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Superintendent's Notebook - June 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s hard to believe we’re just a few weeks shy of the summer break. The end of June also marks my first year as Superintendent. Thinking back to when I was announced by the Board, I felt a lot of optimism and excitement about what lay ahead. Reflecting on the last 12 months, I can honestly say I still have those feelings.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being Superintendent is getting a bird’s eye view of all the amazing people we have in our District. Even on the busiest and most challenging days, I try to take a step back and think about all the parents who are committed to their child’s education – our staff and their inspiring work, and the community partners who continue to keep our hopes alive for our students. That’s what keeps me going and makes the job so rewarding.

It’s also been incredible to see how social capital – a personal philosophy I’ve lived by for many years – has turned into our District’s Cornerstone Values of Equity, Collaboration, Integrity and Accountability. These Values are a new addition to the Board’s Vision, Mission and Priorities (2014-2018). Each one of these elements forms the foundation of our District’s – the roadmap we’ll use to realize the goals and Priorities you helped to set. The Values themselves point to something I’m really proud of, which is the District’s emphasis on relationship building. That’s what makes communities great and community engagement such a positive force for transformative change. These Values anchor our work. They’re not just a way of doing for us, but a way of being.

Already, they’re having a huge impact on how we’ve dealt with some of our most complex challenges. Thinking back to February, when we worked through significant space issues in fast-growing areas of the city, upholding Equity was my focus. I always came back to the fact that we have a responsibility to ensure every student has access to a fantastic teacher and a quality learning environment. And as I make a decision in the coming weeks about which community I’ll recommend to the Board to receive a new replacement school, I’m considering all the options through the same lens. We’re here to support the success of kids by offering them as much opportunity as possible to reach their potential. We want parents and community members to be strong partners in that work. Your voice and participation is vital. Collaboration and Accountability were essential to our consultation process for our Space for Students initiative and they’ve guided our efforts over the last few months to help us understand the hopes and aspirations you hold for your community.

Looking ahead, I’m eager to strengthen our capacity for innovation. I’m passionate about tying our ambitions to creative strategies that allow students to have the most meaningful journey possible. To help them transform into the leaders of tomorrow, we have to make their current learning relevant. We have to help them discover what gives them a sense of fulfillment and dignity in life. Through our Career Pathways program, I hope to take major strides in this work. A new department we’ve created called Research and Innovation for Student Learning will help us get there. It will connect students with employers and mentors to enhance their learning experience and support them as they explore different careers. The idea here is: knowledge is power. If we can open their eyes to what they’re capable of achieving, they’ll take more ownership of their own pathway. It’s this type of work that makes me feel privileged to be Superintendent. I’m humbled to be part of an organization that still has its best years ahead of it.