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Davidson wrapping up her time as CEO of MVSD

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After 32 years, superintendent/CEO Donna Davidson has announced her retirement from Mountain View School Division (MVSD), effective June 30.
Davidson began her career in Dauphin-Ochre School Division, as a physical education teacher at Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School (DRCSS), taking some time off to be at home with her newborn son, before joining the staff at Ochre River School as a physical education teacher, middle years English language arts and math teacher.
In 1999, Davidson was appointed principal of Ochre River School, which she held until moving to central office, as co-ordinator of Kindergarten to Grade 8 Programs and Planning, in September 2005. In 2006, she moved into the assistant superintendent position, until being appointed superintendent/CEO in January 2015.
“This division has been home to me for 32 years and I’ve been very blessed with the students and the staff and the communities that have been extremely supportive and I’m going to miss that,” Davidson said, noting it feels like the right time to retire.
“I believe that the division is in a good position and we’re nearing the end of our strategic plan. And I think it’s important that the next person who assumes this role has the opportunity to start the next plan.”
Davidson’s goals, when she moved to central office, was to continue with the work she had been doing as an assistant superintendent, which was to strengthen MVSD’s International Student program and to continue to strengthen the new CEO model recommended by MNP.
Davidson set a goal to continue strengthening and building teacher capacity with professional learning communities.
“We were building professional learning time in some of our schools, but in the last couple of years, we had to pull back on that, because of fiscal restraint,” she explained.
Additionally, Davidson looked at programming across the division and assisted in expanding it with a band program in Roblin and Winnipegosis.
“I'm not going take credit for all of that. That was great leadership at the school level, I just supported it and helped with the structures and in moving in that direction,” she said, admitting she is pleased to see some of the opportunities now available to some of MVSD’s outlaying communities.
Davidson also wanted to ensure rural schools remained viable with video-conferencing and the use of technology, to meet the learning needs in communities with smaller populations.
“When I look back, my focus has always been on student learning and supporting classroom instruction. That’s just who I am as a person. I’ve always felt that the school level factor that has the greatest impact on student learning is the classroom teacher,” she said, noting the focus is now on personalized learning.
“Gone are the days where a teacher shows up and has one lesson for the whole class. When I was visiting classrooms the other day, I walked into a classroom and there were pods of kids working at levels that helped them reach their target or reach the outcome, but they had different supports in getting to that place.”
MVSD did some work around Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which Davidson found exciting. She described it as structuring a flexible learning environment that can accommodate individual learning differences.
“The exciting stuff we were doing around collaborative classrooms and providing those learning environments. There were not desks with chairs attached to them, but provided an opportunity for children to be a little bit more mobile within the classroom and find a learning station that met his or her needs. Unfortunately it was another thing we had to pull out of our budget because of the fiscal restraint,” Davidson said, adding while MVSD can not fund those projects as it had in the past, the division is still trying to do some adaptations.
“We may not be able to furnish a whole classroom with brand new furniture, but what can we do with our existing furniture? And how can we support teachers in teaching to meet those diverse needs? We have great educators out there that work hard every single day to meet the needs of the children that come into our schools and those demographics are changing and our staff are trying to meet those changing needs.”
Looking back, Davidson noted many highlights, from working with staff and children, focusing on student learning and meeting the needs of the children MVSD serves.
“Our community reports have always been a highlight for me. The work that we’ve done around reaching out to our community and supporting the board around those community luncheons, those have been highlights,” she said.
“I've been very fortunate to be able to go into various classrooms across this division and spend some time in the classroom. Unfortunately when I moved to the superintendency I didn’t get as much of an opportunity.”
Davidson made a point of riding as many school bus routes as she could, to see what it is like for children getting on the school bus at 7:30 a.m. and gave credit to the work bus drivers do in ensuring children get to school every day.
Refurbishing MacKenzie Middle School is a highlight for Davidson, as it took years to get it to where it is today.
“There was a lot of background work with meeting with our school communities within the community of Dauphin. That’s been a long time coming and seeing it come to fruition, I would have to mark that up there as one of the bigger highlights of my time here,” she said.
With 15 years in the central office, Davidson does not just focus on her four years as superintendent, as administration worked as a team and as assistant superintendent, she was part of many projects the board moved forward.
“I worked on the ground with International Education when Mr. (Jack) Sullivan, my predecessor, implemented that in the division and it was lots of hard work. And then to see it come to the place where it is today, it’s really been a benefit to school communities and to our schools and our students, in order to have that opportunity to work alongside children from another part of the world,” she said, noting many MVSD graduates work overseas.
“We forget that we’re so interconnected now as a society, because technology has really enabled that.”
Davidson is proud of the access to technology MVSD schools and students have, pointing out the board took a loan to build the infrastructure needed to connect all of its schools.
“And we were fortunate that our community supported that, because we had to build our own infrastructure, it wasn’t there for us,” she added.
“There’s so many things that I’m very fortunate to have been a part of. I feel very rewarded and I always think there’s a time when you need to move on and I think it is time for me to move on.”
Looking forward, Davidson plans to take some time to sort out her future.
“I’m not done in education, I personally don’t feel I’m done. There’s more that I’d like to do, but not at this intensity and this level,” she said.
“My personality is the kind that I carry a lot of things with me. And so I just want to be able to free my head of that for a bit of time and then and then figure out what that next step might be.”
In the meantime, Davidson hopes to do some of the things she has put off, such as attending events in the community and participating in local functions or committees.
“And I want to spend more time with my children and my family. This job takes a lot of that time and it is not in a bad way, that’s the way I chose to lead and I have no regrets. I feel very fortunate,” she said, adding her decision to retire is with mixed feelings.
With six months before the end of the school year, Davidson is not done yet, as there is a lot of work to do and projects she wants to finish.
“We just moved to a new HR department and I want to work on strengthening that,” she said, noting there is staffing for next year and supporting the board with the upcoming provincial educational review.
“We want to make sure that our community voices are heard, the importance of Local Voices, Local Choices, the importance of keeping schools community-based, as much as we possibly can, and to advocate for our children because they’re our future.”
Davidson thanked MVSD communities for their support, along with the many students and parents she worked and interacted with.
“And of course the staff that I had the most fortunate opportunity to spend time with and engage in and work hard towards meeting the needs of our students. Do we have areas where we can improve? Most definitely, but we’re going to continue to work hard and continue to meet those needs,” she concluded.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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