Thanks for 2017
Tue Dec 19 00:00:00 NST 2017

I will not replicate the Christmas messages sent by the Board and the District in this blog. I would simply like to use this space to thank our dedicated employees for the work you individually accomplish, day in and day out, sung and unsung, for the betterment of our students in 2017 and urge you to take full advantage of the Christmas break to relax and recharge.

The Christmas break is really the only time where just about everything in our busy personal and professional lives slows down or comes to complete halt. Yes, there are other natural breaks in the school year, but often these breaks are interrupted or overshadowed by some activity deemed too essential to completely set aside for a time. However, barring some emergency, the Christmas break affords us the best opportunity to slow down, reflect, and enjoy the company of our family and friends without some immediate deadline looming.

As I go about the District’s schools and offices, I continue to be impressed with the commitment, creativity, dedication, and expertise of our employees. A year can be compressed into a mind’s-eye-view like images in a slide show. A District year-in-review slide show could include: the teacher standing before their admiring students delighted to be finally retiring but satisfied with what they had achieved after a fulfilling career; the new primary teacher so delighted with the new flexible seating in their classroom; the administrator so proud to show off their in-house designed and equipped calming room; the program specialists who volunteers to run a summer institute for teachers and bakes the treats for all who attend; the student assistant using a family recipe to bake bread and applying molasses as it is handed out to the students; the custodian who took such pride in an elaborate setup of equipment in support of an official school opening; the maintenance manager who was eager to provide a tour of a school that facilities staff had just finished renovating; the smiling cleaner who I’d seen at several schools in as many days as staff hustled around to open our new schools in September; the computer support specialist who persevered in establishing a consistent wifi signal in a classroom; the bus driver who delivers that special morning greeting to the students as they hop aboard; the school secretary who produced another beautiful program of events for Remembrance Day; the payroll clerk who makes that one extra phone call as the day expires to make sure the substitute teacher gets paid on time; and, the finance clerk who diligently processed a pile of requests. These are but a few images, all of them samples of ordinary, yet wonderful snapshots in time that collectively illustrate the work ethic and contribution of our employees that goes into making and sustaining truly remarkable school communities.

To all our District employees, in schools and offices around the province, again I thank you. Enjoy and relax this holiday season. You have more than earned it.

To all our students, parents, staff, and trustees, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas break spent enjoying the traditions of the holidays. I wish you all the best of the season and look forward to continuing our positive work in 2018.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tony

 

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
The School Review Process
Thu Dec 07 00:00:00 NST 2017

The Board of Trustees for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District recently tabled notices of motion that may result in school closures, as well as the consolidation of two schools. These notices of motion result from trustees reviewing information about the impacted school systems and reviewing initial feedback from the school communities. Important materials on the school review process, including school system information, dates of upcoming meetings, and a feedback form, can be found on our website: https://www.nlesd.ca/schools/schoolreview/

As a result of these notices of motion, a further review and feedback process is now underway and allows members of the school communities involved the opportunity to provide further feedback to the trustees about the future of their school. This includes both online feedback and the opportunity to present to trustees in person.

It is extremely important to say that no decisions have been made at this time with respect to the notices of motion and the future of the schools identified. To help inform the deliberations of trustees, members of the school communities involved are encouraged to provide their feedback online by the end of day January 22, 2018. By submitting your feedback online or by presenting to trustees in person, school community members can express their point of view and ensure trustees have all the information required to make a decision on February 3, 2018.

Factors such as enrolment, finances, human resources, infrastructure, programming, and student transportation are considered. It is the role of District staff to assemble and collate information with respect to such factors and it is my role as Director to oversee those staff efforts. It is the role of Trustees to consider these factors in deciding if the potential changes are in the best interests of the students involved and the delivery of education for the District at large. It is not an easy decision and one that cannot be taken lightly.

For those who are part of the school communities directly involved, I ask that you review the material available and provide your feedback online. Should you wish to make representation to trustees at the school community sessions scheduled for January 2018, registration is taking place until 2:00 p.m. December 20, 2017. Presenters are asked to contact Jackie Crane at 758-2381 or jackiecrane@nlesd.ca to register. Presentations are to be 10 minutes in length and an electronic copy is to be provided for the records of the Board. Specific dates and locations of the sessions can be found at the above noted website.

As an educator and resident of Newfoundland and Labrador, I recognize school review processes are difficult for communities. In most circumstances, the prospect of a school closure can be hard to contemplate and it can be difficult to find the appropriate way to respond. However, it is important that you do. I also recognize the role and responsibility of trustees to make decisions in the best interest of all students of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.

To inform that decision process, have your say through the online feedback form or present to the Board of Trustees in January.

Sincerely,

Tony

A Time of Remembrance and Action
Tue Nov 07 00:00:00 NST 2017

As we prepare to acknowledge Remembrance Day, our attention turns to those who have served our country and those who continue to serve in areas of conflict and turmoil. This is a special period in schools as ceremonies are held in gymnasiums and discussions take place in classrooms so that students and school communities remember the fallen, those who returned changed by the experience, and acknowledge those currently in service. It is a period where we reflect on our history, as well as our role in global affairs, and use the knowledge gained to encourage our students to help make our world a better place.

Like so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, my family has a strong connection to our armed services. With immediate family currently serving, and having worn a uniform myself, I understand the important role the women and men who serve our country have both home and abroad. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces serve in a variety of capacities throughout the world helping to preserve or restore peace, build capacity for security and stability, and support organizations who work to improve the lives of others.

I encourage everyone to participate in school Remembrance Day ceremonies, a community ceremony at your local cenotaph, or undertake your own personal act of remembrance and support for veterans and those still serving. Acts of remembrance can be simple. By treating others with respect and kindness and by doing your part to prevent bullying and harassment you are being a peacekeeper or a peacemaker in your own school and community. If we all make that small contribution to ensuring justice, equality, and fairness are values present in our daily lives, we are committing the most important act of remembrance. As we have seen with recent tragedies and acts of aggression committed against innocent people, there remains a lot of work to be done to ensure all global citizens are safe and free of oppression, tyranny, and injustice.

I am always proud of the social justice initiatives occurring in our schools. It is clear to me that social change, inspired by our teachers, is led by our young people; students with an open perspective, a broader understanding of acceptance, and a desire to do what is right. These are the people who can and do make a difference in our world. I strongly encourage our students, the future leaders of our Canadian society, to continue to uphold these values, be the leaders of change, and strive for social justice and equality both here and abroad.

As we approach Remembrance Day, let us remember the broader issues, the realities of armed conflict, and what is required to attain peace and equality in our world. Let us also remember our classmates, colleagues, and neighbours who are currently impacted because a family member is serving away from home. Most importantly, let us all consider our role in ensuring a safe, peaceful, and justice society in our schools, in our communities, and in our world.

Lest we forget.

Tony

Let's Engage on Attendance
Thu Oct 19 00:00:00 NDT 2017

Here we are only a couple of weeks from Halloween. It seems like we were only starting the school year just a short time ago.

There is a great deal of optimism in schools and classrooms are buzzing with the excitement that a new year brings. This is particularly acute in primary and elementary grades where interest in school is high and students are generally excited each day for the new opportunities and challenges ahead of them. We need to sustain that enthusiasm throughout the year, and while older students may be reluctant to overtly display their excitement for learning we need to ensure that that we do everything we can to sustain their interest. We know that engagement can dip in higher grades and we must do better. We also know that attendance patterns start as early as Kindergarten and from the first day of school an emphasis on good school attendance should take place within the family.

As educators we know that engagement is extremely important and can be the difference in student success. We know it is important for students of all grade levels and all academic abilities to be engaged in school and enjoying their academic pursuits. Educators understand our collective responsibility to create inspiring and welcoming learning places where students are actively engaged  participants in their own learning. But we also know that one of the main ways to ensure students become and remain engaged is for them to attend school regularly.

Goronwy Price, Chair of the Board of Trustees, wrote a letter to parents and guardians last month encouraging them to engage with their children about their studies and to ensure an emphasis is placed upon school and school attendance. I would like to join with Chair Price and emphasize the importance of school attendance. We know that a student who attends school is more likely to be successful; attending students can engage, learn, and acquire the skills they need to be successful in school and in life.

Our data tells us that 10% of our students missed 18 or more days unexcused last year - that is over three weeks of classes. This does not include lost days due to weather closures or illness which when combined, can equal a significant amount of lost time. What it comes down to for me is really quite simple: students should be in class when they are able to attend. There are 185 teaching days in the year which leaves 180 days to schedule other things such as vacations, appointments, or extra curricular activities. We recognize there are times when students cannot attend due to medical appointments or illness. Clearly, those matters must be attended to. But if possible, we recommend that appointments occur outside of school time.

There was a time when missing school for vacations or excursions involving sports or arts was an extremely rare occurrence, only reserved for the most exceptional circumstances. However, in recent times such excursions have become routine. This places an additional burden on the students who are missing school, the classroom teachers and, by extension, all students of the class who have their contact time diminished if the teacher has to focus energies on ‘catching up’ the students who were away. We would prefer family vacations and outside activities involving sports or arts to be scheduled during periods when school is not in session. We recognize that ‘school is not everything;’ activities outside of school are also extremely important educational opportunities and assist in a student’s social, emotional, and physical development. That said, school is scheduled for just half of the year, and for only five hours of those days. As educators, we feel strongly that this amount of time should be protected and taken full advantage of. We hope you agree.

It is the role of everyone involved in our school communities and the public education system to ensure our students value their time in the classroom and that they attend as much as possible. So in this light, I encourage our parents and guardians, administrators, teachers, support staff, and volunteers to emphasize attendance and engage with our students about their time in school. While not everyone has to volunteer for school council - though I certainly encourage more parents and guardians to serve in this extremely valuable role - simple gestures such as helping with a school fair, donating to the book drive, or helping with a school grounds clean up, set important examples.

The most important thing you can do is speak with your child. Ask about their day, take an interest in their school activities, and engage them in meaningful conversation about what is happening at school and within the school community.

Let's all work together to encourage positive engagement and good attendance. Our students and our province will be well served if we do.

All the best.

Tony

Tony Stack
CEO/Director of Education (Interim)

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St. John's, NL · Canada · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706

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