Seasons Greetings, Everyone!
I had debated on whether waiting to Friday morning was most appropriate, or sending a message to start the last week more fitting. I have opted for the latter. We have one week to go, before the annual and affectionately known time we call that “long winter’s nap” arrives. I have heard two things consistently from staff over the past few weeks: one, how quickly time has flown by since we returned to school in September and two, how people are looking forward to our annual festive and holiday recess. Not to be confused with being unhappy and forlorn, what staff are telling me is that they are tired; happy and supportive of our students, their families and of course each other, but still tired.
My response to all of you? I don’t know how many of you could not be tired! We are engaged in the hardest work that anyone possibly could be, here in the HPEDSB. We have many, many challenges with our kids and their families. We are engaged in cutting-edge learning and we have challenged each other and ourselves, including the Senior Administration Team, to be leading this improvement process, this student-centered agenda. And it’s tough, gritty and very difficult work. The needs of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board are immense, and they require an all-out effort; and so when people tell me they are tired and ready for a break, I say “As you should be!” Remind yourself that in less than one short week, you will be able to relax, enjoy company, some snacks, perhaps a good book, and hopefully time looking back but even more importantly now . . . looking ahead to 2020!
2019 will be recalled for many memories that were made here in the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. I have always found the end of the calendar year a natural time for reflection and with that a more pensive assessment of the last 12 months. For you, I am sure there have been momentous events in 2019 that you will never forget; and I hope that as you end this year you do so in good health, and as importantly hopeful for the future and what lies ahead.
For me, 2019 without question or debate, will not be lost on me and for many reasons. However as the year draws to a close, I have to say I feel an incredible emotion of gratitude. I’m grateful to be reasonably healthy and strong to engage a massive agenda of student achievement and system improvement. I’m grateful that I have a team around me and a Board ready to tackle our challenges, and confront our barriers and excuses. Professionally, I am most grateful that as a director of education, I have staff in this system, from school to school, community to community, and from occupation to occupation or role, the only fitting words to describe our folks are “first class. Other words: “champion, heroic, advocates, hope,” all which describe people here, they would describe our schools, and describe a call to an ethical imperative that is unrelenting on supporting our youngest and most vulnerable.
As we approach 2020, we would be naïve to not accept that we face significant challenges and just because we will turn the page and close the chapter on 2019, does not mean our difficulties remain behind. I have met with many of you now as I have made the rounds to our schools across the entire system and I hope you have heard my message that we must confront considerable difficulties. However, with great challenges comes great opportunities and for us in the HPEDSB we have so much potential for a vision of hope and optimism, it’s hard to not be excited about 2020!
I am excited to share with you that as soon as you come back in January 2020, we will have gone live with a full-scale district and organizational consultation for a brand new strategic plan (2020-2025)! We will be in the midst of creating several iterations of a new corporate identifier and branding trademark that reflects the character of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. We will be in the midst of the implementation of a explicit Student Achievement Plan, and we will be working on a brand new Long-Term Capital Accommodation Plan addressing capacity issues in a number of our schools, and hopefully opening the door to new and innovative ideas for our kids. Yes we have been very busy setting the stage for the future, both imminently and long-term/big-picture. How could you not be excited? And the first weekend back, I will be meeting with all of our trustees at a weekend retreat where we will begin the discussion in earnest, as to who and what do we want to be, and as importantly, how do we get there?? I suppose my primary intent of this message to all of you, is to assure or maybe reassure you, that the future is here and that I believe 2020 is very bright!
As we close off and as you head into this last week, I ask you to also take a moment each day to find the little people in your schools, or the adolescent folks if you’re intermediate/secondary, who just might not be as excited about the holidays as many of us are. There are many in our communities, our schools and in our midst that have little. Never underestimate the power that a smile, a hello, or a good morning! can have on the life of someone that might be struggling. In doing so, the implicit message that “you are not alone” with a reassuring face can give hope to so many of our kids letting them know that we are more than test scores, grades and rules. We are about human beings, little ones and big ones, and doing anything and everything we can to improve lives.
As I prepare for the first time in my life to spend a Christmas morning in a hospital room, with my Dad, who has (with medical assistance) made the executive decision that we need to make some more memories of fishing and hunting together, I feel very fortunate he will recover. But even in that state, his condition is still better than that of many of our families; let us not overlook them this holiday, and in doing so be the social champion of equity we should strive to be.
I hope you feel the same way,and are optimistic about the new year. I hope you are optimistic about our future and hope you are excited for the memories we will in the HPEDSB make together. Our future is bright and our achievements yet to be determined! Embrace 2020 as a proud member of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, and with it an instilled sense of hope and beginnings.
Take care, happy holidays and a hopeful new year!