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

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
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

Pride in Our Place
Thu Jun 01 00:00:00 NDT 2017

Thank you for taking a moment to read my inaugural foray into blogging. While this is a new experience, I think it will be a helpful‎ communication medium.

For my first blog I would like to discuss pride. Specifically, how proud I am to be a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District and how each of us can demonstrate pride in our school community and our academic pursuits.

I feel very fortunate to play a role in the public education system of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have many amazing memories from my time working with students over many years. No more so than seeing students be successful and satisfied with what they have accomplished. No doubt like many teachers, I have encountered former students while out and about in the community enthusiastically relaying what they are doing now with respect to starting a family or their current occupation. Such encounters, where you have an opportunity to share in former students pride of accomplishment, are truly uplifting.

I am proud to be serving as the Director of Education in an interim capacity and looking forward to the opportunities it affords me; including the opportunity to help contribute to the success of approximately 66,300 young people who will shape the future of our province and beyond.

Each and every one of those 66,300 students is truly lucky to have the opportunity to receive a high quality education with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. And while there are challenges, our education system ranks high globally and our students are going on to be successful internationally. We should be proud of those achievements and be public with our pride.

By taking pride in our education system and our student accomplishments, we also commit to improving the system where and when we can so the opportunities for student success are even greater.

As educators, we should take pride in our careers and our everyday work. As support staff working in and with schools, we should be proud of the critical role we play in supporting classroom instruction. We should demonstrate this pride each and every day, focus on the positives, and work to overcome the obstacles and not let them impede our progress. Strong belief in our collective role in improving student achievement will act as a self fulfilling prophecy.

Students should continue to take pride in their work, as well as their academic and personal success. If you feel and demonstrate that pride, you will be confident, successful and join the thousands of other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are leaders in their community and, indeed, the world.

It is my commitment to represent the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District proudly, and to work tirelessly for our students, our educators, and our support staff.

I encourage you to take a moment and show your pride in yourself, your school, and your community and to also share that pride with us via Twitter using #NLEduProud. Share a study group selfie or school project. Send a video of your school cheer from a big tournament. Or send before and after pictures of your school area clean up after our long winter. These are just some examples of the many activities that can help to demonstrate the pride you take in your educational experience, and I feel that is worth sharing.

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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