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

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
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

A New Chapter
Tue Aug 22 00:00:00 NDT 2017

It really is hard to believe but another school year is here. I hope that everyone had an enjoyable break and you are well rested and ready for the academic year ahead.

I would first like to acknowledge some of the unfortunate tragedies which impacted us during the summer. A number of our school communities, and in particular our families, were forever changed and are still experiencing great loss as a result. Please know that each and every one of us offers our condolences and our ongoing support during your difficult time.

It seems like only a short while ago that I was finishing up the year-end blog in June and comparing the Kindergarten to Grade 12 journey to a chapter book. Well here we are again, at the start of another school year. There are some 4,500 Kindergarten students who will be opening a new book in their life’s journey and almost 5,400 Grade 12 students commencing the final chapter in secondary education this year. I wish the Kindergarten class and the graduating class of 2018, along with everyone in between, every success this 2017-2018 school year.

Every school year closes out in a burst of euphoria and a sense of satisfaction made possible because of all the effort that goes into achieving goals and objectives established in the previous September.  Each successive September brings the opportunity for a shiny new start or a blank slate, a chance to set a new course for academic achievement and personal growth.

Freshness permeates the atmosphere at this time of year. Our busy custodians have carefully polished the floors, our diligent teachers have refreshed their classrooms with new displays, our dedicated administrators have hired new staff and printed new timetables, and our eager students are equipped with new exercise books and sharpened pencils, and likely a tremendous amount of technology. Almost everything is newer and bigger, including the students themselves. I recall as a child feeling pretty good about upgrading from an 8-colour pack of crayons to a 16-colour pack. I recall as a teacher looking at that Grade 8 student who somehow over the summer managed to attain the physical height that enabled them to look down into the top shelf of their locker for the first time. There is the eager anticipation of a new homeroom class and the potential for new friends.

As we settle into the new school year we should also be cognizant that while there is a great deal of eager anticipation for the first day of classes, for some of our students there is a level of apprehensive because of the uncertain feelings that a new school year brings. I know our empathetic staff have already identified many of those students who might be in need of a bit of extra support during this time, but I would urge caregivers or mature students to identify any concerns to the school administrators so they can help ease anxious students into their new environment.

The 2017-2018 school year also marks an important milestone for our District as we embark upon the first year of our new strategic plan. This guiding document has been created following extensive consultation with our school communities and sets the course for the next three years of academic excellence. We will continue to focus on matters of importance such as reading and writing, mathematics, and safe and caring schools. We look forward to working together to achieve our collective goals as outlined in this plan.

For my first blog of the new year, the message I would like to leave everyone with is to work hard and have fun; give your best in everything you do. Of course I want our students to work hard at their studies, but I also want them to work just as hard to maintain their friendships and make new ones, to offer their volunteer time to worthy causes, and to make their communities exceptional places to live, study, play, and grow. I want our teachers and support staff to give their all - as I know they will - to ensure our students feel safe, welcome, and prepared for success. And, I want everyone to enjoy their personal time, partake in activities that are fun and personally rewarding, and experience all that life has to offer. If you give your all in these aspects of your life, you will feel rewarded and happy.

All the best for a great 2017-2018 school year and I look forward to working together to achieve amazing successes.

Sincerely,

Tony

Closing a Chapter...Reading for Renewal
Mon Jun 19 00:00:00 NDT 2017

The school year is coming to a close and it is hard to believe it has gone by so fast. During the 2016-2017 year we have seen remarkable achievements by our students. Many have been recognized on the national and international stage. Throughout their journey they have been supported by an amazing network of family, friends, teaching staff, and support staff  who have helped them and instilled the belief and confidence needed for success. Similarly, our teachers and support staff have been recognized for the tremendous work they do each day, along with the extra effort they give to encourage deep-learning, hands-on learning, and extracurricular support so necessary for the success of our students and communities.

For students and parents, the K-12 education system is akin to a chapter book. In September of Kindergarten you excitedly open chapter one and in June you satisfyingly close the cover having finished your reading. The next September, you eagerly open a new chapter and commence Grade 1, and so it goes until the last chapter when you finish the entire book.  Nowhere else do you know exactly when you start an annual endeavour and when you will complete it. School staff also share in the enthusiasm that comes with opening a fresh and shiny new chapter in September and the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing it in June; along with the knowledge that some time for you and your family is just ahead. I do hope you can take some time and relax, recharge, and be ready to open a new chapter in September. I know for many of our students and teachers there are other projects you must complete during the summer, however, please enjoy yourself and return in September renewed and ready to once again begin the amazing challenge of public K-12 education.

And while enjoying your much deserved downtime, please keep your safety, as well as the safety of family and friends, top of mind. Be aware of potential dangers and do not let your relaxation become a hazard to your personal safety or the safety of others. Have fun but swim, bike, run, and play safely.

For those students who are finishing their entire book and moving on from the K-12 system, I wish you all the best in the in the many volumes you are yet to cover in life. I hope you will reflect positively on our public education system. I know your school staff would love to see you return to visit and share in your successes in the future.

For those District employees who are concluding your careers this June, I know this coming September will feel a little different. I wish you the very best in whatever you now turn your hand to, be that leisure or a new adventure. Thank you for all you have done for the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Finally, thank you to each and every one of you for making this school year such a success. Without the dedication of our students, teachers, support staff, and trustees none of our achievements would be possible. I am so very proud of all of you. #NLEduProud

I have to confess the one thing I miss about being at a school is the unbridled euphoria that permeates the air for students and staff alike on the last day of school in June. Again, enjoy and be safe. I look forward to seeing you all again in September and opening the next chapter that is the 2017-2018 school year.

Thank you and have a wonderful break! 

Tony

Tony Stack
CEO/Director of Education (Interim)

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

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