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2021 VIRTUAL Start Right Program for Beginning School Leaders

General Information

General Resources and Presentation Materials

Professional Practice Standards
LQS: Alberta Teachers Association  Self Reflection Tool
Fort McMurray Public LQS Professional Growth Plan
Holy Spirit Adaptation of CASS Practice Profile for School Authority System Leaders
Alberta Education Act 
Alberta Education – TGSE policy
United Way – Words to Live By

The College of Alberta School Superintendents’ (CASS) 23rd Annual Start Right course for newly appointed school principals, assistant/vice-principals, and aspiring leaders.

Program Features

The Start Right course is designed to bring participants together as a leadership learning community with a focus on providing opportunities for:

  • Exploring and experiencing the Leadership Quality Standard competencies;
  • Reflecting, sharing ideas and building on school leadership experiences and best practices;
  • Gaining new ideas and resources through engaging presentations and interactive learning activities facilitated by educational leaders with a wealth of school and school system experience;
  • Meaningfully addressing issues and challenges encountered by school leaders and developing practical strategies for action;
  • Networking with colleagues from other school jurisdictions;
  • Establishing through participation in cohorts a forum for building relationships, learning with and from each other, and an opportunity for continuing to offer support and assistance as an extension of the workshop learning experience;
  • Extending the learning experience through university graduate coursework, if desired;
  • Enhancing a personal understanding and approach to educational leadership and practice profile;
  • Further developing a vision for successful school leadership; and
  • Providing practical support for the 2021-2022 school year through email advice and articles.

Arrangements can be made through Alberta universities to extend the Start Right 2021 learning experience for graduate level course credit.  Participants will be required to pay a tuition fee to the university and to meet additional course requirements. Individuals who are interested in receiving more information in regarding university course credit may contact Colleen Symyrozum-Watt at 587 879-7026 or symwatt.colleen@gmail.com.

Day 1 - Jul 6

8:20 a.m. Daily Launch Activity: 3, 2, 1 Blast Off!

Creating Safe and Caring Schools
Presented by Dr. Scott Morrison

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

This session will address the LQS competencies of:

  • Building Effective Relationships,
  • Visionary Leadership,
  • Leading Learning

What will the participant learn as a result of attending this session that is related to the LQS?

Participants will learn practical strategies and systems that can be applied on a daily basis to create more safe and caring schools.  How can I apply positive psychology practices as a school leader to realistic school scenarios?

Module Overview

Thoughtful administrators engage in routine activities every day to help ensure their schools are safe and caring. Scott will share some principles from both personal experience and research that empower administrators to create a safe and caring culture in a very intentional way. Scott’s focus will be on how the administrative team can create and promote a safe and caring culture by managing attention and by managing meaning.

Presented by Dr. Scott Morrison

Dr. Scott Morrison is the Superintendent of Christ the Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools, serving approximately 10,000 students in Okotoks, High River, Brooks, Strathmore, Canmore, Drumheller, and Oyen. Scott has been an educator for over 30 years, also serving in roles as a secondary classroom teacher, an elementary school principal, a high school principal, a division principal, and an associate superintendent. Scott also serves as an instructor in educational psychology at St. Mary’s University, and a LQS and SLQS instructor for St. Mary’s University and the University of Calgary respectively. Scott has a B.Ed. from the University of Lethbridge, an MA from Gonzaga University, and an Ed.D. from Taft University. Scott has presented dozens of professional development workshops on the topics of academic achievement, creating safe and caring schools, organizational storytelling, classroom management, and educational leadership. This is the 16th consecutive year that Scott will be presenting at Start Right.

The Science of Wellbeing and Resilience
Presented by Dana Fulwiler

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

This session will address the LQS competencies of:

  • Fostering Effective Relationships,
  • Modeling Commitment to Professional Learning,
  • Embodying Visionary Leadership,
  • Leading a Learning Community,
  • Developing Leadership Capacity, and
  • Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

What will the participant learn as a result of attending this session that is related to the LQS?

  • What is positive psychology and how can I apply it to support my own wellbeing and resilience, and navigate the realities of the pandemic?
  • How can I apply resilience practices for myself, staff, students, and teams?
  • How can I apply positive psychology practices as a school leader to realistic school scenarios?

Module Overview

Fewer and fewer teachers are aspiring to leadership positions. Frankly, it’s tough work. Your role is to support students, staff, parents, community and government, when often there are competing priorities. A number of studies highlight the stress that school administrators face each day in today’s complex contexts. Some amount of stress is indeed normal and can be motivating. However, pervasive stress is not healthy, detracts from important work, and leads to burnout. Rates of burnout in the first four years of school leadership positions are much too high. This is especially critical as it takes up to seven years to have the impact we dream of when first getting into this career. We would like to provide you with a few tools to help you enjoy a full and satisfying formal leadership career. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint!

Wellbeing and resilience are becoming increasingly prioritized in education as research, lived experience, and challenges of the pandemic emphasize their impact on teaching, learning and leading. School leaders face unique challenges in maintaining balance and wellbeing, and they also have an opportunity to create environments in which wellbeing is valued and modeled. In this application-focused session we will explore research-based tools to help build school leaders’ capacity and confidence in wellbeing and resilience, through the lens of their unique realities and opportunities.

You will engage in content from the science of individual and organizational wellbeing and learn how to enhance psychological capital in yourself and your school teams. You will develop a language to safely construct meaningful conversations about wellbeing with staff and students. Together you will apply these practices to realistic school scenarios, illustrating opportunities to transfer this new knowledge to your schools right away this fall. Research-based tools + action + practice = wellbeing and resilience habits that build capacity, competence, and confidence to support you in a healthy, sustainable, impactful career.

This session applies to all of the Leadership Quality Standards; school leaders must be well in order to meet the competencies as indicated by the standard.

Presented by Dana Fulwiler

Dana Fulwiler is an educator and consultant. Her experience over the past 15 years spans public education, non-profit, and post-secondary, including Teacher, International Coordinator, Projects Coordinator with EAS, and System Specialist with the CBE. Dana holds a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania, where she now serves as an Assistant Instructor. She is also a Sessional Instructor in the BEd program at the University of Calgary. Through both MAPP and her Master of Education research, Dana has studied with leading researchers and psychologists in mental health and resilience and explored best practices for supporting educator and student wellbeing. This includes learning directly from the founders of positive psychology (Martin Seligman) and Appreciative Inquiry (David L. Cooperrider). Dana currently serves on an expert panel with the Government of Alberta exploring COVID-19’s impact on child and youth wellbeing. Contact: danaful@upenn.edu.

Day 2 - Jul 7

Overview of Teacher Supervision and Evaluation
Presented by Elissa Corsi, ATA Executive Staff Officer of Teacher Employment Services

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

To deepen the understanding and apply the learning to support implementation of professional practice with newly appointed or aspiring school leaders.

Related LQS competencies participants will explore and experience:

  1. Fostering Effective Relationships (such as – engaging in collegial relationships while modeling and promoting open, collaborative dialogue; communicating, facilitating and solving problems effectively; and implementing processes for improving working relationships and dealing with conflict within the school community.)
  2. Modeling Commitment to Professional Learning (such as – engaging with others such as teachers to build personal and collective professional capacities and expertise; seeking, critically reviewing and applying educational research to inform effective practice; and engaging members of the school community to build a shared understanding of current trends and priorities in the Education system.)
  3. Embodying Visionary Leadership (such as – communicating a philosophy of education that is student-centred and based on sound principles of effective teaching and leadership; promoting innovation, enabling positive change, and fostering commitment to continuous improvement; and accessing, sharing and using a range of data to determine progress towards achieving goals.)
  4. Leading a Learning Community (such as – creating an inclusive learning environment in which diversity is embraced, a sense of belonging is emphasized, and all students and staff are welcomed, cared for, respected, and safe; developing a shared responsibility for the success of all students; cultivating a culture of high expectations for all students and staff; creating meaningful, collaborative learning opportunities for teachers and support staff;  establishing opportunities and expectations for the positive involvement of parents/guardians in supporting student learning; creating an environment for the safe and ethical use of technology; collaborating with community service agencies to provide wrap-around supports for all students who may require them, including those with mental health needs; and recognizing student and staff accomplishments.)
  5. Supporting the Application of Foundational Knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit (such as – aligning resources and building the capacity of the school community to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit student achievement; enabling all school staff and students to gain a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the histories, cultures, languages, contributions, perspectives, experiences and contemporary contexts of First Nations, Métis and Inuit; and pursuing opportunities and engaging in practices to facilitate reconciliation within the school community.)
  6. Providing Instructional Leadership (such as – building the capacity of teachers to respond to the learning needs of all students; implementing professional growth, supervision and evaluation processes to ensure that all teachers meet the Teaching Quality Standard; ensuring that student instruction addresses learning outcomes outlined in programs of study; facilitating mentorship and induction supports for teachers and principals, as required; demonstrating a strong understanding of effective pedagogy and curriculum; facilitating the use of a variety of technologies to support learning for all students; ensuring that student assessment and evaluation practices are fair, appropriate, and evidence informed; interpreting a wide range of data to inform school practice and enable success for all students; and facilitating access to resources, agencies and experts within and outside the school community to enhance student learning and development.)

Module Overview

In Alberta, teachers are expected to meet the Teaching Quality Standard (TQS), which is a Ministerial Order. Quality teaching occurs when the teacher’s ongoing analysis of the context, and the teacher’s decisions about which pedagogical knowledge and abilities to apply result in optimum learning by students. Principals are expected to provide ongoing supervision and evaluation of teachers on the basis of the TQS and certification in Alberta is also based on the TQS. This session takes a look at the TQS and helps school leaders better understand the expectations to be met by teachers and what their role is within the LQS framework and provincial policy.

Presented by Elissa Corsi, PhD

Elissa Corsi, PhD is an Executive Staff Officer in the Association’s Teacher Employment Services program area. She worked as a teacher and administrator in Alberta schools, both English and French Immersion, before joining the ATA

Seeing the Big Picture: Leading Upward and Outward
Presented by Dr. Jody Dennis and Ray Hoppins

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

To deepen the understanding and apply the learning to support implementation of professional practice with newly appointed or aspiring school leaders.

Related LQS competencies participants will explore and experience: Building Effective Relationships, Visionary Leadership, Leading Learning, Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context.

What participants will learn as a result of attending and how that learning addresses the professional practice standard.
Many experienced leaders have remarked that this leadership competency #9: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context often presented the biggest challenges as they assumed the principalship, and that this competency was the one for which they were least prepared. This session will focus on understanding and responding to such contexts and examples of the dilemma’s that principals face in their leadership roles. Participants will be presented with actual case studies that beginning and experienced principals have faced and will be asked to work together to first identify and understand the systems at play and secondly, to respond in an effective manner. Participants will also gain a perspective of the expectations of system leaders for principals and the principal for system leaders.

In preparation for this session, participants should be familiar with Competency 9 of the LQS and its descriptors and be prepared to share “Big Picture” examples of their own.

Module Overview

Leadership Competency #9: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context suggests that if the principal is to be an effective leader, he/she must understand the “Big Picture” – i.e. how systems, both internal and external, interact.

How does a leader advocate for his/her school and diverse community needs while responding to political, economic and legal realities/contexts, conditions? How does a school leader manage the occasionally competing interests of school and community with the expectations of the jurisdiction or provincial ministry of education? How does the principal balance time and energy in his/her role as instructional and educational leader with that of facilitator, manager, advocate?

Presented by Dr. Jody Dennis and Ray Hoppins

Dr. Jody Dennis is honored to have spent the past 30+ years in education. She has had the opportunity to be an educator as a Pre-K – grade 9 teacher, vice-principal, and principal. Presently, she is the Division Principal for Chinook’s Edge School Division, and was previously the principal at Penhold Elementary School and Poplar Ridge School in Chinook’s Edge. She has a Master of Education degree in Leadership and School Improvement from the University of Alberta and a Doctorate in Education in Senior Leadership in K-12 Education from the University of Calgary. Jody has had the opportunity to be involved with the Literacy Steering Committee and the Learning Commons Visioning Committee for Chinook’s Edge School Division. She has a passion for Instructional Leadership and enjoys working alongside teachers to improve teaching and learning. Jody resides in Red Deer and enjoys spending time with her husband, Wade, and her two boys. This is the 7th consecutive year that Jody will be presenting at the Start Right short course.

Ray Hoppins has spent the last 29 years as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, and central office leader in Vegreville, Innisfail, Sundre, and Olds. Ray has a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Calgary and is currently an Associate Superintendent with Chinook’s Edge School Division. His teaching and leadership experiences transcend all grade levels from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Ray served on the executive of the CESD School Administrators’ Association for many years and has played leadership roles on local and provincial committees in the areas of communication, mathematics, assessment for learning, program evaluation, and teacher supervision & evaluation. He has facilitated ATA and CASS professional development sessions for teachers and administrators on topics such as educational technology and school-based leadership. As a teacher, he served as a Pure Math 30 marker and item-writer for Alberta Education, as well as a math consultant for Central Alberta Regional Consortium. Ray is active in his community and enjoys playing and coaching a variety of sports. He was raised on a family farm in Central Alberta and currently resides in Olds with his wife Sandi. They have two children in post-secondary studies and two children in high school. Ray has also presented at the Start Right Short Course for the last 14 years.

Day 3 - Jul 8

8:20 a.m. Daily Launch Activity: 3, 2, 1 Blast Off!

8:35 a.m. Plenary Session: Advice from Experienced Leaders: What I Know Now?

Transformational Leadership: Understanding and Leading Change
Presented by Maureen Ference

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

At the end of the session, participants will:

  • gain a better understanding of their knowledge regarding change,
  • recognize how people respond to change, and
  • learn strategies to help people and projects through the change process.

Related LQS Competencies:

  1. Embodying Visionary Leadership
  2. Developing Leadership Capacity

Module Overview

A key to making effective change in a school is understanding the fundamentals of the change process which includes understanding the impact of both structural and cultural changes within a school. Being intentional with the process of change through understanding change management, leaders can apply methods to better solve problems or make change. Walk away equipped with the tools to facilitate change in your own school as we delve into the many facts and myths of the change process.

Presented by Maureen Ference

Maureen Ference is currently the principal of Glendon School, a Pre-K to Grade 12 school, and Pine Meadows Hutterite Colony. She served as principal of a middle school for 14 years and also served ten years as a teacher, counsellor, program consultant and assistant principal in a junior/senior high school.  Maureen graduated from the University of Alberta and received her Master’s degree from San Diego State University with a focus on leadership and administration. She is currently in the second year of her doctoral studies with the University of Portland.

Currently, Maureen sits on the Alberta Education Leadership Standards Committee and is a member of the Association Administrator Instructors Corps. She has served as a member of the Association’s Professional Practice Review Committee,  as a board member of the Learning Networks Consortium, an executive member for the Council for School Leadership, and was appointed as an instructor for the Leadership Certification In-Service program.

Maureen is passionate about leadership development and supporting aspiring and new school leaders. She has been a guest presenter at the University of Alberta’s Summer School on Leadership Excellence and continues to enjoy opportunities to share her learning through designing and presenting workshops and facilitating division leadership programs.

Maureen resides with her ‘bison’ farmer husband near Bonnyville, Alberta. They have three grown children.

Building Leadership for Educational Equity
Presented by Kim Barker-Kay

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

This presentation provides educational leaders with resources and guidance to both build educational equity for student achievement and advance education for reconciliation from the inside out. You will explore and identify areas of need for building equity on 3 levels:  personal, professional, and institutional. You will also explore ways to address those areas of need and will identify at least two actions to be taken immediately. Additionally, your understanding of the Alberta Leadership Quality Standards will deepen, such as embodying visionary leadership, fostering effective relationships, and supporting the application of foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.

Module Overview

Presented by Kim Barker-Kay

Kim Barker-Kay is currently a consultant with the Northwest Learning Regional Consortium. Previously, Kim was a teacher, principal, and researcher in northern Alberta, Kim’s work evolved into building leadership for educational equity. This path led her to the work of many influential educators in the field such as Curtis Linton, Anthony Muhammad, John Hattie, and Mike Mattos. She spent many years involved in diversity leadership training with the National Coalition Building Institute. Additionally, Kim had the unique experience as the protégé of a Cree Elder for ten years. As a principal, Kim was able to put all she learned into practice with favourable results in student achievement. She learned first hand the complexities involved in building educational equity. Kim continues to live on an acreage in the High Prairie area with her husband, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with her children and grandkids.

Day 4 - Jul 9

8:20 a.m. Daily Launch Activity: 3, 2, 1 Blast Off!

8:35 a.m. Plenary Session: Advice from Experienced Leaders: What I Know Now?

Embodying Visionary Leadership: Top Down or Bottom Up
Presented by Vincent Behm

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

Leadership Competency 3: Embodying Visionary Leadership challenges leaders to collaborate with the school community to create and implement a shared vision for student success, engagement, learning and well-being.  Site based leaders play a pivotal role in articulating and actioning vision, but does it all come from the top down?  How does a leader involve others in the creation of this vision?  Who does the leader collaborate with and determine direction and the number of priorities?  What qualitative and quantitative data does a leader use to determine goals and the progress towards this vision?  Why is important to “start with the why”.  Leaders who embody a visionary leadership consider each of these questions.

Related LQS competencies participants will explore and experience:
Fostering Effective Relationships, Modeling Commitment to Professional Learning, Embodying Visionary Leadership, Leading a Learning Community, Providing Instructional Leadership, Managing School Operations and Resources, Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

Module Overview

Aspiring and current leaders recognize that their vision for their school is pivotal.  The Leadership Quality Standard states that leaders must Embody Visionary Leadership.  To begin with, leaders must consider what they mean by ‘vision’.  This session will look deeply into this standard and help participants determine what attributes, skills and processes leaders use to build, articulate, and lead their school toward this vision.

Presented by Vincent Behm

Vincent Behm has spent the last 25 years as a teacher, principal, and most recently as part of the senior administration team with Christ the Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools, which serves approximately 10,000 students in Okotoks, High River, Brooks, Strathmore, Canmore, Drumheller, and Oyen.  He has been a classroom teacher or administrator in Brooks, Strathmore, Canmore and now in Okotoks.  His teaching and leadership experiences includes all grade levels, and he has served as principal in elementary, junior, and senior high.  Vincent has a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership and a Human Resources certification from the University of Calgary.  As Associate Superintendent with Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools, he works primarily in Human Resources.  His passion is supporting both administrators and teachers in the areas of teaching and learning, staff recruitment and orientation, supervision, growth and evaluation, staff wellness and leadership development.  Vincent is also an instructor with St. Mary’s University and has mentored preservice teachers as a practicum advisor.  Vincent works to create balance in his life and greatly values time with his wife and two children as well as friends and family.  He enjoys running, biking, and more recently golf.  He feels very fortunate to be able to present at Start Right and Leading for Learning, as he attended as a new administrator many years ago.

Surviving and Thriving in a New Role
Presented by Kurt Sacher and Dr. Marcie Perdue

Module Specific Learning Outcomes

Participants will be given an array of supports, ideas, and processes for building and enhancing interpersonal relationships. This will be the most significant component of the practice standard that will be targeted. There will also be time given to ensure participants know and understand how to begin their roles as visionary leaders and they will also be given some key insights into staying well in difficult times. Kurt will also provide some compelling personal insights with respect to staying well in the midst of chaos and personal trauma.

LQS Competencies addressed:
Building Effective Relationships, Visionary Leadership, Leading Learning, Wellness

Module Overview

This session will help participants become fully aware of the new complexities they will face as a new school based administrator. The presenters will use storytelling and small group participation to ensure high levels of engagement throughout. Participants will leave the session better able to build and nurture critically important relationships with all of their constituents. The presenter will share a wide range of relevant experiences that will be both practical and sensible. Expect to come away with new tools in your tool kit that have been proven over time to help new leaders transition effectively into new roles. Participants can also expect the presenters to share some powerful insights relative to wellness.

Presented by Kurt Sacher and Dr. Marcie Perdue

Kurt Sacher has just completed his 35th year in education. He has sat in a number of chairs over his career. He has been an educational assistant, a teacher, a head teacher, a vice principal, a principal, an associate superintendent, a deputy superintendent and is currently the chief superintendent for Chinook’s Edge School Division based in Innisfail, AB. Kurt has his masters degree in educational leadership from the University of Calgary. Kurt started teaching elementary students to read and secondary students to understand mathematics back in 1986 in Cessford, AB. He went from there to teach high school math in Penticton, BC where he also spent three years as a teacher in a severe behavior program for grade 8-10 students. In Trochu, AB he was the VP and later the Principal prior to moving to Lacombe where he was the Principal of Lacombe Composite High School for 5 years. After that he was in central office with Wolf Creek Public Schools for 8 years prior to spending the last 10 years as the Superintendent and CEO for Chinook’s Edge School Division. Kurt has presented on a number of topics over the years (High Performing Teams, The Story of Lester, etc.) He has a daughter Jessica who has her PH.D. in microbiology and biotechnology and she is currently the co-founder of The Phage Directory. Kurt likes playing online chess, cycling, and riding his motorcycle.

Dr. Marcie Perdue is currently the Associate Superintendent of Student Services for Chinook’s Edge School Division. She joined Chinook’s Edge in August, 2014 and has served as both Student Services Coordinator and Learning Services Coordinator since that time. Marcie has nearly 25 years of teaching and leadership experience.  During her time with both Rocky View and Golden Hills School Divisions, Marcie served as an English teacher, department head, learning specialist, instructional coach and administrator for programs for at-risk youth. Marcie was also an adjunct professor for Western University as well as a consultant who shares her expertise with school divisions across the province.

Marcie is passionate about supporting students with diverse learning needs and loves finding unique ways to create system wide supports for students and their families. Marcie’s formal educational background includes Bachelor degrees in Education and Arts (English) from the University of Alberta as well as a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate of Education in K-12 Leadership, both from the University of Calgary.

University Graduate Coursework

University Credit: Arrangements have been made with Alberta universities to offer graduate coursework for participants who are interested in extending the Start Right 2021 short course learning experience. If you are interested in pursuing this option, you will be required to register with the university and to pay a tuition fee. If you plan to register, please contact the university at your earliest convenience in order to ensure that enrollment requirements are met. The contact information is as follows:

University of Alberta
Please e-mail Dr. José da Costa, Ed.D., Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership, Department of Educational Policy Studies, Faculty of Education at jdacosta@ualberta.ca. Dr. da Costa will provide information about both the registration procedures and the additional reading and assignment required.

University of Lethbridge
Please contact Kevin Matis at matis@uleth.ca with regard to registration with a copy to Dr. Mombourquette at carmen.mombourquette@uleth.ca who will provide information about Independent Study and Open Studies Registration processes. (i.e. deadlines and additional expectations for academic work.)

Please note: The University of Lethbridge will only take applications from U of L current and former students.

The registration fee is $525.00 (includes GST). Registration is limited to 100 participants.

Online registration is now closed. Please contact claudine.cortes@cass.ab.ca for info.


Deepening the understanding and applying the learning to support implementation of professional practice in newly appointed or aspiring school leaders.


July 6 - 9, 2021


Online through Zoom