North Delta Grade 8s get a hand-delivered start to the school year

Sands Secondary administrators Aaron Akune and Joanna Macintosh brought letters to 136 homes

The families of Grade 8 students going into Sands Secondary School received two unusual visitors between Aug. 21 and 23: Aaron Akune, principal of Sands, and Joanna Macintosh, vice-principal.

The pair were out hand-delivering welcome letters to the Grade 8s’ families before the school’s start of school information session on Aug. 31.

“I felt really pumped at the end of the day yesterday (Aug. 23) when we got to everyone,” Macintosh said. “Now a lot of the students know who we are, you know. They know our faces — they’re friendly faces. I think that’s a big part of it for me.”

“It’s nice to talk to people when you have good news,” Akune added. “Rather than ‘I have to talk to you about —” he said, his voice stern and his finger raised.

The idea for delivering the letters came from a blog post Akune read over the summer, written by an American high-school principal.

“The line really hit me when she said, ‘I’ve been in the living room of every one of my students’ houses,’” he said. “But it made me think.”

“I think for both of us, we really pride ourselves on relationships, right. And I think we do a really good job with the kids,” he continued. “But kids are easily accessible because we see them everyday. But with parents, definitely more challenging to find close contact.”

By delivering the letters door to door, Akune said, it was a chance to meet the families on their grounds and develop a relationship.

Akune compared it to a parent-teacher interview.

“Not everyone views it this way, but we always viewed parent-teacher interviews as an opportunity, not just to tell parents how their kids are doing, but to have parents tell us bits and pieces about their kids that we might not ordinarily have known,” he said.

“This was a similar opportunity to hear from a parent if they wanted to share something.”

Over three days, Akune and Macintosh visited 136 houses, walking to many in the North Delta catchment area, but also driving to those few students who were coming from other catchments or districts.

In total about 40 per cent were home to greet them, and some of those took to Twitter to applaud the endeavour.

At this point, the plan is to keep the personal touch going, delivering the newsletter to Grade 8 families every year.

“It’d be interesting to see how the relationship is with those families,” he said. “It’s a hard study to follow, but I think it’s going to be a successful program.”

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