“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, and author of the book,  Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle 1991


 I am not convinced that my life will be better but it will be changed!  I have been assigned to SRT as principal for 2013-2014.   I have truly enjoyed my time here at Pitt Meadows Secondary and in the Pitt Meadows Community.     Pitt Meadows is truly unique in that the there is a feeling of community spirit and belonging here.  I have never been to a school where the mayor and councilors attended school banquets, games, and presentations.    I will definitely miss the students and would like to thank all those past and present students for their contributions in art, music, and athletics and to those who just have great character.    I have enjoyed it all.


I would like to welcome Mr. Mike Keenan as the in-coming principal.  He is no stranger to PMSS.   He was a Vice-Principal here under Mr. Thomas in 1999 and 2000.  I wish him all the best.


I will continue to post comments until the end of June.  I encourage all readers to log on often to our website as information on school exams, provincial exams and year end activities are communicated via the website.

Mr. Dickson


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April 2013 Comments

I am clearly not keeping up with the times as far as sending texts, posting comments, or using tweets, etc..   I don’t know how one finds the time.   Here are some thoughts for April – and of course March.  I am currently supervising a University of Waterloo Math Exam (Euclid Contest) for 12 Seniors as I type this, so I have an hour!

As many of you know, staffing schools will be significantly harder next year with the proposed budget cuts.  What this means to students is that getting specific elective courses will be tough.   Once classes are scheduled, there will be little room for students to change electives.   I suspect that many students will have to move to on-line courses to get what they want.

How a school is staffed:

  • Students select courses (completed this part in March).
  • Elective courses are determined by student choice. For example if  25 or more kids choose Comparative Civilization over Geography then Comp. Civ. runs and Geography is dropped even if 15 students selected it.  Those 15 will have to take something else.  Or if 60 kids choose Biology 12 and 30 kids choose Chemistry, then we have 2 blocks of Biology and 1 block of Chemistry.  It could easily be reversed.  In other words the students determine the electives taught.
  • No elective courses can run unless a minimum of 25 kids choose the course.
  • The classroom size funding determines the number of classes that can run in 1 year.  For example,  Ratio of 27:1 as it will be next year allows us to have 243 blocks of teaching blocks.
  • We currently have 251 blocks needed to honour all the student requests.  Unfortunately, 8 blocks will have to be cut – or blocks need to be found to meet the school staffing budget.

I suspect that next year will be a hard year in that there will be fewer students overall, budget restraints and teacher lay-offs and redeploys that will affect the culture and likely the moral of staff.

The good news is that teachers are hard working and I know our students will be well served.  The budget cuts are also a, “worse case scenario” so that might change before Sept.   This is often why schools redo the students schedules in September.  More staffing becomes available so more classes can be added.

You should have seen your child’s course selection requests already.  They were handed out with report cards.   Feel free to speak with a counsellor in regards to your child’s course selection for next year.   Students won’t receive their official schedule until September but requests can be considered and wait lists established as necessary.

That’s all of now.

Mr. Dickson



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Enabling Innovation; Transforming Curriculum and Assessment

I have often informed staff and parents to visit the Ministry of Education’s Website because the way education is delivered, in fact the whole system, is under review.  It has been for several years.    The government has a working document called, “The Plan“.  Most people know about it and have been commenting on the concepts for a few years now.     The main philosophy of the plan is flexibility and choice for students.   Of course there is significantly more to know on The Plan but for me that is the theme or framework.

A recent document (August 2012) was released by the ministry that also has an impact on the future of education.  Like the Plan, it is not a detailed report but rather an overview of the discussions and possible direction education will take over the next few years.   The  report, Enabling Innovation; Transforming Curriculum and Assessment,  focusses on Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting.

The report touches on fewer learning outcomes per course.  The curriculum should ,”… emphasize higher-order concepts over facts to enable deeper learning”.   There is also an emphasis on, “… development of cross-curricular and subject specific competencies”.   One area mentioned but not nearly discussed enough is the need to consider our more vulnerable learners and special needs students.  I know there will be more on this topic though.

Assessment discussions have been around the need for a variety of assessments, including portfolios and perhaps less emphasis on percentages for students in grades K to 9.   No clear direction on that for grades 10 to 12 but perhaps a slight leaning towards no percentages and more competency based reporting; at least in my view.

The other 2 topics in the report are on how schools report to students and parents and graduation requirements.  I am told that graduation requirements will change in 2 years. Nothing official but that is the opinion of those, “in the know”.

Switching topics, I am always happy to hear how things are going from the parents point of view.   I know we often sit in a bit of an Ivory Tower so feedback is appreciated.   For example, I have heard comments both positive and negative on our Collaboration days.   I know this was pushed through very quickly and that process needs to be reviewed.  I know we can do better in regards to informing our community.

That’s all for now.

Mr. Dickson



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Student Lead Conferences

Our 2nd Student – lead Conferences are Thursday of this week.   I thought I would add some thoughts about those meetings and about assessment in general.   The arena set up for meeting with teachers is not ideal and it can be a somewhat frustrating evening without a plan.   As a parent, I have also participated in these kind of meetings and in scheduled meetings.  I can say neither work well as meetings often go longer than scheduled and one still has to wait around.  However, coming prepared is important in regards to getting max information in a short time.   Here are some things to consider before you attend the conferences:

  • Be prepared to ask to meet the teacher at a later date if you feel you need more time.   The conferences should  be no more than 5 minutes maximum.
  • You should have an idea about how your child is doing already.  A discussion with your child before meeting with the teacher will help with that.
  • Ask specific questions.  What are the work habits like?  This is a key piece to everything else.  Poor work habits result in poor assignments.
  • What are the areas for improvement?  Is your child following assignment criteria? Is he/she proof reading assignments before handing in?
  • Are there tutorial times available?  When?
  • Set up a way to communicate in a timely manner.   Communication is important.  No news does not mean good news.   There should be no surprises.

Finally, consider that school is a learning environment.  We expect mistakes to be made.  Learning is not a simple linear process.   Learning is “messy”.   It does not follow a simple pattern and growth should be measured over the year.   Report cards then should be considered a “snapshot in time” and progress should be viewed over time versus 1 report card.    As a parent I am more concerned about work habits.  If that is good then good grades typically follow.

Mr. Dickson

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January Update

The second half of the school year is well underway.  This is a busy time for us as we prepare our senior students for scholarships and counsellors talk to all students about next year’s course selections.  This is an important process as elective courses are determined by student interest.  Lots of interest in a course could mean 2 or even 3 classes of the same course and of course low student interest could mean that a course is not offered at all.  This is evidenced in our Viking Productions course.  We started with 3 classes 4 years ago, and we did not have any classes this year.

We held brief assemblies for our Super G, Honour Roll and Straight A students from last report card.  A bit late but well worthwhile to recognize our students.  The straight A students received a movie pass and everyone else had some juice and cookies, plus a few minutes out of class!

We will hold our first teacher Collaboration Day this Friday.   Students are welcome in the school but classes won’t start until 9:40.   All teachers will meet to discuss teaching strategies and topics related to student learning in the morning.   Other schools working on collaboration indicate that many teachers meet later to continue discussions.   This can only help our students’ experience in school.

From our end everyone seems to be on track and our students are working well.   Of course if you feel differently, please send me an email and I will follow up with your concern.

Happy New Year

Mr. Dickson

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Critical Incidents and Threat Assessments

In light of the tragic events in Connecticut last week, I thought that it might help if parents and students were aware of how serious we take our roles in providing a safe environment.   I have attached a copy of SD 42 Threat Assessment Procedures Flow Chart and it may help to note that Mr. Kater (one of our counsellors) is qualified as a, “Train the Trainer” teacher for Threat Assessment.  I have been trained at level 2 Threat Assessment and Ms. Furhmann, Ms. Umlah and Ms. Blanco are all trained as well.   Mrs. Blanco is also the chair of of School Based Critical Incident Team, which includes all PMSS administrators, an SEA, a Child Care Worker (CCW) , counsellors and 2 CUPE staff.   This is a well prepared team of professionals and if necessary, we can pull in other School District 42 counsellors on a moments notice.

Feel free to review the flow chart and provide feedback.

SD42 Threat Assessment Procedures Flow Chart March 2012 (2)[1]

I have also attached a guide for parents to support their child in times of grief.

Strategies for parents[1]

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December 2012 Update

Some people blog every day.  I know some colleagues who manage to blog at least once a week.   I am not sure where people find time to tweet, blog, or update Facebook on a regular basis.   For me, typing on a little phone or even on a keyboard is challenging and sometimes time consuming!

But enough of my complaints!  Report cards are due out on December 14th.   However, there should be no surprises.   Many of our staff have websites or software programs that allow parents to get timely updates and even marks.  Our school’s mantra is, “no surprises”.   Our office staff will mail out any interims at any time of the year on Fridays -if teachers get the paperwork into the office by Thursday of each week.   And every teacher has an email.   I know we all welcome the support from home.

Some schools in the district have piloted a late start Friday 1x per month so teachers can get together and discuss the many educational changes and ideas that are prevalent in education today.  The ministry’s “Plan” for educational reform, a plethora of new teaching strategies such as guided inquiry and project based learning are just a couple of examples.  many districts and individual schools are working on programs that provide choice and flexibility and that will keep our students engaged in their learning.   In that respect we are also requesting that late start Friday for teacher Collaboration 1 x per month for 4 months beginning in January of 2013.   The details will be discussed at PAC next Monday and if passed, a letter will be send out explaining the rationale and details of the late start.

Teachers are also reviewing the timetable.   There won’t be a change from linear to semester or any wholesale changes for students but rather a review to see if class time can be shortened and some flexibility build in for students.   Classes are currently 80 minutes long and many students tell us that it is hard to focus for so long and teachers report that it is hard to keep our students engaged.  Seems like a “no brainer” to reduce class time if possible.

There will be more information to you as it becomes available and we work out some of the details.   I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a great holiday.   I suspect that 2013 will be a great year for the Pitt Meadows Secondary School Community.

Mr. Dickson

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