Sandy McDonald has been the Chief Superintendent of Schools for the Grande Prairie Public School Division since 2016 and has served in a variety of school system leadership positions since 1997. In addition to the work in his division, Sandy has served on the Zone 1 executive in all positions and served two terms as the Zone 1 Director for the College of Alberta School Superintendents. For the 2022-2023 school year Sandy was Alberta’ recipient of the EXL award, which recognizes excellence in School System Leadership, and a nominee for the national EXL award.
Sandy has an embedded growth mindset and is always seeking to improve; as a person, husband, father, colleague and with respect to the systems and processes he is involved with. Sandy’s growth interests for the last several years have been in three areas:
- To explore the research on the organizational culture and practices of effective school divisions,
- The impact of coaching, generative dialogue, and collaborative inquiry to support and drive continuous individual and system improvement, and
- How Superintendents can support the effective governance of School Boards and align Board governance and administrative operations to ensure the academic and personal success of all students in the division.
On a personal note, Sandy is married to his best friend, Luana, and they are the extremely proud parents of two amazing young adults; Alex and Olivia. Sandy and Luana love living in the Grande Prairie area because it is filled with great friends, has a can do attitude and it is a generous community where people give their time and support to make it a great place to be. Having benefitted from the leadership of others who came before, Sandy and his wife have partnered with the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta to create a fund to contribute to local organizations focused on early childhood development: Sandy and Luana McDonald Family Fund – Northwestern Alberta Foundation .
What’s your ideal start to a Sunday?
On an ideal Sunday I’m usually up first, so my day starts with a cup of coffee. With coffee in hand, I’ll catch the highlights from Saturday’s sports and news, and dig into in whatever book is at the top of my currently reading pile. I’ve usually got 4 or 5 on the go at any one time, and lately have been reading lots about the importance and impact of nature on people’s wellbeing. The rest of an ideal Sunday will be time spent with my wife, preferably outside, and our two labradoodles. We love to be active in all seasons and one of the best things about having dogs is that they don’t care about the weather or the seasons as much as we do, so we almost always get outside just to keep them happy! The bonus is it keeps us healthy.
Your current TV/Podcast/Blog or book obsession.
We don’t watch much TV but will go on binges to catch something on a streaming service. We like documentaries and biographies, can easily be captured by a quality true crime series or podcast, and have a soft spot for offbeat comedies. This fall we’re looking forward to catch up to the last season of Succession and we are really looking forward to the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour when it comes through Grande Prairie in January.
What’s your morning drink of choice?
I’m not particularly picky; in the morning I prefer a plain, black coffee, preferably made at home but the gas station near my house also has some pretty good coffee. We have two favourite local restaurants in Grande Prairie, Jeffrey’s Café and Major’s Homestyle Restaurant. Nothing beats the experience of going out to eat and experiencing hearty home-made cooking and the atmosphere of homestyle hospitality.
How do you take care of yourself during the weekend?
As I’ve aged, taking good care of myself has become more of a priority and over time I’ve learned the importance of moderation, hydration, getting enough physical activity and getting enough rest. Both my wife and I work busy jobs, so we try to focus all week on wellness and moderation. On the weekend however, I like to emphasize wellness by making sure I elevate my heart rate for a reasonable amount of time every day, making sure I drink enough water, and striving to get a minimum of 8 hours sleep each night.
What are your plans for the fall?
Fall is always an exciting time of the year for me because it is the start of a new school year. I associate fall with hope, optimism, excitement, and possibility, and we just finished a weekend celebrating all that is good about life at the amazing Bear Creek Folk Festival. This fall I am particularly focused on being deliberate about my personal growth and I plan to engage less on social media and more on reading books and seeing/talking to people in person. 😊 Fall weather might be my favorite time of the year to be outside and it is the perfect time to stay balanced and get the house and myself physically prepared for the chilly months to come in the winter.