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School board superintendent set to retire

Russell leaving the Maple Ridge-based board office early in new year
SD42 superintendent Sylvia Russell.

After six years with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District, Superintendent Sylvia Russell announced she will retire by Jan. 31, 2021.

The Board of Education has engaged executive search firm Boyden and will immediately begin the process of selecting a new superintendent, said a press release from the district on Tuesday afternoon.

“I have been blessed to work with highly competent, engaged and talented teams of people,” Russell said in a message to staff. “I am very grateful for our collective focus on the collaborative building of systems and structures in our district and have full confidence in your ability to address future challenges and lead our district forward.”

Russell first came to the School District 42 in 1988, serving in various roles, including principal of Riverside elementary, principal of Maple Ridge secondary, and director of human resources. Among the first female secondary principals in the district, she left to serve as the assistant superintendent in Coquitlam School District in 2005 before returning to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows as superintendent in November 2014.

“Superintendent Russell has devoted her time with our district to rebuilding learning supports, changing the calibre of student engagement, and improving learning outcomes for our students,” said board Chair Korleen Carreras. “She has achieved all the changes that she had committed to making, and I know I speak on behalf of the whole board when I say how deeply grateful we are for her passion, her dedication, and her lasting and transformative influence. It has been such a privilege to work with her the last six years.”

Russell led the district during a time of great change, which included steady enrolment growth, the implementation of the restored Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association collective agreement language, and bringing in a new curriculum.

Under Russell’s leadership, six-year graduation rates in the district saw a steady increase across all categories, with results that are among the strongest overall in the province.

The school district was also recognized at the provincial level for its work in the area of social and emotional learning, and selected as a pilot district for leading-edge provincial mental health supports.

To address the needs of primary and intermediate students, Russell oversaw the implementation and expansion of after-school programs and the introduction of summer leaning at the elementary level. In the summer of 2019, she supported the expansion of the summer learning program with a traditional language component to Katzie First Nation students.

“As a board, we are now focused on selecting the next superintendent and invite all qualified individuals to review the posting and apply,” said Carreras. “At this time, our search is open only to internal applicants.”

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