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David DeRosa

April 18, 2019 Message to Members

Your Voice

I did something important yesterday, something that I hope will have a lasting and meaningful impact: I completed the 2019 BCPVPA Membership Survey.

I know. It often seems like everyone is competing for your opinion, your feedback or your outlook, about products you use or events you attended. But if you’re going to complete one survey, this is the one to do.

Every three years, the BCPVPA reaches out with a comprehensive survey to measure the thoughts, experiences, views and needs of our members. The intent is to gain an important province-wide perspective: with consistent questions at a moment in time, we will collect member responses from large and small schools, rural and urban schools and new, mid-career and seasoned leaders. The responses will collectively provide the contextual evidence that guides the Association, informs our Strategic Plan going forward and identifies needs in professional development, member support and advocacy.

The past surveys in 2013 and 2016 have helped us to focus our advocacy for members with the Ministry of Education and school boards. Data from the 2013 survey influenced the Ministry’s formation of a leadership development working group to examine how leaders are supported and continues to be relevant as the system addresses recruitment and retention. The responses also reinforced our case for improved compensation. Data from the 2016 survey led to significant sector alignment regarding the gravity of work-life balance for leaders and resulted in our development with humanworks of the Early Intervention Program. The numbers matter. The numbers help us to represent you, and to amplify your voice.

I finished the survey within about 30 minutes, tucked by the window, with my coffee, on my iPad. Working through the survey is a deep and thoughtful process, and perhaps a healthy release of everything that you want to say. You get to tell us about you, your background and experience, your work environment, how you assess performance and how you are in turn assessed. You get to tell us about your school resources, where responsibilities lie and the challenges of your role. And you get to tell us how we’re doing, what your priorities are as a member and the best way that BCPVPA can meet your needs. It’s all there.

So, it’s not that I’m hoping for poor weather this weekend, but if we happen to be struck by wind or rain, sleet or snow, that could be a great opportunity for you to settle in, pull out your phone and be heard. We’re listening.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

April 12, 2019 Message to Members

A Different Way to Serve

As I prepare for the April 12-13 Board of Director’s meeting, I’m reminded of the diversity of thoughts and perspectives that will soon gather around our Board table.

Of the many strengths of the BCPVPA, our diversity is critical to our success as an organization. This is reflected in our committee work, leadership development support and engagement with our many partners across the sector and beyond. The Board of Directors is purposeful in their recognition of diversity, and consistent in ensuring that diverse viewpoints and experiences have a voice in supporting our work.

I’d like to alert you to an opportunity to bring your own unique personality and abilities to the BCPVPA Board. This year, five Directors of the Board will be elected to a two-year term and a President-Elect will be elected for a one-year term before assuming the office of President. The nomination period for both of these roles is open until April 30, and members are nominated for the roles by other members.

I recognize that many of you volunteer enormous amounts of time in local or regional roles, and the thought of spending time away from schools and family can be daunting. But I encourage you to balance those considerations with the opportunity to grow and gain deep experience in the engaging, collaborative and meaningful work of the Board. I have always appreciated the focus on producing results and outcomes that signals the power of the time we spend together. The Board commitment is similar to that of a busy committee, but a Friday and Saturday spent sharing and learning with colleagues is energizing and enriching. Time flies when you’re having fun!

It’s possible that you’ve considered running for the Board in the past but did not pursue a nomination due to other commitments, or uncertainty about the role. You may be looking at a colleague right now and thinking ‘Wow. ________ would make a great Board member’. Undoubtedly, you’re wondering what the typical Board member is like and if this role would be fit for you. The answer is that there is no typical Board member, beyond being a BCPVPA member who is dedicated to supporting other members and furthering our collective goals. Board members have hailed from around the province, large communities and small communities, and have brought with them a staggering range of experience and expertise.

I anticipate this weekend’s meeting as an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion, and to consider points of view that would not emerge without the diversity of thought on the Board, which itself is representative of the diversity of thought in our Association. If you can see yourself or a colleague taking on a Board role, I encourage you to pursue a nomination. If you have questions, please reach out as I would welcome the opportunity to chat with you. To find out more about the process, or to download the forms, please visit bcpvpa.bc.ca/elections

Take Care,

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David DeRosa

April 5, 2019 Message to Members

Welcome Back!

As we return to our schools fresh from the break, Spring is in the air and the natural rhythm of the season offers sensory reminders that we are well beyond the half way point in another school year.

I hope the break was just that: an opportunity for Principals and Vice-Principals and their school communities to refresh and rejuvenate. Although time is a constant – with a nod to both Einstein and Christopher Nolan – I was reminded by colleagues this week that Springtime in schools may not actually be a constant after all! “Wasn’t the break 3 weeks ago?!” “Did March even happen?!” “I need more time!!”

A good reminder that planning and preparations for the next school year are well underway across our system, and that time – whether it is a constant or a variable – is a precious commodity.

As you prioritize your time in your schools, I encourage you to consider two specifics: your communication plan and your wellbeing. In the whirlwind of the busy days and weeks ahead, advance notifications and reminders are so appreciated by our school communities. Timely and effective communication is proven to reduce stress and anxiety in staff, students and parents. Knowing is the first step in preparing.

And, while we’re engaged in planning, let’s make sure we don’t forget ourselves. As we plan our timelines, building in our own needs helps to ‘guard’ that important time we need to sustain ourselves.

Take Care,

David DeRosa

March 15, 2019 Message to Members

Spring Break

What is your ideal Spring Break? A ski trip or sun vacation with the family? Local staycation adventures, spending time with your kids, dogs, cats, friends? Whatever your version of ‘perfect’ might be, I hope that you will be able to live it over the coming break. It’s a milestone in the latter half of the school year and time to take some deep breaths and recharge. The coming months will be rewarding but busy, and you’ll be ready. I look forward to being back with you in April, and hearing about your best Spring Break moments.

Take Care,

BCPVPA President on CBC Radio

Cellphones in Schools: March 12 – On The Coast – at 1:08:40

David DeRosa

March 8, 2019 Message to Members

Mental Models

A few weeks back I shared with you a brief outline of my introduction to Compassionate Systems Leadership and Thinking. I was incredibly fortunate to be part of the BC team that participated in a 3 day workshop facilitated by Peter Senge and Mette Miriam Boell. The workshop provided a Systems Thinking foundation to build on and introduced participants to a practical set of tools that learners of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can easily put into practice.

The Iceberg Model was introduced at the recent School and Community Mental Health Conference and participants were led through an exercise by facilitator Tracy Smyth in how to use it and apply it to our own professional or personal contexts.

I have posted a more in-depth resource to BetterEducate – An Introduction to Systems Thinking , which outlines 2 models, the Iceberg and Ladder of Inference, in the context of Systems Thinking.

In very brief and simple terms, the Iceberg Model addresses the reality that we all develop mental models over time. Our experiences and interactions build our mental models and they help us to more efficiently make decisions. This ‘efficiency’ can be a positive or a negative outcome of mental model development. Waking up to another cold can be used to demonstrate how the Iceberg Model reveals a more complex set of systems connections [adapted from Northwest Earth Institute].


  1. The Event Level

The event level is the level at which we typically perceive the world—for instance, waking up one morning to find we have caught a cold. While problems observed at the event level can often be addressed with a simple readjustment, the iceberg model pushes us not to assume that every issue can be solved by simply treating the symptom or adjusting at the event level. Solution – buy cold medicine.

  1. The Pattern Level

If we look just below the event level, we often notice patterns. Similar events have been taking place over time — we may have been catching more colds when we haven’t been resting enough. Observing patterns allows us to forecast and forestall events.

  1. The Structure Level

Below the pattern level lies the structure level. When we ask, “What is causing the pattern we are observing?” the answer is usually some kind of structure. Increased stress at work due to the new promotion policy, the habit of eating poorly when under stress, or the inconvenient location of healthy food sources could all be structures at play in our catching a cold.

  1. The Mental Model Level

Mental models are the attitudes, beliefs, morals, expectations, and values that allow structures to continue functioning as they are. These are the beliefs that we often learn subconsciously from our society or family and are likely unaware of. Mental models that could be involved in us catching a cold could include: a belief that career is deeply important to our identity, that healthy food is too expensive, or that rest is for the unmotivated.

I hope you find a few minutes to apply the Iceberg Model to your own contexts and are able to reflect on the mental models that you are bringing to your analysis and decision-making processes.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

February 22, 2019 Message to Members

Issues Forum

Today I feel fortunate to set my sights on learning and connection. While it’s true that we learn and connect each day, a few hours of focused learning alongside your colleagues is truly something special.

For many years, the BCPVPA’s Issues Forum has been an annual opportunity for the Association to gather and present just some of the topics at the forefront of our members’ awareness. It won’t come as a surprise that our keynote speaker Alan Mallory will address mental wellness as one of the greatest challenges that we face: his presentation “Controlling Our External and Internal Focus & Improving Mental Health” will close out a day when our attendees have discussed and learned about youth substance abuse; suicidal behaviours in schools; challenges and opportunities in Indigenous education; focus schools; school growth plans; the graduation program; and the legal side of leadership.

The days of one-sided information delivery are thankfully behind us, and the interactive sessions at Issues Forum will invite dialogue, questions and connection. While we expand our knowledge and awareness, we’ll get to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues. The shared learning is a catalyst for connection.

We hope to cascade the Issues Forum topics to a platform that will be accessible to all interested members by hosting webinars on these issues and other emerging areas of interest in the Spring or Fall of this year. If there is a potential webinar topic that would enhance your practice, please reach out and let me know.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

March 1, 2019 Message to Members

Pink Shirt Day

This week in our schools, the hallways were awash with a sea of pink in every shade imaginable, colouring shirts, jackets, scarves and sweaters, and even painting cheeks and foreheads with hearts and positive messages. It’s a perfect example of everyone pulling in the same direction but doing it in hundreds of diverse ways.

From a simple act – a high school protest in small-town Nova Scotia, calling out the bullying endured by a grade 9 boy – Pink Shirt Day has made its mark in more than 180 countries.

There is a lot that we can take away from the initial stand made by two teenage boys and their group of friends. First, there is kindness and a recognition that sometimes everyone needs a hand. There is courage, to move beyond being a bystander, to speak up and to act. And there is compassion, and the ability to understand and respond to the isolation and lack of control that people can feel, then engaging to take action.

As Principals and Vice-Principals, those are strengths that we draw upon every day in our work. It’s important that we have the pulse of the social and emotional climate in our schools, and that we are able to balance the fundamentals of our practice with a sense of compassionate leadership and recognition of the many levels of support that we need to provide for students, teachers and staff. It can be as simple as being able to greet students by name, or to be onsite at the big game. It’s often the small acts that let the school community know that you are there, that you are present and that you care. We often refer to these little acts as positive school culture builders.

I hope that Pink Shirt Day brought your school together, and maybe inspired some new projects or innovations. Please let me know! I’d love to share what you’re doing in your schools.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

February 15, 2019 Message to Members


It’s right there on my wrist, telling me that it’s time to stand up, or time to take a breath.

I started using an app on my watch recently, and it’s truly the angel on my shoulder that reminds me to do those small things that are so vital to overall health. It’s made me consider transitions, and how often we’re focused more on ‘getting here’ than on ‘being here’.

A teacher I know uses a projector in the classroom to share that messaging with her students: it’s a visual marker that they all recognize, and it reminds them to pause between activities so that they can mindfully close one door before moving to the next.

I adopted a similar strategy recently on a visit to one of our Chapters. It was clear how challenging it was for some of our members to juggle their many commitments and make it to the meeting: some had only moments to spare on arrival, and you could see the anxiety and pressure they were feeling. I wasn’t sure how people would react, but instead of launching into the presentation as the clock hit the top of the hour, I asked everyone to stop for a moment, to close their devices and just to take a few breaths. Full disclosure: I confirmed that I would not lead them in the breathing: there are limits to my expertise! Everyone put down their phones and their pens, closed their laptops and visibly lightened in their seats. We transitioned.

Whether it’s the option of a sit/stand desk, a commitment with a colleague to run after school or embracing a little app on your wrist, there are cues that we can build into our lives that help us to take care of ourselves. On Monday, we have the gift of Family Day: I hope that day can be a time of transition for you, leaving the work aside for a moment and being with the people who are important in your life. On Monday, see if you can move past ‘getting there’ and into ‘being there’.

Take Care,


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