A longtime staple at Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board meetings is moving on.
Barry Hollick, who recently stepped down as board chair, has announced he will also not run for re-election in 2024. He made the decision after realizing he passed a major milestone, having spent 65 years as part of the education system. That includes his time as a student, teacher, and trustee.
“I was chatting with both my sister and a friend and was commenting on the years that I have been in education,” Hollick remembered. “I said that I had added up everything, which included Kindergarten, student days, university days, teaching days and board days, and I said, ‘you know what it equals? Sixty-five years, and I said 59 of those years have been with the Public School Division in Prince Albert, so I said I think it’s time.”
This includes time as a student in Prince Albert School Division #3 and as a teacher and trustee in Saskatchewan Rivers.
“I said, ‘that’s a milestone,’” Hollick continued. “I said, ‘people retire at the age of 65, so I think it’s time for me to step back after 65 years.’ I said, ‘I will finish my term off on the board, which goes to 2024, but not plan to run for re-election.’”
Hollick worked closely with retiring education director Robert Bratvold for 11 years. Bratvold will retire in June at the conclusion of this school year.
When Hollick declined to run for the board chair position in November, rural trustee Darlene Rowden was elected and will spearhead the search for a new director.
“I really enjoyed working with him,” Hollick said of Bratvold. “He has done a remarkable job as our director. I am really pleased with him, but now it is time for us to look for a new director and I felt that a new chair should be in place for that director search because the new chair will probably work the next term with the director. I won’t be here.
“I will certainly assist in the hiring process and anything the chair needs for assistance or help I will provide, but I think for her to lead the process is much more effective.”
Rowden’s election follows the pattern of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division since it was created where they alternate rural and urban chairs. The first chair after amalgamation was Lew Hobson in 1997, followed by rural trustee Wayne Steen from 1998 to 2001, followed by the late urban trustee George McHenry from 2001 to 2003, followed by Steen again from 2003 to 2011 and finally Hollick from 2011 to 2022.
“When I was elected city trustee we then had a rural vice chair and so when we made the nominations that night, Darlene steps up as a rural chair and our vice chair ready to follow in her footsteps will be a city trustee Alan Nunn,” Hollick said. “I was very pleased to nominate Alan because I have known Alan for years. He worked with us and he knows the school division board very well.”
Once he made the decision he called Rowden and asked if she was ready. They talked about it, and she agreed to step up.
“She agreed that, yes she would be ready,” he said. “I really valued Darlene’s support when I was chair and she was vice chair, she was very supportive of any of the things that I was doing and appreciated that and we really worked well as a team and with the board.
“Then I came to the board meeting and announced that I would not be running again and I asked them to indulge me and I went down memory lane a little bit and I told them about the 65 year milestone and that was part of my decision.”
Hollick started Kindergarten before there was Kindergarten in the school system and attended English Kindergarten in the morning at St. Alban’s Catheral and afternoon Ukrainian Kindergarten at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church with two teachers he said were excellent.
“In fact when I had my birthday that year I invited, my poor mother, I invited every kid in both Kindergartens to my birthday party, so our house was filled with more than 30 people and those were the days they used to wrap coins and put them in the birthday cake,” Hollick said.
At that point in Prince Albert the business community lived in the downtown and Hollick attended Prince Edward School in what is now the Saskatchewan Rivers Education Centre from Grade 1 to 4.
As demographics shifted and the West Hill started to develop he then attended the brand new Arthur Pechey School until Grade 8
“We moved to the West Hill and we were in the very first class at Arthur Pechey School,” Hollick remembered. “It had just opened and south of Arthur Pechey was farmland.”
At that time, Riverside and Prince Albert Collegiate Institute were the high schools in the city.
“I went to PACI for my high school years. If you lived in the flat area you went to Riverside, if you lived in the hill you went to PACI,” he said. “(There were) two high schools in the city for the public system at the time, so I went to PACI.”
Interestingly Arthur Pechey, the former Prince Edward School and PACI all played a role in the convening years.
“My first teaching assignment was Arthur Pechey School for five years and then PACI for 10 and then ended up in this building the former Prince Edward School when it was the Education Centre and I had an office here as the President of the Teacher’s Association and then I have been sitting here as a board member for 17 years now, so I came full circle
“This is where it started and this is where it’s going to end the 59 years with the public system,” Hollick said.
The totals equal one year in Kindergarten, 12 years as a student, teaching for 30 years and 17 years as a board member for 59 years and five years at the University of Saskatchewan for education. Hollick taught at a number of schools and ended at Vickers School. Hollick explained that he never applied for administration because he wasn’t interested in it. Hollick’s administrative experience came for the STF as a councillor and then president of the PAATA for 10 years.
After teaching he was a member of the Kiwanis Club in Prince Albert and two members served on the Public School Board for years and they asked if he was interested in running.
“I said ‘I just finished 30 years I don’t know if I want to go back right away into it’ and they said ‘no you should run’ so I did. They had a special election that year that was when the province actually started amalgamating school divisions whether they wanted to or not and they announced the school divisions that would be created and we were on.”
“So I ran in that election and got elected and then continued to serve the board right up to today for 17 years, five elections I have stood for and was pleased to have support from the people of PA in getting re-elected,” Hollick said.
Reflecting back on his years as both a trustee and chair he remembers how prudent the division has been with finances and developing reserves. Because of this the PAC gymnasium could be built at Carlton with the division contributing $7 million and the province contributing $7.5 million.
“I tell you had we not had financial reserves we never would have gotten the Carlton Gym. We had to pay for half of that cost of $7 million and the province kicked in about seven and a half. But without our money we wouldn’t have that gym, we needed it so badly. The biggest high school in the province and we didn’t have gym space for activities,”
Another memory was the creation of the Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change (SRSC). Hollick picked up the student from British Columbia who helped to convince both students and trustees that it was a good idea.
“I picked him up at the airport brought him to a meeting with the board and separately with the students and I will tell you he energized the student group to such an extent that they wanted these ideas,” Hollick said.
Hollick explained that the SRSC brings a direct student voice that is not filtered as it is when it comes through principals and superintendents.
“But we never heard directly from the students so we thought having this Sask Rivers Students for Change group would be something new and from there we eased our board into accepting them as student trustees at the table because initially it didn’t even pass our own board to have student trustees. Once they got working with the students though they saw the value to hearing directly from students and it has gone on to win the Premiere’s Award for Excellence in Education as an initiative and we are really pleased with that,” Hollick said.
Another more recent concept that has also come from changing demographics is the work the board does with the Elder’s Council and the introduction of the Cree Language program at John Diefenbaker Public School
“That has been a real positive for us . So we are really, really pleased and we think that’s important for our community here,” he said.
Another memory for Hollick was getting though the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty during that time. The board chairs of every division met every day and discussed what was happening in the province before it eventually transitioned to once a week.
“Those were very helpful because everybody shared what they were doing. It was interesting hearing how you were going to handle graduation ceremonies in different places, some had drive in and drive through grads, so everybody did something different. But communication was key we had parents who objected to masking, we had staff who didn’t want to mask and then once vaccines were mandated that was really quite difficult,” Hollick said.
Hollick thanked his mentors on the board including Joy Bastness, Steen and McHenry.
“I have nothing but praise for the people I worked with and for the support they have given me,” he said. “I was humbled to be Chair for as long as I was and I really was appreciative of their support in so many of the endeavours that we accomplished. I will miss them in two years.”
He also mentioned the hard work of all of the superintendents and members of the administrative team.
“I’m going to be leaving the system with mixed feelings. I’m going to miss it but I look forward to after two years doing other things like traveling again,” he said.
Once he steps down for good, Hollick plans on doing a bit of travelling. He is looking to get back to Europe for lengthy periods of time.
“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Two more years of exciting things with Sask Rivers and a new director—when Robert says his final goodbyes we will have a new face here—and we will see what his or her ideas will be for taking us into the future.”