School District 27 superintendent Diane Wright and her family have called the Cariboo home for 35 years and have no plans to live elsewhere when she retires in August.
Diane says she and her wildlife biologist husband, Randy, may do some travelling but their family and hearts are here in the Cariboo.
“We both love the Cariboo,” Diane says. “When we are coming back from visits to Vancouver and get north of Clinton I just feel more at peace.”
Diane grew up in Vancouver and attended John Oliver High School and then took the teacher training program at Simon Fraser University.
She began her career in Williams Lake and during her first year teaching met Randy Wright.
They married and moved to Lethbridge, Alta. for Randy to attend university. When he completed the program they were both offered jobs in Williams Lake and were very pleased to return to the beautiful Cariboo.
Randy began his career as a government wildlife biologist and Diane returned to teaching.
They had two daughters, Shalene and Tianna. Some years Diane taught part-time to spend time with her family as well as continue her own education.
She completed her Bachelor degree and earned a Master of Arts in conflict analysis and management at Royal Rhodes University.
Her graduate research was on inter-organizational problem solving, collaboration and coordination with applications to education.
“Schools can’t do it alone. We have to do it with communities and families,” Diane says.
For her masters project she did a case study of the social planning council in 100 Mile House.
The community had established a broad-based council with representation from RCMP, School District 27, and numerous community and government organizations working in mental health, social services, seniors, women and other groups.
The council met regularly to assess community needs, share ideas and make proposals for grants that would benefit the community.
“It was fascinating,” Diane says. “I worked with them for two years and provided them with my report at the end. I had just started my job as district principal of support services and it really helped me to understand the community. The planning council also said the information I collected assisted them.”
As a result of that research she was very pleased to support Communities That Care when it was established in Williams Lake four years ago.
Almost from the beginning of her teaching career Diane has had an interest in alternate forms of education. She taught at Poplar Glade Elementary School, started the first special education program at WLSS, taught at Skyline Alternate School, Chilcotin Road elementary and then began the Connect alternate education program.
“I recently received an e-mail from a former Connect student who heard I was retiring and thanked me,” Diane says. “It was really nice to hear from her.”
Diane also taught kindergarten to Grade 12 for two years at the Nenqayni Wellness Centre. The school staffing is funded by the Ministry of Education to ensure children’s education continues while the family participates in the wellness program. From there Diane became district principal for support services, a position she held for four years before moving to her current position as superintendent of schools for the past four years.
“It’s time to focus on my family and the timing is right for the district,” Diane says of her decision to retire in August. “I am fortunate as I am leaving while I love my job.”
She says the school board is in the process of developing a plan for the future and it is important to have a superintendent who can participate in the consultation process and be there afterward to implement the plan and see the whole process through.
“The board has been just tremendous about going through all the reports and preparing for development of the plan.”
Diane says she is amazed at the level of commitment to students and education by all staff in the district from carpenters and bus drivers through to custodians, clerical staff, teachers and principals.
“I am really impressed with everyone in the district’s level of commitment to the students,” Diane says. “When I really talk to people about what they do, they do what they do for students. We’ve seen a steady improvement in the results for our students across the district.
“This hasn’t been an easy year with labour relations and I am so grateful we have maintained respectful working relationships. That has taken everybody working hard on all sides.”
Diane credits having a bit of her father’s spirit when it comes to growing and learning and the aphorism he gave her to live by — carpe diem (seize the day).
She plans to continue seizing the day right through retirement.
“I am looking forward to spending time with my granddaughter, planning a wedding (for Tianna) and seeing the world.”
She says that as a biologist Randy has always wanted to visit Africa and they are looking forward to going on a safari and they will also take a trip to Scotland where they both have ancestral roots.
Their daughter Tianna is engaged to Shawn Carl and they are planning to wed in the summer of 2013. Their daughter, Shalene, and her husband Aaron Ostrom, have a 19-month-old daughter Scarlett with whom she plans to spend more time. “I’m looking forward to being able to take Scarlett to StrongStart,” Diane says. “Her mom and dad take her and I would like to take her too as she really loves all the activities and learning.”
Diane says StrongStart is among the initiatives the district has undertaken over the past five years in conjunction with Ministry of Education and community partners which are helping students to develop a love for learning and sense of belonging in the school system and their communities.
Other highlights of these collaborative programs include Ready Set Learn; student RCMP boot camp; Heavy Metal Rocks, introduction to construction equipment for Grade 11/12 students; high school pre-apprenticeship training; Yes-2-It exploration in construction careers for Grade 7s; the new personalized learning agenda; on-line rural secondary program; teacher and principal leadership programs; professional learning communities and the expanded reading strategies program.
“I have been so fortunate to work with such an excellent team in the district and in the schools to improve learning through innovation and creativity,” Diane says. “The district is humming!”