McCullough named finalist for Premier's Awards 

SD48 superintendent up for District Leadership award

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED. - FOLLOW THE LEADER Sea to Sky School District superintendent Lisa McCullough is a finalist for the District Leadership award at the 2019 Premier’s Awards in Victoria this October.
  • Photo submitted.
  • FOLLOW THE LEADER Sea to Sky School District superintendent Lisa McCullough is a finalist for the District Leadership award at the 2019 Premier’s Awards in Victoria this October.

The Sea to Sky School District's (SD48) top educator has been named a finalist for the 2019 Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education.

Superintendent Lisa McCullough is one of three finalists for the District Leadership award, to be presented at a ceremony in Victoria this October.

"I definitely struggle with awards in general, and I struggle to be nominated; it's not a comfortable thing for me," McCullough said over the phone on July 4.

"But what I would say is if there's any chance that the nomination and the recognition can bring awareness to the important work that our district is doing, then I'll just use it to try to share that."

Where SD48 gets some attention, McCullough believes, is in its six-year completion rates, which are now at the top of the province for all children.

"It's virtually 100 per cent. We graduate more First Nations students than any school district, (and) we graduate more children with special needs—those rates are at about 96 per cent," she said.

"I think that what I'm the most proud of with all of that is the moral stewardship of our staff, combined with their sense of teamwork to learn and actually get that work done."

It's not just the staff and students doing the work, McCullough added, but the parents and communities as well.

"What we have in common is that everybody cares about our children and our youth, and so everybody has a stake in it," she said.

"When you can align everybody, through that sense of moral purpose, and go after a common thing, instead of everybody just doing random things, that alignment is incredibly powerful, and I think that's what we're benefiting from."

McCullough has been superintendent for the past eight years, and is in her 30th year as an educator.

When she stepped into the role, graduation rates for all students were in the low 70 per cent range, while rates for students with First Nations ancestry were about 35 per cent, she said.

McCullough partly credits the shift to the district having an aligned education plan.

"When we learn from our most vulnerable students, the types of things that learners benefit from, then we can make those supports universal for everybody, and I think our most vulnerable children teach us what we need to know about the way people learn," she said.

"And then we apply it to the whole school district, and I think that's the thing—we have learned so much from our children, and I do think we're good at then scaling that up."

With the district still growing—an additional 133 students were enrolled district-wide this year, with about 1,000 more in total in the eight years McCullough has been superintendent—officials are still in discussions about how to manage the capacity.

Two new portables will be brought in next year (at Mamquam and Garibaldi Highlands elementary schools), while Don Ross Middle School will undergo renovations to add two new classrooms.

In Whistler, a brand new middle school remains the top priority, but it won't move ahead until the resort's growing demographics are better understood.

"What the ministry will want to do is ride that out over a bit of time to see if those (growth) numbers continue, because if they don't, they're not going to put a massive $30 million school in place; they would want to see us put portables in place and absorb the shock of those numbers," McCullough said.

"So I don't project that the middle school would be something that happens any time soon."

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