School super looks to social media

If you want to want to talk to Nanaimo school district's new superintendent, follow him on Twitter.

If you want to want to talk to Nanaimo school district’s new superintendent, follow him on Twitter.

Dave Hutchinson, who took the reins at the end of July from former superintendent Mike Munro, started a blog to generate discussion in the community about different education issues and also has a Twitter feed followed by students, parents and educators in Nanaimo and across the country.

“For me, the blog is an opportunity to put some of my own thinking out there without forcing anybody to read it,” he said. “Twitter is a really interesting form of social media because the people you attract are really diverse. You’re linked to a bunch of people with some pretty profound ideas on how to improve society.”

Hutchinson, who left a superintendent position with Regina Public Schools to come to Nanaimo, set out some priorities for his first year as the district’s top administrator.

First, he’s started building relationships with people in the school system and in the community who are key supporters.

Second, Hutchinson plans to develop a strong school board and senior management team that works well together and has a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities – improving board performance was one priority identified by trustees during the superintendent recruiting process.

To this end, he proposed a training program for board members, to take place from December to March.

Trustees approved the proposal this week. The training program will be led by a consultant well-known for his expertise at a cost of $25,000.

“I think the board wants to be more efficient,” said Hutchinson. “A big part of that training is to help the board become a stronger collective. It’s about assisting the board in focusing on their role … so they can spend a lot more time developing the big picture strategic plan.”

A third priority is boosting student achievement, which is where the blog and Twitter feed come in.

Hutchinson hopes to generate discussion in the community about ways to improve the system.

Aboriginal education is one area of particular interest – he started his teaching career on a First Nations reserve in Saskatchewan and helped develop aboriginal education policies in two school districts.

He plans to start in Nanaimo by meeting with elders who are committed to improving educational outcomes.

Hutchinson also spent the past six years in Regina working on a new model of educational instruction called self-regulated learning, in which students take the responsibility for learning into their own hands, figure out what helps them focus, and problem-solve along the way.

“It’s such a departure from traditional teaching that people have a hard time getting their heads around it,” he said.

While Nanaimo has educators who already embrace the teaching method, Hutchinson wants to see it expanded and hopefully get some principals involved in research activities.

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