Wednesday, 05 April 2017 13:34

Secondment provides new challenge for Choo-Foo in Ministry of Education

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Liam Choo-Foo made the announcement last week. Liam Choo-Foo made the announcement last week.

A one-year secondment to the Ministry of Education in Regina will provide Liam Choo-Foo with an interesting new challenge, but it has not been an easy decision for him to temporary step down as director of education for the Chinook School Division.

“This is not a day that I had anticipated would be coming this year,” he said during the formal announcement of the change at a media briefing in Swift Current, March 29.
He has been appointed as the chief project officer for provincial initiatives in the Ministry of Education. The secondment is for one year and his intention is to return to the Chinook School Division in April 2018.
“Now depending on where the board chooses to go for succession plans and those types of things, we will see what kind of role that would be,” he said. “The other wild card out there is that often these one-year secondments don’t end in one year, but at this point in time my role is to make sure that when I do retire, it is as an employee of Chinook.”
He has been leading the school division for the past 10 years and his family has established firm roots in Swift Current.
“Chinook is part of who I am and Swift Current is a part of what our family is,” he said. “My children have grown up here, they’re still growing up here, and ultimately one of the deal breakers on this offer was that I don’t have to uproot our family and move them to Regina. … Over the past 10 years there’ve been a few overtures from various groups to go to Regina and we just love Swift Current so much we just never saw that in our future.”
This secondment will provide him with sufficient flexibility to work in Regina and still spend time with his family in Swift Current.
“It will require me to be there a minimum of three days a week, but generously Chinook has made office space available for me to still do provincial work,” he explained. “On the days that I don’t have to be in Regina I could be here still working, doing that work, but out of Swift Current. So then I can still carve out some family time that’s awfully important to me.”
Even though this arrangement made it possible for him to accept the secondment, there will still have to be some sacrifices.
“Part of this decision affects our family,” he said. “I had to step back from being the head coach of my middle girl’s club volleyball team, I did not put my name in to coach my son’s baseball team.”
He decided to take on the position of chief project officer because it presents an opportunity to make a contribution to education on a provincial level.
“I guess I’m going to be completing my thirtieth year as an educator this year and my timeline is probably drawing fairly close to an end,” he said. “I’ve always found new opportunity and new challenge something that is intriguing and I guess I’ve got a chance now to have one last kick at doing something that will broadly impact the entire province, and I’m flattered I’m viewed as a person who could go in and have that kind of an impact.”
Choo-Foo was previously appointed to lead the provincial team that developed the Saskatchewan Reads initiative.
In his new role as chief project officer he will lead a small team that will be working on a number of projects within the Ministry of Education. He will take on this task at a time when the provincial government is reducing expenditure to deal with a budget deficit.
“My work will be to get specific things done and so the impact of budget may impact the way in which we go about doing that,” he said.
During his one-year secondment he will not have any involvement with the management and operation of the Chinook School Division.
“There will be no Chinook projects or files dropped on my desk for me to handle,” he said. “That work will be from the ministry. … I think that’s an important thing for whatever the board decides to do in terms of succession. It's important I realize I’m almost here as a guest now and not impose my persona or my views or my previous title on any of the operations. I will be around, my door will be open for those that want to use it, but I would never overstep my bounds.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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