This first post was a message shared with all HPEDSB employees on the first day of school—and his first ‘first day’ at HPEDSB.
Hi, Good Morning and Welcome Back!
I have often found myself drawn to and inspired by famous leaders, agents of change and agitators of the status quo. Consequently, I find myself looking explicitly at their words, and more so trying to interpret the words “between the lines.” John F. Kennedy is one of my favorites, and I suppose for many reasons. He was human, and like most of us in the human condition, he had his faults and was not perfect. But he also saw a greater world ahead, and one that equalized the field between those that benefitted by having much, and those that went without. He did, although arguably stumbling out of the blocks initially, strive for a balancing of rights between cultures and ethnicities, specifically race. In other words, differences in culture, background, and colour were and always would be non-factors in advancing the opportunities for all citizens.
His famous assertion during a speech at Rice University, early September in 1962 (the start of a new school year): “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard” is my second favorite of all his sentiments. JFK of course in that moment was laying out a vision for his country that would put a human being on the moon and return them back safely to Earth. At the time, the notion was viewed with skepticism, under-ridden with a belief that such a goal was simply impossible. By the end of the decade his country achieved this act, a feat arguably not matched since and one that required a fundamental principle that people from all facets of life, business, beliefs, culture, and role and privilege had to work together to accomplish a common outcome. Please keep this in mind as you read through my introductory message to all of you as you start a new year.
I want to acknowledge the work of all of you in advance: to the teachers about to make the lives of our students extraordinary, to the support staff, early childhood educators and education assistants who work tirelessly with children who have special needs, or are coming to school for the first time in Kindergarten, I say thank you. I want to acknowledge the custodians and maintenance staff who have worked over the summer so that we may enter sparkling buildings on the first day of a new school year; and I want to acknowledge the principals and vice-principals who lead our work in our communities, often going above and beyond to improve the trajectory of our kids and consequentially their families too. I wish to acknowledge our Trustees who have entrusted in their new Director of Education the responsibility to lead an agenda that embarks on change and builds on the belief that hope is both a dangerous and wonderful thing, because when you have it, anything is possible. I want to acknowledge the Senior Team, whose skills and assets quite simply outweigh their evolving experience (“green-ness”, I believe was how it was framed to me recently) that I can see already! And to the staff who work in the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board Education Centre, thank you to all of you, for enabling the system to focus its energies on young people because barriers are removed at the central level.
Lastly, I acknowledge my predecessor Mandy Savery-Whiteway who served the HPEDSB with integrity and a commitment to making the tough decisions and within such limitations, that any educator might have grown weary.
So, as I send this initial commentary to all HPEDSB staff, I offer that there is much to be thankful for; however, here now remains even more work. I came to HPEDSB not because I knew the work would be easy and predictable, but because I knew it would be hard and prolonged. I am excited beyond words to work hard for all of you, our communities, our families, and most importantly our students. They deserve the best, they will get the best, and we will commit to them that our energies to improve their shot at hope and a future are unwavering and unrelenting. I ask you to consider as well, what kind of organization do you want to work for, and want us to be in the region, even in the province?
As you start this first day of school, be you in your last year, mid-career or just starting out, roll up your sleeves because we are just getting started, and I promise you my team and I will be right beside you every step of the way!
And . . . my favorite JFK expression of all time: “It is time for a new generation of leadership, for there is a new world to be won.” Compelling, yes. Inspiring, absolutely. Appropriately telling—just wait!
I wish you the best, and assure all of you, that we believe in you and in your work every day.
Take care, Che-Miigwech