Dear Parents and Staff,
It is funny how some moments can reach deep into our consciousness and evoke memories of times long since past or draw on those raw threads of emotion that, for some reason, we hide well below the surface only to have them well up when we are most vulnerable.
Bridge Over Troubled Water does that for me. Similarly, for others, it is a melody, picture or person. Even a movie! A colleague recently tweeted that she was only half way through "Prancer"... and was already emotionally exhausted.
I was at Oppenheimer Elementary yesterday and had the great opportunity to hear the intermediate students singing with unbridled joy, passion and happiness. This was a fully inclusive group of youngsters that would put the Vancouver Bach Choir to shame.
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was distracted. Maybe I had something in my eye. It has been a long fall after-all - not without its pressures! But when I heard those voices - I felt that emotion. I know the others listening experienced the same thing. Somehow moments of by-gone days spring to the fore and we yearn for that time to be present again. The choir, with over one hundred students, gathered on stage to sing some of the seasonal classics. And did they ever sing - almost raising the roof in the gym.
|When I looked around the room, I saw more than a few misty eyes. The reminiscence of what once was, somehow tangled with the immediacy of the moment, captivated us all. There was a certain melancholy perhaps, but then a sense of hope and optimism, a feeling of goodness, as the uplifting chorus reverberated around the space. Okay, it was a Christmas song; it caught us in the moment that exemplifies the true spirit of these times. That state of mind that infers peace on this planet and good will to all.|
The performance was spectacular. The music was outstanding. We all thoroughly enjoyed the time. I know this event has occurred over the past few weeks in many ways and in many schools throughout our school district - as it does during other celebrations during the year. Thanks go to the hard work of our teachers and support staff in making these events so wonderful, so magnificent, and so magical.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the good fortune to hear the sounds of the season emanate from the voices of many young people at various locations around the district including Maple Grove, Grenfell, Waverley, Trafalgar, Kerrisdale, Oppenheimer and others.
It was good to see these cheery faces singing, playing instruments and even dancing to their own rhythms! Each child, no matter what their age or background, was smiling and joyful with that inner excitement of the season and anticipation of the holidays yet to come. The spirit of the music easily captured in the exuberance of these youngsters. I didn't always watch our students, though, as they sang their hearts out. My attention turned to the parents accompanying them - proud mums, dads and grandparents - cameras at the ready to capture every Kodak moment - quite rightly to make these minutes last forever.
On Friday, I attended a fantastic student-led conference on Climate Change hosted at Windermere. I was once again reminded of the insight and global commitment demonstrated by our young adolescents. The future is their cause -- our cause is their future.
On Thursday evening, at Templeton, I was honoured to attend a special performance of Let Me Up, a timely anti-gang play written by Peter Grasso and produced by talented educators, Jim Crescenzo and Walter Mustapich. The full house was most appreciative giving a standing "O" for the actors and the student-led sound, lighting and stage crew.
The story portrayed youth caught up in the frightful lull of drugs and the harsh violence of gangs. It further recognized the need to support one another in both good times and bad times through family, friends and community. The message was clear - a reminder of the times we are in - when times get rough. The denouement, however, came after the play when we met the teary-eyed Mum of the individual characterized in the story. The real Mum who stood by her son through the good and the bad - and hugged him like she would never let go (and she never did). The sand in my eyes returned with a vengeance!
I want to take this opportunity to thank our partner groups who help assure that the needs of our students is paramount. Each representing an essential cornerstone of our school district - our teachers, our support staff, our parents, our school principals and vice principals and our district staff. We are also very fortunate to have such great leadership with our dedicated school trustees who spend countless hours ensuring that the VSB maintains a focus on student success for all, whether scholastic, athletic or in the Fine Arts - a place where we truly aim to move, not from good to great, but from excellent to exemplary.
And so, I close the year with this thought from Calvin Coolidge who stated that, Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
As we settle in to enjoy good times with family and friends, take a moment to think of those not present, of those less fortunate, and of those colleagues, neighbours and communities where the waters are troubled and where we need to lend a helping hand.
However you choose to spend this holiday season, I wish you good health, the happiness and comfort of time with friends and family, and the sense of optimism and hope that the New Year brings.
From my family to yours, have a memorable few weeks.
My very best wishes.
Superintendent of Schools
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* Bridge over Troubled Water - Lyrics by Paul Simon, 1969.