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David DeRosa

December 6, 2019 Message to Members

Themes of Connection

Sharing a few of my activities, experiences and perspectives with you through eNews each week has become an enjoyable part of my reflective routine. Given the diversity of each day’s content – and accounting for my own memory! – I’ve come to rely on a practice that has developed as a part of my compassionate systems leadership work: journaling. As I reflect on recent pages, the conferences held by both the BC School Superintendents Association and the BC School Trustees Association really stand out. As a ‘learner in the audience’, I appreciated the opportunity to hear from a number of global thought leaders and appreciated the inspirational and practical aspects of their presentations.

Margaret Wheatley challenges us to ‘use our leadership role to advance our values and faith in people; to choose to use our power and influence to be warriors for the human spirit.’ She framed her perspectives through a lens of ‘sane’ leadership, outlining the importance of maintaining a focus on the human and ethical responsibilities that leaders share. She challenged the audience by asking the question, “what good is connection if it is used to connect with negativity?”

Santa Ono spoke of humanizing our work and our roles as we develop a common vision for student success. Supporting students as they transition to their ‘lives after high school’ with an emphasis on health and wellness – both mental and physical – is critical.

Shane Safir shared her emotionally-rich narratives to highlight the power of ‘Street Data’, capturing the stories of students, families, and colleagues as vital sources of data. Data can take many forms, and the power of the narrative data is most impactful when we take the time to develop our leadership listening skills.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki used her personal family journey and science background to emphasize the importance of engaging in the climate conversation. What resonated with me was her message of supporting student engagement by developing resiliency through self-awareness and an understanding of the ecosystems of relationships. We are all interconnected, in nature and with each other.

These powerfully impactful perspectives share the common theme of connection. As your days get busier with the winter break on the horizon, I encourage you to be purposefully aware of your personal needs. At this time of the year, sustaining energy levels to support your school communities can be a challenge, but connecting with friends, family and colleagues is always a good strategy.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

November 29, 2019 Message to Members

More About Lobby Day at the BC Legislature

After posting last week’s column about the BCPVPA’s November 18 visit to the BC Legislature, I’ve received so much interest from members – many thoughtful questions, positive feedback and requests to find out more – so I’d like to take the opportunity to continue that story in this week’s column. Although the opportunity was brand new to us, and exciting to navigate, it’s very familiar to many BC organizations.

As I mentioned last week, the opportunity is informally called ‘Lobby Day’, and it’s a chance for BC groups and associations to introduce both their work and their priorities to the MLAs and Ministers who attend their sessions. It’s a really interesting facet of the daily business at the BC Legislature, and quite truly democracy in action: there are groups booked virtually every day that the Legislature is in session, some coordinating luncheons and after-work gatherings, and others organizing smaller meetings and presentations with MLAs and their staff.

Organizations that take advantage of this opportunity to meet with the provincial government represent a very broad spectrum of business, non-profit and labour enterprises. Recent visitors represented construction and resource interests, like the Canadian Home Builders Association, the Electrical Contractors Association and the Truck Loggers Association; health and research interests, like the Family Hearing Resource Society, the Denturists Association and LifeSciences BC; non-profit initiatives like Big Brothers & Big Sisters and Science World; and labour interests like the BC Nurses Union and the CLAC. Recent visitors also included professional associations like the Law Society of BC, and groups with an education focus like the Alliance of Students and post-secondary educators UFV and SFU.

The common objective of these groups is to have their voices heard by the provincial government, whether they are bringing forward a specific issue or focused on building a strong network that will benefit their organization over time. Through our luncheon and seven small-group meetings on November 18, we were able to speak directly with more than 40 MLAs, a half dozen of whom were Ministers. Some representatives who intended to meet with us were delayed by government business, and these MLAs received a package of our information.

It was such an honour and a privilege for me and BCPVPA senior staff to present the scope of your work and challenges to your local MLAs. Our ferry journey home on Monday night was a great time for reflection on the day, and on our next steps. I want to thank you for your continued passion about the work that you do, and for reaching out and expressing your interest in the work that we do on your behalf.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

November 22, 2019 Message to Members

Our Story

It’s fitting that we’re releasing our 2018-2019 BCPVPA Annual Report today. We’ve titled this yearly overview Our Year, and see it as more than a collection of the important facts and figures: it’s truly our story of representing our members, and supporting you in the work you do every day in your schools.

Earlier this week, we had an amazing opportunity to tell your story to a group of people who work hard to represent the people of BC at BCPVPA’s first-ever ‘Lobby Day’ at the BC Legislature. In smaller meetings and at a larger luncheon event, we engaged in the very enjoyable process of telling your local MLA about the depth of the role and what your work entails. While we did entertain a few quips about ‘being called before the Principal’, we were able to put the focus on your exceptional passion for your work, your schools and student success.

For many of the MLAs we met with on Monday, this was a first glimpse of the scope and complexities of the work of Principals and Vice-Principals. And while we told many positive stories about your journeys and achievements, we also introduced the challenges that you experience in the role, the health and work intensification issues in the sector and your concerns related to inequities in your contracts.

We were able to tell your story to more than 40 MLAs on Monday, representing nearly half of BC’s electoral districts: it’s a great place to start the conversation with your local provincial government representatives about how to support BC’s Principals and Vice-Principals in their roles in order to ensure continued high performance in our public education system. I hope that there will be many more chapters to this story.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

November 15, 2019 Message to Members

Advocacy, Representation and Leadership Development

This short and busy week has a very circular feeling for me, with curving patterns that are nested neatly right where they should be. I feel that I’m seeing a perfect exemplification of our Association’s mission statement through three events that mark this week.

 Serving members by supporting effective leadership in education through representation, advocacy and leadership development.

We’ll be immersed in representation at the Board of Director’ Meeting, Presidents’ Meeting and Chapter Council Meeting/ AGM this week. These events are opportunities for members to be represented by their peers, and for the regional voice to be carried to a provincial level. At these events, we witness the efficacy of meeting face-to-face, the continuation of conversations and the power of table talk where we hear about the individual experiences that inform our work.

Serving members by supporting effective leadership in education through representation, advocacy and leadership development.

We’ll embrace advocacy when we travel to the BC Legislature on Monday November 18 and hold our first BCPVPA Lobby Day with several groups of BC MLAs. We have an exceptional opportunity to introduce the work and challenges of our members to this provincial government cohort that has influence on the work that our members do in the public education system, and we’re looking forward to answering questions and having many meaningful conversations.

Serving members by supporting effective leadership in education through representation, advocacy and leadership development.

We’re showcasing leadership development as part of this week’s launch of our new BCPVPA magazine, Principl(ed). You’ll soon be receiving this publication that strives to tell the stories of our members. We see it as just the beginning of a journey that will reveal the work of our members, both within our membership and far beyond. Principl(ed) magazine is the first phase in a new awareness campaign that will start to roll out soon. Don’t be surprised if you see a colleague’s face smiling at you from your Twitter feed or from your local community newspaper.

There’s a lot to look forward to: I can’t wait to tell you more.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

November 8, 2019 Message to Members

Back on the Road

On this, the Friday before November 11, I want to acknowledge the role that Principals and Vice-Principals play in planning and hosting Remembrance Day Ceremonies in their schools and communities. It’s a time of providing both youth and elders the opportunity to share in reflection, and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy a life of peace. Thank you for your efforts, your attention to the small details and your accommodation of the diverse needs of many.

My Fall 2019 On the Road theme continued this week, with a return to Vancouver Island and visits to Chapters in SD71 Comox Valley, SD72 Campbell River and SD69 Qualicum. My heartfelt thanks to Presidents Charles Schilling, Laird Ruehlen and Lori Marshal for coordinating my visits and arranging for meetings and presentations. I often refer to the unique contexts I experience as I travel around our wonderful province, but I also appreciate the common themes and characteristics that school leaders share with me in our conversations. This week’s Island visits really highlighted this experience.

As leaders, we are quick to share the positive student progress in our schools, initiatives that increase student engagement, new strategies and resources that support our staff in their work and so much more. I’m filled with positive energy when I see and hear about your collective positive impacts on student success and your school communities as a whole.  But there’s more. Our complex work and the time that is required to ‘get it right’ continues to be the consistent and common theme across our provincial landscape.  When I ask the simple question, “How are you showing up in this moment?”, the majority of us are initially challenged to respond honestly. We struggle to give ourselves permission to ask the question, “how am I?” because, too often, we already know the answer.

My work with compassionate systems has shown me that there are small actions we can take to support ourselves and each other. These small first steps are important, as the larger systemic changes will take time. Small actions are important for sustaining and recharging. As leaders, we know that modelling is an important strategy in our work. Do as I say, not as I do just doesn’t cut it anymore. Our days are busy and the ‘to do’ list really can grow over the course of the day, but there are many times in a day where transitions occur. The beginnings and endings of meetings are an example: take 3-5 minutes at the start of a meeting to be present and engage in a ‘check-in’ process, to focus your thoughts and to literally catch your breath. It’s a small step, a little pause that creates time for self-awareness and gives others involved in the conversation time to do the same. This small action typically produces a simple outcome: a much more effective and focused use of time.

I have to admit that the first few times I led a brief check-in, I felt a bit of ‘imposter syndrome’. I now realize I was actually feeling very vulnerable in sharing a new practice. As leaders, we often ask others to do this exact thing. By modelling this practice, we can accomplish three important system outcomes: self-awareness by being present; providing others with time and space to gather themselves; and acceptance of showing vulnerability, not as a weakness but as a part of compassionate leadership. I encourage you to give ‘checking in’ a try.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

November 1, 2019 Message to Members

Connecting With Leaders

As I noted last week, my road trip to visit with members in our Okanagan area Chapters followed a bend in the road to the BCPVPA Connecting Leaders Conference in Penticton. More on that a bit later in this column, as I have a lot to relate about my visit to our Okanagan colleagues.

My trip started in Oliver, where I met with Superintendent Bev Young and had a great discussion about BetterEducate and the BCPVPA Leadership Standards as the framework for the growth planning process. Then it was on to Southern Okanagan Secondary where Principal Tracy Harrington and Vice-Principal Stacey Smith gave me the school tour and generously accommodated my aspiration to be the ‘I’ in ‘Kind’. We also had an opportunity to chat with staff and students in the library and theatre spaces, and then I was able to see the foods and cafeteria team in action as they prepared another amazing lunch for the school community.

On route to Grand Forks, I stopped in at Boundary Central Secondary School and spent time with Principal Bo MacFarlane. Although I had been to BCSS several times over the years – primarily as a rugby coach – Bo gave me a tour of the school, including the drama and theatre facility which he calls the ‘heart of the school’. Just outside of the main entrance to the school is a very special place, their outdoor Indigenous classroom space which features a rich cultural history and incredible rock sculptures by a local Indigenous artist.

A little further down the road, in Grand Forks, I chatted with Superintendent Ken Minette and we talked about the importance of keeping student success in the forefront of our decision-making processes. Ken is a fan of BetterEducate, and last school year used the BackBEat Channel function in eliciting feedback and inviting response from community members when developing a shared vision for the District. Grand Forks Secondary Principal Brian Foy and I talked about some of the challenges rural schools are facing with specialty teacher recruitment. Creativity and flexibility are a big part of the strategy, sprinkled with a fair bit of resiliency and a whole lot of team work at all levels.

At Christina Lake Elementary, I was met by Principal Shawn Lockhart and was invited by teacher Sarah Stoochnoff and her grade 1 class to practice mindfulness. I was impressed by the poise and focus of the students as we moved through the session. When prompted to share with me why they were doing the activity, the students informed me they were “developing their pre-frontal cortex.” I know: amazing! As I walked through Christina Lake Elementary, I could feel the calming influence of Sarah and her colleagues’ work with breathing, mindfulness and contemplative practices. This purposeful work is reflected in the evidence and artifacts in their School Plan which was shared with me by teacher Kirsten Rezansoff.

That evening, I met with the other SD51 Chapter members and enjoyed talking about my work with Compassionate Systems Leadership and the tools and projects in development through our MIT cohort.

The following day featured a memorable drive through the Boundary, Similkameen and South Okanagan regions. The fall colours were incredible and memorable! Fueled by a coffee and butter tart from the Deadwood Junction Café in Greenwood, I arrived in Penticton in the late afternoon in time to meet Chapter President, Heather Rose. We made our way to Theo’s Restaurant, where our SD67 Chapter colleagues had gathered for an opportunity to hear some of my provincial perspectives and to ask questions about current trends. It was wonderful to hear SD67 members’ perspectives, and I learned about how they have engaged in a research and evidence-based plan for Wellbeing in Leadership, with their ‘Wise Friend’ initiative, which “serves an important purpose in creating a sense of connection and belonging for our members”.

The next day, prior to the initial registration and kickoff for Connecting Leaders, I met with Superintendent Wendy Hyer and enjoyed a rich conversation that touched on recruitment, retention and enrolment challenges, and also many of the positive opportunities that are part of the SD67 leadership experience.

My Penticton visit concluded with the Connecting Leaders Conference, and the experience was full of reminders of the importance of ‘Cultivating a Climate of Leadership’ in our work. There was so much to take away, and I will just note some moments that made an impression. Peter DeWitt started his Friday morning keynote by reminding us that we teach the kids we have, and not the ones that we want. Gabrielle Scrimshaw talked about how children are born into their life dynamics, but that it can take only a small ‘nudge’ from a supporter to make a difference in their life journeys. John Chenoweth offered that blaming the system no longer works – we are the system.

A successful conference is the result of a great deal of work and planning: thank you to the Co-Chairs Burt Bergmann and Raelyn Larmet, Site Chair Kirsten Odian, and the 2019 Committee. I’d like to thank our staff for their behind-the-scenes coordination: Jessica Antosz, Liz Bell and Amorie Kruger who made it all run, Don Boyd who supported our exhibitors and prize draws, and Sandra Murphy who wrangles our information and brings our work to life visually. And a big thank you to the members who – as Breakout presenters – prepared for their sessions while managing and leading in their diverse roles. You gave a very special gift: your time!

I know that for myself, occasions like the conference give me a chance not only to gather new learning but also to catch up with our members. I hope that the conference attendees were able to connect with new materials and strategies that they can bring back to their schools, and to connect with colleagues both established and new, as we shared the experience of Connecting Leaders.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

October 25, 2019 Message to Members

Connecting Leaders 2019

I’ve been fortunate to be out on the road again this week in SD 53, 51 and 67. It’s such a beautiful part of the province in the Fall, as the leaves change colour and that brisk chill is starting to creep into the edges of each day. I’ve been grateful for some clear sunny days, and for many rich conversations with the leaders in these districts. I’ll catch you up with more information in next week’s column, but I did want to give you a taste of how fortunate I am not only to meet our members on these trips, but also to connect with students. This friendly pair of Kindergarten student at Christina Lake Elementary School introduced me to one of their favourite classroom features and – as you can see – I have no choice but to agree!

I’m wrapping up my week with one of our favourite events of the year. BCPVPA’s Connecting Leaders Conference brings together more than 300 of our members from all over the province. The conference is held regionally each October, and this year we are fortunate to be at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre.

We are thrilled to have exceptional keynote speakers with us again this year. On Friday, Peter DeWitt will focus on how leaders can both foster growth in their teachers and put the focus on learning for students, and on Saturday, we will first have Gabrielle Scrimshaw’s look at how Indigenous demographics are changing Canada, and the role of education in the reconciliation process, and then Dr. John Chenoweth will examine Indigenous education today through weaving a traditional Syilx/Okanagan story, the Four Chiefs.

We feel very fortunate to have these respected speakers at the conference to inspire us and provoke both thought and dialogue. And we are just as fortunate to have our own members who have stepped forward to share their expertise and innovative learning through leading our Friday breakout sessions. Conference attendees will hear about a huge scope of topics, including how to create learning teams; Indigenous ways of leading; human-centered leadership development and so much more. Attendees can browse the conference app: the link is in last week’s conference confirmation.

I know from experience that it can feel daunting to propose and lead a session for your peers, but experience has also taught me that there are countless rewards for this courage, and new connections that will blossom. It’s often hard to draw attendees back from the breakout sessions, as meaningful conversations are being spun in each room. And, to me, that’s inspiration: the value of our members relating their lived experience, and the opportunity for leaders to share with others is often the most memorable and significant experience that conference attendees will take away with them. It’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to, and I hope that our members attending the conference will share with us and with others the new learning that they embrace at this year’s Connecting Leaders.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

October 18, 2019 Message to Members

Haida Gwaii

Tuesday was an early start as I said ‘goodbye’ to Thanksgiving Monday, and made my way through Vancouver’s morning rush to the south terminal to board my flight to Haida Gwaii. I was a little nervous when, shortly after boarding, I received a text from Chapter President Verena Gibbs, “if you land, text me to let me know you’ve made it!” I had to wonder: if landing is ‘Plan A’, what’s Plan B?

I landed safe and sound, and everyone I met during my stay was shocked that I did: it turns out that they experienced a very powerful storm the night before.

Storm? What storm?

I made my way down the coast to GidGalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School In Queen Charlotte City and met Principal Deavlan Bradley and Vice Principal Debi Laughlin. Deavlan was covering the music class as the teacher was unable to get back to the island after the long weekend: the recent stormy weather had kept the ferry from crossing the Hecate Strait. Due to a lack of TTOC availability, both Deavlan and Debi frequently cover classes. Debi was available to give me a great school tour, and I admired the many hallway portraits of scholarship recipients and students who have transitioned to post-secondary.

A storm had rolled in while I was chatting with Debi, so I turned on the windshield wipers and headed back up the highway to meet Principal Leighann Rodger at Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary in Skidegate. The architecture in Leighann’s school was striking, and while giving me a quick school tour she shared interesting stories that helped to provide context for many of the unique works of art throughout the school.

The final stop of the day was a dinner meeting with many of the Chapter members including Vice-Principal Sarah Finnie who hosted us at Port Clements Elementary, part of the Port Clements community center that houses the library and many other community services. It was a pleasure to meet Joanne Yovanovich, Principal Aboriginal Education and Vice-Principal Will Bedard of Agnes L. Mathers Elementary who traveled by ferry from Sandspit. I was glad to have the chance to chat with Vice-Principal Christine Cunningham who I first met at Short Course I this summer. Our dinner meeting offered great opportunities for conversation and questions. The group was interested in hearing about provincial perspectives, and looking at the growth plan module in BetterEducate.

On Wednesday morning, I was determined to join the BCPVPA Book Club that started at 7:30am. I had to travel a bit through that beautiful early morning to get a strong enough signal to join by Zoom, but was able to join a chat room and have an enjoyable conversation with colleagues about the themes that arise from Chapter 2 of Michael Fullan’s Nuance.

After a hearty breakfast, my final stop was at Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary School in Masset, where I met with Principal Ian Keir. Ian gave me a quick tour, and one highlight was an original mural by renowned Haida artist Robert Davidson [G̲uud San Glans], who painted the mural in the school’s original gym in 1964 before moving to Vancouver to enrol in high school (there was no high school on the island at that time). The mural had been painted over a number times and had to be professionally uncovered. The other highlight was seeing and smelling the work of the school’s Foods Program students. Each day the whole school sits down together to enjoy a hot lunch, and Ian refers to this as the heart of the school. Unfortunately, I had a flight to catch and could not join them.

I will cherish my time in Haida Gwaii. My sincere thanks to Principal Verena Gibbs for taking the time to coordinate an amazing visit to the school district and sharing wonderful stories from Haida Gwaii.

Take Care,


David DeRosa

October 11, 2019 Message to Members

Recognizing Opportunity

For this week’s column, I’d like to share a story. This story sprang to mind as I prepared to spend time with PLD representatives this past weekend in workshops that dove into the integration of the Leadership Standards into BetterEducate. Here we go:

For the annual corporate conference and AGM of a company with 130,000 employees, 300 executives and their partners flew in from all over the world to spend four days in Boca Raton, Florida.

On the last day of the four-day conference, a team of people in the organization knew they had one shot at convincing their chief executives that the company had an incredible opportunity to capitalize on a new product – the Altos – and pulled out all the stops.

The presenters showed the senior team how the Altos could edit documents, draw bar charts, toggle between software programs, and pull up documents and drawings from stored memory. Using a mouse, they highlighted text on screen, remotely collaborated with others in other countries, completed expense forms electronically, forwarded them for processing, typed in foreign language characters, sent emails, and printed documents.

Their presentation was compelling, poignant and hands-on. They shared the rave reviews from employees. They literally had lists of offices who wanted to use the Altos. Despite a near perfect execution, the executives all but ignored the opportunity. The Altos was dead.

The executives didn’t see the need for ‘glorified typewriters’. They had no true appreciation for the experiences, roles or responsibilities of the majority of their employees. They lacked empathy, and the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes.

The year was 1977. The company was Xerox.

Imagine if those CEOs had growth mindsets, appreciated the opportunities presented by collaboration, and recognized the efficiencies. Imagine if those CEOs were versed in empathy, compassion and systems thinking.

Peter Senge, father of compassionate systems thinking, states that “Deep, shared reflection is a critical step in enabling groups of organizations and individuals to actually ‘hear’ a point of view different from their own, and to appreciate emotionally as well as cognitively each other’s reality. This is an essential doorway for building trust where distrust had prevailed and for fostering collective creativity.“

As leaders in the education system, it is critical that we recognize that we are part of this system. Our PLD representatives are a hub in this system. Last weekend was a brilliant opportunity to shine a light on how this interconnected system offers incredible opportunities for support and leadership capacity development.

Those representatives left the weekend sessions with new knowledge and skills, and with a refreshed awareness that they are connected to colleagues and have expertise that can be shared to help others grow. You’ll be hearing more from them.

By the way: seven years after the Altos presentation meeting, Apple released the MacIntosh.

Take Care,


Principl(ed) Magazine

Read the March 2020 issue of BCPVPA’s member magazine

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