It’s been a memorable school year to say the least, between provincial labour negotiations, teacher strikes and a worldwide pandemic to top it off.

It’s been over 100 days since the COVID-19 pandemic began and since local students have been in the classroom, and students are now preparing to graduate virtually, opposed to walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

But students aren’t the only ones who have had their school years upended by the pandemic. Directors of Education for both local school boards, Sherri-Lynne Pharand with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board and Derek Haime with the Kenora Catholic District School Board, say their staff have put in amazing work over the last few months.

“We’ve done the best that we can since March,” said Haime. “Staff have worked amazingly to adapt quickly to the home-learning model, as challenging as it is. It’s not as satisfying as face-to-face learning, but people have really worked hard to make the best of it. I’m really proud of everyone.”

“I’m really proud of the work of our staff. During the March Break, there were a few staff and myself who worked to begin building a platform to support distance learning, to support our teachers and support staff. It’s a very comprehensive platform,” explained Pharand.

“It’s taken the whole system. Every single staff member have had an important role to play in making sure that we’re able to think about how we work differently, and how we can learn differently,” added Pharand.

Pharand joined the KPDSB in January, just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic. Her appointment came after Sean Monteith left the role in January of 2020, after serving as a Superintendent for the Lakehead District School Board.

“It was a really exciting time. I was really looking forward to starting my new role and getting to meet all of our staff. I spent the first six weeks travelling to each of our school board areas visiting schools and staff throughout our district,” added Pharand.

“One of the things that drew me to Keewatin-Patricia was the innovation that I would always see in the media or hear about in education circles, so for me, early in the year it was an opportunity to see some of our unique programs in place to meet the needs of our students across our system.”

This was to be Haime’s first full-year in his role as Director for the KCDSB, after taking over for Phyllis Eikre in February of 2019. Although the year was cut short, Haime noted the board was able to launch a number of new initiatives. They include:

- A Spiritual Development Day in September,
- The launch of a free Anishinaabe languages app,
- The launch of the Wiikondim Feasting and Pow Wows book with Elder Isobel White,
- A new ski and snowboarding program for Grade 4 to 8 students,
- A new student journalism program in partnership with Q104 and Kenora Miner,
- A Dynamic Directions Career Fair with community partners and employers,
- A partnership with the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub to provide educational supports,
- The board was the national winner of the Toonies for Tuition Challenge,
- A ThoughtExchange Process for future COVID-19 planning with student input,
- The culmination of provincial labour negotiations,

“We forget that we had almost two-thirds of the school year under our belt before the March break, and it was an amazing school year,” said Haime. “I’m so proud of the parents, the students, staff and community members for coming together. It was a fantastic year.”

Haime added that the KCDSB will be giving out Director’s Awards of Excellence for each staff member and each KCDSB school, to recognize their efforts throughout the pandemic.

For more information:
KCDSB launches audiobook of Wiikondim Feasting and Pow wow
Indigenous education a priority for new KPDSB director