Sask Rivers director of education to retire at end of school year

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold announced his retirement effective July 31, 2023. -- Sask Rivers Public School Division photo

The Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division will begin the search for a new education director after current education director announced he will retire at the end of the school year.

The board announced Bratvold’s decision on Tuesday after approving motion to accept his resignation for the purpose of retirement at their meeting on Monday.

Bratvold explained that the decision involved lots of complex parts, but his desire to spend more time with family and friends was the biggest.

Reaching the retirement threshold of 30 years was also a factor.

“I have always told people that when you start the school year or when you are getting ready for the school year, if you don’t have some butterflies in your stomach, if you are not a little bit nervous and a little bit excited … you are probably not going to serve the kids as well as they deserve to be served,” he said. “I noticed that I was still keen, I had lots of ideas, but I’m not sure that I had that same level of excitement and anticipation that our kids deserve.

“I know there are people out there who will and do (good work), so I thought, ‘this is 30 years for me, I could retire, and I see some great parts of my life in retirement so maybe it’s time.’ I did lots of reflection for the last three months and came to the decision that yep this is the right time for me.”
The board of education accepted the retirement with mixed emotions. Former board chair Barry Hollick said they were thankful for Bratvold’s years of effective leadership, but also sad to not have his presence at the board table guiding the division.

“We, as a board have been very pleased with the work of Robert Bratvold,” Hollick said during the meeting. “We accepted his resignation with regret, but he has made plans for a bright future ahead. He leaves us in very good hands.”

New board chair Darlene Rowden made the motion and trustees approved it unanimously after coming out of their closed session. The resignation is effective July 31, 2023.

“He (Bratvold) did outstanding work on behalf of the board and the school division,” Hollick said. “He has an administrative team that he has put together and he leaves us in very good hands. He is respected by our teaching staff, our employees and all of the groups that he meets with. We have nothing to say except positive things about Robert and his leadership style. He will certainly be missed and we wish him well for the future.”

Bratvold has been Director of Education since 2011. The division said his caring and thoughtful leadership has helped them navigate many challenges and celebrate many achievements.

Under his leadership, the Division navigated threats to school board autonomy and managed budgets during severely challenging financial times.

Bratvold’s retirement coincides with the transition from Hollick to Rowden as chair.

“Darlene has been vice chair and so she has developed those leadership skills and all of that sort of piece, she has got that cased,” Bratvold said.

The situation is similar to when Bratvold was hired under for chair Wayne Steen,

“It is an interesting thing because Wayne Steen was the chair of the board when I was hired and had really strong connections to him as chair and then as trustee after that,” Bratvold said.

Bratvold explained that the director of education and the chair are the frequent connection between administration and the board of education.

“That has been Barry and I for the last 11 years. I really appreciated that continuity and connection and Barry’s strength, but I also look forward to that transition,” Bratvold said. “It is nice that I can work with Darlene as the chair for this year and then a new director gets an opportunity to develop a relationship.”

Despite the challenges, Bratvold has supported the Division in establishing meaningful partnerships, revitalizing its policy and procedures, expanding its student programming, and growing the Division’s passion and capacity for inclusion.

Bratvold’s last official day with the Division will be July 31, 2023 so there is also ample time to ensure a thorough process in the search for a new director. The Board will begin that recruitment process later this week.
Sometimes when directors of education retire or move on they assist in the transition but Bratvold plans on taking a more cautious approach.

“I’m going to support the board in technical things and give them advice or suggestions when they need, but I’m cautious and I don’t want to influence the board to simply choose someone who is exactly like me as their next leader,” Bratvold said. “That is a thing I am cautious about.”

His timing of announcing retirement works well in the hiring cycle for administration by school divisions.

“The board certainly has time to get their recruitment processes in place and find that next great leader for Sask Rivers, and the timing, I think, works well,” Bratvold said. “Generally school divisions look for senior leadership positions in that January, February, March time frame for the next school year. That’s just the cycle of hiring so that’s the time to do that.”

Plans to recognize and celebrate Bratvold’s contributions to SRPSD and public education will be coordinated and announced at a later date.