For a man who has been recently labelled “outstanding,” Baccalieu Collegiate school administrator Roger Gillingham is quite modest.
During an educators’ conference in Toronto Feb. 23-27, Gillingham was one of 40 principals across the country to receive the distinct honour of the 2014 Canada’s Outstanding Principals award, one he shares with the entire school community.
“I look at it more as a school award,” he told The Compass March 12. “I’m just the one who was lucky enough to go and experience this (event).”
The award, which is given annually to deserving recipients, is presented by The Learning Partnership, an organization with a strong dedication to supporting the public school system in Canada for the past two decades.
Gillingham is one of two recipients from Newfoundland and Labrador for 2014. The other is Sheldon Barry of Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s.
School is key
Gillingham has been on staff at the Old Perlican school since it opened in 2002, and attributes the success of the school to the consistent and dedicated work his colleagues have put in over the past 12 years.
“I happen to have been at the school when it opened, and I’m still here,” he explained. “But the folks involved — the Baccalieu Collegiate school staff — they have to share in the recognition with me. Without the support I’ve had over the years, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things we have been able to.”
A group of local leaders, including the school’s vice-principal, Garland Button, wrote letters of support for Gillingham to include with his nomination.
"The school’s administrator’s council had suggested to Garland that I would have a good chance at receiving the award,” Gillingham explained. “So he sought out the support that he needed from people in school, students, school council, other organizations, businesses in the community and folks from the school district. He received a number of letters of support and put together the nomination package.”
For Gillingham, the conference wasn’t just about receiving the award. It was also about the interaction with professionals from across the country.
“The sessions and collaborations we had with one another as principals were remarkable,” he said.
During the week, the award winners attended different speeches and roundtable discussions with specialists from different industries, including banking CEOs, professors from post-secondary institutions and other business professionals.
Some of the sessions included brainstorming with fellow participants about issues their schools were experiencing, and collaborating to come up with some possible solutions.
At one point during the week, principals were placed in groups of five to participate in a co-consulting group. Gillingham was partnered with two administrators from Ontario, one from British Columbia and another from Alberta. They worked together for the entire week, discussing issues and solutions. But the group has decided to continue the practice.
Gillingham explained they have arranged to meet online to chat about progress and brainstorm more ideas to improve their school environments.
“We have a session planned for the last week of March to discuss our problems and find out how we made out with the solutions,” he said. “We will then take that information and plan for future sessions for as long as we want to.
“Working with people from all different parts of the country from all different school configurations — primary, elementary, junior high, high school. You can only imagine the different concepts and suggestions.”
Gillingham is looking forward to keeping in contact with the other principals, and believes it will be beneficial to each of the five schools.
$20,000 technology grant
An awards gala took place Tuesday night during the conference, where a surprise presentation was made to each receiving principal and their school.
Samsung Canada president James Politeski announced $1 million towards the 40 schools to purchase modern technology for classroom use.
The funding is called the, “solve for tomorrow technology grant,” which has been offered by Samsung since 2010. The funds will go towards researching technology barriers, opportunities and solutions for each classroom.
Baccalieu Collegiate is on the receiving end of $20,000, which Gillingham said will be beneficial to the already improving technology in the school.
The school purchased 20 tablets last year after raising money through an auction for more equipment. Now, with the extra funding, the school can add more to its inventory, and give more students the opportunity to use the technology. The purchase will be determined through a consultation process with Samsung.
“It’ll give the children the opportunity to experience 21st century learning,” Gillingham said.
Gillingham says the conference was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“The whole conference was remarkable in terms of the way it was set up,” he describes. “The experience overall was amazing.”
Much of the conference took place at the Rotman School of Management, but the awards gala took place at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto.
“The gala and awards presentations were second to none,” Gillingham recalls. “There had to be 400 people there, it was just an amazing atmosphere.”
After taking away much from the conference, Gillingham is hoping to begin implementing some of the ideas into Baccalieu Collegiate, with the support of the rest of the faculty.
“As a staff member, you work hard to try and do everything you can possibly do to offer the students the best you can,” Gillingham says. “Bottom line, we’re just trying to do everything we possibly can do to benefit the kids in our school.”