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Meet Director of Education François Rivard


New year. New director. Many in the division may be familiar with Director of Education François Rivard in his previous roles as teacher, principal and superintendent. We sat down with François to get a little insight into him and his thoughts on leading the division as director. And we had a little fun with a short video.  (Content is edited for length and clarity.)

GSCS: You have about a month under your belt as director. How do you feel it has gone? 

François Rivard: I can’t believe it has already been a month! I feel blessed to be taking over as director of education of a division that is a leader provincially in Catholic education. I think that’s largely thanks to the amazing sense of family—our ethos— within GSCS. This culture is evident in our interactions from the board level to the classrooms, from school administration to senior administration. It also points to the dedication and long history of leadership of people, such as the past director of education Greg Chatlain. I can’t emphasize enough how lucky I am.

Just like all families, in particular large families, GSCS is not perfect. We have our work to do, and I know that our entire family is dedicated to that work. We are in our 112th year of providing Catholic education in Saskatoon and area, so we have some great role models who have come before us.

Major transitions like a job change often give reason to pause and reflect. It feels like yesterday when I first stepped into my first class as a Grade 5 teacher. I could not have imagined the journey or where it would have taken me during the last 25 years. Along the way I have and continue to learn from those with whom I have worked—caretakers, office coordinators, teachers, clergy, educational assistants, administrators, etc. They have all played a role in shaping my journey. Each staff member plays a leadership role in nurturing the faith and learning of our students. When I see myself in the role of director, I see it as a different way to serve.

GSCS: What are some of the goals you have as director to follow in the footsteps of that “great cloud of witnesses” you referenced?

FR: One of the many interesting opportunities that a mid-year change allows is the ability to both continue striving towards the current board goals and priorities while looking at ways to improve an already great school division.

As the province is set to share its new Provincial Education Plan, the board will also undergo a review of the division goals. My hope for this review is that we continue to focus on strengthening the Catholic dimension within our division, that we continue to ensure students have every opportunity to develop their God-given talents in a safe and welcoming environment to promote wellness.

We need to pay close attention to building positive relationships with families, students, staff and partners. It will be especially important to me that we continue to make progress towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and communities. 

GSCS: You’ve been in education long enough to know there are challenges. What challenges do you see and how might you address them?

FR: What some may label as a challenge, I would argue could be opportunities. As I shared previously, I have the privilege of being named director of an amazing school division. As a matter of timing, our board will be reviewing their goals and priorities as I begin my new role. This is a great opportunity to expand on the great work that has already taken place.

Although I have mentioned that we are like a family at GSCS, I do see continued work on building positive relationships as needing to be a focus of our work moving forward. We have become very adept at virtual work. As valuable as that is, I think it has affected our sense of connectedness, of being personally connected to each other, that is so important for students, staff and families.

Our division has seen incredible growth in terms of student enrolment. With the addition of the many staff members to support these students, coupled with replacing retired staff, continued attention to ensuring we build strong relationships is important in keeping that family culture thriving. The larger an organization gets the more challenging that can be. 

To dive even deeper in the area of relationships, our relationships with Indigenous brothers and sisters need to be prioritized. We have come a long way in our journey of truth and reconciliation, yet we have so much more work to do. I feel like we are at the “truth” part of the journey. Now we need to move to the actions each one of us need to undertake to move into the “reconciliation” part of the journey. This work is needed as a part of our efforts to eliminate the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. I am encouraged by the good work of so many people in the division in this area, led by our FNMI team and guided by Elders. I know we will continue to move forward. All of us benefit when we take this approach.

GSCS: What do you think the role Catholic education plays in the education system and the communities served?

FR: I guess an easy answer would be to say we are called to create a welcoming community where we nurture faith, encourage excellence in learning and inspire students to serve others, making the world a better place. That is our mission statement, and we strive to stay true to it in everything we do.

The opportunity that we have is to accomplish this as we serve over 20,000 students whose parents made a conscious decision to have their children in Catholic education. To be faithful to this calling, we must ensure we are models of Christ. To be models of Christ, we need to know him and build our relationship with him. Accomplishing this is a lifelong endeavor that is limited only by our human imperfection. I truly believe that the families we serve, and the larger community are made better because of this mission. It’s pretty important work we have signed up to do.

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