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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Assessment As Learning & Critical Thinking at #PSD70

Today, we spent the morning with school administrators, learning coaches, and previous AISI lead teachers discussing our new AISI Cycle 5 Project, “Knowing Yourself as a Critical Thinker.”  Carolyn Jensen, put together a storify regarding the day that we would like to share:

 

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Our Vision For the Future: Sharing #PSD70’s Priorities

Here in Parkland School Division we are happy to share our latest video from Parkland School Division that talks about our Vision and Mission. We continue to collaborate, create and learn together as we pursue our vision of exploration, creativity, imagination inspiring all learners to reach their dreams. Please feel free to share comments and questions.

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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!

I AM AMAZING!

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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Wrapping Up a Good Year in PSD!

As another incredibly successful year in PSD winds down, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the many successes that we achieved together in supporting over 9,700 students across the Division. And, most importantly – I wanted to say thank-you to staff, parents, and our community partners. Quite simply, without your ongoing commitment of time, dedication, energy and resources we would not achieve what we have together this past year. On behalf of PSD’s senior executive, administrators and staff, thank-you for your service to PSD.

So, what were some of the highlights in PSD from the past year, and why do we have so much to be proud of?

Let me start by highlighting the importance of our community partnerships. Engaging our communities and stakeholders has been a significant priority for PSD over the past number of years, and these efforts grew by leaps and bounds this past year. As we all know, education is a partnership between our schools, parents and communities. In PSD, we are committed to enhancing these valuable partnerships year-after-year. This past year, our Board continued to show its commitment to community input and feedback through our System Review which examined enrolment trends and facility requirements for west end schools, and will next examine Stony Plain attendance boundaries.

As many of you know, this past year also saw the introduction of a new report card for grades K-9 in PSD. Over the course of the year we received positive feedback and some concerns from many parents, students and teachers regarding the new report card. Based on that feedback, we made a number of improvements to the report card for next school year. We know the new report card format is a big change for parents and students and we’re committed to helping parents understand how assessment has changed from evaluating knowledge to evaluating skills and competencies.

Our leadership role as an innovative school division was evidenced in the many successes and accolades received by our ‘Innovative Teaching and Learning Initiative’ after only its first year of implementation. We have seen exciting developments within our learning community and we want to continue to strive to create opportunities for our students to thrive in an increasingly digital age. The introduction of the Learning Leader Program, 184 Days of Learning, the Digital Portfolio Initiative, and our increased social media presence have all shown very positive results for both students and staff alike.

As famed American singer/songwriter Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a’ changin,” and the adage holds true today as there are many exciting new things you’ll see unveiled in PSD this fall. We’ll ask you to stay tuned for more specific information, but we’ll offer a quick sneak peek now.

Our Board of Trustees is incredibly pleased that we’ll be sharing newly created Division-wide vision, mission, and values statements with our stakeholders this fall. These new statements really do reflect the future-focused and innovative organization that we are today.

We’re also pleased to unveil a new ultimate goal for PSD that focuses on student success and well-being. All of our programs and resources in PSD will be directed to this goal and supporting ‘key elements’ that include: engaging our students, engaging our staff, engaging our community, and stewardship of resources. Collectively, these goals and strategies will enable students to explore, create, imagine, and engage in lifelong learning as they develop their skills to prepare to enter the world of post-secondary studies or work.

This upcoming fall, PSD will also be introducing school-based learning coaches who work to improve student learning and achievement by removing barriers to learning for diverse learners and providing support to teachers to strengthen inclusive practices. The primary goal of the ‘Learning Coaches Program’ is to ensure that in relevant and meaningful ways all students will learn, contribute and be active members of their learning community in the most inclusive and enabling environment.

And, lastly, building on the success of the Parkland Village Resiliency Project, in 2012-2013 PSD will be introducing the Youth Resiliency Initiative across the Division. The Youth Resiliency Initiative is intended to build community capacity to provide programming and educational opportunities focused on developing prevention-focused strategies that build and support a strong foundation for mental health and resiliency in the youth who are served by PSD.

As you can see, when you add everything up, 2011-2012 was another remarkable year for PSD – and, we couldn’t have done it without you! 2012-2013 looks equally as promising, and we look forward to your ongoing contributions when we’re all back in the fall. In the meantime, enjoy a restful and enjoyable summer holiday. We’ll see you in late August with the start of a new school year as we prepare, engage, and inspire our students for another year.

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Message from the Superintendent (May)

Excellence! Teachers teach for it. Students strive for it. Parents expect it. Alberta Education praises it and the community celebrates it. So what is excellence? How do we define excellence and how do we measure it?

The accountability agenda is alive and well in Alberta and we are not shying away from it. In these times of high stakes provincial testing (Provincial Achievement Exams and Diploma Exams) we strive to achieve Excellence, as recorded by these exams. And while PSD students are doing very well at the Acceptable Standard, our schools endeavor to find ways to increase the number of students who are achieving the Standard of Excellence as measured by these paper and pencil tests. Teams of teachers pour over results and analyze the data to determine where they need to reinforce curriculum, change their teaching strategies, introduce new vocabulary, resources or activities.

At the same time, we continue to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning, skills, aptitudes and performance in endless situations beyond paper and pencil testing.

Our work is first and foremost about lifting students up to become more than they have imagined possible. As we prepare students for their place in the world – a world, that in some ways we can’t even anticipate, we are always encouraging growth and excellence as defined for the individual student. In addition to demonstrating excellence on provincial tests – our staff, parents, community and students themselves expect see excellence in many different areas of education.

Those areas of potential excellence are endless. We recognize excellence in leadership, music, art, drama and athletics. Our students have opportunities to excel in Career and Technology Studies (CTS) where we see demonstrations of amazing proficiency in Food Studies, Mechanics, Welding, Construction and beyond. Some students have a gift for language learning that is celebrated in second language instruction: French Immersion, French as a Second Language, German or Japanese. You don’t have to look far to see the incredible talents of our youth and we strongly believe that it is our responsibility to serve our students in ways that give each and every student the greatest opportunity to succeed.

Operationally, that means change continues to be the theme for the future. While the educational system of the past has met the needs of the past – today’s situation looks very different. Dr. Sam Shaw (former President of NAIT and currently with Encana), speaking to the College of Alberta School Superintendents last week, talked about the real needs in today’s work place. The skill set of today’s graduate centers around the ability “to learn”, to problem solve and to work as a committed team player. Those critical thinking, decision-making, collaboration and communication skills that we are focused on are the right ones! These process skills are the foundation of life-long learners. Gone are the days when we can focus solely on knowledge and content.

As teachers and students are planning for learning they should be creating a critical question for inquiry. If you can “Google” the question and get an answer – it is the wrong question! Today’s engaged learning needs to pose questions that require students to use their skills to find answers to real problems that are bigger than contrived, isolated subject, text book questions of the past. The stage has been set for students to achieve excellence in meaningful and relevant ways.

We are so proud to say that we are on the right track. And we are so quick to say that we have not arrived. Most importantly we continue to be thankful for the amazing students who learned with us every day. Thanks also to the hundreds of staff members who come to work every day to do what is best for kids. And to our parents, families and community we appreciate your ongoing support that keeps us going and for your tough questions that keep us researching and reflecting and always staying focused on what is best for students. Excellence is always the goal and we have agreement that there is a continual need to find ways to more accurately measure, report and acknowledge a broad range of excellence. Excellence is not the same for every student!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. You are always welcome to stop by my office, just call ahead and the door will open. Or, if you prefer you can send me a tweet @tmondsPSD70!

Tim Monds
Superintendent – Parkland School Division

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