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5-reasons-why-blogging-is-so-important-to-your-website

It was about six years ago they started.

And here we are, as we are approaching the mid-point of the 2016-17 school year, and so many of our school leaders continue to share their thinking through their blogs.  While the internet is littered with well-intentioned and abandoned blogs from educators, and education blogging may have lost some of its excitement from just a few years ago, so many in West Vancouver are using their blog to tell stories to their community about their school, tackle big issues in education, and let people know a little bit more about themselves.

Here is just a sampling of what is being shared in West Vancouver:

One of the district’s most regular bloggers, West Bay Elementary Principal Judy Duncan took on the #oneword challenge in her latest post and her focus on voice:

One of our intangible objectives is for students to appreciate and to become accustomed to having and exercising their voice.  As adults that will benefit them individually and, in turn, all of us collectively. This should move us to ensure that whether through sport, music, language, drama or art, every child and every person has a voice in 2017.

In his latest post, Caulfeild Elementary Principal Craig Cantlie shares some of his thinking with parents as they make the often stressful “what school should my child attend” decision at this time of year:

Does the learning at Caulfeild Elementary (iDEC) look like it did when you were growing up? Probably not, but neither does the world. Our students learn the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, but more importantly the relevant and purposeful use of those foundational skills. Taking those skills and connecting them with the conceptual understandings behind our science and social studies work makes for powerful learning across the grades. Our students are creators, collaborators, communicators and critical thinkers – all of which will serve them well, whatever their future holds.

Scott Slater, Principal at Bowen Island Community School tackled communicating student learning with his recent post, a topic that is one that is being widely discussed among students, staff and parents and Scott asked the important question about whether the changes are just different or if what is being done is actually new.  He looked at a number of areas including core competencies:

The reports continue to include information on a child’s social and emotional development. In the opening comments, in Core Competencies (for intermediate reports), and in other fields, teachers share information on the child’s social and emotional development. Schools share the role with parents of supporting a child’s well-being and development of personal and social skills. In the opening comments, teachers also refer to an aspect of our school goal of students developing their learning character so parents will find comments related to a child’s development of Responsibility, Openness, Ambition and Resilience (ROAR)

Communicating student learning was also on the mind of Chartwell Principal Chantal Trudeau and she focused on the importance of the student reflection:

One of the most important changes this year is the addition of the student reflection piece. Teachers have a few different options to include their students’ reflections into the report card. At the primary level, it can look like a “happy face” worksheet or a few sentences in the student reflection box on the report card itself. At the intermediate level, many students have written a reflection letter which is an insert added to the report card. I have enjoyed reading the students’ self-reflections whilst reviewing all the report cards going home today. I am very impressed by their meta-cognitive ability, thinking about their thinking and learning. Knowing yourself as a learner is a great thing, at any age. It is wonderful to see that our students know how they are doing, and what they need to do to improve and why.

Also looking at communicating student learning is Cedardale Head-Teacher Jessica Hall.  Her post collected feedback from students on the new reports:

The range of experience with new reporting practices amongst my students is broad and in trying to bring about some collective understanding, I sparked up a conversation about the “new” report cards. I wanted to know how students have perceived this change of not having letter grades listed on their report cards. Grade 6 students immediately expressed a sense of relief over not being labeled with a single grade. In a conversation with one Grade 6 student, he explained that the language in the new Communicating Student Learning Document was more descriptive than a letter grade. He stated that in general, the word “developing” has a less negative connotation and that he liked how the Core Competencies provide explicit examples on how to improve learning skills. A Grade 5 student articulated the first moment she understood that ‘communicating ideas’ is a learning skill. She explained that the Core Competencies have helped her identify and value her personal learning style as the “presenter” and that she prefers working in groups, where she has the opportunity to “share her ideas in classroom discussions”.

Hollyburn Principal Kim Grimwood focused her most recent post on executive functioning and ways that parents can support these skills.  She reminded us of the important of the eight executive functioning skills (and then what they had to do with making waffles):

Impulse control: helps us to stop and think before acting.

Flexibility: allows us to adjust to the unexpected.

Emotional Control: helps us to keep our emotions in check.

Initiation: allows us to take action and get started.

Working Memory: the ability to hold information in mind to complete a task.

Planning and prioritizing: helps us decide on a goal and make a plan to reach it.

Self-Monitoring: allows us to evaluate how we are doing.

Organization: helps us to keep track of things both physically and mentally.

Rockridge Principal Jeannette Laursoo used a recent post to update the community on the various ways students have been contributing:

Rockridge’s students have been busy contributing to both the local and global communities. To highlight just a few of the initiatives, the Blush Club collected warm clothes and blankets for those less fortunate,  the Umoyo Club fundraised by selling cookies to benefit Nyaka Orphanage in Uganda, and our community made a difference in the lives of teens by donating backpacks filled with essential items to Convenant House.  We thank everyone for their generosity and support.

And a final sample of the recent posts comes from West Van Secondary Principal Steve Rauh who paid tribute to retiring teacher Bruce Holmes, and included a number of comments from students in his post:

“A student once came in crying; Mr. Holmes took the time to cheer them up and help them.” – Madison Duffy

“I have been in Holmes’ class since grade 8. Not only has he taught me woodwork, but he has also taught me a lot about life.” – Gabriella Langer

“He likes to take you out of your comfort zone.” – Ashley Kempton

“We really like his sense of humour; he loves to gossip and threaten to give wet willies.” – Nicole Torresan & Alexa Harrison

“I appreciate how he never turns down any student ideas no matter how absurd or impossible they sound. He will always stick with you to help you see your ideas come to real life.” – Jesse Diaz

In re-reading these posts, and others from across the district I am reminded there is no one model for blogging.  I find that the range of topics, and approaches is reflective of the various leaders in our schools.  Selfishly for me these blogs are a great way to stay connected to the thinking and work in our schools.  And I know, especially in an era of fewer print publications (an issue I have lamented in the past) these posts are a great window into the work of public education.

Whether you are a current student or parent, or a perspective one, or someone interested, curious or passionate about education, we have so many great leaders publicly sharing their thinking and acting as great models for students in the modern world.

HERE is a link to all the West Vancouver Schools websites that host the school blogs.

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world-teacherSo, just how many of your teachers from grade school can you name?

I was struck by a story shared by Dean Shareski on Opening Day about The Amazing Miss A and Why We Should Care About Her.  The study comes from McGill Faculty of Education, Professor Eigil Pedersen.  The study initially looked at how students who had Miss A for grade 1 showed an increase in IQ scores between grades 3 and 6 while those in other classes were stable.  There was nothing unique about Miss A’s class but something was going on.  Students were again studied years later and given an “adult status” score  including factors such as the highest grade of high school completed, the type of housing they occupied, their personal appearance and their occupational status.  And again it was those in Miss A’s class that stood out.

And what else was true, every single pupil of Miss A’s could remember her as their grade 1 teacher.  So what was it about the magical Miss A?

lt was reported that she never lost her temper or resorted to physical restraint, and showed obvious affection for the children. She generated many lessons on the importance of schooling and why students should stick to it. She gave extra hours to pupils who were slow learners. She believed every pupil could learn. That surely explains the one characteristic that emerged as a steady pattern, illustrated best by the comment of one respondent, “it did not matter what background or abilities the beginning pupil had there was no way that the pupil was not going to read by the end of grade one.”

The entire story is worth reading and a good reminder that we need to be careful to buy into simple explanations of socio-economic conditions as being the sole determiner of students’ success.  It also is an excellent reminder of what are truly the characteristics of a great teacher.

The story got me thinking, when I look at my K-12 school years – how many of my teachers could I name?  I actually did pretty well and have really nice things to say about virtually all of them.  So, on this World Teachers’ Day I would like to thank those who I remember:

K – Mrs. Groening

Grade 1 – Can’t remember name and don’t have good memories

Grade 2 – Mrs. Caffrey  (Read all about her)

Grade 3 – Mrs. Caffery

Grade 4 – Mrs. Caffrey

Grade 5 – Mr. Nakanishi

Grade 6 – Mr. Whitehead

Grade 7 – Mr. Taylor

Grade 8 – Mrs. MacDonalnd (Science), Ms. Bourne (English), Mrs. White (Social Studies), Mr. Inglis (Math), Mr. Paquet (PE and French), Mr. Hobson (Band), Mrs. Hicks (Food and Clothing) 8 out of 8

Grade 9 – Mr. Carroll (Science) Ms. Ball (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Mr. Loader (Math and Computer Science), Mr Milholm (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band) 7 out of 8

Grade 10 – Mr. Carroll (Science),Ms. Bourne (English), Mr. Bryan (Social Studies), Ms. Blaschuk (Math), Mr. Hirayama (PE), Mr. Hobson (Band and Consumer Ed) 7 out of 8

Grade 11 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Social Studies), Mr. Turnbull (Math), Mr. Gresko (Biology), Ms. Hurley (Computer Science), Mr. Spearman (Law) 6 out of 8

Grade 12 – Ms. Carey (English), Mr. Brown (Western Civ and Literature), Mr. Commons (History), Mr. Topping (Geogrpahy), Mr. McCallum (French) 6 out of 7

It is an interesting exercise.  I have strong memories of almost all the teachers I remember and they are almost exclusively not about what I learned, but how their class made me feel.

To all my teachers, and those in the profession past and present – Happy World Teachers’ Day.

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Doing Good Locally

free-kicks-sign

The world of charity giving and service learning is ever-changing in schools. In the schools and districts I have worked in, the pendulum has swung back and forth between localized, very school-centric initiatives and global initiatives as part of a massive network of young people around the world.

My first memories of giving in schools is tied to UNICEF boxes at Halloween. The program, which was discontinued in Canada a decade ago, had children collect coins along with candy when they went out for Halloween.  In today’s schools it is hard to find young people not familiar with WE Day, We Charity (formerly Free the Children) and their related entities.  It has been an incredible model to watch grow.  It has combined star power, amazing energy and a huge infrastructure and organization, to help engage young people in service learning and charity.

While my first memories are of the orange UNICEF boxes, and the WE opportunities are dominant in many schools, there have forever been and continue to be amazing smaller organizations doing thoughtful work, that are worth celebrating.  I want to tell you about one of them – Freekicks.

It is a professional development day in West Vancouver and the local soccer fields are humming.  When I get there the rain is coming down pretty good, but nobody really notices.  The fields are full of elementary aged boys and girls playing soccer.  The players have been assigned to represent a variety of nations for the day – from Canada to Cameroon.

spirit-of-togetherness-tournament playing

The teams are made up from a cross-section of students from schools – the tournament features students from across West Vancouver, as well as from a number of inner-city schools in Vancouver.  Of course, you would never know as all the students are wearing the same new uniforms.  In talking with founder Adam Aziz and other organizers, I learn some of the students who came today had never been over the Lions Gate Bridge.  Soccer is a vehicle to connect students – it is the “Spirit of Togetherness” that is being celebrated.  There is no class system here, everyone has the same uniforms, the same pancake breakfast, the same lunches and the group is united around sport.  Local businesses have come together to support the event, high school students were volunteering as coaches and officials, and already plans are in the works to make it bigger next year.  What a great way to use the common language of soccer to bring young people together as teammates who may not normally ever connect – and realize just how much they have in common.

This wasn’t my first experience with Freekicks.  I  learned of them a couple years ago when our then-principal, Scott Wallace, invited me to visit Gleneagles Elementary School.  And what I saw was pretty amazing:

Two inspired soccer players Lucas & Trevor Robertson started their own Freekicks Academy in their local community. They were inspired by what Freekicks had achieved and wanted to be a part of the team. Their vision is to help other kids play soccer.  The boys started in the backyard of their home, they set-up drills, exercises and created activities and sessions for the local players in their neighborhood. They have raised over $850 to date through raffles and donations to support children around the world. (Source)

We need organizations like UNICEF, the United Way, WE, and others who tackle changes on a large scale across our communities and around the world.  And we also need to celebrate all of the organizations like Freekicks and the power that one person, or a group of people with a big idea can make a positive dent in our world.

We need to foster these opportunities – built often around individual passions and a commitment to make change.  As Freekicks shows, and as we see all the time, Margaret Mead is continually proven correct, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

spirtoftogetherness

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words

As the 2015-16 school year comes to a close I want to share the comments of my colleagues in West Vancouver who have been addressing their students moving on – both from elementary to high school and from high school to the post K-12 world.  You can feel the power of the relationships coming through . . .

Principal Judy Duncan at West Bay shared with her grade 7’s just how important elementary school has been for them and what challenges are ahead:

As you embark on the next leg of your learning journey, continue to do your PB (Personal Best). Continue to strive for excellence. Continue to follow your passion and seek that which makes you happy. Join clubs and teams at high school and make new friends, while holding onto the friendships you have developed at West Bay. Get involved in school life. Continue to develop communication skills, collaboration skills and that ever so important emotional resiliency.

Bowen Island Community School Principal Scott Slater reflected on his own grade 7 farewell experience at Caulfeild Elementary School and also about the important roles that both skill set and mindset play:

Your education is partly about skill set – writing skills, reading skills, being able to make use of numbers to solve problems. Your education is also about mindset – how you approach change, how you think about new situations, meeting new people and how you greet opportunity.

At Hollyburn, Principal Tara Zielinski also picked up on the importance of mindset:

You are Thinkers.  You are metacognitive and can explore various ways of knowing and understanding.  You have a ‘growth mind-set’ and acknowledge that making mistakes is sometimes the way we learn and grow.  You make connections between various subject areas and appreciate that our world is forever changing – for the better.  You have ideas to continue to support these positive changes.

The message from Chantal Trudeau Principal at Pauline Johnson, her final address at the school, as she transitions to principal at Chartwell, was focused on integrity:

At the core of a successful educational experience is the virtue of integrity. Make the right choices for yourselves. Knowing your needs as a learner is key to your success in high school and university. Surrounding yourselves with supportive friends is also crucial since it’s much easier to face new challenges when you have a strong network of support, which include your parents and close friends. If you make integrity your core value, you will be able to stay focused on your goals.

Cathie Ratz at Westcot Elementary passed along some advice to parents of soon-to-be high schoolers she once received:

Some of the best advice I ever received as a mother of three beautiful and socially motivated daughters was from a colleague and mother of four.  She told me to never miss an opportunity to tell my girls how much I loved them and also never feel the need to be quick with an answer to their social requests.  “ Let me think about it”  has saved us many a battle and given my girls time to make up their own mind as social plans developed and more often than not changed.

Jeannette Laursoo, Principal of Rockridge Secondary bridged the elementary and secondary school worlds, sharing with the grads comments she found on their grade 7 report cards and how five years later the same attributes hold.

You “continue to be an active participant during group discussions by listening to the opinions of others and contributing your own thoughtful ideas.”

 

You “enjoy challenges and are eager to learn”

 

You have “taken responsibility for yourself as a learner.”

 

You “treat all members of your classroom in a kind, caring, and respectful manner.  You have a strong sense of what is fair and deal with issues in a way that meets the needs of all involved.”

 

You “continued to tap into your creativity both technologically and imaginatively.”

 

You have “demonstrated a willingness to try new things and are comfortable taking risks in your learning.”

 

You have “continued to be a confident leader in the classroom and in the school.”

At West Vancouver Secondary, Steve Rauh focused with the graduating class on their solid relationships:

One of the things that I commonly share about West Vancouver Secondary School is that the students have an incredible amount of pride and respect for themselves, their school, their community, and their world. I expect that you will carry these attributes with you wherever you go.

I trust that you leave here with a series of strong and powerful relationships with both the students in your classes and the adults in the building. Hopefully you have known and felt how we have cared for you and that we have always had your best interests at heart above all else.

Our Secretary-Treasurer Julia Leiterman had the opportunity to address the graduates of Rockridge representing the district, and also as a parent of a graduate:

So if I asked any parent in this room what their greatest hope for you is, I wouldn’t come back with a laundry list of careers.  I can guarantee that the #1 hope we all share is that you are happy.  That’s it – we just want you to have a happy life.  This is not an end goal, it’s how we hope you will live every day.  My sister shared a pretty simple recipe for happiness that works for me, and it only needs 3 ingredients:

  1. Someone to Love
  2. Something to Do
  3. Something to Hope For

So someone to love – don’t be afraid to open your heart.  Honest, loving relationships lived with integrity will bring you great joy.

Something to do – get busy, get working.  Work is not a dirty word; it is the key to finding purpose in your life.  It doesn’t matter what work you do, just throw your heart into it.

Something to hope for – never stop learning, and exploring.  Never stop dreaming.

 

For me, in addressing graduates at our high schools I stressed the important role that graduates play as advocates for public education:

And we, me and everyone else in this room will count on you – to be unwaveringly committed to a strong public education system – the system that has served us well in this room and is the answer to the question about how we build a better world.  At a time when so many in our world are looking inward and dividing people, you need to remind people that it is education that brings us together in a world of fewer walls and stronger citizenship.

We have amazing academic achievements in our community.  It is interesting to see what our leaders are most proud of – it is not the marks they have earned but the people they have become.  I am blessed to continue to serve as Superintendent in West Vancouver. We have something pretty good going here.

summer_break-2

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homework1

We have a reputation for being on the cutting education of technology and education in West Vancouver and we are again today with the launch of our new program to support homework completion.  We know that it can be hard to remember to bring homework home, and heavy textbooks can also hurt the back health of our students – today we are eliminating these problems.

I am pleased to announce that we are first school district in North America to be using the DHDS (Drone Homework Delivery System) in our schools.  We have purchased four drones for each classroom that will be used to deliver homework directly from classroom to homes.  This is a major investment, but one we think will lead to a huge increase in student achievement.

I know this bold decision will raise eyebrows, but since Amazon made the announcement to look toward drone delivery of its parcels, we have been working with many of the same people to see how we could take this technology and apply it to schools.  We are excited to have been selected as the location that will pilot this new technology that will dramatically change the home – school relationship.  Working with partners in Sweden – the Lirpa Sloof Yad Foundation we will be tracking this work and sharing our story with others.

Drone2

So, just how does it work?

We do not yet have one-to-one drones available.  We currently have four drones for every classroom.  At the end of the day students line-up their textbooks and workbooks. The drones will then make multiple deliveries.  In most cases the books will be delivered to the front door of the house, but we also have the technology that if a window can be left open in the house, the homework can be dropped off directly on the student’s desk at home.   The process happens in reverse each morning, as drones return to the homes and pick-up the homework and deliver it to school. With four drones per classroom we will have approximately 2000 drones in the air at any given time.  They are part of an interconnected network and will fly at high speeds in a low air space to not interfere with commercial flights.

Why are we doing this?

There are many reasons why we are doing this.  In recent years, there have been multiple studies questioning the validity of homework.  We think homework needs to become cool again.  And we know whenever you add technology to something that makes it feel modern and hip.  So delivering homework by drone will make homework the new thing to do.

A major health concern is neck and back pain caused by heavy backpacks.  DHDS solves this problem.  No longer will students have to lug heavy backpacks of textbooks to and from school – they will now be there waiting for them when they arrive.

We also know that being a student is hard – there is a lot to remember.  No longer will students have to make excuses for forgotten homework.  And if a student says, “My drone didn’t deliver my homework” we can send the drone to make an immediate pick-up and have the materials brought to class.

Future Applications

We know homework is just the start.  There are many other ways our drones can help make school-life more convenient for students.  Next fall in at least one of our schools, we will pilot the drone lunch delivery program.  Once all homework is delivered, the drones can be used to deliver student lunches.  So, instead of parents having to come to the school and drop off the forgotten sandwich or deliver local takeout for their child, drones can be programmed to do this.

Drone1

Conclusions

We take pride on being the learning leaders not just locally but nationally and internationally.  And with our announcement of the DHDS today we maintain our position at the top.

This is the latest in what has become an annual tradition at this time of year to launch innovative initiatives.

In 2012 I launched my FLOG.

In 2013 I made the announcement of Quadrennial Round Schooling.

In 2014 we formalized our System of Student Power Rankings.

In 2015 we created our Rock, Paper, Scissors Academy.

And today we launch the DHDS – destined to revolutionize the student homework experience.

Hopefully you are enjoying today as much as me!

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Photo Credit - Sgt Ronald Duchesne

Photo Credit – Sgt Ronald Duchesne

It was almost five years ago that I wrote a post Smart and Caring. I was taken by our new (at the time) Governor General of Canada, His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, and his call for a smart and caring nation. I was initially struck by his installation speech:

Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better persons along the way. In my case, they number in the hundreds.

During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today let it be “Cherish Our Teachers”.

I have always had great admiration for the teachers and educators of this country.

I had the chance to be part of a program with His Excellency last week in West Vancouver, and five years later, his words, his message and his vision for our country are still striking.  At the invitation of the West Vancouver Community Foundation, and other local foundations, His Excellency spoke to a full theatre of community members, and participated in a panel of local citizens that I had the good fortune to facilitate.

Photo credit - Sonya Adloff

Photo credit – Sonya Adloff

He once again spoke about the power of a strong public education system.  He also returned to his theme of “smart and caring”, one he has regularly covered over the last six years and the connection he has made to Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday.  He said:

And perhaps that’s the greatest gift of all you can make to Canada—to create hope. Because hope, as the ethicist Margaret Somerville once put it, is “the oxygen of the human spirit.”

His Excellency told a number of simple, personal stories related to the giving of blood – something he has done since his youth.  He noted that Canada is one of the few countries of the world, where giving blood is a volunteer activity and it speaks to who we are as a people, noting, “like any nation-state, Canada, of course, is only as strong as its people, as its communities”.    He also linked his beliefs around smart and caring to the current Syrian refugee work, quoting Conrad Sauvé of the Canadian Red Cross:

“We’re dealing with people who are fleeing war. Nobody wants to leave their home. They’re leaving because they don’t have a choice, because they’ve lost hope.”

But he added:

“Their hope now is Canada.”

During the panel, thoughtful local citizens shared their views of a smart and caring nation.  A local entrepreneur and CEO of Earth’s Own Food Group, Maheb Nathoo discussed his views of universal truths including the need for gender equity and commitment to sustainability and the environment.  Local high school student Liam Grant talked about the key role young people could play in community building and Shannon Ozirny, Head of Youth Services and the West Vancouver Memorial Library expanded our view of community raising the need for a smart and caring digital community.  Finally, Adina Williams, a member of Squamish Nation, and student at the University of British Columbia, shared how her view of community has changed in recent years and expanded beyond her First Nations reserve, something she hopes for her entire community through the work of reconciliation.

Towards the end of the session I asked His Excellency about what advice he would give a community like ours.  He spoke about the upcoming 150th birthday for Canada.  He said that he was really taken by Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi and his 3 Things for Calgary initiative.  His Excellency thought this idea was something for others to consider and link it to our nation’s birthday celebrations.  Of course I was left thinking that it would be quite powerful to pull together His Excellency’s belief in a strong public education system, and Mayor Nenshi’s “3 things” challenge – wouldn’t it be great if students, staff and community recognized the sesquicentennial by doing 3 things for their schools and for public education?

So, just what messages from His Excellency stick with me?  A strong public education system is crucial for our country.  We are a smart and caring nation.  There are small things we can all do to contribute.

And I was left with a deep sense of pride in my community who showed so well for His Excellency, and for our country which His Excellency and others spoke of in such high regard.

Here is a link to His Excellency’s speech and here a link to event photos taken by Sonya Adloff.  

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Five-Little-Things

The post below is a copy of column that has been published this month (February 2016) in the School Administrator Magazine as part of their regular Board Savvy Superintendent feature. You can download a PDF of the article here and visit the AASA website for more details on the magazine.

The column is based on two previous blog posts on board governance from December 2014 on Board Governance and on How the Board and Superintendent Support Each Other.
Doing Small Things To Improve Governance

While much is made of the big things school districts can do to improve the state of board governance, small things make a big difference. When my board chair sits down in my office and pulls out her phone, I grab my computer as I know she is going to her “list” and I have one as well.

This exchange is part of our routine as we meet regularly to get guidance, clarification or action from each other. These meetings are one of the small things we do to maintain strong relationships and stable governance in West Vancouver, B.C. A few other ways follow.

Board work plan/calendar. Our board work plan serves as a checklist. As people move in and out of roles, it provides continuity and keeps us moving in the right direction. By March, we are finalizing the calendar for the following year. From briefing meetings to committee schedules and liaison meetings, the earlier we can establish a calendar, the more respectful we can be around professional and personal schedules across the district.

Clarity around policies (board) and procedures (superintendent). About a decade ago, our board updated the district’s policies and administrative procedures manuals. The board has 18 policies and bylaws that speak to their governance role. The administrative procedures manual, which is the responsibility of the superintendent, has 100-plus measures guiding daily operations. Of course, linkages exist between the two, but this model does help to reaffirm organizational roles.

Clear superintendent evaluation. Our board uses a framework set out by its professional support organization for the evaluation process. With our model of policies and procedures, I have been assigned a high level of responsibility and therefore should be held to a high level of accountability.

In our district, all educators participate in a growth plan model. Administrators work with district staff on their plans and teachers share their plans with principals and colleagues. I meet with our five-member board three times annually to review my growth plan, which has three areas of focus — the first is from the role description that is in policy, another is based on the district’s strategic plan, and the third is personal-professional growth.

Strategic planning.
The strategic planning process is written into policy in West Vancouver. We have just published our strategic plan that will carry the district forward until 2018. The board’s latest four-year plan includes directions around fostering learning excellence, promoting visionary governance, supporting an evolving community and embracing the transitions we are seeing with learning in our schools. Our plan is incredibly valuable as a guide to operations as we receive constant requests from groups inside and outside the district. With this in place, we can see easily which align with our objectives.

A culture of growth and support. We are in the learning business. The more we can model that the better. No matter how strong results might be, opportunities to do better are always top of mind.

The board dedicates time at each of its meetings for school highlights. Each school has an opportunity to make a presentation during the course of the school year. Often schools share new ideas and innovative approaches that are having an impact on learning. Recent reports focused on outdoor learning spaces, libraries being converted to learning commons, and ways to communicate student learning beyond traditional report cards. Support for new ideas and recognition for good work go a long way.

Beyond Routine.  While the board in West Vancouver places the bar high on learning, we always look for new ways to meet the needs of modern learners.

Readers may view this as a commonsense list, it is far more than that. It is the commitment to the plan — and the mutual understanding it creates — that can make the most difference in a high-functioning organization. As we see all the time in a district that is doing well, you will find a board and superintendent in sync and committed to doing whatever it takes to work together for the benefit of students.

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