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Sep 07
Is Bigger Better?

 

A growing trend in both government and business is a move toward consolidation/ amalgamation.  "Bigger is better" seems to be the flavor of the month.

 

Is bigger really better?  My doctor did not seem too impressed with me getting bigger (heavier) since my last checkup, so perhaps getting bigger is not always better.

 

In recent years, our provincial governments have amalgamated Health Boards and Municipal Councils.  The rationale; save money, greater efficiency and improved services.  Did Health services and local government improve as a result of amalgamation?  Have health care or municipal costs decreased?  Do they offer more services?  Are they more efficient?

 

If a recent article in the Free Press is true, emergency room wait time actually increased by 13%.  Similarly, I have not noticed that my local tax bill has decreased since the amalgamation of municipalities, nor have I noticed any new services being provided. 

 

The Education Department is next in line for the bigger is better movement.  The government will be conducting a comprehensive review of the Education system this January.  Please make sure you participate if asked.  The government has already indicated that school board amalgamations will be a topic of inquiry.  Large regional school boards similar to Health Care Boards have been floated as possible ways to improve student outcomes, reduce cost per student and bring greater efficiency to the system. 

 

I would suggest that before the province embarks on the next round of school board amalgamations, it should first examine the six school divisions in Winnipeg.  Of the six divisions, Winnipeg School Division is twice as large as the next largest division.  Winnipeg School Division's enrollment is over 32,000 students.

 

Given its size, you would expect that its cost per student would be the lowest of the six divisions.   In actuality, Winnipeg School Division's cost per student is the second highest of the six divisions.  Efficient?  Reduce costs per student?  Similarly, I suspect that student provincial assessment results for Winnipeg School Division are not any better than the other five divisions.  Improved outcomes?

 

I do think that there are school divisions that are too small and could be amalgamated with neighboring school divisions with minimal disruption and would create efficiencies.  In examining cost per student data, it is clear that very small school divisions have a higher cost per student than midsized divisions.  In such cases, amalgamations makes sense.  

 

A thorough review of our Educational System is a good thing, if conducted in an open, transparent and comprehensive manner involving a broad cross section of Manitobans. 

 

What is not needed is to blindly follow the "bigger is better" crowd.

Sep 05
Welcome Back

It always amazes me how quickly the summer months seem to pass.  I hope that all of you had a chance to recharge your batteries by getting away or by enjoying some down time in the Valley.

A big welcome to new staff that have joined the Swan Valley School Division family. We hope your career with us will be long and productive.

I also want to extend a warm welcome to any new students that have joined SVSD. To the parents of these new students please know that your child/ren have enrolled in a safe, caring and progressive School Division. Your child/ren will be provided with a broad range of programing options as well an abundance of extra-curricular opportunities. Our dedicated staff will ensure that your child/ren receive a first rate education.

This will be the first year of our new Strategic Plan. The plan has five priorities:

  1. Health and Well Being
  2. Programming for Success
  3. Maximize Resources
  4. Cultural Inclusiveness
  5. Sustainability of Human Resources

(View our website for more details about the Strategic Plan)

In addition to implementing the Strategic Plan, SVSD will also be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. A committee has been created to organize some events throughout the year.

As you can see, we have a busy year ahead of us. I wish all a productive, healthy and fun filled year.

 

Tim Mendel, Superintendent/CEO

Jul 05
PARIS OR SWAN?

 

A year ago, that was my choice as I retired from Park West School division. My plan was to retire and travel the world, but then an opportunity opened in Swan Valley School Division and Paris was put on hold. Some might question my decision, but after a year, I can honestly say that I am very happy and content with my decision. There are a number of reasons for my happiness:

Firstly, the happiness of any Superintendent/CEO is to a large extent based on the members of his/her board. The current board is comprised of a diverse group of people with differing backgrounds but they are united in one thing; they want to do a good job for the community, students and employees. They have been open to new ideas and willing to allow administration to the job for which they were hired. They don't always agree, but they do so without being disagreeable and they keep disagreements in house.  A great board makes the job of the Superintendent/CEO's so much more enjoyable.

Secondly, the happiness of a Superintendent/CEO is dependant on the people he/she works with on a daily basis. The division office staff is truly a first class group of people. They have been friendly, welcoming and accommodating. They take pride in their work and conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. I am truly blessed to be working with such quality individuals.

Thirdly, the happiness of the Superintendent is dependant on the employees that he has the privilege to lead. The employees have been welcoming and friendly to me. I find them to be invested in their work and community. The many great programs and extra-curricular opportunities offered in the schools is because of the dedicated employees of the division.  Great employees make the job of the Superintendent/CEO so much easier.   

Finally, the happiness of the Superintendent/CEO is dependant on the community he/she lives in. I have found the Valley to be a great place to live. The people are warm and friendly. The town offers a good variety of services and shopping opportunities. The people are proud of their schools and the programs that are offered. The Valley really values education.

Paris, well it will have to wait a few more years. I am "Happily Retired in Swan"

Feb 21
Funding Announcement

 

The Provincial Funding Announcement of a 1% increase in educational funding by the province at first glance seems very positive for education. What the public needs to understand is that the 1% increase refers to an overall increase in funding across the province for education; it does not mean that each school division will receive a 1% increase in provincial support. In fact, a good number of school divisions will receive no increase or a decrease in provincial support. 

Swan Valley School Division saw a decrease in provincial funding of about $250,000. This decrease, coupled with wage increases will make the creation of the 2017/18 school division budget very challenging.

The board and senior administration will be looking at all areas of our organization to identify potential savings. Given that 80% of our budget is wages and benefits it is highly unlikely that enough savings can be found in non-staffing expenditures. Our budgeting shortfall will require staff trimming/reductions in all areas, across all employee groups.

The board will have some difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks.

Feb 15
Welcome Back

I want to take this opportunity to welcome everyone back from a well-deserved Christmas Break.  I trust you had a chance to relax and enjoy sometime with family and friends.

I want to begin by thanking our Tech Department for creating our new website.  It is my hope that this new website will help us with our communication strategy.  One of the key goals for the Board this year has been to be more transparent and to keep all stakeholders more informed about what's happening in their School Division.  This new website is just another tool the Board hopes to use to better communicate with all stakeholders.

The next few months will be very busy in the Division.  A new Strategic Plan will be created with the help of a wide variety of stakeholders.  The new Strategic Plan will chart the Division's course for the next three years.

The Board also will be starting the process of developing its new budget for the 2017/18 school year.  Indications from the province are that it will be a tough funding announcement given the province's financial position.

Once the budget is finalized, staffing will become the main focus.  The Division plans on attending a number of teacher recruitment fairs in order to spread the word that Swan Valley School Division is a great place to work and that the Valley is a great place to live and raise a family.

On a personal note, thanks to everyone for making me feel welcome during my first six months on the job.

Tim Mendel
Superintendent

About this blog
No, this isn't actually my picture. I just haven't gotten around to updating this section. It's good to know that someone is reading every last word though. Thanks!