Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the new superintendent of the Central Okanagan School District says he is ready to continue the excellent work being done in one of the highest-performing district’s in the province.
Kevin Kaardal was introduced to Kelowna media Wednesday as he gets set to take over the top job in the Central Okanagan School District as of Jan. 1, 2016, replacing outgoing superintendent Hugh Gloster, who has been superintendent for the past six years.
Kaardal has been working alongside Gloster for a few months already and has visited nearly every school in the district, meeting principals, teachers, students and staff as he transitions into the new post.
“There is superb practice in this district to build on and it’s my intention to build on that strength,” said Kaardal, who arrived in the Central Okanagan after a stint in the Burnaby school district ended by mutual agreement earlier this year. “It’s been an absolute gift to have this time to do this transition that our team has planned. I have been able to be in classrooms and see exceptional practice. The first impression after being in nearly 43 schools is that the adults in the building care deeply about the learners in their care. And what’s really amazing is the learners care about each other and the adults. Not just their teachers but they know our directors and remember them. You’re watching people that truly care about each other and that caring serves the district well. It’s going to carry us through all kinds of challenges because there are a lot of challenges coming.”
First and foremost among the challenges noted by Kaardal was the implementation of a new curriculum in B.C. as schools will be asked to move away from the model that forced students to memorize data toward a model that is focussed on allowing students to have a more personalized education.
Kaardal said Central Okanagan has been leading the way in this philosophy, even before the provincial government mandated the changes to the curriculum, coming over the next three years.
“(The new curriculum) is an opportunity to move the learners from being receivers and memorizers of information and then regurgitating it, to becoming people that have the attributes that the Central Okanagan has identified: A learner, a thinker, a collaborator, a contributor and an innovator,” he said. “We’re trying to prepare our young people to be successful. It’s a shift to a personalized education which takes a determined effort on behalf of the whole system to find the strengths of each student and find a way for them to pursue those strengths and become contributors to our society.”
School board chair Moyra Baxter introduced Kaardal to the media and said any time a board has to hire a new superintendent, it is likely going to be the most important decision it makes during its term. Gloster gave notice to the board very early this year that he was going to move on after a 36-year career in education. That allowed the board time to search for a replacement for the popular Gloster, who plans to stay in education as a consultant.
Baxter said she believes they found the right person to continue the work that has been done in the school district in her 19 years on the board of trustees.
“We think we have a great district, we have some wonderful programs, we have incredible staff members that come up with great ideas that we have implemented,” she said. “We’re excited to be moving forward and building on those things that have been put in place and looking at the district through some new eyes which gives us the opportunity to say ‘are we doing this right,’ especially with the redesigned curriculum we will be trying to implement over the next little while.”
Like Gloster, Kaardal began his career in education as a teacher, teaching a variety of subjects and grades before getting into administration. He worked in the Calgary Catholic school system as well as in Mission, Victoria and his last post in Burnaby.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here,” he said. “It was a district I had hoped to have the opportunity to work in. I’m honoured the board put their faith in me and I will have the opportunity to work with an amazing team and a community of partners. I really believe, in any endeavour for it to be successful, positive, respectful relationships are critical. That is absolutely true in education, maybe no more true in any other sector of public service.”