Monday, 25 September 2017

Implementing CRM week 1

We recently completed our first round of Collaborative Response Model (CRM) meetings. I had spent a lot of time trying to decide what process to follow for our first day. I was somewhere in between the “just let it happen” to planning each step out.  I decided to start off slow, spend six weeks or more with dialogue around what CRM is, read different passages from the book, explore the website etc. I had it all planned out and then decided to change things the night before. As big an advocate for the “why” and the “how” that I am, I was afraid that too much “theory” would end up disengaging the teachers in the initial stages of CRM implementation. I decided to split the difference, divide the teachers into CRM groups and spend the first 40 minutes of each CRM group exploring the model and the last 40 minutes helping teachers select a priority to start working on.

We had already read the book as a staff the previous year so we were ready to dive into some discussion around the model. Our first 40 minutes involved using various structures to review the core beliefs, establish working norms and making criteria for how the time could be used. Our last 40 minutes involved the groups planning for the next week so that they have an idea of what they would be working on after we once again spend the first 40 minutes discussing some of the processes around the model. Working in a small school, I was easily able to sit in on all three 80 minute CRM groups that day. Each one was different in a great way and I feel fortunate that I was able to to listen in, guide and question where I can. One group decided to explore improving literacy in primary grades. They are going to start with their Program of Study (always a great starting point) and then move towards developing reading centers for their students. Another group talked about the importance of self reflection and how they can incorporate that into their practice as well as math manipulatives. A third group invited in two of our district's Learning Coaches to explore a universal assessment for math. They ended up getting everything set up to administer the assessment the following day. They now have data to inform their next steps. We will all gather again next week for our second meeting. We will spend the first 40 minutes dialoguing around the model and then each group will start some collaborative work. We plan to follow this format for the first four to five weeks and then have our first Collaborative Response Team meeting (CRT) in about five weeks. We may use an upcoming pd day to establish our "pyramid of interventions" as a whole staff.

The purpose of the first day was to ensure teachers understood the function of CRM, felt reassured it was not going to be another burden and get some traction going for the year.  Looking for data myself,  I sent out a Google form the next day with seven short answer and scaled rating questions
  1. What is your understanding of the purpose of CRM?
  2. What are you most worried/fearful of as we implement CRM?
  3. The first CRM meeting deepened my understanding of the model. (1 to 5)
  4. The first CRM meeting was strategic and purposeful. (1 to 5)
  5. I believe that CRM has the potential to improve student learning in our school. (1 to 5)
  6. Advise me. How can I better support you with CRM?
  7. Anything else to share or comment on?

I saw positive energy in each group. I am excited for the journey and hope to share my experience including what worked and what didn't work.

Friday, 10 March 2017

SVCS is Getting Healthy

Thanks to some funding from the Alberta government Southview Community School will be able to implement a nutrition program. The program will be led by our newly hired Nutrition Coordinator Ally DeWolfe. This program has several goals including educating students on healthy foods and healthy living, providing healthy food access free of charge throughout the day, creating a sustainable nutrition program and involving and empowering students to take charge of their diet.
Our school is committing to being a “healthy school” and as such will no longer be promoting, distributing or raising funds using foods that are considered “unhealthy.” Beginning in April we will no longer be selling weekly hotdogs to raise money for field trips. The school will look at alternatives to support this meaningful learning opportunity so that there is no impact on student learning.
As always please feel free to contact me at school if you have any ideas, questions or concerns.

Todd Samuelson
Southview Community School
(403) 526-4495 ext 5806
@Southview_CS (twitter)

Friday, 3 March 2017

Southview Community School

As many of you know, this is our 40th year celebration at Southview Community School. Although I have only been here a short time, I have quickly discovered that this is a special school in a remarkable community. Today I had the honour of meeting one of those remarkable people, “Dub” Henderson, the self-proclaimed, “smarter, more talented, better looking” older brother of Dr. Larry Henderson who was the first principal of the school. Dub came in to inquire about purchasing four bricks for the school mural, one for each of the remaining seven brothers of the Henderson family. With the family purchasing four bricks and commitments from others, we only have about 15 bricks left. Southview Community School is accepting donations, purchases and dedications of tiles that would be displayed adjacent to the mural.  If you wish to make a purchase or donation, please contact Southview Community School at 403-526-4495.  The cost of each tile is $100.
Todd Samuelson

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

No longer "Acting"

Three weeks ago I began my journey as Acting Principal of this great school.  I learned a couple of things very quickly. One thing I learned is that every staff member at this school cares a great deal about the students here. There is no indifference in this building. Every teacher, educational assistant, custodian, secretary and administrator is here because it's where they want to be. I’m not sure if I have ever experienced such a “group calling” before.

Another thing I learned is that to complement the school staff there is an amazing collection of individuals, groups and parents (to which I refer as 'partners')  hungry to help out. Every time I sit down with someone, I add them to a diagram on a big whiteboard I have in my office. So far I have seventeen partners who are dedicated to support Southview Community. As with the school staff, these people radiate a desire and a commitment to help the community. They are a vital part of pursuing the vision we have for this community. It cannot be accomplished without them.

This is not an eight to four o'clock job. It doesn't stop when the bell rings or students are no longer in the building. This is a way of life and one in which I am so incredibly proud to be a part of. I am grateful to have been welcomed so meaningfully into this community and look forward to continuing on in my role here as principal. 

Monday, 9 January 2017


On my first day as acting principal at Southview Community School (SVCS) I met Lilian Betcker when she walked up to me in the front office and gave me a hug. She turned around, gave the other staff members a hug, put on her safety vest and headed out the front door.  She followed the same routine every day that first week so we began to exchange some short pleasantries and I became very curious about this seventy year old little woman who walked into the school with such familiarity, greeted everyone, and would not let anyone evade her outstretched arms.

I joined her at her safety patrol station a few days after meeting her and learned that she has had a connection to SVCS for over twenty years. Her children and now her grandchildren attend the school at which she has volunteered for the past several years. She shared that she saw a need for an area to be monitored and thought she could offer to help. When she mentioned it to the former principal he said, “When can you start?” and the rest is, as they say, history. Every day she walks past the school from her home a few blocks away, picks up her grandchildren, walks them to school, volunteers to help keep students safe, and then walks home. She gets the occasional wave from people driving by and once in a while someone stops to give her a coffee and a Timbit, but she certainly isn’t doing this for anything else other than to help out the school and community. As we were getting ready for the Christmas holiday she told me she doesn’t really enjoy the breaks from school because, as she puts it, she ”misses her people".

I have only known “Lil”, as she is called, for one short week but I am already proud to call her a friend. It is with purpose that she is the subject of our school’s first post, Tweet and image. I have seen her hugs, her dancing in the hallways and her smile. On Friday she sang 'O Canada' over the intercom with the vice principal (I had conveniently made myself scarce during the 'supposed to be' trio.). Lil epitomizes the reasons why I wanted to return to a community school. She sets an example for everyone. What school could not use more hugs, smiles, singing and dancing in the hallways?

Friday, 16 December 2016

Farewell CHHS, you have taught me much...

It's hard to believe a decade ago I walked through the front doors of this school unbelievably excited to be joining a different district and an unfamiliar school. After ten years of teaching, CHHS  offered me my dream job of teaching English and I leapt at the opportunity.  I was immediately welcomed by teachers, many of whom have left this great school for a variety of reasons: Brusky, Luyten, Jesse, Walker, McDougall,  Morely, Goepen, McOuat,  Stickle to name a few. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but gradually I became one of the “seasoned” teachers and the time left in front of my career is far shorter than the time that has passed. I have spent considerable time this past week reflecting on my time here and know I will miss this place. I owe everyone here for helping me grow as an educator and administrator; all of you have contributed in some way.

I have learned a lot during my tenure here to prepare me for my new role as a principal. Most importantly I have learned the importance of an administrator to facilitate and encourage teacher leadership, to empower and then get out of the way, to support from the background,  to keep my ego in check and understand its about the students and the teachers, not about me. To be an instructional leader, but not necessarily the expert in everything. To listen more than to speak. To be a leader and a team player, not a manager. Without relationships where people feel valued, listen to and trusted there is only superficial and shallow progress. The single greatest influence on a student's success is the teacher. If I have been successful with anything here it is because of the hard work of others; I take no credit for it.

I have laughed, argued, cried (maybe even yelled, before I Zenned out) here...this school has seen me at my worst and at my best.  As I look around tonight and walk through the hallways, visit a couple of my favorite spots and  box up my final belongings I feel sad, scared, excited, but mostly I feel proud to have been a member of this incredible community. When I look at the young teachers here and the not so young teachers I can't wait to see the inevitable growth and improvements that are sure to come. The smartest person in the room, is the room, and oh what a room you have here.

Be well,


Thursday, 22 September 2016


Our (this is my wife's journey as much as mine) recovery from heart disease has been as dramatic and in some ways as shocking as my initial diagnosis. 174 days ago my doctor offered me hospital admittance, uncertain of my stability, and the adventure began. Six months off work so far for treatment, monitoring, lifestyle changes, appointments, an ICU admittance and management of a whole lot of medications was ordered. Our lives have revolved around heart disease. Recently different medical professionals have contacted us expressing their genuine relief and surprise that we have reversed the once labelled “severe heart failure.” My heart, they said, has healed itself. Yesterday one of our specialists shared that we had far exceeded expectations and although we still had some work and careful monitoring to do, I was basically as fit as I was a year ago when I was participating in five and ten hour endurance events. I have shared that this has been the best thing to ever happen to me (I know that sounds crazy), but I have learned so many things during this experience and my greatest fear now is that in time I will forget. We have learned the power of a positive mindset. We know meditation and mindfulness played a role in recovery, as did connecting with nature. We know that each day is a gift, there is only this moment and what the mind believes the body can achieve.  We believe in the power of gratitude and humility.

I will forever be indebted to a team of medical personnel from Medicine Hat and Calgary who followed me closely and became more like really smart friends than distant professionals. I thank family and friends who believed, prayed, sent positive thoughts and vibes and messages of encouragement. Mostly, though,  I am grateful for my wife, Lisa,  who is my rock, my greatest supporter, believer and best friend who put her life on hold for ½ a year so that I could regain mine.

Be well my friends, seize the day.