#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.

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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.

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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.

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#PSD70 Learning Together at #NCTCA

I am pleased to share a recent storify where teachers share their learning. One of PSD’s priorities is engaging staff.  This was exemplified
recently at the North Central Teachers’ Association convention this past week in Edmonton. The two samples from Storify that you see below, aggregated by Division Principal George Couros,  provides a small sample of how PSD teachers are truly engaged and willing to share their learning. Each of us will benefit from their collaborative efforts to share, so that we may continue to strive for PSD’s ultimate goal of student success and well being.

After all our purpose is to prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community.  Who
better to facilitate that learning than the dedicated, engaged staff of Parkland School Division.

Together we can achieve anything!

Check out Day 2!

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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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Getting Comfortable!

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the 21st Century Learning Leadership Forum in Banff. We heard from Marc Prensky, Bruce Dixon, Mary Simon, Simon Jackson and more. There were Thought Provoking Festivals and Innovation Studios. The forum was very much focused on the ‘art of possiblity’. It was exciting to hear conversatin about our children (our future!) being successful at becoming what they want to be and what we want them to be.

Division Principal George Couros and I had the pleasure of presenting at this conference about Parkland School Division’s initiative for Innovative Teaching and Learning. This is one of a number of key iniatives underway in PSD to move us closer to our Ultimate Goal of Student Success and Well Being.

Marc Prensky spoke about getting comfortable at the conference. My first thought was I have been uncomfortable in this world of technology, connecting with the world and presenting. Then upon further reflection…I realized how I am truly embracing this world and most days enjoying it. We have opportunities we could have never imagined in Education.

Marc also spoke about daring to do what is right for kids. He focused on imag-u-cation…if we had the technology how would we use it to enhance our learning? He also spoke of teachers engaging ‘with’ kids and trusting children to teach teachers about technology. He shared his thoughts on how teachers used to teach students and now teachers and students accomplish real things together” Marc reminded us; “This generation shares everything”. As I listened, I felt uncomfortable. Wow…messy and scary work at times, going in unchartered territories  and a quite a paradigm shift.  Can we get it right? Then I reflected back to our vision of imaginaing, creating, exploring and dreaming! In Parkland School Division we have the permission to be innovative, risk takers and get it right in a changing global community.

In PSD we are gradually learning to become comfortable and embrace this “new world” and how we can use these amazing technology tools to enhance our learning and connect with the world so we can make a difference.

It is ok to be uncomfortable, but it is not ok to stop learning because we are in a world we don’t totally understand yet. The digital world is here, so how do we use it to support education and our ultimate goal of student success and well being? Enjoy the journey, challenge your comfort level, and we will probably be comfortable again. Well, at least comfortable for awhile!

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