportunities. We’re pleased that staff across PSD found the day so engaging and inspiring. Through our new vision and mission we’re committed reflecting the dynamic and future-focused organizations that we are today.

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Amazing Time to be Education #leadershipday12

We are starting the year here in Parkland School Division with an even greater passion!  Is that possible?  I feel like a kid counting down the “sleeps” until school starts!

As a leader I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing staff.

We are about to launch the Boards new vision and mission.  Our new vision is contemporary,  leading us forward in what learning looks like today and what it can look like in the future.  This will be accompanied by updated values and beliefs. All of this will be launched at our opening day kick-off on August 29, 2012.

Our continued dedication to being a learning organization will be embodied by not only our students, but our entire community.  Richard Gilchrist, our Board Chair, will be kicking off the second year of the “184 Days of Learning” project and helping to set the tone of another exciting year for the Parkland School Division community.  We are honoured to have a progressive board that believes in going, as Chris Kennedy states, “elbows deep into learning”, with all of our schools.  This forward thinking will only ensure that we get better for kids.

As I think about this year and the excitement about it, I look back to what brought us to this point….

It began with an education planning session with the Board of Trustees and many stakeholders representing many different facets of our community along with all schools.  We looked at the big picture, we used our imagination, we were creatiing and exploring our options, and realized it was time to move on with a new vision to better prepare our children to be a part of our global community that is changing quickly. When I reflect on that day and the numerous stakeholder meetings that followed, I realize the importance of relationships, engagement and authenticity.  As leaders we must have a keen sense of who we are, communicate,  build trust, be positive, recognize our mistakes and limitations, be open and transparent, so we can build an environment where creativity can flourish.  A place where we can all dream!

We need to be able to explore, be creative, and re-imagine our future.

It is an amazing and exciting time to be in education.  A time where sharing, innovation and creativity continuously grow.  We are looking ahead to the future and the possibilities that it holds for our students.  We are proud to be in a province where we have been given the freedom and where we are encouraged to explore how we can further focus on how to improve learning for all.  Alberta Education promotes this learning through Goal two; High quality education through collaboration and innovation.  Within Parkland School Division, we want to focus on how we can not only do this for students, but for all learners within our community.  When we grow, our students grow.  It starts with us.

P.R. Wilson wrote the following statement:

Whether I’m older
or only two…
there are so many things
I can do!


When we work together, the potential for all of us, especially our students, is unlimited.  I am excited for this year and the opportunities it can bring.  Let’s continue to all learn together and ensure that our students see their “amazing”.

Looking forward to a great year!

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