Archive for June, 2011

A long-held tradition in the West Vancouver District, the Growth Plan is one of the most powerful components of our learning culture. Every year, district teachers and administrators review their professional growth plan with opportunities to share their progress with others in their school, as well as across schools. The plan cycle is based on reflection, collaboration, data analysis and evidence.

West Vancouver Superintendents also participate in the same process.

Our Board of Education employs the BCSTA Performance Planning and Review for School Superintendents model, which is connected to my duties and to our Board’s Strategic Plan. We meet three times a year as part of the cycle of reviewing, renewing and updating the plan.

Based on the Board’s key objectives in the Strategic Plan, an initial performance plan with specific goals and a series of strategies is agreed to at the beginning of the year (outlined in the presentation below):

In a recent update to the Board, I shared evidence of my progress in each goal area under the individual strategies:

We will meet again in the fall, likely, in advance of the Board adopting a new Strategic Plan following the November elections.  This next session will both refine and guide my work.

There is a lot of discussion about accountability and improvement in education. This process of working with the Board to set clear goals, collecting and sharing evidence and being held accountable, is very effective.  The process itself supports the short and long-term development of my own goals and performance. And, it is a process that also fosters and strengthens relations with the Board through open communication, trust and clarity of role expectations.

We all want to be better at what we do, and it is great to work in a district where continuous improvement for all is part of the culture.

I am looking forward to extending this plan further in the fall.


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Over the last month, I have actually had the opportunity to speak to 700+ graduates from Rockridge, Sentinel and West Vancouver Secondaries.  While each speech reflected the uniqueness of each school, there were a few common themes I thought were important to share with all of our West Vancouver graduates. Here are the three themes I spoke about at the ceremonies:

We have an Excellent System

This past fall the PISA results were another external measure of the strong system we have in British Columbia, and in Canada.  Once again, BC placed among the top jurisdictions in the world.  When we look at provincial measures, we also know that West Vancouver students are academically strong. It is fair to say our graduates are some of the top-performing secondary school students in the world.

We also know that when we celebrate the success of our students, we need to celebrate the outstanding teachers and administrators in our system.  We continually hear about the pivotal role school leadership and the relationship with the teacher plays — and we are in great shape in both areas.

Thank You for choosing West Vancouver and Public Education

There are a lot of choices for schooling, particularly in West Vancouver where private schools have a long history in the community. I want to personally thank the students and parents for placing their trust, faith and partnership in our schools.  We are very proud of our accomplishments.  In West Vancouver, more than 1,000 students attend our schools on a daily basis from other communities, and over 500 students come to our schools as International students.  There are lots of choices, and parents want the very best for their children — so thanks for choosing public education and choosing West Vancouver.

Hopefully, we didn’t replicate your Parents’ Education

Most parents have fond memories of their schooling, but if we educated their sons and daughters the same way today, we would be doing these students a dis-service.  There is nothing wrong with the education of a generation ago, but the education of today needs to prepare students for the world tomorrow. Hopefully, beyond memorizing facts and regurgitating details from a textbook, our graduates are leaving with a series of powerful skills including collaboration, cooperation, communication, creativity, organization, problem solving, self-regulation and technology fluency. Our graduates are well prepared to be the leaders and role models of the world tomorrow.

It is an exciting time of year and attending graduation festivities is one of the most powerful and rewarding aspects of my job.  All the best to the graduates of the West Vancouver School District, and all graduates around the province.

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We spend a lot of time talking about how our network influences our professional lives and how technology often assists in that networking. But, when B.C. educators talk about “THE NETWORK” it means something quite different.

For more than a decade, the Network of Performance Based Schools — school-based teams with an administrator and teachers — have focussed on  B.C. Performance Standards with some of the deepest, most powerful professional learning in our province.

Instrumental to this professional learning, Judy Halbert and Linda  Kaser have brought a network of teachers and administrators together in ongoing conversations about improving education opportunities for all students.

And just what is the Network?

The Network of Performance Based Schools is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Education and is designed to improve quality and equity through inquiry, teamwork across roles, schools and districts, and a concentrated focus on applying coaching forms of assessment to assist learners to take greater ownership of their learning. Participation in the Network is on an annual basis and is voluntary. There has been a steady growth in Network membership since its inception in 2000.

Dedicated to the vision of EVERY learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options, the network is supported by volunteer leaders in sixteen regions of the province.

Schools participate in an annual spiral of inquiry that provides the structure for their improvement and innovative work.  School questions, case studies, resources and reflections are shared in a spirit of generosity and curiosity. The BC performance standards provide a framework for educators, parents and learners in developing a deeper understanding of content area progressions and assist learners in answering three key learning oriented questions identified by John Hattie and Helen Timperley:

Where are you going with your learning? How is it going? Where to next?

The six key strategies of formative assessment are used to assist learners in taking ownership of their learning. Without clear learning intentions, the thoughtful use of criteria and informative descriptive feedback, it is virtually impossible for learners to answer these questions.

Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have an amazing way of making everyone feel special in the Network —  they link what we do to the very best work they have seen and heard of around the world.  Part cheerleader, story-teller, social connector and deep co-learner, Judy and Linda have invited thousands of teachers and administrators to join in the journey.

The Network has brought the BC Performance Standards to life as guiding documents for teachers, administrators, parents and students as we continue to move from a sorting to learning system.  And, the Network continues to evolve; it has moved from a strict focus on reading, writing, numeracy and social responsibility to asking the essential questions about Aboriginal learning, healthy living, and focussing all of our work to be better tomorrow than it was today.

When asked about the one professional development experience I recommend for teachers or administrators, I always say “to get a team in the Network”.  The connections that come out of this participation can improve us as professionals, and help move our schools forward.

As another successful year of the Network comes to a close with the recently held Leadership Seminar and School Project Showcases / Celebrations around the province, much thanks goes to Judy and Linda for continuing to lead this conversation.  More than a decade in, the Network is one of the quiet, non-political and powerful ways that differentiates our system and how we work from so many others in North America.

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In January, just as I assumed the role of Superintendent, I wrote about my efforts to be transparent in my work.  That post led to a column in this month’s The School Administrator Magazine from the American Association of School Administrators.

Below is the updated post (linked here) as presented in the magazine:

Making Transparency Concrete


Transparency has become an overused mantra in the workplace, and in the public sector, in particular, leaders have faced an increased demand for transparent thinking and actions.

In my role as superintendent of a 7,200-student school district, transparency is about promoting accountability and accessibility, providing timely information for students, staff and parents about what their school district is doing. Essentially, it demystifies the work of schools and school districts.

Most people in our community have a clear idea of what teachers do, but there is much less understanding of what teacher-librarians, learning assistance teachers, school administrators, district staff and board trustees do.

Evolving Strategies
My goal around transparency is to help bring greater understanding of these important roles and of the full scope of the work we do in our school district. I have been overt in developing an evolving list of strategies to promote transparency, including these:

•  Offering the community multiple channels of communication. This includes traditional methods such as letters and telephone calls, as well as new methods such as social media and text messaging.

•  Distributing my contact information. Many were surprised when as a newly minted superintendent I gave this out to everyone. This information is printed on my business card; it is posted on my blog and on our district website. I don’t want anyone to ever say they don’t know how to reach me. Of course, sharing my contact information does not negate process, but it sets a tone and model for the organization.

•  Building a relationship with traditional and new media. It is often said education is poorly treated by the news media. We can change that by transforming complaining into engaging. This includes both traditional print media and new media. Dismissing edu-bloggers as “not influential” would be a huge mistake.

•  Sharing my cell phone number. Fifteen years ago, when teachers were first being set up with e-mail addresses at my school, I recall some staff were adamant about keeping their e-mail addresses private. They considered these to be private accounts, and they would only share their e-mail address on their terms. This was and is ludicrous because a school district address is not a private account. It is a corporate e-mail address, and our work is communicating with the community.

My cell phone also is provided by the school district, and it is my work phone. So I don’t really get the idea of not giving out this number. I can always choose whether to answer the phone, and I would much rather have people find me on a mobile number.

•  Recognizing my calendar is not a secret. I do have some confidential appointments on my calendar, and they are labeled as such, but I am open to sharing my calendar with anyone who is interested. I know most people in the school district, let alone the community, have only a limited sense of the work I do. The more people who understand the work, the greater the appreciation of the work.

•  Creating personal and corporate identities. It is important that we balance our personal identities in the context of our district identities. I am mindful of the separation between my own identity and that of my role in the district, but they are also closely connected. I allow our communications officer to manage all our corporate social media conversations.

•  Holding meetings at schools. Whenever a teacher or administrator wants to meet, I do my best to connect at their school and not in my office. While this is not always possible, most of our schools are within 10 minutes of the central office. As well, I often use these out-of-office meetings as an excuse to visit at least a couple of classrooms — it gives me a better sense of the tone in the school. The more I can connect as a “real person,” the better.

•  Sharing a bit about my life. I have four children; the oldest two are in school. They attend public schools. I have a personal interest in a great public school system in British Columbia. This is a careful balance, but we have public jobs, and people appreciate knowing some of the things in life, beyond the job, that drive us. I want to be personable, without crossing the boundaries of sharing too much that is personal.

•  Telling my story in my words. I blog for many reasons, and one of them is that I can share my messages unfiltered. I don’t have to worry about being misquoted or hope others will share ideas in a timely way. My blog allows me to connect in real time to the community. It is also a place for discussion and dialogue.

•  Thinking twice whether something needs to be on e-mail. Rather than sending e-mails with information to groups of people, if there is an appropriate place to post the information publicly and share the link with those who would be most interested, I prefer to do this. I use SlideShare to post PowerPoint presentations publicly rather than e-mailing the presentations to those interested. I am amazed how many times people have stumbled on information I have posted publicly and really appreciated the content.

I have said transparency will be a key aspect of everything I do, as will regularly asking questions such as “How could we do this in a more public and engaging way?” There is a lot to do, and this list will continue to evolve — in a public context, of course.

Chris Kennedy is superintendent in West Vancouver, British Columbia. He blogs at http://cultureofyes.ca and tweets at @chrkennedy. E-mail: ckennedy@sd45.bc.ca

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After school activities have always been a major concern for parents. Over the last two decades, this has been a growing concern with both parents often working, and young people having reduced supervision after school.   The latest Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth paints a disturbing picture about physical activity for children and youth between 3-6 p.m., and suggests the problem is not the same problem as lamented in the past, but a growing and more concerning challenge.

Quoting from the report:

“Right now, kids are spending over 40 hours a week in front of screens,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief
Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO. “These alarming numbers equate to a
very sedentary child, so we must transform the after‐school hours into healthy, active living time.

In part, some of this “healthy, active living time” has been diminished because of parental concerns about supervision and safety around after-school activities like running, biking, and playing outside with friends. This time is now often filled with watching television, or playing video and computer games. Increasingly,  students are attending after-school programs with little or no physical activity.  We see this with the rise of businesses catering to or offering more “school” after school for students — whether that be additional language training or, very often, math support.

And what do the report authors see as some of the solutions?

Getting kids outside:  those who are outside take about 2,000 more steps than those who stay indoors after school

School-Community Partnerships:  finding ways to offer recreational programs in school facilities, or nearby facilities after school

Youth Leadership:  have students assist in the development of programs for their peers

Policy and Investment Support:  target resources for the promotion of physical activity in the after-school hours

This time period is particularly challenging as there is no one group with a solution to the challenge.  There are, however, roles for policy-makers, parents, early childhood educators,  recreational and health professionals, and schools to play.  There is overwhelming research indicating youth who are physically active improve their mental health, academic performance, contribute/maintain a healthy body weight, and develop physical literacy.

This being true, communities will need to work together to reverse the growing after-school trends.  The efforts to increase physical activity during the school day are laudable. Now, we need to figure out on how these efforts can be supported between 3-6 p.m.

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