Outgoing Superintendent's Message of Gratitude

June 29, 2023

With my last blog post as superintendent (I still have a few more to write in my retirement), I would like to close with gratitude and appreciation for the many people with whom I have travelled this thirty-six-year path. I mentioned in my last post that it was because of the inspiration and encouragement of teachers, and one in particular, why I chose to become an educator. The journey to finding and fulfilling my purpose, particularly in leadership, has been filled with meandering adventures and learning. What resonates most with me are the people who have been on the journey with me. Hence I will close notes of thanks to all those colleagues, many of whom are now close friends, who have been significant influences in my career.

It started in Dawson Creek in 1987, so I would like to thank my first principal of Devereaux Elementary School, Mr. Peter Evans, for hiring me and selecting me from amongst the thirty-eight people(!) who applied for the grade 6/7 split at his school (jobs were hard to come by in those days). I have the warmest of feelings for the colleagues I met there who welcomed me into the profession and into the community. I hold the fondest memories of that first group of students who taught me as much as I taught them. To this day, I can tell you all their first and last names.

I was later selected as one of several teachers to open Central Middle School in the center of the city, one of the first middle schools in the province. This was where I truly learned to be a teacher, and with the support of a forward-thinking superintendent and encouraging principal, we did some amazing work in recognition of the Sullivan Commission, a precursor to today's redesigned curriculum (look it up). I am especially thankful to colleagues and friends Tim Everson and Doug Lacey, who taught me much about teaching and assessment but also worked with me to build our school’s first track team and club (Long live Frosty Sneakers Running Club!).

I am grateful for Superintendent Dr. Robin Arden and Assistant Superintendent Paul Brinton, who hired me into Abbotsford in 1997 as the district VP for Behaviour Programs and Principal of Maple Grove School (where the Indigenous Education Centre is now located). The most challenging leadership task I was later given was to usher in the Ministry’s inclusive education policies. I learned so much. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and now friends Bruce Ivany and Steve Carlton, who taught me much about leadership and the community of Abbotsford. We had fun, and we got it done!

I became superintendent in 2011 and have been fortunate to work with some amazing educators and leaders in that time.  I want to thank the Board for trusting me with the task of building their vision for an even stronger and more student-focused district.  I was fortunate to work with many great team members over the last twelve years, and want to especially thank Ray Velestuk, Angus MacKay, Gino Bondi, Perry Smith, Nathan Ngieng, Kat Hannah, Michele Radomski, Marnie Wright, Linda Peters, Dale Churchill, Kayla Stuckart, Karman O’Brien, Carla Danielsson and Judy Chapman. These names may not mean a lot to many, but these are fabulous professionals who dedicated their lives to children and were willing to work with me on a vision for a brighter future for kids.

I have also been fortunate to work with countless principals who are the leadership heartbeat of our schools, as well as teachers who are the pointy end of our aspirations for excellence and equity. I also want to thank our numerous support staff, who play a critical and sometimes unsung role in making things great for kids.

None of the commitments that we make in the noble and demanding work of education go without the support of a loving family. The greatest gratitude I have goes to my wife and life partner, Leah, who has joined me on this journey and in partnership with raising our own two kids, Keenan and Aniya.

I have been fortunate to engage in work that matters and with people equally dedicated to the cause of creating greater life chances for students.  In my humble opinion, nothing is more important in society. I will continue to cheer for all of you as you continue with this life mission.