The time has arrived to bid farewell to another school year, and many of the classmates, colleagues, and others with whom we have learned and worked over 10 very busy months. Despite the inevitable peaks and valleys that a school year can bring, I hope that you will look back on 2018 – 2019 with fond memories and pride in numerous achievements.
Recapping the key highlights of a school year is no easy task. We think of the countless student and staff driven learning projects that have brought greater awareness to mental and physical well-being, equity and inclusivity, the environment, the arts, social justice, responsible global citizenship, and other causes.
At the Regular Meeting of the Board on June 18, we had the opportunity to recognize some examples of this past year’s amazing volunteers in our schools with our Awards of Excellence. Our students’ lives are deeply enriched thanks to the contributions of these individuals and several others who selflessly donate their time to breakfast clubs, learning programs, committees, events, and other school initiatives.
We also dedicated time during the meeting to celebrate our students and staff who have garnered some very prestigious accolades at the provincial and national levels. From the skilled trades, science, and geography, to athletics, music, and outdoor education, there has been no shortage of outstanding stories of success within our board. Additionally, we acknowledge the various regional competitions that were held in some of the above
mentioned areas, as well as the wide range of local public speaking contests. Congratulations to our students who excelled in these events, and many heartfelt thanks to the staff, mentors, volunteers, community partners, and other individuals whose heroic efforts allowed them to happen.
This year has been a transitional and uncertain time for public education in our province. As Chair Jan Johnstone shared in a public statement at our last board meeting, Bluewater District School Board has been able to significantly reduce the number of potential secondary staff lay-offs that had been initially projected due to the province’s class size increases. We continue to worry about the overall impact of reducing the total number of secondary school teaching positions as we move from a
board average of 22 students per class to 28 students per class over the next four years. The phasing in of these increases and mandatory eLearning are just a few of the big topics of discussion that will continue into the next school year. We are also about to enter a period of collective bargaining for our teaching staff, which will require plenty of patience and cooperation as all of those involved work through the details of a complex process. Our Board of Trustees and senior staff are firmly committed to working proactively, respectfully, and collaboratively with our union and provincial partners to advocate for the best possible solutions that will benefit our students and rural schools.
In the meantime, I would like to commend and personally thank each of our trustees, staff, students, and public survey participants, whose time and thoughtful consideration over the past several months were instrumental in the delivery of a balanced 2019 – 2020 budget. As we look towards next year, it is important that we not lose sight of the many positive things that have put us in a strong position to weather any storm of challenges that might lie ahead. In addition to our board’s strengthened financial position, we look forward to the September opening of the brand new John Diefenbaker Senior School in Hanover, and continued progress of new school builds in Meaford and Markdale. We are also very excited to soon roll out our new Multi-Year Strategic Plan, which will keep us on solid ground in guiding our future direction and decisions for the betterment of our local public education system.
There tends to be somewhat of a public perception that the work of school boards occurs only between the months of September and June. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There are many, many employees in Bluewater who will be working busily during July and August to prepare our schools and facilities for a smooth start of the school year. Our Plant Services staff will be contending with tight timelines as they oversee multiple renovation and renewal projects. This extends to custodians and maintenance staff, who will be managing the upkeep of our buildings and properties, as well as assembling many supports required for our classrooms and work stations. Our Information Communications Technology (ICT) staff have an active summer ahead as they work to upgrade our district wide technological systems and devices. Our Financial and Human Resources Services staff will ensure that payroll and various personnel related functions run smoothly for the approximately 3,000
permanent and casual staff in Bluewater. Then we have our Community Education staff, who will be tending to our facility rentals, the issuing of permits, and Driver’s Education program. Purchasing staff will continue to work with our vendors, among other related tasks, while those in Transportation will be coordinating bus routes and planning. We cannot forget about our administrative and teaching staff who will be delivering Summer School and the Summer Learning Program. I would be remiss if I did not also mention our many school office and Education Centre staff, who will be performing a diverse range of administrative duties behind the scenes to get ready for 2019 – 2020. Regardless of their role in our system, we all owe each and every one of these Bluewater employees our deepest thanks for all of the seen and unseen critically important work they do.
I would like to extend my best wishes for success to our graduates and those students who will not be returning next year. I am confident that your days in Bluewater will serve you well as you enter an exciting and fulfilling new life chapter in whatever pathway you have chosen. Please keep us informed of your endeavours and pursuits as you continue your learning journey.
The same can be said for our Bluewater retirees and other non-returning staff. Your dedicated service, commitment to excellence, and unique expertise have been foundational in shaping the lives of our students and families in ways that you will never realize. I speak for many when I say that “thank you” simply does not cover it.
I am eternally grateful to the small but mighty team of superintendents and Corporate Services staff who ensure every day that I am able to fulfil my roles and responsibilities as Director of Education and secretary of the board.
In closing, gratitude and appreciation are owed to our trustees and superintendents for their selfless hard work, careful decision-making, and unrelenting advocacy for our students over the past year. Thank you as well to our students, including student trustees and senators, along with our staff, parents/guardians, volunteers, partners, and communities, who are the fabric and cornerstone of the work we do day in and day out. I wish you all a very safe and enjoyable summer, and look forward to seeing you again in 2019 – 2020!
Director of Education