Barry Hollick recently announced that he will not be running for another term as a trustee in 2024 for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division after spending a total of 65 years in the education system.
After stepping down as chair recently he also wanted to pay tribute to the administrative team that served Sask. Rivers. He said it’s one of the best he has ever seen in the public school system.
“We have five superintendents that I would match against anywhere in the province,” he said. “Each one has brought unique talents. They have brought elements to our school division that were needed and they have excelled at presenting them.”
The Superintendents include superintendents of schools Neil Finch, Tom Michaud, Cory Trann, Jennifer Hingley and new superintendent Garette Tebay.
Hollick also pointed to the work of Chief Financial Officer Jerrold Pidborochynski who worked in the system with former CFOs Dennis Moniuk and Don Lloyd before rising to his current position.
“He had excellent training for the job and he’s a young man. I am sure that he will be here for years and he will do an excellent job,” Hollick said.
Superintendent of Facilities Mike Hurd is also often credited for his excellent work with his team keeping buildings in the division, with several over 100 years old in excellent condition.
“I told Mike when I was here a few years back that I was worried Mike was going to retire before I did. I said, ‘Mike, you have to stay here as long as I do,’ and so far, so good. He’s been here (and) Mike has probably the best maintenance program for schools in the province.
“The condition of our buildings is just remarkable compared to what exists in some other areas and he does such a good job.”
Hollick also gave credit to the heart of the team, Joyce Ward, who acts as executive assistant to Director of Education Robert Bratvold. Hollick said she assists trustees with so many parts of their job while also assisting Bratvold.
“She is probably one of the best assets we have in the school division and when she leaves, boy, will those be big shoes to fill,” Hollick said.
Hollick’s administrative experience came for the STF as a councillor and then president of the PAATA for 10 years. In his time as president of the PAATA, one accomplishment he remembered was advocating for making schools a smoke-free workplace before it was commonplace.
“It was embarrassing,” Hollick remembered. “We are teaching kids about the problems with smoking and you would open the classroom door and clouds of smoke would come out of the staff room, so we put the motion forward. We were disappointed that SSTA, which was (the predecessor) to SSBA, hadn’t done that, so we said, ‘STF lobby the provincial government to declare schools non-smoking workplaces.’”
In addition to serving as teachers association president, Hollick was appointed to the first teacher health plan board, which was secured in bargaining. He said working on the very first health plan board was a memorable experience.
Hollick also had a role in amalgamation. The Prince Albert Division was an early adapter of amalgamation and in his role with the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation he was asked to talk to small divisions about the possibility.
“P.A, was kind of a model for amalgamation in the province and later on we did it with Parkland School Division where we gained those schools that were prior members there,” Hollick said.
Parkland included Big River, Debden, Canwood and Shellbrook. The division then added schools in St. Louis, Kinistino, and Birch Hills.
Hollick said he’s happy with how everything came together.
“When we amalgamated with Prince Albert Rural, we were a much larger system and I know there was some apprehension about them losing their identity, but everything seemed to have worked out well,” he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division also created their own Distance Learning Centre (DLC). Hollick said the idea was created by Sun West School Division who will now be administering the new provincial DLC.
“(We have) concerns about how that will be administered, so we are going to watch that carefully because the reason you have local boards, local voice, (is so) you can make decisions that impact people locally,” Hollick explained. “Sometimes a school division like Sun West isn’t the same as Sask Rivers or Saskatoon Public, so it’s important that local school divisions have a say. We are going to watch that closely and make sure that we get input on that front.”
Hollick also fondly remembers launching each school year with a barbecue at Carlton with every employee in the division where the board prepared the food.
He also remembers the school tours where trustees attempt to visit every school in the large division in two years to see what is happening.
“One of the highlights for me was I was at Berezowsky School and this Grade 3 or 4 student was taking us around the school for a tour and I say ‘if you can have a wish for something for your school what would that be’ and you would think it would be something new for the playground. He said to me ‘I would like to see us have a higher literacy rate in the school’. And I thought we were doing the right thing with the literacy program when a young student tells you that’s the goal for him,” Hollick said.