Metro Huculak had planned to retire as superintendent of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1) in 2013.
Then he postponed retirement, supposedly for just one more year, but that turned into another year and then yet another year.
Now he has returned to lead the NWT’s largest school board for 2017-18 and said at this point he is not at all certain exactly when he will step down for good.
“I’m still here,” said Huculak. “I feel good about it. My better half and I talked about this … she told me that I love my job and I do.”
Huculak, tanned and looking younger than his 69 years,
said he enjoyed his summer vacation but added he is ready and looking forward to the coming school year.
He pointed to some challenges that lay ahead including the implementation of junior kindergarten and reduced class-time for teachers.
Huculak said he understands some parents were frustrated by both issues but they are done deals and it is time to move forward.
“Teachers used to come out of class to do professional development with consultants,” he said. “This new process will help us with the cost of substitute teachers. My goal is to have more and more students graduate and I think we are doing that.”
Huculak pointed to the at-risk program for students at Sir John Franklin High School as a success story that he is very proud of.
“We’re getting kids off the streets,” he said. “We’re graduating kids who otherwise never would have graduated by having the right people in place working with these kids, visiting homes and making calls. A number of them will not go on to university or college but what we want to do is prepare them for the world of work so they are hireable.”
Huculak said Yk1 plans to have seven or eight junior kindergarten classrooms in operation come fall. He added that the work has been done to prepare teachers and staff for implementation.
“We are struggling with transportation for JK students but the education minister has been looking into it,” he said. “However, I haven’t heard anything from the minister’s office on it lately.
School boards are considering getting buses equipped with seatbelts, special seats for small children and possibly an attendant who would ride with junior kindergarten students to help them get in and out of their seats. But so far, the territorial government has not committed any funding to help get the young students on buses.
Huculak said that this will be his 47th year as an educator. He started in Alberta in 1970 and moved to Yellowknife 11 years ago to become superintendent.
He said another challenge for him is maintaining his long-distance relationship with partner Monique Gratix, who is a school principal in Hope, B.C. They see each other every month to six weeks and that it continues to work well, he said, although both of them added they do look forward to the day they are both retired so that they can spend more time together.