After an exhaustive, nationwide search, the School District 63 board has announced a new superintendent of schools to replace Dr. Keven Elder, who is retiring in July. They selected Dave Everwein, who currently serves as the deputy superintendent at School District 45 (West Vancouver) – a position he’s held since 2011.
Elder, who has served as Saanich’s superintendent of schools for the past 12 years, took the opportunity to reflect on School District 63, the changes he’s seen in education, and the reasons he’s always loved his work.
“We’ve come such a long way in education,” said Elder. “The truth is public education is a highly evolving system – a system that’s been challenging itself to become better every day for 100 years. It’s something we [in education] are very proud of.”
On the issue of diversity, Elder explained that he’s has witnessed a welcome shift to serving a highly diverse population, in which all children are welcomed, honoured and included. He emphasized the strong culture of respect for diversity in School District 63.
“I can still remember a time when there was a belief that differences needed separation. Children who were different in any way were not included in the mainstream system. The result was a world where, as kids, we used to only interact with children who were like us,” he said, adding that it was a poor way to prepare children for the real world.
“That system was not reflective of society…the world is a very diverse place and now those differences are celebrated and respected. I’m proud to have been a part of that change – putting people together to develop a culture of support.”
Elder was quick to give credit to the help he’s had from the community.
“I’ve had very positive relationships with the boards of education with whom I’ve worked and with parent associations as well,” said Elder. “We often don’t hear about the quiet, effective work these people do, but they have been essential to any successes I’ve had. In District 63, I’ve had the benefit of highly functional and effective partnerships – a strong, positive working relationship.”
Elder also some observations on today’s teachers.
“I have seen some great teachers – I do every day, and it all starts with caring people who genuinely and deeply care for the well-being of young people. A good teacher goes in every day believing they are making a difference. If you have that disposition and you become well versed in your craft, then you are going to be a great teacher.”
On the issue of a changing world and the new challenges facing educators, Elder was very direct.
“I’m hearing a lot about teaching morals and ethics, and I recognize teachers and the system have a responsibility to go beyond the curriculum to respond to what’s happening in the world today,” said Elder, adding students need to learn how to exercise some degree of critical judgment on the things they’re hearing, particularly on social media platforms.
“It’s an unspoken curriculum of helping to shape character and equipping children so they emerge into the real world with certain filters in place. We need to encourage thoughtful consideration of real evidence and facts.”
Elder has always been what he called “a local boy”. Raised in Duncan, he graduated from Cowichan secondary in 1975, married his high school sweetheart and raised three daughters on the Island.
“I’ve had the good fortune to have loving, caring people in my life,” said Elder. “My father was a teacher and he really inspired me. My wife was a nurse, and her care and compassion for others was always an inspiration. I’ve been very lucky.”
His background has given him an abiding respect for the importance of family, a philosophy he’s always applied as an administrator.
“Family has to come first. The job is right up there in importance, but family is first.”
Despite the accolades Elder has received throughout his 37-year career, he was self-deprecating in his final observations.
“All I’ve done was to do my best in the jobs I’ve had. My last comment is primarily one of appreciation. I never imagined my career would be this rewarding for this long. It’s unusual, I suppose, that one can look back on a 37-year career and be joyful about the opportunities you had to make a difference. I’m very grateful to all the people who helped me make this happen and who helped along the way.”