Looking forward to this holiday season

Looking forward to this holiday season

With the winter vacation period just three short weeks away, I want to express, on behalf of our Board of Education and the School Division office team, our appreciation to staff, students, and parents for the many, many hours of extra effort being put in to ensure our students fully participate in and enjoy the Christmas season.  For the myriad of extra donations of time, talent and energy, we thank you.

I’d also like to thank those of you who have taken the time to engage with us using the Thoughtexchange online consultation tool.  At the end of Phase One for the High School Strategy, we had heard from just under 4,600 participants across the division. They shared more than 9,000 “thoughts” and assigned more than 140,000 “stars” to the thoughts of others. Phase Two is now underway, so if you haven’t yet taken the time to do so, I encourage you to take a few minutes and give us your input. If you haven’t received an emailed invitation, Go to the link here: http://rbe.thoughtexchange.com/invitation

There have been a few questions posed about why we have chosen to use this method of consulting with our public. The answer to that is relatively straight-forward: other, more traditional attempts to engage with our community have not been very successful. Attendance at public meetings is low, mostly due to the number of other commitments competing for parent and staff time. Additionally, at public meetings, input is often dominated by those that are most comfortable speaking in public; leaving others, who are less vocal, without an opportunity to express their thoughts. Neither of these factors contributes to quality or representative feedback.

The Thoughtexchange process allows people to engage at times that work for them, to express their views privately, and to respond to the views of others. Moreover, it facilitates two-way communications as themes are collected and fed back to participants for a second round of input.

As with any new process, there have been a few “glitches” – we have worked to resolve those, and to also ensure that those unable, or unwilling to participate on-line have other avenues open to them by contacting their neighbourhood school.

The final results of the consultation process will be collected and analyzed by our service provider over the next few weeks. Division administration will review and respond to the information early in the new year, with a view to having decisions made about how to move forward in mid-to-late February. There will be periodic updates available from your school principal, in subsequent Director’s Blogs, and on the website, as the process progresses.

Our ultimate goal, as a school division, is to ensure all of our students have access to a full-range of high-quality educational programs, regardless of where they live in our city. With your input and continued commitment, we can achieve that goal.

As we move into the holiday season, I ask you to reflect on the abundance in our lives, to consider sharing that abundance with those who are less fortunate, and to spend as much time as possible with loved ones in activities that both celebrate the Christmas season and rejuvenate you for the challenges and opportunities the new year will inevitably bring.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our school families, staff, partners and friends!