Cowichan school district says goodbye to Joe Rhodes

In a brief but heartfelt address to the audience following his final school board meeting on Tuesday, May 5, retiring schools superintendent Joe Rhodes said he almost wished he was younger so he could watch the Cowichan Valley school district grow.

"We have here some of my greatest advocates and my greatest adversaries in the same room all at the same time and I just want to take this opportunity to thank everybody for eight wonderful years in the district," he said.

He thanked reps from the Cowichan Valley Teachers Federation, CUPE, Steelworkers, principals’ group, his own team, the parents and more, praising them all for doing the best they could with the money provided.

"Everybody in this room knows that the dollars need to be more and we all advocate for that in the ways that we can," he said.

"To the board, I wish I was younger. It would be an absolute delight to spend the next four years with you. I can’t say enough how happy it makes me

feel to know that our district is in good hands and of the great work that you will do. I feel a bit short-changed because I feel we’ve been this incredible gardening team for the last four or five years.

"We’ve cut the trees down, we’ve blown up the stumps, we’ve got the rocks out, we’ve tilled the soil and we’ve planted some really neat seeds. And I don’t get to watch them grow. But thank you for all that," Rhodes said, to a standing ovation.

Board Chair Candace Spilsbury replied, "We admire you and your dedication, your courage and your achievements. We have improved. When you look at our transition rates, our grad rates that you brought forward tonight, I’m impressed with those and it’s all been during your watch.

"I think we’re also impressed with your efforts around vulnerable learners and what you and your team went through during restructuring and rebuilding. I think we’re in a very fine place now to grow some beautiful flowers with Rod [Allen, newly hired superintendent]. That was one of the attractions for him to come here; you built that with us and everyone has come to appreciate you," she said.

Trustee Rob Hutchins also praised the superintendent’s work towards keeping students in high school so they can graduate and Trustee Elizabeth Croft added that, in giving firm backing to the Cowichan Valley Open Learning Co-operative, Rhodes was offering new hope to students who might otherwise have left the school system entirely.