The South East Cornerstone Public School Division didn't have to look very far to find its new director of education.
Estevan's Lynn Little has been hired for the job, the division announced in a press release on April 25. The appointment takes effect on August 1.
Little has worked as a teacher, a principal and an administrator for South East Cornerstone – and the divisions that existed prior to being amalgamated into Cornerstone in 2006.
She has been the division's superintendent of education since 2009.
Earlier this year, she was hired to be the division's first deputy director of education – an appointment that would have taken effect on August 1. But just days after she was hired as the deputy director, the current director, Dr. Marc Casavant, stepped down, and so Little decided to apply for the director's post.
"We have a strong tradition in our school division of supporting students," said Little.
She looks forward to continuing to enhance those supports, while working with the board, she said.
Little expects her familiarity with the division's demographics, its past and present programs, and its future plans, will be beneficial.
There are some challenges facing the division, she said, but Little also views those as opportunities. A sector plan undertaken by the provincial leadership team already has some attributes that are being provided by the division.
The sector plan calls for all Grade 3 students to be able to read at that particular level by the end of their Grade 3 year.
"There are challenges within that, to ensure that we have the resources and the supports in place, and to ensure that we're moving forward," said Little. "Students move from learning to read to reading to learn at that point."
It's an ambitious goal, she said, but it'll be exciting to meet that challenge.
Graduation rates, particularly among First Nation students, need to improve, too, she said. The overall graduation rate within the division for the last three years was 83 per cent, which Little says is quite strong by provincial standards. Still, she sees room for improvement.
But graduation rates are only 38 per cent for First Nations youth.
"It's a challenge to continue to work with our First Nations families, students, parents, and to work through to find and develop programming that is supportive of the needs," said Little.
Credit recovery programs would help graduation rates, she said.
Cornerstone is also looking to work with chambers of commerce in the division to develop trades programs and apprenticeship courses.
Early learning and care programs represent a great opportunity for the division, she said. South East Cornerstone is one of only two divisions to have those services, which support children under the age of five to reach developmental milestones.
"We know that the more prepared students are coming into school – Kindergarten and then moving into Grade 1 – the more opportunity they have to meet the goal of reading at a Grade 3 level (when they leave Grade 3), and that is a huge predictor, down the road, of success for students," said Little.
There is also the Cornerstone Tomorrow program. There will be collaboration with schools and communities on what they want from their schools, programming and structures in five to 10 years.
"We certainly have infrastructure that is in need of studying and repair, as does the whole province," said Little.
Cornerstone also has to be efficient with the resources that they have to ensure students are achieving at high levels. And she is looking forward to watching the progress of the South East Community Mobilization initiative, which is responsible for the first regional hub program in the province.
Agencies come together to support families and youth in the division through the hub.
Little said Cornerstone now has several executive management posts to fill, including the superintendent of education and the deputy director of education job. Also, a couple of superintendents are retiring this summer.
"We have begun that recruiting process this week, and that, I think, is our first line of business and our first challenge, to ensure that we have continued strong leadership moving forward," said Little.
Little said she expects that she will continue to reside in Estevan, despite the new job. She has been commuting to Weyburn for the past five years, and she still has children enrolled in Estevan's schools.