Sylvia Russell

Retired Superintendent of Schools
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District
Canada: British Columbia Hub | NORTH AMERICA

Sylvia Russell is honoured to have served as Superintendent of Schools for School District No. 42 (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) in British Columbia, Canada.  She held this role for the past six years and recently retired in January, 2021 after a 38 year career in the BC public education system.  Immediately following retirement, Sylvia provided leadership assistance to the British Columbia School Trustees’ Association during the absence of the CEO. Sylvia is now providing mentorship support to newly appointed school district leaders and superintendents in British Columbia as one of a small team of retired superintendents and educational leaders on behalf of the British Columbia School Superintendents’ Association.  The Compassionate Systems Awareness training that Sylvia was privileged to receive along with her BC team colleagues provides invaluable tools for the complex work of school district leadership – especially in the context of this challenging time in British Columbia and around the world.

Over the course of her tenure in this role, Sylvia and her team developed a strong strategic plan for the school district that involves four educational pillars: social and emotional learning, learning and assessment, secondary school innovation and literacy.  Social and emotional learning is central to the mission, vision and values of the school district, and Sylvia and the district leadership team worked actively with the generous support of Dr. Kimberley Schonert-Reichl who was at the time with Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia – now with the University of Chicago and CASEL  – to develop a district framework for social and emotional learning.  With the benefit of Dr. Kimberley Schonert-Reichl’s guidance, the district team involved students, parents and instructional staff (education assistants, aboriginal education staff, youth workers, teachers and school administrators), as well teacher and support staff union leaders in the work to develop the district framework for social and emotional learning.  Their elected Board of Education continues to actively support this work and has dedicated significant funding for the implementation of the district social emotional learning framework over the course of the past six and going on seven years.

During Sylvia’s tenure, the school district was selected by the province of British Columbia to pilot the development of school-based integrated teams to support students in need of mental health and substance use services. The work to implement these new resources continues and the school district is now opening centers in selected schools across the school district where the wellness of the school district community is addressed through a variety of mental health and substance use services that will be available without barriers.  The approach will be to provide supports at the time of the request – at places that are easily accessible to those needing service – no wait-lists, no need to attend appointments in other offices.  They believe that the important, accessible services that are part of this provincial pilot project will make a great difference, and they believe that they are at a point of readiness to undertake this work because of their social emotional learning focus.

The district educational leadership team and many other leaders in the school district have already taken part in the Compassionate Systems training. This certificate program is an ideal opportunity to take an in-depth look at Compassionate Systems – a natural match to the mission, vision and values of the school district and their work with regard to implementing a district framework for social and emotional learning.