It is a busy time in schools – an understatement, you say! – making it even more special to be welcomed into schools last week in Saanich, Victoria, and Sooke.
Many weeks ago, SD 63 (Saanich) Chapter Co-Presidents, Aaron Buckham and Steve MacGregor, invited me to attend their AGM, and address SAA (Saanich Administrators’ Association) members. I visited a few schools while I was there, remaining mindful of June’s many scheduled activities and celebrations.
I started my visit at North Saanich Middle School, a modern building well-designed for the adolescent learner. Principal David Mark was very generous with his time, and VP Steve Newlove gave me a tour of the facility. During our walk-about, Steve explained that a brand-new student from Ukraine had started at North Saanich. During our tour, Steve was able to connect the new student, who speaks very little English, with another student that had arrived in similar circumstances a year ago. I felt very privileged to be present when these two students met and began to chat in their home language. Making connections to facilitate learning and help build relationships: all in a day’s work for a school leader!
At École Keating Elementary School, my hosts were Principal Steve MacGregor and Vice-Principal Joan O’Leary. My visit to Keating was in the middle of a Scholastic Book Fair, and it was a very popular event. As we walked about, Steve updated me on activities in his Chapter, and suggested topics of interest to members for my presentation that evening.
At Claremont Secondary School – home of the Spartans – I joined Principal Aaron Buckham and his VP team of Wendy Laws & Meaghan O’Brien, as they finished their team meeting. It was great to hear about the many course offerings and opportunities that Claremont provides the student population in the largest school in Saanich.
On my way to the Saanich Board Office, I made a quick stop at SIDES (South Island Distance Education School), and had a great conversation with Principal Sean Hayes. My Chapter tour of the province frequently includes a meeting with the Superintendent, and my visit to Saanich was no exception. I appreciated that Superintendent Dave Eberwein and his district leadership team made time in their busy schedules. These district meetings are an opportunity to highlight the BCPVPA’s leadership development work in support of school leaders, and the connection helps us to represent our members and to continue to build relationships all around the province.
My day ended at a very well-attended SD 63 Chapter meeting and AGM, where I talked about the Association’s work, and heard from SAA members. The recent compensation announcement was at the top of the list.
Knowing that I would be ‘in the neighbourhood’ while on the Island, I arranged to visit with our two recently-elected Directors of the Board, Tina Pierik and Renee Hislop, who will take up their duties effective July 1. My visit gave me an early opportunity to outline the duties of Board members, and the schedule for the coming year. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to connect with them, see where they work, and experience their work context.
At Tina’s school, Gordon Head Middle School in SD 61 (Victoria), I drove up to see a cohort of students working in an outdoor classroom setting, clearly enjoying the spectacular warm and sunny weather. Tina is an ebullient leader, a former counsellor, and secondary administrator with experience in two districts. As we walked around the school, we encountered Vice-Principal Jennifer Adamson with the ‘outdoor classroom’ kids. The ever-resourceful Jennifer had found some awnings and set them up on the grassy field over some picnic tables to provide shade, and viola – an outdoor classroom!
I then traveled to SD 62 (Sooke) with the knowledge that the Langford and Colwood neighbourhoods are currently experiencing a population surge, with explosive development that rivals Surrey. My second stop of the day was in the heart of this growth at Savory Elementary. As I arrived, I could hear the distinct sound of rhythmic drumming, which grew louder as I reached the front door. Renee welcomed me to the school, where I also met SD 62 Chapter Co-President Mark Johnston. Renee’s tour of her school started with the gym – and the drumming.
Gramma Marleen, as she likes to be known, is a Na’Tsa’Maht Role Model in SD 62, and she was leading and teaching the students drumming and Indigenous songs. During my stay, I saw her work with multi-age classes, and enjoyed a brief chat during the class exchange. I am reminded on all of my Chapter visits of the deep and rich experiences that we are able to provide to our students and school teams, and the many ways that each community gives generously of their time and knowledge.
As many of us have enjoyed the warm and sunny weather and the chance to take our classes outside, please spare a thought for so many of our colleagues whose schools and personal lives have been upended by the evacuation orders and wildfire dangers in parts of the province, particularly in the community of Tumbler Ridge in SD 59 (Peace River South). Tumbler Ridge has two schools. We are hopeful that the leadership team at Tumbler Ridge Elementary (Principal Bhupinder Mattoo and Vice-Principal Karen Edwards), and the team at Tumbler Ridge Secondary (Principal Stacie Gruntman and Vice-Principal Brendan Bogle) are staying safe. We recognize that in smaller communities, school leaders are also community leaders, and we know that helping to keep the community safe is a top priority for these members. We wish all those impacted by the fires a speedy and safe return to their homes, businesses, and schools.
Next week’s eNews will be the final 2022-2023 issue, and my last column of the school year. I look forward to connecting with you then.