A commitment to building family within his school community is one of the reason why École College Park School principal Michael Bradford is one of 40 principals from across the country who are being recognized by the Canada's Outstanding Principals program.
Bradford, who is in his fifth year at College Park and his third as the school's principal, says the individual recognition is an acknowledgment of the strong learning community created by the school's students, families and staff.
"Really, it is an award that our whole school and community has worked for so it is a great chance to recognize them," said Bradford, who received news of the award ahead of the official announcement Jan. 31.
"It was really exciting. To think that our school will get a chance to be recognized across Canada for that good work was really exciting. I was filled at the moment with gratitude for all of the work our teachers and families put into supporting students."
The Canada's Outstanding Principals program is operated by The Learning Partnership, a national charity that supports public education and students through partnerships with government, education and business. The 40 principals receiving this year's award are being recognized for innovation, leadership and creativity in finding solutions and opportunities within their school communities.
Bradford said the commitment at College Park to building connections with families — whether students, parents and even grandparents — is one of the things that is special about the school, its teachers and staff.
"One thing that I always talk about with our staff, our students, our families is how we put family first at our school," he said. "That might not seem, at first glance, something that is particularly innovative, but in practice what it means is going the extra mile to really get to know people, really get to know new families. That makes a real difference when we start to work with families who are maybe living in the city for the first time, whether they are from an Indigenous community or are newcomers to Canada."
He says the family atmosphere manifests itself in the day-to-day life of College Park, from senior students serving as mentors for and working with younger students, to the way in which teachers make a genuine effort to support each other as part of a collaborative, professional place of learning.
Bradford, who is one of just two Saskatchewan principals chosen for this year's award, recognizes and appreciates that the example set by other school leaders within the division has helped shape his approach to the role of principal.
"When I think about my colleagues there are a lot of people in our school division who would be deserving of this award. Some of the things I have learned from my colleagues is how important the principal is in setting tone in a school building," he said, emphasizing that spending time in classrooms with students and teachers provides valuable insight into the needs of the school community.
"Spending a lot of time being actively involved in the learning that is going on in the school, being part of the problem-solving process — that really helps me know how to respond, how to provide resources, how to provide supports, how to do the management part of my work. That is something I learned from a lot of my colleague and is something that is common in Saskatoon Public Schools."
The 40 principals selected for the award will be recognized during a gala being held Feb. 27 in Toronto. They will participate in a five-day executive leadership training program at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management that will introduce them to leadership and management practice. The groups will also take part in The World of Work: Equity and Inclusion, a professional learning day where principals will hear about today's workforce from leaders in business, health and education.
"I am really looking forward to the five days at the Rotman School of Management," Bradford said. "It will be really cool to hear what principals from across the country do as they try to solve some of the same kinds of challenges that we have here. I think it will be really neat to hear about leadership from some different perspectives, not just education but different fields as well. I am hoping to come back and use those to keep the good work going here at College Park.
"One of the key things in this school that I am grateful for is what a strong team we have. There are teachers leading in so many different ways, whether it is instructionally, providing additional supports for families who need it or doing extracurricular activities to make school a place that kids are excited to come to."