Welcoming more new students every year
Founded in 1906, Surrey School District (SD36) is the largest school district in British Colombia. It provides online and in-class elementary and secondary education to over 78,000 students across over 130 schools every year.
SD36 is also one of the fastest growing in the region. In just one year, the district enrolled an additional 2,200 students—the equivalent of adding two new elementary schools and one secondary school to its student body.
“We want to thank parents and guardians for choosing our district and we want them to know that we are committed to ensuring that every student has access to quality learning environments that will help them grow and develop,” says Mark Pearmain, superintendent of schools and CEO at SD36. “And with the exponential growth that we’re seeing in enrollment, it’s imperative that we onboard new staff quickly and ensure they have the support and training they need to thrive.”
When new staff join SD36, they take mandatory occupational health and safety training and attend professional development courses on a range of topics like equity, anti-harassment, and staff wellness.
“As educators, we spend a lot of time working to ensure that our lessons are engaging, accessible and fun for our students,” continues Pearmain. “But we often forget to do the same when it comes to professional development for our staff. Traditionally, onboarding and development sessions were hours-long, in-person presentations, which weren’t always convenient for staff to attend. It was also difficult to standardize sessions or reuse materials, and there was no easy way for attendees to revisit the course content later.”
Enhancing professional development
To onboard new staff more efficiently, the district is looking to build online training courses for staff using Brightspace—an initiative that would help the organization to standardize training across all schools and district sites to enrich the learning experience for staff.
“Brightspace is the perfect platform for our online staff training initiative,” comments Pearmain. “It’s packed with features that make onboarding much more engaging and dynamic. The value of technology is to create a space where all course materials are permanently available online, so our staff can review what they’ve learned at any time. We are hoping to move from a passive professional learning model to an active one where we are continuously able to revisit topics and practice new learnings.”
So far, SD36 has set up 13 professional development and training courses for its staff, which it’s piloting across the district. Future course development will be occurring this summer. At the same time, the organization is piloting the use of portfolios for principals and vice principals to capture their professional journey and career development.
“A lot of training courses are mandatory to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all staff, and it’s important that we have a user-friendly platform that allows staff and the district to be able to easily review courses to ensure that all staff have the right training for their roles,” says Pearmain.
With portfolios in Brightspace, our principals and vice principals can capture and reflect on their learning moments and track their progress journey throughout the years.Mark Pearmain, superintendent of schools and CEO
Preparing for future growth
“We can operate our mandatory staff training programs more efficiently than ever before thanks to D2L Brightspace,” explains Pearmain. “What’s more, we are standardizing the whole process, so it’s easier to scale up training across the entire district and ensure that all key topics are covered.
“Our staff are pleased with the new approach, too. They can complete training sessions online at a time that works best for them, while still being able to access support from their mentors when they need it.”
Impressed by the success of its online teacher training initiative, SD36 is exploring other ways to use Brightspace to enhance its HR processes and deliver training on a wider range of topics like cybersecurity, privacy training or diversity and inclusion. Additionally, they hope to continue creating courses that can help serve as templates and pave the path for others to utilize courses as a resource.
“If we can create something that allows another district to leverage that work and resources, , that’s a win for us and a wins for them,” Pearmain continues.
“We’re just getting started on our digital professional development journey, and we have big plans to enhance staff training in the months ahead,” concludes Pearmain. “Most of all, working with D2L on this project has helped us to establish solid foundations for future growth so we can continue to provide our students with world-class education.”