I consider it a privilege to welcome our division to a new school year as superintendent. This is my first welcome address. I want you to know that I truly see this as a privilege. The most basic reason I applied to become Superintendent is because I am capable because God qualified me. That is a very BIG privilege.
We share the journey that has brought us through the end of the 2019-2020 school year and all that precipitated from the pandemic, through the uncertain and anxious summer, to this brink, namely the opening of the 2020-2021 school year. I feel the same excitement as you feel to greet our students when they return because we truly have missed them! I share in the anxieties and worries that we all have about the resumption of in-school learning. However, I choose to focus on something else that we share and I ask you to do the same. The pandemic represents an opportunity calling to each one of us. The opportunity is to recall and reaffirm our priorities, employ kindness and gratitude and move forward confidently anyway, certain that the transformative power of our Father is at work. He is in charge of the journey!
When we examine our priorities against the backdrop of our current circumstances, we have to recognize that our world has most definitely changed. What has not changed, however, is the never-ending presence of our loving and eternal Father. Regardless of our circumstances in life, God is there to fill us with His Grace. Our invitation from Him is to recognize and employ the gifts He bestows to better the lives of our brothers and sisters so as to bring them closer to reaching their heavenly reward. As Fr. John Bartunek tells us,
“since grace is the seed of divine life within us, as it grows, it makes us more and more like God, restoring the image and likeness of God, in which we were created.”
Kindness and gratitude are transformative in and of themselves. In His wisdom, God invites us to cooperate with Him as He develops these virtues in our hearts. In year Two of our Three-Year Faith Plan, we celebrate actions to be grateful and to be gracious. When we are grateful and gracious we allow Jesus into our lives and thus become followers of Him, seeing the face of Christ in everyone we meet.
I’d like to share an excerpt from a literary piece, called The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts, a Welsh poet. It contrasts the grim realities of pre-Covid life, such as pollution and over-consumption, against a post-pandemic, brighter future.
The Great Realization – by Tomos Roberts
It was a world of waste and wonder of poverty and plenty
Back before we understood why hindsight’s 20/20.
But then in the year 2020, a new virus came our way.
The governments reacted and told us all to hide away.
But while we all were hidden, amidst the fear and all the while,
The people dusted off their instincts. They remembered how to smile.
They started clapping to say ‘thank you’. And calling up their mums,
And while the car keys gathered dust, they would look forward to their runs.
Some people started dancing, some were singing, and some were baking.
We’d grown so used to bad news, but some good news was in the making.
And so when we found the cure, and were allowed to go outside,
We all preferred the world we found than the one we’d left behind.
Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new.
And every simple act of kindness was now given its due.
But why did it take a virus to bring the people back together?
Well, sometimes, you’ve got to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better.
Now lie down and dream of tomorrow and all the things we can do.
And who knows, if you dream hard enough, maybe some of them will come true.
We now call it the Great Realization, and yes, since then, there have been many.
But that is the story of how it started and why hindsight’s 20/20.
I want to recognize and acknowledge the ongoing wonderful work that our staff has been doing, most particularly since the onset of this pandemic. I will be the first to admit that ending the 2019-20 school year was without a doubt the craziest that we have ever experienced. Hands down!! However, we’ve learned from these experiences and are poised to move forward with intentionality, purpose and vigor. Our Catholic faith leads us to embrace this global pandemic as an opportunity to do things differently. It is not the end of the world. Our response shouldn’t be to hide in fear or cease actions, but by virtue of our faith, we move forward with excitement and boldness. We must do so with love and compassion as the guiding forces, respecting the inherent dignity of each person entrusted to our care and those who work within our division. Most Holy Spirit parents have opted to send their children back to school on Sept. 1st – TOMORROW! Nearly 600 of our children and students from K – Gr. 12 will receive their formal instruction in an “at-home” scenario, involving approximately 25 teachers. That we will deliver education in different ways to different groups makes our success more complicated, but NOT unreachable.
● Support staff both at the school level and at our Catholic Education Centre have been busy preparing for the reopening of school in so many thoughtful and committed ways;
● teachers have been planning within specific timelines and frameworks to guide our curricular deliveries;
● administrators have been collaborating and sharing physical and human resources and rebuilding schedules to accommodate our children and students, whether in a face-to-face classroom setting or learning at-home;
● our custodial staff have been diligent in operationalizing protocols to maintain clean, disinfected and sanitized school environments for our students and staff;
● our IT department works day-to-day to support all the changes in every aspect of our operation, most especially for our learners; and finally …
● our maintenance staff have been working in earnest to install necessary equipment, receiving and organizing as well as arranging for shipping the much needed PPE supplies out to our schools.
As illustrated, this TEAM is a very dynamic, dedicated and tenacious group of individuals. This team’s cooperative efforts support the advancement of the whole division, most especially the growth and development of our children and students. Yes, we will succeed in getting the square peg into the round hole by changing the way we do things and looking to the future with a solutions-focused approach. There is no question that this will be very hard work. There will be setbacks and hurdles to cross and there will be uncertainties, frustrations and fears. However, as long as we place our trust in our loving Father and humbly ask Jesus to accompany us on our journey, we will weather this and ANY storm. We are called to be agents of change to do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. Remember, we are transformed by and for the journey.
We must also recognize that because of the uniqueness of our current reality, there are varying degrees of uncertainty, trepidation and fear. Know that this is completely understandable. We are strong and adaptable people whose sights are always on our first interest – the children, whose resilience will be supported by nourishing and cherishing staff in all positions. That is how our learners will reach their fullest potential.
Back to the words of Tomos Roberts
But if we strive for improvement, then the evils can fade …. pull together, be loving, be wiser, be kind;
Stop for a moment, relax and unwind.
And slowly, yes s-l-o-w-l-y, you’ll see as you work evermore,
That the suffering is much less than you remember before.
Look, I’m not being naive to suggest that the future could be bright;
But I’d rather be an optimist proved wrong, than a pessimist proved right.
The new paradigm for learning will see students grow in resilience; acquire, synthesize, create and transfer knowledge in a variety of learning environments; and be empathetic and compassionate towards fellow man. This will be rewarding and inspiring. As educators, we’ve often said that we are preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist. This is very true – and NOW is the time to be even more creative, flexible and intentional in terms of how education can be delivered. In due time, I am confident that our students will respond with eagerness and enthusiasm because they have an amazingly thoughtful and dedicated team supporting them.
Welcome to the 2020-21 school year. It’s going to be GREAT!!!!
May God bless each and every one of you in all of the work you do.
Great opening message Ken. It seems different that someone else is doing opening remarks but alas, I’m retired and it is your baby now! I wish you and the entire school division the very best going forward this year. May God bless your work!
Chris…the Retired Superintendent
Thanks so much Chris. I appreciate your support. You’ve been a great inspiration and mentor for me. God bless you in this new and exciting phase of your life.