Sitting at his new desk, Angus Wilson reaches over and grabs an old school microphone from a side cabinet. While his radio hosting days are long behind him, he smiles and says, “Imagine making school announcements on this.”
Wilson is the new superintendent of schools for Mission District #75 and while he doesn’t begin his new post until June 6, he recently sat down with the Mission Record to talk about his past experiences and the year ahead.
When Wilson, who grew up in Vancouver, first became a teacher, he decided to follow some advice to “go north, young man” and worked his practicum in Castlegar.
From there he went on to work as a secondary school teacher on a small reservation near Prince Rupert. Three years later he moved to Haida Gwaii on the north coast of B.C.
He remained there for the next 16 years, serving as a teacher at all grade levels, an elementary school vice-principal and a secondary school principal.
For the last eight years he has been the superintendent at Haida Gwaii.
“It’s been a fantastic opportunity. I learned many things. We kind of punched above our weight in the things we’ve done and accomplished there,” said Wilson.
After eight years as superintendent, he’s done all he can in Haida Gwaii, but feels he has a lot more to offer Mission.
But there will be some adjustments. Haida Gwaii is a small school district. Wilson estimates that Mission is at least nine times larger.
“However, both districts are still what we might consider on the rural side of the spectrum. In some ways they have some very similar challenges and, in others, very different.”
The initial thing he plans to tackle in Mission is communication.
“My first job, for the first six months here, is to listen. That’s to staff, it’s to students, it’s to the parents and the broader public. I will listen to what people have to say. It doesn’t mean that everything someone has to say is what’s going to happen, but I will absolutely be listening,” said Wilson, adding he always asks people what it is they would like to see happen.
“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen but at least I can say I heard from the person and I will endeavour to see if that is a possibility.”
He believes many problems can be avoided through better communication and problems can be solved through effective communication.
Wilson’s second task is to ensure there is always a system in place to deal with a complaint or an idea. Systems also need to be developed in other areas.
““I’ve got a reasonably good idea on systems, whether it’s at a school level with adjusting or fixing a timetable, to how funding works for a particular program.”
Part of the job is to find the balance points so schools have the resources they need, but balancing it out between all the different departments and schools in an equitable manner.
“The reality is there is never enough money and there are always more great ideas than you can access.”
He also wants to challenge people to grow personally and professionally.
“I think some really good initiatives are happening in Mission, but I think there are lots of things we can do, moving ahead, to expand and grow on that.”
He said Haida Gwaii is a leader in place-based education and culturally responsive education, or Aboriginal education. Wilson feels Mission can be a leader as well.
“The overall goal and the thing that is most important is success for all students in Mission and to lead a life that is a dignified and contributory life to their community. And connecting kids to their place, their school, their teachers is part of that.”
Wilson says research shows that kids who feel connected, comfortable and safe are far more likely to finish school and go on to post-secondary education.