As Central Okanagan School District superintendent Hugh Gloster walked through the halls of Kelowna Secondary School this week, he stopped to peruse some of the old school pictures and reminisce about his days as a teacher at KSS.
You couldn’t blame him for the trip down memory lane. Come this fall, Gloster will retire from a 36 year career in Central Okanagan schools. He was a teacher for a decade where he taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 12, then a principal and vice principal, and finally into school board administration, where he has been superintendent for the past six years.
To say Gloster has been a fixture on the Central Okanagan education scene is an understatement. He left his mark on the district by focussing on kids and people first.
“I was looking at those pictures reminiscing about the grad classes and the different students I knew particularly well and I had a great sense of pride,” said Gloster this week as he prepared to open his final school year as a full time educator and school administrator. “It was a privilege working with young people and seeing if you could help them. One of the things I always felt was you could change a kids’ life by just spending some time with them.”
Among the pictures that Gloster stopped to look at was a great student and athlete from years gone by. His name was Al Lalonde and that student had moved onto a career in education, following in Gloster’s footsteps as a teacher first and now a principal. Lalonde said it was Gloster who made him want to be a teacher.
“He’s one of those people that motivated me to get into teaching,” said Lalonde, now in his fourth year as RSS principal. “As superintendent he’s been a great leader. He’s a great people person. He really cares about people and he has really motivated a lot of us to care about children. It’s always been students-first and people-first for Hugh and I think that’s really impactful as a leader.”
Originally from the UK, Gloster moved with his family to Canada as a young boy, living in Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island. After high school he attended UBC and the University of Victoria before completing his masters through Gonzaga University in Washington State.
As a teacher his speciality was high school social studies but he could do it all, including what he called one of his most challenging assignments when he switched from high school to Kindergarten in one year.
When he entered work as an administrator at the Central Okanagan School District 12 years ago, he set his sights on the graduation rate, focussing on increasing the number of kids that come out of school with a Grade 12 diploma or equivalent for special needs’ students.
“When I started we were in the mid-70 per cent of kids graduating,” said Gloster. “We looked at that and said ‘this is a pretty affluent area and that’s not acceptable.’ Our graduation rates have improved dramatically and that has been a total team effort. We’re now into 91 or 92 per cent of kids graduating. That just means there is still eight per cent of the kids that this still isn’t working for them. We want an engaging program where kids are excited to come to school everyday so we’re going to keep working at it.”
While Gloster will retire as superintendent at the end of December, he will keep his foot in education with some contract work that will also allow for some more personal time. Over the years his philosophy has been handed down to other administrators and to teachers and he plans to keep working for the improvement of school-aged children.
“I think one of the things I have been most proud of as an organization is we have really been committed to continuous improvement,” he said. “We never once sat back on our laurels and thought we had it all figured out. We were always looking to improve. Maybe we weren’t meeting the needs of every kid and until you can completely say that there is always work to be done. I’m very proud of the effort our teachers make and the support they get from the principals and vice-principals, everyone in the schools, they all come together to say ‘how can we do the best job.'”
New school superintendent Kevin Kaardal is in the district working now and will take over full-time from Gloster Jan. 1.