New Sask. Rivers director of education Finch begins role

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Photo Neil Finch began his role as director of education for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division on Aug. 1.

With the changing of the calendar from July to August, there has been a changing of the guard at the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

On Aug. 1, new director of education Neil Finch began his role at the head of the division. He said he applied for the position as a way to give back to education in a new way.

“I’ve been a part of Sask Rivers School Division for 10 years and contributing in a different way to the Division was something that I was excited about,” Finch said.

“When I think about the opportunity, I’ve got lots of different feelings around it, but (I’m) definitely humbled, honoured, excited.”

Finch previously worked in the division as a Superintendent of Schools, a position he started in 2013, having gained previous experience in other school divisions as a teacher, principal and Superintendent/CEO.

Finch earned a B. Ed. in 2000 and Masters of Education in 2006, both from the University of Saskatchewan. He has also completed formal certification in business, human resources and systems management.

In his career as a teacher, principal and administrator Finch has worked in the Wakaw School Division, Saskatoon East School Division, Prairie Spirit School Division, North East School Division and Turtle Mountain School Division in Manitoba. He served as a director of education in Turtle Mountain.

Although he brings a few of his own ideas as a former superintendent, Finch said he planned to keep Sask. Rivers on the same path set for them under the division strategic plan.

“I think the biggest thing for me is just helping us to focus in on our priorities,” he explained. “We have a Strategic Plan that the board has developed here in the last couple of years and within that there’s five priorities. I would like to help the school division to achieve our priorities and continue to focus in on what those look like.”

The five areas are learning and innovation, mental health and wellbeing, inclusion and cultural responsiveness, citizenship and relationships and governance and leadership.

“The foundation has been laid,” Finch said. “We’ve got a great strategic plan, in my opinion. We just need to ensure that it’s something we keep coming back to and focus in on because in education there’s so many different directions we can go with our focus. If we can focus on those five priorities, we will have lots of success.”

Prior to his hiring as director Finch was Superintendent of Schools for a decade and in his role on administrative council sat in on portions of board of education meetings and hopes to strengthen that relationship.

“Obviously one of my personal goals is just to get to know the board a little bit more and work on that working relationship that we’re going to have to have as well,” Finch said.

“I would say not always, but over the last 10 to 15 years, for sure, I saw myself in the role someday,” he added. “For me, it’s not really necessary about time. It’s more about that next challenge.”

Finch replaces retired director Robert Bravtvold who announced his retirement in November 2022 and concluded his term in June. He said that Bratvold leaves big shoes to fill as he departs.

“Robert, he will have his stamp on this school division for many, many years to come,” Finch said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with him for 10 years. We were great teammates, but I learned a lot from him as well at the same time.”

The Sask. Rivers board announced Finch’s hiring in November. Board chair Darlene Rowden said they made the decision after an extensive national search.

“We are very pleased that Neil will be moving into the Director’s role,” Rowden said in a press release. “He has demonstrated passion for providing the very best educational experiences for all students. He brings strategic thinking and data-informed decision-making that places students at the centre and we are confident that his leadership approach will support our staff in their efforts to provide excellence for all of our students and families.”

In his 10 years in the division, Rowden said, Finch has become well known to the Saskatchewan Rivers staff, students and families through his leadership successes and his involvement in many divisions, school and community initiatives.

In November, the Board thanked Bratvold, for his years of service and dedication to Saskatchewan Rivers and held a tribute to him in June.