Message from the Executive Director

Message from the Executive Director
An archive of messages from the Executive Director


Ken Bain

CASSA Executive Director




Spring 2018


Alberta I have recently returned from the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) conference.  The conference activities included the Annual General Meeting and a reception to celebrate the members of CASS who have recently retired or will retire in the next several months.  I was joined at the CASS event by CASSA board members, Kevin Kardaal from BCSSA and Karen Edgar from OPSOA.  As I reflected on what I would say in my remarks…memories of the invaluable contributions that CASS members have made to CASSA jumped out.  CASSA had previously experienced some difficult times yet CASS (and a few other affiliates) stayed with the organization.  We are now so very strong with representation from all ten provinces and three territories.  As I reflected on the CASS leaders who contributed to ensure CASSA remained alive and well…the following names came to mind:  Jim Gibbons, Ed Wittchen, Lee Lucente, John Darroch, Roger Nippard, Barry Wowk and Kath Rhyasson.  I am certain there were many more members of CASS who helped CASSA throughout the years but, in my experience, these were the leaders I came to know and admire from Alberta.  Currently CASS is well served by its current Executive Director, Barry Litun and for the past two years…and now CASS past president, Colleen Symyrozum-Watt.  My personal best wishes and congratulations to St. Albert Public Schools Superintendent, Barry Wowk on his upcoming retirement.  Barry contributed sixteen years of service to CASSA and last year, was honoured with a CASSA Honourary Lifetime Membership.


CASSA2018 in Ottawa Planning is well underway for our annual conference.  We have finalized the names of our opening and closing keynotes.  The conference will be opened by Dr. Michael Ungar:  Dr. Ungar is a very engaging and thoughtful presenter who will speak about the importance of building children’s resiliency.  Please look at his website to learn more about Dr. Ungar and his research into resilience.  Our closing speaker will be Dean Shareski, from Discovery Education.  Dean Shareski is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada. He taught grades 1-8 for 14 years and spent 9 as a digital learning consultant for Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK. In addition, he an adjunct professor at Wilkes University. His blog consistently ranks among the top educational blogs. In 2010 he won the ISTE Award for Outstanding Leader of the Year. Dean has had the opportunity to speak to a variety of education audiences both nationally and internationally. He has recently authored “Embracing a Culture of Joy” and co-authored, “Different Schools for a Different World”. His passion remains helping teachers explore the affordances of technology for learning. 


Conference registration is now live:


Travel and accommodations can be made using this link:


If you are interested in presenting at CASSA, I ask you to use this link to submit your proposal:  Proposals will be accepted until mid-April.



Executive Director Winter Message (2017-2018)


This has been a busy few weeks for CASSA and the Board of Directors. 


Towards a Better Way - I had the opportunity to participate in a national gathering of individuals and associations interested in promoting healthy school communities.  CASSA was invited to attend because of our commitment to student mental health and well-being and our emerging partnership with PHE Canada which began at the 2017 conference in Halifax.  It was a very productive two days and concluded with a commitment to further consolidate the group and its goals to ensure we work together for healthy school communities.  My thanks to Ontario Physical Health Education Association, Ever Active Schools, PHE Canada and the Joint Consortium for School Health for their leadership and stewardship in facilitating the work that began in Ottawa back in November 2017.


CASSA Winter Planning Meetings – Twenty-one members of the CASSA board of directors recently met in Toronto for two days of planning.  I am pleased to report that we had representatives from nine provinces and one territory along with the francophone directors general association from boards outside Quebec.  Our president, Anne O’Brien (Director of Education, Durham Catholic District School Board) has reported on the content of meetings in her article this month.  The board agreed that CASSA must continue to lead the way around student mental health and well-being by hosting resources from across the country on its website and by continuing to promote mental health as a topic at our conferences.  The board also affirmed that CASSA can and should continue the partnership, described above, with those like-minded individuals and associations committed to the promotion of healthy school communities with a focus on healthy, active living and play.  CASSA looks forward to our focused “next steps”.


AASA – Seven members of the CASSA board attended the AASA National Conference – Education in the Digital Age.  AASA is the American counterpart to CASSA.  There were many speakers and breakout sessions that I know we all enjoyed!  The current administration in Washington has not been particularly favourable to public education in the United States, which in many parts of Canada is known as “publicly funded education”.  Our American colleagues are proud of the work they do every day on behalf of the millions of students they serve in public schools across the US.


Ottawa2018 – Supporting Each Student – I would be remiss if I failed to mention the upcoming CASSA2018 conference in Ottawa from July 4-6.  We have introduced some interesting changes to the format this year.  The conference will be organized into five sub themes that demonstrate how boards/districts/divisions support each student (Equity, Use of Technology, Play and Active Living, Managing Resources, the Agile Learning Classrooms/Critical Thinking Skills).


Workshop time slots will be one hour in length with either two 30-minute or one 60-minute presentation filling the slot.  Lastly, we have reached out to our francophone leaders to offer workshops in French.  We are currently accepting workshop proposals until the middle of March.  Please use this link if you want to submit a proposal  Registration is not “live” yet but will be very soon.  Please continue to check the CASSA Conference website for registration details using this link  Here is the link to secure your room in the room block as well as to take advantage of travel discounts



Fall 2017


I am happy to welcome everyone back and bring you up to date with respect to CASSA news. 


I am pleased to report that CASSA now includes members from all ten provinces and all three territories!!  The total membership is around 1500 and I am delighted that we can say that we are a truly national association from sea to sea to sea!!


First, my thanks to the following board members whose terms have concluded - Barry Wowk and Loretta Notten.  Thanks as well to Simone Rose-Oliver and Guy LeBlanc who have retired from education.  Barry and Simone served the board exceptionally well as our reps to the American Superintendents’ Association. 


Secondly, I want to welcome our newest member from the British Columbia School Superintendents’ Association – Claire Guy, Executive Director.  Claire joins BC’s Kevin Kaardal who is currently a Director At Large.  I am also delighted to welcome two new board members from the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators – Margo Tait, Executive Director and Gary Adams, President.  Also new to the board is Deb Crawford, President, Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association.  We thank everyone past and present for their commitment to CASSA – your national voice for senior leaders!


We had a very successful conference in Halifax at which time we celebrated several outstanding leaders who were nominated by their provincial association.  Congratulations to John Malloy, Director of the Toronto District School Board who we honoured as Canada’s outstanding school system leader for 2017.  We will honour him again at the AASA National Conference in Nashville in February 2018.  CASSA also bestowed an Honourary Life Membership Award to Barry Wowk who is a tireless advocate and CASSA supporter and has been with the association for sixteen years and has watched it grow to its current membership.


CASSA continues to be viewed as a key member of the national landscape as evidenced by our participation in the International Play Association Triennial Conference (Calgary - September) and our upcoming involvement in the Healthy School Communities National Forum (Ottawa - November) and the National Summit on Teacher and School Staff Wellbeing (Montreal – November).  I sit on a policy subcommittee for the Canadian Public Health Association ( and contribute on behalf of the association.  CASSA has also developed a strong relationship with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada ( and the Canadian School Boards’ Association (  Recently you should have received information about the upcoming debate about copyright matters (


As part of our strategic plan, CASSA is planning to extend our reach and participate as invited in other national conversations about matters related to student success.


SAVE the DATE – Supporting Each Student” – Ottawa July 4-6, 2018 at the Ottawa Westin Hotel



April 2017


Greetings and hope that the school year is moving along well!  A few brief updates for everyone…


CASSA has a very strong partnership with AASA – The School Superintendents’ Association .  The new administration in the United States has brought some worries and uncertainties to the CEO role in publicly funded school districts across the US.  The CASSA Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the following message to our American colleagues:


"We are writing today to offer our continued support to AASA and our American colleagues as you continue your advocacy for the students in publicly funded schools across the United States.  CASSA believes that the role of school system administrators is essential to ensuring the success of all students.  CASSA is also committed to the values of an inclusive publicly funded K-12 education system."


CASSA wholeheartedly affirms its support for the following AASA beliefs:


“Public education is the foundation of American democracy and is the primary vehicle for preparing each generation of adult citizens to become contributing members of a democratic society.”


“School leaders have a responsibility to create school cultures that recognize and value diversity.”


We value the strong relationship that AASA and CASSA has developed and nurtured over the years.  Please know that we stand with you in affirming your advocacy for students in publicly funded schools.


I received a very grateful response from Dan Domenech, the Executive Director of AASA.


Recently, a number of Canadian school system leaders participated in the AASA National Conference on Education at which time both AASA and CASSA recognized and celebrated the XEROX EXL Award, Joan Carr, Superintendent from Edmonton Catholic.


I look forward to receiving the nominees for this year’s EXL Award from our provincial/territorial affiliates.  The national recipient will be announced in Halifax at our annual conference and will be recognized next year at the AASA conference in Nashville.


Halifax 2017 – we are excited about the way that our conference is shaping up this year!  We have secured two outstanding keynotes (Dr. Stan Kutcher and Dr. Kathryn Short).  This year we will feature a pan Canadian panel addressing student mental health and well-being across the country and 30 workshops focusing on practices to support healthy students, schools and communities.  Other highlights include…a guided tour of Pier 21…an optional tour of Halifax and its harbor…an optional tour to Peggy’s Cove…two hosted receptions and lots of Maritime hospitality!!  Here is the website to take advantage of early bird registration, a Westjet discount code and hotel registration .



February 2017


On behalf of the CASSA Board of Directors I am pleased to welcome Kevin Kaardal, Superintendent of Schools/CEO of the

Central Okanagan Public Schools, Kelowna, British Columbia to the CASSA Board as a Director-At-Large.  The board is now comprised of at least one member from every province and territory and underscores CASSA’s as the national voice for school system leaders across Canada!  We look forward to Kevin’s contributions to the national c0nversation.


CASSA leaders have been very busy, as we have been invited to participate in several national and international conferences and meetings.  President Anne O’Brien and I joined school leader colleagues from across the globe at this year’s Ontario Principals’ Council Symposium on school leader wellbeing in Toronto.  She and I also participated in the CEA Symposium on Indigenous Education in Vancouver.  President-Elect Reg Klassen represented CASSA at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Education Roundtable in Calgary. 

Our next commitment is to attend the AASA National Education Conference in support of our EXL Award recipient, Joan Carr as Canada’s Superintendent of the Year who will be honoured at the conference.  We also attend in support of our American colleagues and our shared commitment to the value of publicly funded education.


Lastly, we are preparing for our own national conference in Halifax from July 5-7.  The theme is “Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities, Healthy Future”.  Keynotes and breakouts will focus on efforts to improve the wellbeing of students and communities.  Watch your inbox for conference registration and an invitation to present.  Currently, the travel page is live:


See you in Halifax!


October 2016


I certainly hope that you are all off to a great start to the school year and that you had a restful and enjoyable summer!

CASSA has an outstanding conference in July in Winnipeg.  The keynotes were fantastic – each with his/her own message of how to inspire leaders to ensure our students develop a strong sense of social justice, equity and social responsibility in our districts/divisions.  We had over 30 breakout sessions from across the country representing some of the promising practices from classrooms, schools and systems.  My thanks to all of the presenters who gave so generously of their time.  Final thanks to Ken Klassen and the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents (MASS) for his and their support to ensure the conference was a success.



May 2016


I want to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to CASSA President Cindy Finn who will conclude her two-year term this summer.  Cindy has been an exceptional representative for the organization and was able to balance her duties as president with her role as Director of Student Services at Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal, Quebec.  The role of CASSA president is a voluntary one and requires a time commitment that includes corresponding in a timely manner, writing for our professional publications and travel to conferences, meetings and symposia across Canada and the United States.  At all times, Cindy’s commitment to the need for a national association of school system leaders was front and centre in her conversations and presentations.  It has been an honour to get to know Cindy and to work alongside her in my role with CASSA.  I look forward to her continuing to serve CASSA as past president.


I want to welcome Anne O’Brien as CASSA President.  Anne is Director of Education for Durham Catholic District School Board in Oshawa Ontario.  Anne too understands the importance of a national voice for education and I know will work tirelessly to ensure that CASSA remains as a strong and influential organization! 

I am looking forward to working with Anne and know she will represent CASSA well.


Welcome to our newest member of the board, Darryl Bazylak.  Darryl joins LEADS Executive Director, Bill Cooke, as our Saskatchewan members of the board. 


Lastly, I want to express my appreciation to the members of the CASSA Board who also donate their time each month to the important work we do as leaders in education across the country.


The Winnipeg2016 Conference will be truly exceptional with four keynote speakers each of whom will address a different aspect of the theme of creating cultures of caring as we examine promising practices through nurturing social justice and social responsibility.  We will also offer over 30 workshops from a variety of voices from Canada.  Of note this year is a pre-conference workshop presented by Pearson Canada:  When Mentoring Meets Coaching: Shifting the Stance in Education.  This free workshop will be held on July 7 from 2-4 in the Gateway Room at The Fort Garry.  Check out the conference website for registration and travel information (




March 2016


CASSA Examines Student Mental Health and Well-Being Across Canada


I am pleased to share that the CASSA Board of Directors recently had a very successful Winter Planning Session! 


What made the meetings such a success?


We had excellent representation with topical presentations and updates from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, English Language Schools in Quebec, New Brunswick, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.


We had exemplary presentations from Dr. Kathy Short and Dr. Bruce Ferguson.  Dr. Short is the Director for School Mental Health ASSIST, a provincial team designed to help Ontario school boards to support student mental health and wellbeing. Dr. Short is a member of the national School-Based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Consortium, and led the Knowledge Translation and Exchange Team for this association of Canadian researchers and school mental health practitioners on a national project for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Dr. Bruce Ferguson is a Senior Consultant and the founding Director of the Community Health Systems Resource Group at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).  We also had an excellent presentation from Karen Edgar, a practicing superintendent with the Thames valley District School Board in Ontario who spoke about her board’s student mental health and wellbeing journey. 


The CASSA Board drafted some recommendations that will be released later in the term and the looks forward to continuing to support creating healthy communities across Canada!


Check the CASSA website for a list of mental health and well-being resources.



February 2016


 CASSA Participates in Education Conversations


CASSA continues to expand its reach and influence as we are share our Canadian perspective in national and international conferences and symposia.  In the last year alone, CASSA has been a guest at the International Symposium on the Teaching Profession, at the Ontario Principals’ Council International Symposium on System Change through School Leadership, at the CEA National Conference on Dropping Out: What the Neurosciences Can Teach Us and at The North American Leaders Forum: Integrating Health & Social Programs within Education Systems.  CASSA contributed to the white paper that will be published “Integrating Health Within the Core Mandates, Constraints & Concerns of Education Systems: Policies for Progress and Sustainability”.  CASSA has also been pleased to support other conferences and initiatives including the Annual Summit on Education Technology Strategies (, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Annual Conference ( and Future Leaders in All Profession (


CASSA2016 Annual Conference


What better time to examine practices across Canada in the focus area of social justice and social responsibility.  Join us in Winnipeg as we engage in discussions and presentations at the CASSA2016 National Conference “Hearts and Minds: Creating a Culture of Caring”.  We are very much looking forward to our first confirmed keynote: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish who has dedicated his life to peace efforts in the Middle East.  Here is the link to his Tedx Waterloo video (


Please continue to check our conference website ( as we build a program that promises to be engaging and thought provoking.  The call for presenters will be sent out in early February.  Please consider stepping forward to share the programs and practices across Canada that will lead us to a generation of socially responsible citizens!


2016 CASSA Conference Logo


CASSA at the AASA National Conference on Education 


Lastly, CASSA President Cindy Finn and I look forward to representing CASSA at the AASA-The School Superintendents’ Association National Conference on Education.  At that time we will celebrate Canada’s Superintendent of the Year, John Crocco who is the Director of Education at the Niagara Catholic District School Board.  Our American colleagues will also acknowledge John for the exemplary leadership he has demonstrated in Niagara Catholic.



October 2015

Welcome back to another school year!


EXL Award as Canada’s Superintendent of the Year


Congratulations to John Crocco, Director of Education for the Niagara Catholic District School Board as the EXL Award recipient for 2015!  John will have the chance to take part in the AASA Superintendent of the Year ceremony in Phoenix in February 2016!  Hopefully we will have a strong contingent of John’s friends and colleagues as he is honoured by our AASA partners!


CASSA Honours Robert T. Mills


After an outstanding career in school board leadership in Quebec and, in recognition of his many years of dedication to our national organization, CASSA bestowed an Honourary Life Membership to Bob.  We must express our deepest gratitude for all Bob has done to ensure that CASSA is a strong organization and we wish him a wonderful retirement with wife, Lisa.


Changes on the CASSA Board


The new school year brings changes to the CASSA Board of Directors.  CASSA welcomes two new Directors-At-Large: Penny Prysnuk from Yukon and Shelly Pepler from Nunavut.  We also welcome back, albeit in a new role, Reg Klassen as a Director-At-Large.  The new CASS member is John Waterhouse.  The new ADGESBQ member is Howard Miller.  The newest OCSOA representative is Loretta Notten.  Loretta joins the board to replace Simone Oliver who was elected as the CASSA Eastern rep to AASA.   We welcome our newest members and trust they will find the opportunity to gain a national perspective an excellent professional commitment.



January 2015

Happy New Year!!  Hopefully everyone was able to enjoy a change of pace and some wonderful time with family and friends over the holiday season.


The CASSA Board of Directors will be meeting in Toronto at the end of January to engage in strategic planning sessions and organizational meetings.  Our plan is to “take the temperature” of our progress and fine-tune our goals and the ways in which we want to ensure the success of the organization.  I will be reporting to you about the outcome of the meetings in future updates.


Please mark July 2-4, 2015 in your calendars as that is the time when CASSA will meet again to explore another topic of interest – S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).  Please continue to visit our website to learn more about this year’s conference at Le Westin, Montreal in beautiful Old Montreal (


I am preparing to send out the call for presenters for our annual conference and hope that we get an impressive response from across the country! 


Best wishes for continued success…and I look forward to seeing you all in Montreal




December 2014

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season full of family, friends and a change of pace!


Please mark July 2-4, 2015 in your calendars as that is the time when CASSA will meet again to explore another topic of interest – S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).  Please continue to visit our website to learn more about this year’s conference at Le Westin, Montreal in beautiful Old Montreal:


Best wishes for continued success…and I look forward to seeing you all in Montreal.




September 2014


I want to welcome everyone back and trust each of you found some time to relax and enjoy the different pace over the summer months!  We had a very successful Summer Conference in Calgary and thank the Government of Alberta and our CASS members for their support of our conference!  More about the 2015 conference later.


The AGM signaled a change to the membership of our Board of Directors.  I thank Lee Ann Forsyth-Sells (Ontario/OCSOA) for her many years of dedication to CASSA and wish her well as she leaves the board.  Congratulations to Cindy Finn (Quebec/AAESQ) who begins her two-year term as CASSA President and to Anne O’Brien (Ontario/OCSOA) who begins her term as President-Elect. 


I also want to express my appreciation to Roger Nippard (Alberta/CASS) who moves to Past-President.


New to the board will be Simone Oliver (Ontario/OCSOA), Cindy Fleet (PEI), Greg Ingersoll (New Brunswick/NBSSA) and Karl Germann (Alberta/CASS).  We welcome them and look forward to their contributions!


CASSA 2015 – July 2-4 in beautiful and historic Montreal!

Theme will be S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)


Conference registration and hotel information will follow…keep checking the CASSA website.




 June 2014


I want to begin by welcoming the New Brunswick School Superintendents’ Association to CASSA.  The CASSA Board looks forward to the many contributions we know we will receive from having the voice of new Brunswick school system leaders at our table!


I have recently retuned from meetings with my American colleagues.  As always, my interactions with leaders beyond Canada provide a wonderful opportunity to heighten my understanding of the education sector in a broader context.  There are a few states in which lawmakers are considering whether to allow adults to carry firearms on school property – certainly this is a very different issue than we have to consider in Canada!  Another significant learning related to the push, in some states…not all…to introduce educational vouchers and charter schools.  The concern, based on some limited experience is that these charter schools do not have an “open enrolment” approach and that some students are accepted and some are not.  Lastly, there is a concern that money intended for publicly funded education will be redirected to charter schools, thus impacting the publicly funded school experience for its students.   The concern was significantly higher in the United States than in Canada where the implementation of charter schools is much less common.


CASSA has been working with its partner, Blackboard Engage, to develop and introduce our very own mobile app.  The app is available for mobile phones from both the iTunes Store and Google Play.  This is our first foray into this aspect of technology and communication and other enhancements will occur as the technology allows!  Also…check us out and follow us on Twitter @CASSAACGCS


I have received five nominations for the XEROX EXL Superintendent of the Year and look forward to announcing the national recipient at our conference in Calgary!  The recipient will have the chance to take part in the AASA Superintendent of the Year ceremony in San Diego in February 2015!


See you in Calgary!


Ken Bain

CASSA Executive Director




March 17, 2014


CASSA is a national organization whose only members are school system leaders!


I want to update CASSA members and other visitors to the CASSA website with some exciting news about the organization’s renewal!  A great deal of time and considerable professional dialogue took place at our January Strategic Planning session in order to develop a purpose and mission that reflected the interests of members from across the county.  At the March Board of Directors’ meeting, the CASSA Board approved a new mission and purpose:


Purpose: CASSA is the Canadian organization of school system leaders that promotes and supports quality education for the success of all students


Mission: CASSA strengthens the capacity of school system leaders and influences the directions that impact education and student learning.


These changes represent some of the renewal that is going on in CASSA and I look forward in the weeks and months ahead to let you know about other exciting developments!


Please consider attending our 2014 annual conference in Calgary.  We are thrilled to have Canadian researcher and author, Dr. Doug Wilms, as our keynote speaker on the conference theme: Engaging Students – Making a Difference.  We also have an outstanding line-up of workshops from system and school leaders from across the country!   Go to our Conference 2014 page for program and registration details



Ken Bain

CASSA Executive Director




March 4, 2014:


I just returned from a wonderful experience at the AASA Conference in Nashville, Tennessee!  CASSA is a very well thought of partner with superintendents in the United States.  We have three CASSA executive members who play an important role in AASA – Barry Wowk (CASS) and Nick Milanetti (OCSOA) serve on the AASA Governing Board and Bob Mills (ADGESBQ) has the distinction of being the first Canadian to sit on the AASA Executive Committee.  We are delighted with their contributions to AASA and to CASSA.  We benefit from their experiences with our colleagues to the south as they share insights from their meetings.  Personally, I am very warmly welcomed as I meet with state Executive Directors from across the USA.  I learn a great deal from their experiences and appreciate the international perspective on our roles!


Another highlight for CASSA is the manner in which AASA embraces and celebrates the CASSA EXL Superintendent of the Year.  This year’s recipient, Kim Jenkins (CASS) was acknowledged in Nashville and received all of the same tributes and recognition as any other recipient from any of the states.  CASSA was pleased to host a reception for Kim while we were in Nashville and we appreciated the participation of some dedicated CASSA partners along with a number of CASSA members who made the trip to Nashville.


From the opening ceremonies to the closing speaker, Canadian Craig Kielburger, the AASA conference provided a wonderful opportunity for networking and professional growth!


Please mark your calendars now for next year’s AASA Conference – San Diego, California – February 25-28, 2015.


Lastly, I ask that each of you consider nominating someone for the CASSA EXL Award.  It is an opportunity to celebrate the leadership of our members from across the country.  Contact your provincial or territorial affiliate for information.


Ken Bain

CASSA Executive Director




January 2014:


Happy New Year!  I am pleased to update members with respect to two vital areas of CASSA's operations.  First, you will notice the introduction of banner ads on our website pages.  This revenue generating strategy is part of CASSA's overall need to ensure its short and long term goals.  Secondly, the CASSA Board of Directors will be participating in our third Strategic Planning Session at the end of January.  Previous sessions have resulted in improived communications, a revised constitution and a strategic operating plan.  I will provide updates after our session in Toronto. Best wishes for a wonderful 2014!


Ken Bain

CASSA Executive Director