Dr. Rick Erickson is retiring.
The superintendent of the Sea to Sky School District (48), who has helped administer schools in communities such as Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton for seven and a half years, has made official his plans to retire on July 31.
"I've worked for 41 years in public education in British Columbia," he said. "I thought, okay, now's a good time to sort of take a look at retirement, see what that chapter looks like. I know that the chapter is there, I haven't turned the page yet, so I'm not exactly sure what I might see."
Erickson said he left news of his retirement until now because he didn't want to create any uncertainty at the school district regarding personnel. He made his plans clear to the school district board at its last board meeting in June and said if he had given notice any later, it could "disrupt organization" just as people were heading off for summer vacation.
Erickson began his career in his hometown of New Westminster in 1970. He was a schoolteacher at Lord Calvin Elementary School before becoming assistant principal. He later went off to work in Trail, in southeastern B.C., working there as an elementary and secondary school principal and assistant superintendent for 13 years.
He later returned to the west coast, working in Maple Ridge for 12 years as a director of human resources, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent, a job that took him to his first superintendency with the then-Howe Sound School District starting in 2004.
"I found it quite interesting because it includes three distinctly different communities," Erickson said of the Sea to Sky region. "It's in a beautiful little setting for recreation and also it's within easy distance from the city lights, and Vancouver, and so I just thought, what a kind of golden opportunity."
Some issues and initiatives that have taken up much of his time in the corridor have included "programs of choice," or offering specific programs in public schools that meet the needs of parents and students.
When Erickson first came to the school district, there was a late French immersion program in Squamish but there were no such programs in Whistler or Pemberton. In his time such programs have been implemented at schools in all three communities, most recently in Pemberton, where French immersion was approved for Signal Hill Community School despite the objections of some teachers.
"Those are important to students and parents because they offer opportunities and they should be available as options," he said of "programs of choice."
"The particular challenge that we have is that we don't' have a lot of students, so any program that we offer is usually one class and we have to make sure that we can maintain it, that it's sustainable over time."
One of the developments that Erickson is most proud of during his tenure is the academic achievement he's seen from aboriginal and non-aboriginal students in Sea to Sky schools.
The reason, he said, is that the school district has some "very strong" teaching and administrative staff, as well as a learning assessment program for elementary and secondary teachers.
"That assists us in looking at student learning, assessing and then modifying our teaching so that we can improve student learning," Erickson said. "It's a very powerful process and I'm very proud of the work our teachers have done to embrace that particular initiative."
Cathy Jewett, the chair of the District Parents Advisory Committee, thanked Erickson for his time in office and for his effort in working with Sea to Sky parents.
"He missed very few DPAC meetings, no matter where they were," she said. "Dr. Erickson created a District Learning Roundtable which brought Education Partners together from all aspects of education. Our DPAC was very fortunate to have such a collaborative relationship with the School Board and District Staff, much of this is due to Dr. Erickson's efforts."