By JOE SMALL
Trustee, School District 73
IT GOES WITHOUT saying, providing education to more than 14,000 students in several communities across hundreds of kilometres of the Southern Interior is no small feat. School District 73 has an annual budget of more than $175 million, employs nearly 2,000 people and maintains scores of buildings, vehicles and other infrastructure.
It’s a job that is only possible if people work together. Teamwork is a key principle that drives how we go about the day-to-day work of providing education, so much so that its core attributes are embedded in SD 73’s five-year strategic plan. Priority Four of our plan states that we will, “Foster an inclusive, adaptable and accountable district culture.”
The wording for this priority was carefully chosen.
Being “inclusive,” for example, goes to the heart of teamwork. SD 73 recognizes that communities are made up of unique individuals with differing skills, philosophies, cultural perspectives, ideas and strengths. When different perspectives come together in common purpose, it creates an opportunity for new approaches — particularly in problem solving — to emerge.
An inclusive culture respects the needs of its members, which ultimately provides the climate for people to feel they are safe in their roles. Inclusive teams feel like more than just a group of individuals; they are joined together by bonds more like that of family or friends.
Being “adaptable” means that our people have the autonomy to do the work required in the face of changing conditions. Our world is always changing, and we need to change with it as we provide our young people with the skills they need to succeed. Adaptability builds teams that know how to cooperate, especially when changes are needed.
And lastly, being “accountable” is a key part of teamwork. Setting standards and expecting people to live up to them builds strong teams because when we are accountable, everyone on a team knows they can count on the others around them for support. We can trust that others will do their work to the best of their ability, allowing us to do the same.
Defining the key building blocks of teamwork in the manner we have in our five-year strategic plan shows that our district is doing more than paying lip service to the concept of teamwork. We want all the people who make up our district to work together so that we can achieve our prime goal and objective — giving our children the education they deserve.
I won’t suggest we are perfect and there is no room for improvement. Any organization as large as School District 73 will struggle at times to collaborate. We will disagree from time to time about any number of things, such as how to interpret language in our collective agreements, for example. That doesn’t mean our team falls apart.
Using the five-year strategic plan as a guide, we can move towards resolution in a manner that fosters the understanding that we must stand together as we work towards our goals.
Joe Small is in his first term as a trustee. He retired as a school principal after more than 35 years in education.