Weathering the Storm
January 31, 2020

As you know, the Avalon and parts of the Bonavista Peninsulas were hit with a monster storm on January 17. Some areas were hit harder than others, but it’s fair to say the St. John’s metro area bore the brunt of the blizzard and - due to the population density - cleanup was challenging, to say the least. 

Our friends and colleagues in other regions, who are well-accustomed to adverse weather conditions and the large accumulation of snow, teased us a bit, but we appreciated their support in taking care of some matters while many Avalon and headquarters staff were working from their phones and laptops at home.

People can be at their best, or worst, in challenging situations. Our staff members were at their absolute best. While the loss of instructional time is a concern, it certainly is not unprecedented within the District and I am confident our teachers and administrators will find innovative ways to ensure curriculum outcomes are met. 

In the effort to reopen schools as soon as possible, with safety top of mind, our small student transportation division took on the monumental task of reorganizing dozens of metro area bus routes to ensure students could get to school. Our communications and IT staff worked tirelessly to inform schools, parents, the public and the media of the latest developments and to have information readily available on our website. Our facilities staff members were given special permission to venture out during the state of emergency to assess school buildings and clear doorways and walkways so that when conditions improved, our schools were ready for students and staff. Our senior leadership team and executive staff were on deck throughout, liaising with provincial and municipal representatives and working together to problem-solve in the best interest of students.  It was often difficult, and sometimes fraught with frustration, but everybody pulled together to make it work.

I take this opportunity to thank District office staff, provincial and municipal leaders and officials, administrators, teachers, school support staff, busing contractors and drivers, parents, caregivers and others who helped us to weather the storm and get our students back to their learning environments. 

Let’s hope for milder weather ahead.

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
Thanks for 2019
December 17, 2019

I recently received a letter from a couple of parents regarding a school bus driver who has gone out of his way over the years to provide a warm, welcoming, and fun environment for their children. They point out that a bus ride can be an intimidating experience for children, particularly for those who deal with anxiety. They took the time to write because of the positive impact this man has on all the children he has interacted with, year after year, without any recognition or desire for same. 

There are so many of our custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, student assistants, teachers, and teaching and learning assistants like this gentleman who are going above and beyond, day-in and day-out, mostly unrecognized, throughout our more than 250 schools. Similarly, there are many education staff and support staff in our regional offices, depots, and headquarters who are dedicated to providing the very best for our students and those who care for them. 

As CEO/Director of Education for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, I take this opportunity, as we close out 2019, to say how proud I am to work with such caring and committed professionals. I thank each and every one of you for doing what you do to support learning and personal development in positive spaces in which our students can thrive.

All the best this holiday season and for the New Year.

A Time to Celebrate and Remember
June 26, 2019

Here we are again in the last week of a school year. There is a comforting regularity to it. We start fresh and new in September, with eager anticipation of the year to come. We don’t always achieve all of our goals, but we move steadily forward, overcoming setbacks and obstacles, and ultimately coming out at the end of June better for the experience. That applies not only to students, but also to teachers and to all the administrative and support staff who keep the school system moving onwards and upwards. 

Schools on the last day are incredibly euphoric places to be. And with good reason. That well-deserved opportunity to relax and recharge is just within reach. That eager anticipation of starting anew some 10 months ago is easily replaced by the unbridled joy and anticipation of a summer break. There is much to celebrate! Congratulations to all our graduating Grade 12 students and to our retirees. Know that we value the time you have spent with us, and your collective contribution to your own growth and that of others you have positively influenced.

June is also PRIDE month; lots to celebrate here too! We didn’t always get it right in education for the 2SLGBTQ community, but I believe strongly that our schools and our District have played a catalytic role in fostering inclusion and acceptance, not only in our education system but in broader society. There is still work to be done, but we are in a better place than we were last year and the year before that. I am so very proud of our students, teachers, administrators, and District staff that remain resolute in championing what is right and just in our society.

The month of June also provides us the opportunity to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day, observed on Friday, June 21. This was a day for all of us to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. I thank all of our indigenous students and employees for enriching our schools and for sharing your cultural practices with us all.

 

As we move into our summer break on this Canada Day weekend, let us also take the opportunity to honour the memory of some early defenders of the ideals of democracy. Their sacrifice paved the way so that you and I can enjoy the privilege of living in a more just society than those of years gone by. This Monday, Newfoundland and Labrador will also observe Memorial Day, a day when we will take the morning to remember the ultimate price paid by our soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen during the First World War. It is commemorated on July 1 of course because it is the anniversary of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s action at Beaumont Hamel, which saw such a terrible toll taken on our native sons. 

There is a great deal to celebrate. I want to thank each and every employee of the District for putting students first in all of your individual and collective efforts throughout the year - most of them unheralded moments, but collectively so important to helping our students achieve success. 

Have a safe and enjoyable summer everyone! 

"...We Make a Life by What We Give"
April 11, 2019

It’s Volunteer Week in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In an educational environment, we are hard-pressed to go through the day without having it touched in some way by a person who is giving of themselves -  their time, their effort, their talent, or their expertise. The K-12 public education system in Newfoundland and Labrador is undoubtedly one of the largest recipients of volunteer value, with parents, grandparents, friends, family, and community members helping to enhance the programs and services offered throughout our schools. This includes those who volunteer for the breakfast programs, lunch programs, as well as all the co-curricular and extracurricular activities that help our students develop academically, socially, and as citizens who will grow to conduct their lives with integrity and respect for others. To each of you, I take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of every student whose day you have enhanced, and for every school your efforts have helped.

For volunteers, this value is not a one-way street. The people I have encountered handing out breakfasts to students; helping our teachers supervise field trips, or coaching a school team, tell me this every day. For those who have first-hand knowledge, to give of yourself and your experience to benefit others is more rewarding than anything you could pull from your wallet or pantry. Because the value is reciprocal. Yes, you may give of your valuable time and effort, but what you get back just can’t be measured. In many instances, the educators and staff in our schools are leading by example by volunteering in their community. I know many of our students follow this example by donating their time and energy to support worthwhile projects close to home as well as nationally and internationally. It’s about learning to be part of a community - whether that be large or small. It’s about caring for others. It’s about citizenship, one of the six core competencies of deep learning.

Volunteerism is very much a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board’s day-to-day existence. The District is guided by a volunteer, elected Board of Trustees; 17 diverse and unique individuals who volunteer a great deal of time to providing oversight and guidance to all aspects of our organization. We thank them for their commitment to students and to the betterment of education in our province.

Take to heart a quote, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, although its origin is not authenticated:  "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

I encourage everyone to take time this week to thank those around you who selflessly give of themselves to benefit others. I’m sure it would do them good to hear it.

Tony Stack
CEO/Director of Education

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95 Elizabeth Avenue
St. John's, NL · A1B 1R6
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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