Almost two years in the making, Good Spirit School Division’s long-term strategic plan has been rolled out to educators across the region.
More than a thousand people packed a steamy flexi-hall at Gallagher Centre to hear the details of the plan, as well as, a message from the Honourable Russ Marchuk, Saskatchewan minister of education and an energetic keynote speech by former champion swimmer and motivational speaker Mark Tewksbury.
Tewksbury — best known for his then-Olympic record setting performance at the Barcelona Games in 1992 where he beat his long-time rival American Jeff Rause by a mere six one-hundredths of a second — used anecdotes from his own swimming career to inspire local educators with his five traits of a champion.
For example, he told the story of rebuilding his career after a devastating loss to Rause at the Pan Pacific Championships in Edmonton in 1991. He had come so close to beating the American at the World Championships that year, his plan for the Pan Pacific games was to keep doing the same things, just tweaking a few small details. Rause won the race by more than half a second.
“If you want to keep getting the same results, keep doing the same things,” he warned the school division.
After the Pan Pacific games, Tewksbury approached legendary synchronized swimming coach Debbie Muir to help him rebuild.
“My first task was to go in the deep end,” he related. “Debbie tied a 20-pound weight around my waist and I’m supposed to dolphin kick off the bottom and see how high I can get my chest out of the water and how long I could hold it there because her synchronized swimming girls could do it for minutes and minutes and minutes.
“So in I went, down to the bottom of the pool, looked up and saw the surface of the water, kicked off the bottom and started to kick and after about 20 seconds realized, ‘I’m never going to make it to the surface of the water.’ So, I panicked, pulled off the tether band, came up, took a huge breath of air and Debbie said, ‘wow, you’re even worse than I thought.’”
He went on to explain the moral of the story was that no matter how good you are — Tewksbury was ranked fourth in the world at that time — sometimes you have to tear everything down to build it back up again.
In a sense, that is what the school division has done with its strategic plan. The process began in January 2011 with an initial evaluation by the school board. Meetings with and hiring a consultant followed. In all, the division conducted 19 focus groups, four public meetings and received a total of 893 responses to a survey of stakeholders.
The result is a collection of five strategic priorities: 1. Student Learning and Well-Being. 2. Equitable and Balanced Opportunities. 3. Accountability For All. 4. People Engagement. 5. Sustainable Infrastructure.
The full plan is available on the division’s website: www.gssd.ca.
School officials also developed vision, mission and value statements.
Vision: Learning Without Limits … Achievement for All
Mission: Building Strong Foundations to Create Bright Futures
Values: Belonging, Respect, Responsibility, Learning, Nurturing
The one thing that has not changed is the GSSD motto: Students Come First.
“The overwhelming message we received was students come first,” said Dwayne Reeve, director of education.
Despite oppressive heat in the Gallagher Centre — one woman was removed on a gurney by EMS — the teachers and staff hung in until the end and appeared to come away from the event energized, particularly by Tewksbury’s talk.
“You can tell he’s really passionate about what he does,” said Darren Wandy, vice-principal at Melville Comprehensive School. “There’s triumph and there’s also despair. He was second at the world championship and it still wasn’t good enough, so he just had to find a way to tweak it.
“And that’s the same with education; things are always changing and there’s always ways of doing things better and motivating those around you. It was an awesome presentation and we were lucky to have him here today.”