Superintendent Turner marks one year at FMPSD

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You couldn’t have planned it, scripted it – you couldn’t have seen it coming. Fort McMurray Public School Division’s (FMPSD) Superintendent Jennifer Turner has a story for the books on how her new local career started on March 2, 2020.

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Just the first normal week-and-a-half full of all 16 school visits followed by a pandemic, provincial staff cuts, a beloved principal’s death, a 100-year flood, new provincial funding formulas, and so much more. No, as aforementioned, you couldn’t have seen it coming.

We are indebted to our amazing leader, who has faced so much with integrity, relentless courage, and kindness for all – as she marks the first year in our Division and community. 

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Turner, who has been happily married for 23 years, has three grown children. She just became a grandma this fall as well to a beautiful boy. And, is looking forward to restrictions lifting in order to allow for trips to Edmonton to see her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

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“My grandson is just wonderful. Although I have had few in-person opportunities to see him due to the restrictions of COVID-19, it has been a joy to move into a new stage of life as a grandparent. My husband and I are looking forward to more in-person time with him.”

Speaking of time, Turner along with the support of senior leaders has accomplished so much in a year. She shares a few highlights:

“Nine days into this role, our system was required to respond to substantial changes due to COVID-19. Only a month after that our Division Office and two downtown schools were impacted alongside thousands of other families, residences, and businesses with the historic flood.

“At the same time, education systems from across the province were presented with a new provincial Assurance Framework and an entirely new funding formula.

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“This has truly been a year unlike any other. I feel the greatest achievement over the past year has been the collaborative, student-focused response to these truly harrowing challenges across all of our employee groups. It has been a collaborative team effort and I am so very proud of our division.

“The number of challenges have been great, but through all of these challenges, I have found the staff and community to be exceptional.

“We have worked together as a team, collaborating with our schools, our parents and our board in order to continue to ensure that students are supported in their learning.

“I am grateful for the educators, community supports, and continued help of our school councils and families during the first year.”

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She added there has been “exceptional student achievement with various award winners, grant recipients from arts, theatre, sports, coding, STEM, video production, spelling bees, mathematics, student leadership, and Indigenous honouring spirit awards.”

“Students have tremendous opportunities to excel in FMPSD as a result of high quality teaching, exceptional facilities, and strong parent and community support. It is an exciting place to learn and grow.

“There has been much to celebrate. We were also presented with two school teepees by Suncor, which will be a great addition to our Indigenous curriculum,” Turner continues.

FMPSD Board Chair Linda Mywaart can’t say enough great things about Turner. 

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“Jennifer was hired because the board saw a highly trained, skilled person during the application process. Little did any of us know how her calm, confident, capable leadership would be put on such full display during her first year at FMPSD.

“She has led the division clearly, compassionately and with wisdom and expertise to maintain the best education for our students through all the extraordinary circumstances that began to unfold within the first days and weeks of her being here with us. We are grateful and privileged to have Superintendent Turner leading us all in Doing What’s Best for Kids.”

Annalee Nutter, associate superintendent of education for FMPSD, agrees. She has been working closely with Turner during this year, and says “although Jennifer is a new superintendent, she works with the team like a veteran with a very clear vision.”

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“Her experience speaks for itself as she always communicates a wealth of suggestions and possible solutions for the various daily issues brought to senior leaders.

“Her practice as a psychologist and her passion for mental health are reflected in her very empathetic, resilient, and transparent leadership. Jennifer is an inspiration to many, exuding confidence, intelligence and strength!” said Nutter. 

Turner’s 24-year experience in the K-12 field gives her an edge. Before moving to town, she was the assistant superintendent for Rocky Mountain School District in British Columbia.

She has completed a Master’s degree in Science and completed the Alberta Superintendent Leadership Qualification Certification. And, is currently in the third year of the University of Calgary’s Doctoral Program in Education Research with a specialization in K-12 Education Leadership. With an overflowing plate, she also ensures FMPSD’s community partnerships are nurtured. 

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The visible care, collaboration and support for children and families in Fort McMurray is evident in the relationships FMPSD has forged. Community partnerships and support for programs and services within the division are exceptional.

“Evidence of this can be seen with over 150 partnerships honoured and recognized at our annual Partners in Education celebration last November. Although unable to gather in person we were able to recognize and celebrate our supporters in a virtual celebration.

“What a great evening and what tremendous support for our students and programs,” said Turner.

Additionally, Turner also sits on the Wood Buffalo Multicultural Association Board, and is a member of the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation, Community Grants Committee. 

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Discussing her short and long-term goals for FMPSD, she says, “in the short-term our work is focused on ensuring that students, staff and families are provided with the best educational opportunities and support we can give them as we continue to respond to restrictions and demands of the global pandemic.

“This has placed tremendous strain on all aspects of our lives and our work. Ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our students and our staff is at the forefront of our work each and every day.

“Over the longer term, our education system is learning about the new provincial Assurance Framework and funding formula which took effect during the 2019-2020 year.

“We will continue to see substantial efforts across the division and schools to fully respond to the shifts that are necessary as a result of these changes.

The Assurance Model emphasizes continuous growth and improvement to enhance the strong academic performance of our students.

“We will continue to champion the well-being of our staff and students, and ensure that resources, and services are aligned with the needs of our system.”

A leader who prioritizes students, staff, and families—Turner is indeed Doing What’s Best for Everyone, and for that we remain grateful. Thank you and Congratulations, Jennifer! Here’s to many more years under your exceptional leadership. 

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