Director General’s Message for Start of School 2021-22

Nick Katalifos - DG
Montreal - Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I am very excited to welcome everyone back to what promises to be a challenging  and exciting academic year.

Last June we were all optimistic that we might return to a more normal situation in our schools this year. Regrettably, the Delta Variant has changed all of that and while the Minister of Education has thus far loosened some restrictions, we need to be as vigilante as ever.    

Collectively, our experience last year was an exceptional one and, while it presented many challenges on many levels, as a team, we all learned a great deal - and are prepared.  As always, we will continue to support each other and ensure that the safety of our students and staff remains our priority!

To that end, I want to thank all of our staff, parents, students and service providers for helping us get through the 2020-21 academic year. And yes, despite the challenges mentioned earlier, we have persevered.

I have enjoyed a 30 year career at the EMSB and the PSBGM. Having worked in in our elementary, secondary and adult and vocational sectors, I have over the years been exposed to the various aspects of our operations. This experience has been helpful over the last several months, providing me with a solid foundation to build upon in addressing our current challenges.  My confidence is based upon the knowledge that we have a wonderful team both at Head Office and in our schools and centres.  Collectively, our commitment remains the success of our students and staff.

In essence, this success is based upon a simple philosophy - people matter. We must work closely with all of our stakeholders and hear their concerns while providing the best services possible.

Of course, students, from Pre-K to the AEVS level, remain our foremost priority. We know that education is a lifelong experience and indeed, we proudly have pupils as young as four and as old as 70 plus. This speaks volumes about both the quantity and quality of our programs.

We are all aware and are very proud of our student success rates in the youth sector - and will continue to forge ahead regardless of the added pedagogical challenges faced due to the Covid crisis.  And, as proud as I am of our youth sector schools for their innovative approach, projects and sense of community, I also want to make a point of mentioning our critical AEVS sector.

Besides offering such a diversity of options, from basic education to vocational studies, AEVS has been the lifeblood of our system for many years in terms of bringing in the level of revenue that has benefitted our entire system.  We did not know what was going to happen last year due to COVID. Naturally there was a drop in international students. But just like our youth sector, the  AEVS team came through with flying colours.

I always knew about the great things AEVS did, but my three years as Principal of the Wagar Adult Education Centre gave me a special inside look regarding the contribution this sector makes to our mission as a School Board.

We all  know the importance of accountability, and have worked a great deal on this theme during the past several years.  However, as much as we must focus upon our responsibilities as leaders within the school system we serve – we also have to remember that, along with accountability, the principle of recognition is critical to the success of our organization. The  theme of our August 2021 Administrators Workshop, Keeping it Together: Thriving With Passion, encompassed many different aspects of the leaders we have.  Each has  proven to be pillars of courage, resilience and empathy.  And, on a deeply personal level – I want you to know that this work is recognized.  Whether you are an in-school administrator, manager, coordinator assistant director or director, your professionalism and commitment to our board and its students has been exceptional.  It is our collective effort – department to department and school to school, that will allow this success to continue.

This success can only continue if we communicate with each other – every one of us must be confident to raise concerns – and offer possible solutions for them.  We have heard a great deal about wellness and well-being – both individual and collective – supporting each other is the only way to keep it together. 

Of course – our students should not be forgotten in this process. We will formalize something we started last May with our Marketing and Communications Department and recognize a Student of the Month. Any Youth or Adult Sector student who has selflessly gone above and beyond, during his or her personal time, to benefit the community at large will be eligible. Each Youth or Adult Sector school may nominate one student per month. Information will be shared with you in the near future, but once again, today’s theme – Keeping it Together: Thriving With Passion, should resonate and remind us why we are here.

This theme serves as the basis that encourages us to move forward – with a renewed sense of courage, renewed sense of resilience, and a renewed belief in what we hope to accomplish with our students.  But to do this, we also have to take care of ourselves, and each other. It is vitally important that we adopt the notion of moving forward together.

Practically speaking, this will start with the safe re-entry of students and staff into our schools. There are still so many areas of concern, but, again I can assure that we are working hard to get answers for you as soon as possible regarding the COVID protocols we need to follow.

Finally, I would like to thank every in-school administrator for working diligently to prepare and open our schools, as well as every department for providing the support necessary to accomplish this.  Needless to say, all our teams – whether in Educational Services or Student Services, for example, are working hard to help prepare our programs and are being supported by Human Resources to staff our entire board as the Material Resources department effects repairs and renovations throughout the network, including the massive $20 million dollar makeover at Westmount Park Elementary School, while Financial Services manages our budgets and AEVS runs our centres. And, let’s not forget the support offered by other leaders in our secretariat, legal services department and communications.

It goes without saying that this same message of appreciation goes out  to all of our teachers, professionals, caretakers, support staff, students and parents.

Again, thanks for all you do.

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