Chair's Report to the AGM
By Chris Denford
This past school year was another successful one for GNS. Dr. Glenn Zederayko continued to settle in well during his second full year as Head of School. He is to be commended for his hard work and efforts to gain a deeper understanding of every aspect of the school. Having learned first hand the strengths of the school, he has now begun identifying opportunities to make GNS even better. Glenn's work with faculty and staff to achieve greater seamlessness, both between the three schools and from the PYP through the Diploma Program, is just one example of his positive influence early in his tenure.
The Board began last year with a number of ambitious goals. An evolution in the school's governance structure, precipitated by the transfer of ownership of school lands and buildings to the GNS Foundation, made it critical that both School Boards (Society and Foundation) gained a complete understanding of their respective roles. On numerous occasions, joint sessions were convened, allowing for information to be received collectively, and for ideas to be exchanged in an environment that ensured an aligned sense of direction. Although our two Boards are independent of each other, both share a common purpose to support the school using a stable governance model that facilitates GNS's ongoing improvement, in a responsible way.
As I mentioned at last year's AGM, acting on the advice of former Head, Simon Bruce Lockhart and Dr. Zederayko, the Board committed to create a new strategic plan during Glenn's second year. We recognized that the CAIS re-accreditation evaluation, scheduled for the same year, would provide invaluable third party affirmation of our strengths, as well as areas that could benefit from improvement. In particular, we hoped the visiting CAIS team's findings would contribute significantly to our situational analysis – a critical step required before a new strategic plan could be developed.
The creation and endorsement of a strategic plan is among the most significant responsibilities of any school board. It is the blueprint from which a school creates and evaluates its goals and aspirations over a 3 to 5 year period. Accordingly, we felt it was imperative that every governor be fully engaged and involved in the planning process. This was truly a community effort. Rather than relying on a smaller Board Committee to develop a draft plan, we chose to work collaboratively and collectively, utilizing the diverse strengths offered by each member of the Board and Senior Leadership Team. We also incorporated input from our faculty, staff and parent community. Sharing thoughts and ideas over the course of several full day sessions allowed for a more complete vision of our strengths and challenges to take shape. The plan that emerged, along with a corresponding operations strategy, highlights what makes GNS special but also recognizes some excellent opportunities for the school to grow. The plan will continue to evolve as we implement feedback offered by our community when it is shared in the coming weeks. On behalf of the Board, I would like to recognize the efforts of all involved in creating a vision that is both ambitious and achievable.
Another significant task was to approve construction timelines and phasing plans for the re-development of the Beach Drive Campus. While the Foundation Board considered construction costs and sources of funds, the Society Board provided an operationally focused oversight of the project. Making every effort to maintain a distraction free learning environment, ensuring student safety and sustaining our enrolment were paramount considerations.
The Boards evaluated the decision to commence construction from different, but related, perspectives. With the knowledge that 100% of the costs required to finance Phase 1 had been secured through the generosity of donors, support to proceed was overwhelming. It was understood that any delay would not be in the best interest of the school or our students.
There was some concern that families may delay bringing their children to the Beach after it was announced that construction would proceed. Accordingly, our budgeted enrollment targets at the Junior School were set extremely conservatively. As it turns out, interest at the Beach has actually increased. There is palpable excitement amongst our Junior School families in anticipation of the transformation - they want to be a part of this now. Everyone connected with the project has been energized by the thought of what these amazing, modern, forward-thinking learning environments will do to enhance learning at the Beach for years to come.
We experienced a delay in the delivery of our learning pavilions – but I am happy to report we are back on the original timeline outlined to the school community earlier this year. The four temporary classrooms will be delivered and placed on the ocean-side of Rattenbury House during the November break. The Grade 5 students will move into the pavilions prior to the Christmas break, so that the old Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten spaces can be deconstructed while the students are on Holidays.
Construction of the new, permanent Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten pavilions, as well as the restoration of Rattenbury's Historic Boathouse for our Marine Adventure Program is scheduled for completion prior to the start of the 2018-19 school year in September.
Similarly, the Board is, and will remain, committed to advancing the Pemberton Woods Master Plan. We hoped to be further ahead in terms of municipal and public engagement – but this will come. With the Beach Drive Project underway, we can now turn our planning attention to our other campus, and we are extremely excited about the possibilities.
With that said, it is important to recognize the great work that has been done already to improve the student experience for our Middle and Senior School students. Many of us remember a GNS without an all-weather turf, a state of the art Hall, a modern Scott Fitness Centre, a warm and welcoming Dining Hall, or a newly re-imagined Music Centre. Just this past year, we have completely renovated the Gudewill Gym, installing a brand new floor, wall treatments, and lighting.
And we're not done. The gym's next phase, a part of this year's annual fundraising initiatives, includes a complete make over of student change rooms and showering facilities. When it is completed in February, it will be another example of our commitment to our students. Just as importantly, it will be another powerful reminder of what this community is capable of when we work together. None of the facilities I've just listed would exist without the generosity of the GNS family. Not one. No tuition revenues, only donations. They are the physical proof of the transformational nature of the GNS experience. Our donors – whether they support the Annual Appeal, the capital campaign, or a Parents' Auxiliary initiative – are expressing their gratitude for the tireless efforts put forth by faculty and staff each and every day. The positive partnership between students, faculty and parents is what makes all of this possible. To everyone who has given so much of themselves in helping us realize our dreams to this point, I thank you.
The changes we are undertaking are not limited to aesthetic improvements. Like most Victoria buildings, many of our facilities were built according to earlier seismic codes. As we continue to improve the student experience, we will upgrade seismic tolerances throughout our campuses. Under the guidance of our structural engineer, we are moving ahead with upgrades that will add an additional level of safety for our students.
I would like to leave you with some observations as we look to our future. Those of us familiar with our community realize what a gem our Junior School is today. It will soon be one of the most unique and sought after Junior School Campuses in the world – a place where unparalleled, meaningful programs will thrive in a beautiful neighbourhood, on an irreplaceable site, in an environment that absolutely inspires.
However, I am equally excited about opportunities lying ahead of us at Pemberton Woods. We are blessed with the original, historic buildings that speak to our rich traditions, but we also have some 'blank canvas' on which we can create new facilities that are reflective of today and, indeed, tomorrow. They will help us continue to develop fearless students – creative, forward thinking, and adaptable for more quickly evolving future. We have the opportunity to create a truly unique campus in the greater Victoria Region – One that captures the imagination and inspires our most important constituents – our students.
The future is bright at Glenlyon Norfolk School. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.