For days, many of us may have struggled to put our feelings about the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos into words. And, the truth is, an inability to express our feelings of grief and confusion is an understandable response to loss and tragedy.
Some events impact us so deeply we can’t believe the reality of them, let alone come up with words to convey the shifting emotions we experience. What happened to the Humboldt Broncos is one of those events.
Every player, fan, friend or family member who has ever laced up their skates, grabbed a stick, stepped out onto the ice or cheered until the bleachers shook, feels this loss. And as deeply as we feel it, we know that our pain is only a fraction of what the immediate family and friends of the Humboldt Broncos feel – including that of the Gomercic family, who are well known in our LRSD community.
Their son, Matt, is one of the surviving players and we want the entire family to know our thoughts are with them as they go through an unimaginably difficult time along with every family member of every Broncos teammate.
We know that there are many students who will be dealing with their own emotions around the Humboldt Broncos. We encourage anyone who feels they want to talk about this tragedy to speak to a classroom or student services teacher. Parents, if you feel your child needs support, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher or school and we will help put that support in place.
Most importantly of all, we encourage you to speak with one another. Share your grief, love, compassion and strength. Because when words fail us, knowing we are together and knowing how deeply we all care is what carries us forward.
The Louis Riel School Division Superintendent’s Team
Our students' journeys don't end with graduation and neither does our responsibility to our students. That's why our School Board's budget for 2018-19 illustrates its commitment to setting our students of all abilities, from all walks of life, on a journey of lifelong growth, wellbeing and wellbecoming.
In LRSD, we are committed to fiscal and community responsibility. We're positioning our schools to better support an increasingly diverse and continuously growing student population while keeping the financial wellness of our community member's top of mind.
I am proud to say that the Board's budget was developed in consultation with community members, following LRSD's mission to nurture partnerships between home, school and community. The Board and community members, including parents and staff, connected through public meetings and online surveys, allowing them to guide investments in LRSD.
Our recently approved operating budget is $189.8-million and it has been designed to meet the needs of a projected 15,458 students. It marks a 3.16 percent spending increase over 2017-18. This expenditure increase results in a 1.96 percent increase to the Special Requirement, as per the Minister of Education's request to limit the increase to 2 percent.
We have also worked to ensure the budget continues to keep administration costs under 3 percent, in line with the minister's expectation.
The budget also dedicates funds to increasing non-instructional spaces not funded by the Province and required investment in the Division's aging infrastructure.
I'm proud to be serving a Board that is able to provide growing opportunities for a growing student population with diverse needs, while also demonstrating fiscal responsibility to taxpayers in our community.
I also want to acknowledge the tremendous team effort that goes into supporting the Board in constructing its budget and want to thank our Secretary Treasurer's Team, Brad Fulton, Marna Kenny and their colleagues for their leadership and expertise.
I look forward to seeing the many ways our investments in 2018-19 provide our students, teachers, staff and community members with opportunities to change worlds for the better.
Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day. It’s a day to honour and celebrate the women in our lives and in our community. It is also a day to reflect on the gender inequality that continues to plague our world in 2018 and pledge to change that world.
I’ve read on Canada’s Status of Women website that, “This year's theme, #MyFeminism, is inspired by the question: What does feminism mean to you?” I encourage my fellow educators in the Louis Riel School Division to consider integrating this theme in their teaching over the coming year and to explore the Educators' Toolkit our federal government is making available to us. I encourage us all to engage our colleagues, students and parents to ask the question: What does feminism mean to us? And, to explore topics related to gender-based injustices, rights, responsibilities, democracy and leadership.
When thinking of democracy and leadership, it started in Manitoba, led by Nellie McClung. It was only 102 years ago that women were first allowed to vote in a provincial election. This eventually led to the right being granted in other provinces, territories and at the federal level. We had to wait until 1960 to see indigenous men and women granted the right to vote!
The history of women’s rights in Canada and other parts of the world is the history of human rights. Let it serve us as inspiration for our ongoing efforts to create a more just society, together.
On the frosty evening of January 16th, 2018, more than forty LRSD educators (including trustees Sandy Nemeth and Tom Parker) and a few colleagues from outside the Division gathered for an evening of sharing and learning at our first annual LRSD Ignite Evening.
A typical Ignite Evening offers a series of speedy presentations. Presenters get 20 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is a fast and fun presentation that lasts just 5 minutes. This wonderful evening was organized by Kimberley Adair-Gagnon and Cathy-Ann Winters, supported by the Instructional Support Team, and sponsored by the LRSD IT Happens Committee.
The audience enjoyed six engaging presentations. Presenters and topics included:
- Jenn McKinnon – Pushing Our (Literacy) Practice Forward: The Power of an #observeme Movement
- Thaddeus Bourassa – #LRSDProjectGenerosity
- Monique Ditter – Pyeongchang 2018 – À vos marques, prêt, partez!
- Cathy-Ann Winters & Kim Adair-Gagnon – Collaboration – C Your Way to Student Success
- Steve Lawrie – We Live in the World our Questions Create
- Tara Mclauchin – I (Still) Like Big Books
The goal of the LRSD Ignite Evening is to foster the culture of collaboration we are nurturing in LRSD and I enthusiastically share the feedback from presenters and audience members that the evening was a resounding success. All of us in attendance were energized and inspired by the passion of our colleagues and are looking forward to next year’s event! I want to especially thank Kim and Cathy-Ann for organizing the event and thank the Instructional Support team for their support that evening.
All six presentations were inspiring and ignited my curiosity. I will be following up with each of my colleagues. I did promise Thad, a grade 5/6 teacher at General Vanier School, that I would encourage all of us to share the stories of generosity and compassion in our classrooms by using the hashtag #LRSDprojectgenerosity!
I am so proud.
I am so incredibly proud to work with all the members of the LRSD team. While I have now worked in six school systems, all of them great learning experiences, LRSD is where I want to be for the rest of my career.
We have a publicly elected board of nine trustees. We have over 2,000 full-time employees, 44 buildings, and we are responsible for the education and care of over 15,000 students.
Bottom-line. We should be excellent at what we do for several reasons:
We are influencing the creation of a new Canada. One in which all of our people can care for themselves, care for others, and care for our world.
For this to occur, we need exemplary staff who nurture and challenge all of our kids.
All of this means we need to take the business of creating and maintaining LRSD as a great place to work as job one.
During the past year, we have seen the HR department evolve into People Services. The name change is purposeful. Members of the LRSD team are not resources, they are individuals with stories and families, who want to do meaningful work. LRSD needs to continue to explore how we can celebrate our achievements, and also improve the conditions within which our team works.
It is for these reasons that we applied to be recognized as a top employer.
The recognition that we have gained should make each and every one in our community feel great. To the best of my knowledge, we are the first public school system in Canada to gain this recognition! Read LRSD's feature from the Manitoba's Top 100 Employers Free Press article.
More importantly, the process of applying for this recognition, and yes we are applying again, forces us to really reflect upon what is important, who we are as an organization, and how we can be better by one another and the students we serve.
Changer le Monde | Changing Worlds
Keep on Pushing - Curtis Mayfield
In 2013, the LRSD School Board announced that they had three priorities for student learning: literacy and numeracy, student engagement, and citizenship. The Board reviewed the Ends Monitoring report, presented in January 2017, showing evidence of progress in these areas and agreed to maintain the same three priorities with some fine-tuning. Specifically, they decided that we needed to place a higher focus on financial literacy, mental well-being, and creativity and innovation. It is creativity and innovation that I would like to share some thoughts about today.
Over the summer, I read, listened to podcasts such as CBC’s Ideas and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and watched the news on CBC, Fox, Aljazeera, MSNBC, or the BBC (yes, accessing a variety of news sources from different perspectives is good!), I was struck by the fact that while things largely remain the same, we are also facing significant new challenges, changes, and opportunities.
I used to really have my head around technology, and yet visiting some McDonald’s restaurants lately, and going through Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto, I was alarmed by digital devices being provided as the way to order my food. At Pearson, everyone in the restaurant was glued to a screen to order food, play games, or surf the internet. No one was talking to one another. People selected their food items, inserted a credit card, and the food arrived. Another thing that hit me was what is the future of service jobs? The people who used to come and take your order? I went through customs at Pearson and didn’t have to talk to anyone. A machine with facial recognition technology determined if I could come back into Canada or not. At the new Save-On-Foods in Bridgwater Estates, there are more self-administered digital checkouts than there are checkouts with real people.
This summer, Amazon bought a fantastic grocery chain called Whole Foods and are promising to expand their already massive business of online shopping having items, including food, delivered straight to your home... They are expanding the number of massive distribution centers they have in North America in which much of the ‘heavy lifting’ is done by robots. Those used to be jobs.
I spent some time on the Disruptor Daily website that identifies the top disruptive companies in the world. Major themes seem to be the development of algorithms that allow companies (and governments) to track all of our online activities and likes, and then to market specifically to us every day.
Then there's acceleration of nanotechnology in which miniaturized technology can be brought into our bodies. Advances in DNA coding which can allow us to gain a sense of not only where one's lineage came from, but also what diseases and afflictions we might be predisposed for. Tesla is marketing cars that can travel over 500 kms on an electric battery while going from zero to 100 kms an hour in four seconds. This is how technology is evolving.
Climate change is real. The implications of more storms and the rise of sea levels are frightening.
In the field of education, in many ways, we are still maintaining the factory-based system that was implemented with the ideas of Frederick Taylor in the beginning of the twentieth century. On a good note, the very notion of a public school system, was to maintain a system through which a liberal democracy, developed and maintained for all people, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic background, could flourish. Today, however, Stanford University is providing online courses for middle years and high school students in 46 American states and 32 countries. You might have seen advertising on TV for K12, which aims to replace the public school with online learning. Pearson Publishing is the worlds’ largest education aimed company, I believe they would like to replace public education systems around the world.
So what am I talking about here?
I believe that we should be about the development of wise, caring, curious, interdependent, citizens in liberal democratic societies. I believe we have to prepare our young people to not only survive in the new, ever-changing society and economy but to also be ready and able to take advantage of the new opportunities that are becoming available and to thrive in this ever-changing environment. I believe that as other industries and sectors are being changed dramatically, we in public education cannot believe that our worlds cannot be challenged and changed as well. This means we need to evolve creatively through innovation and make a compelling case that public schools in LRSD and beyond are the places that can prepare our students for our current reality and the future – not private schools, not charter schools, and not online learning.
In LRSD, the best that we are doing is building strong caring relationships between adults and students. The best of what we are doing is finding ways to make learning interesting and engaging while also being rigorous and challenging. The best of what we are doing is teaching our young people to think critically but also with creativity and with heart for themselves and for all others.
For us to improve in LRSD, I look to the words of Sir Ken Robinson,
"The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they're valued."
All of us are to be leaders, all of us can be influential in the lives of others. I ask all of us to take risks to be more creative, more innovative, and to make mistakes as we strive to improve the life opportunities of others. Can we possibly think of more meaningful work?
Change Le Monde, Changing Worlds
This is our collective work.
On July 1, 1867, the modern nation state called Canada resulted when the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick united. In short order, Ontario and Quebec were created and then over time, more provinces and territories were added to the young country.
I think all would agree Canada has evolved into an excellent country. The Canadian equivalent to the American phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the words to be found in the Constitution Act of 1867 of “Peace, order, and good government.” For me, these words speak to Canadian characteristics of moderation, and care for others as reflected by the creation of strong social programs like universal health care in the 1960s.
Every year on the 1st of July we celebrate Canada, and we should! This year, with the 150th birthday of the nation upon us, we should also celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21st, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (celebrating Francophone history and contemporary culture) on June 24th, and acknowledge our incredible and ever increasing diversity on Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27th. These celebrations help us understand our history, and be proud of Canada in 2017.
And yet, to be true to ourselves as Canadians living in a liberal democracy, and if we are to improve Canadian lives, we need to reflect upon some of the challenging components of our history as well. The incarceration of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, high child poverty rates in all regions of the country, and the fact that we have not lived up to our treaty obligations with our Indigenous neighbours are warts that we can learn from.
We also need to look to a shared future with many challenges as well as opportunities. Five years ago, the National Post published an article entitled "What is the biggest issue facing Canada?" in which people across the country shared their views of possible challenges. Reading this article reminds us that a range of opinions and political points exist and this is how it's supposed to be in a liberal democracy!
Here are some of the thoughts:
- Rebuild our government into a Parliament with a common goal in mind, we solidify our demographics and restore our military to a powerful state.
- The biggest issue facing Canada is our politicians.
- The deterioration of democracy and the destruction of the parliamentary processes that govern our way of living.
- We need to fight to re-establish what was once a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to emulate.
- The biggest issue Canada faces is the maintenance of peace and security. Canada needs an anti-war government.
- The relationship with the First Nations and their peoples is the biggest issue Canada faces.
- Recent immigrants have brought with them the idea that Canadians are a people without culture, religion, values, or the backbone to stand up for themselves.
- The biggest issue facing Canada is immigration; immigrants are vital to its success.
- The management of its natural resources. There’s going to be a huge demand for oil, natural gas, potash, coal and lumber, to name a few of Canada’s massive resources, that emerging mega-powers like China and India will be desperate for.
- Greed is controlling and limiting any improvement in health care and the economy.
- We need to live within our means.
- Too many people are dependent upon the government for “cradle to the grave” care. Entitlement has become the norm and self-responsibility is in decline.
- The biggest issue Canada faces is how to define our liberty. Liberty to think, to worship, to publish, to speak cannot and must not be mitigated for the sake of “not hurting people’s feelings.”
- The biggest issue Canada faces is the abuse of freedom. Many of us do not resist the impulse to indulge in idealism.
- Blaming CO2 for global warming and/or climate change …. Billions of tax dollars are being wasted solving a non-problem.
- Our lack of innovation. We need to be the cutting edge of technology by offering tax breaks and other incentives to IT firms that would relocate to Canada from Silicon Valley.
- Our biggest problem is complacency.
- A steady and accelerating erosion of civility in pretty much all aspects of life.
So, as the celebrations loom large, let us all participate. But let’s also become knowledgeable of our history, learn lessons from that history, and participant in the creation of an even better place for ourselves, our families, and our neighbours in a place called Canada.
If we visit our schools, if we travel our streets, if we walk our neighbourhoods, all of us will see that complex Indigenous and racialized poverty exists in Canada. Silver (2014, 2016) states that beyond a lack of income, complex poverty is characterized by a host of additional challenges that trap individuals and communities in cycles of often multigenerational poverty. These additional challenges often include poor health, joblessness, lack of educational achievement, gang activity and high incarceration rates. As Silver (2014, 2016) and others have demonstrated, poverty can lead to poor educational outcomes. These realities impact Indigenous communities around the world, and racialized, by which I mean communities that have been seen historically as inferior due to their color and race.
During the summer of 2016, I completed a study that examined the understandings and actions related to complex Indigenous and racialized poverty of four superintendents, each with at least five years of experience in their positions. All aspects of public education system are incredibly complex and extremely political, and the superintendency is no exception. There cannot be a recipe book from which any of us can advance the cause of greater equity for all our students. That said, we can learn from the stories of those who made a difference, no matter how small or contextualized. We can advance our knowledge to inform how superintendents can contribute to the creation of educational environments in which people challenge, develop and, in the words of Foster (1986), liberate human souls (p. 18). For more of my thoughts, please visit the following links. I invite you to provide feedback!
Full dissertation: Complex poverty and urban school systems: critically informed perspectives on the superintendency. University of Manitoba MySpace.
Summary article in the MASS Journal: Complex Poverty and Urban School Systems.
PowerPoint presentation at the MTS Our Human Rights Journey conference, April 20th and 21st. MASS MTS PowerPoint
If you are like me, you have been confused, saddened, and angered by events around the world including differing messages and actions taken by the new president of the USA. Words that cause me to pause include Brexit, terrorism, Syria, Russia, refugees, anger, fear, anxiety, economic, inequality, alternate truths, and illiberal democracy. In spite of it all and perhaps like many of you, I had been experiencing years of cautious optimism witnessing events like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canada's welcoming of Syrian refugees, growing international acceptance of the realities of climate change, rising graduation rates in public education systems, and the growing conversation about citizenship in LRSD.
On December 18, 2016, I listened to CBC's Ideas podcast titled Reflections on Global Affairs: Is the world really falling apart? And it really got me thinking. The recording was a panel discussion at the Munk School of Public Affairs at the University of Toronto. The participants were Michael Blake from the University of Washington, Randall Hansen from the Munk School of Global Affairs, Janice Stein, the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Stephen Toope, also from the Munk School and the topic of their discussion was a global view in a time of disruption and change.
The podcast helped my thinking and I believe there are lessons that apply to our work in LRSD. Blake stated that currently in Europe, the USA, and yes, in Canada, there is growing questioning of liberal democracy. He said "many say they will fight for truth and justice, but what they really mean is that they want tomorrow to look like today. Lots of people are worried about what kind of tomorrow we are going to have." He went further and stated he believes that there is a growing skepticism about our societies.
Personally, am I willing to fight for truth and justice, or do I simply want change and turmoil to go away?
In liberal democratic systems, people can disagree deeply on matters of policy and direction, but they can also be deeply committed to a belief that we are in it together, from very different political perspectives, we have things to learn from each other, and even if we lose the debate, we still support and honor those who won the debate. In the British and subsequently, the Canadian governmental system, we have the losing political party forming the Loyal Opposition and in the USA, the presidency, the congress, and the judiciary create a form of check and balances that considers that no one person, or group of people, is to have total decision-making power over others.
So what's up?
At the federal and provincial levels, we have had dramatic changes in government. In the USA and in Europe, we have also witnessed sweeping changes in leadership. So what's different? The recent elections in Manitoba, Canada, and the USA were all democratic in the sense that those that won the elections had the most votes in accordance with the rules that apply to the elections.
Let me come back to Blake's comments about the skepticism many have about our institutions. He reminds us, that for many, our lives are so good that we have become unaware of what it is the underpins that which makes our lives good. We live in a liberal democracy but myself included, we are not clear about what that entails. Living in a liberal democracy is much more than living in a system in which whoever gets the most votes wins. Liberalism is not the same as the "Liberal Party" federally or provincially. Liberal democracies are founded upon basic principles that we need to continually be reminded of and adhere to. Principles include but are not limited to:
- respect for women,
- respect for racialized minorities, and
- respect for LGBTQ people.
Blake stated that the "actions of the government must be justified to the people, conceived of as morally equal," and these values have been championed by most mainstream conservative parties, moderate parties, and liberal parties. Further, liberal democracies must be more than about counting votes and not accounting the values that underpin liberal democracy. I believe that these concepts apply to school divisions and to all of us in positions of influence.
Back to Blake,
Liberalism … the actions of the government must be justified to the people, conceived of as morally equal and a capacious family of views that most mainstream conservative parties, moderate parties, green parties believe in. What it leaves out are monarchies and fascism.
So why am I talking about this? Stein stated that in liberal democracies, we need to develop strong, supportive relationships between individuals and governing institutions … I would include school divisions. Publically governed institutions in liberal democracies, including school systems, are to be responsible to the people that we serve.
Lessons for LRSD
Stein talked about the importance of building strong relationships between those that govern (I would argue school boards, senior administration, school administrators) and the individuals they serve (staff, parents, students). How are we treating those whom we serve? Are we (myself included) available and responsive to the requests and concerns of our staff, parents, and students?
We need to acknowledge that we will work with people with whom we strongly disagree with. In a functionally liberal democracy, we listen, even if we disagree. As stated on the podcast, "We need to play nice with those you think are wrong and stupid." We must seek to be open to learning from those with whom we disagree. I can say that I have lived the majority of my adult life on the centre left side of the political spectrum. That said, as I have listened deeply during the past years to those that have political ideals that are different than mine, I have come to understand that they are smart, principled people from whom I have learned much. At the LRSD board table, some of our discussions are about the need to balance advocacy for more resources with questions about the legitimacy of equating progress with spending more money. We are well served by the LRSD school board that contains a range of perspectives, experiences, and maintains an environment that is open to debate and contrarian perspectives.
In Western democracies it is fair to say that many people are feeling a lack of connection with their elected officials and institution's, including school systems. Influential people in institutions need to ensure we are open, accessible, and responsive to those whom we serve. The Democratic Party in the USA had been in power for eight years and it can be argued that during that time, many people who have lost their jobs to globalization and computerization did not have a party that attended to their needs, opening the door to feelings of alienation that lead to people leaving the party in droves. In LRSD, in our individual positions, mine included, are we responsive, and service oriented as we should be with the community, parents, staff, and students?
Let's be honest. Many of us are caring people but are alarmed by the changing ethno-cultural make-up of our communities. It is easy to acknowledge that we are on Treaty One land. It is easy to welcome Newcomers with the ideas that they will a.) fill required jobs, and b.) become assimilated to existing Canadian cultural mores. What has become apparent is that while we are warm-hearted about Indigenous people and Newcomers and refugees coming to Canada, there is an undercurrent of dismay that our communities are changing culturally in ways that we simply do not want. We do get push back against increased support for Indigenous and racialized people in our communities. What are we doing to go beyond welcoming to helping Indigenous and Newcomer communities to be successful? What are we doing to support the tenets of liberal democracy?
Public educations systems are absolutely critically important components of developing the public good. We need to, in age-appropriate ways, ensure that all our students become knowledgeable about democracy and the tenets of liberal democracy. All staff, myself included, need to listen to, and respect the perspectives of all who might question our thinking, our perspectives, and our actions that often come from a position of privilege. In Canada, public school systems are the only institutions that prepare all Canadian youth to understand and to then secure the tenets of liberal democracy. In LRSD, we need to not only continue to provide quality learning opportunities for all students, we need to educate and uphold the tenets of liberal democracy for all students, staff and parents, and to also practice these tenets in our day-to-day operations.
I can get better. We all can.
The past few weeks, no, the past 18 months, has me and many others, reflecting on our Citizenship priority and what that really means for our students. As Duane mentioned in his latest blog, it is the small things that have become more obvious in their importance. I want our kids to know they live in the greatest country in the world! Not because we are powerful, but because we are peaceful, not because we have resources, but because we share resources, not because we are loud but because we listen, and certainly not because we are fearful but because we are thoughtful.
How does LRSD partner with families to share these concepts and ideas? Every time we participate in a field trip to Winnipeg Harvest or assist in saving our Seine, or welcome a new student to our school, we are providing an opportunity to appreciate what we have. Our staff design their classrooms so that our students learn to work in groups, to appreciate each other's strengths and communicate in assertive, not aggressive ways. Coaches work not just on sports skills but on what it means to be a good teammate and strong but respectful competitors. We have clubs in each one of our schools that practice philanthropy, charity and activism. Our fine arts departments develop the appreciation for beauty in the world, through visual arts and music. We are a division where our schools pride themselves on being inclusive, and that truly does mean, including everyone. We not only recognize diversity, we embrace it! We celebrate diversity in all its forms because it is that breadth of humanity that makes us stronger.
As our community and all other communities are inundated with the barrage of negative media coverage, let us all take a moment to be grateful for living, working and learning in Louis Riel. Let us continue to talk about what we are proud of, our students and our staff, and all the wonderful things that they are accomplishing. Louis Riel is a great school division, and we will continue to thrive as we all take part each morning in O'Canada!