Bazylak ready to hear new stories as incoming Prairie Spirit division director

Sask Bulletin
June 16, 2021

As one who is approaching 30 years involvement in public education, it would be quite natural to be considering winding down and perhaps even contemplating retirement plans.

Yet in his own words, the “book” is only a guide. It is therefore not such a surprise that Darryl Bazylak is leaving his position as superintendent of human resources services at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools to become the new director of education with Prairie Spirit School Division on August 1.

“I remember the last time this position [director] opened up but the timing wasn’t right. This time it was perfect and I was looking for a new opportunity. I’m genuinely excited and really looking forward to forming new relationships, and getting to know staff, parents and the students,” Bazylak emphasized.

Darryl Bazylak will soon be switching offices from his longtime space at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools office to new digs as the incoming Director of Education for Prairie Spirit School Division.

 

“It will be a learning curve I’m sure, but people tend to trust me; I’m pretty open and frank. Everything I have done in this sector has always been about the importance of foundational relationships. I’ve never done anything on my own. It’s always been about collaborating with people,” Bazylak noted.

During the conversation, Bazylak readily cites the numerous mentors that have helped shape his approach. Including current Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools’ Director of Education Greg Chatlain, whom he refers to as very well respected within the education sector.

He is by no means the only one who earns plaudits. There’s also Don Hoium for his ability to move and adapt and there was Gordon Martell for his unwavering collegial support as well as having shared accomplishments in various initiatives.

Ever since he moved from administration to central office, Bazylak has never been one to opt for the office but rather going to schools as frequently as possible prior to the global pandemic.

“My approach has always been ‘tell me a story.’ That’s how you get to know people and I need to know. We learn to celebrate together and what you might need to have success. When you look at a school, it’s important to know the stories that went into those bricks.

“Getting to sit down with a kindergarten class is what keeps you aware and I have missed that a lot during COVID. I will definitely work to do that in Prairie Spirit. That’s what makes me feel good and that’s when you know you can make a difference and help people.”

According to Bazylak, it is especially important for young teachers to understand that “you have to plant the seeds and it takes a while for them to grow but you can see it for yourself,” he explained, particularly noting how former students will reach out, whether by Facebook or in person.

To those students, the former Saskatoon Hilltop football player will always be known as “Baz.”

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Bazylak taught and was an administrator at a host of schools in the Saskatoon Catholic division.

One of the highlights was when he was principal for two years helping set the tone for the innovative St. Mary’s Wellness and Education Centre, which among other notable groundbreaking features, included having an in-school pediatrician.

It was also when he discovered, somewhat to his surprise, that he preferred the elementary setting.

“I loved that whole experience. Kids at that age are so innocent and you really feel valued and that you can help.”

He also spent six years as principal at Oskāyak High School (formerly Joe Duquette High School).

Other stops along the way were Bishop James Mahoney High School and E.D. Feehan Catholic High School after having interned at Sion Middle School.

“I was always drawn to those students who needed a little extra help and didn’t have things handed to them,” Bazylak offered.

As a person of Indigenous ancestry, Bazylak has worked tirelessly to help in whatever way to narrow the graduation rates and improve outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, including working with First Nations communities in Saskatchewan to create a First Nations online school.

One of those initiatives that he feels strongest about is the ongoing work behind Following Their Voices.

“It’s teachers providing feedback to their colleagues in an authentic way and pulling the curtain back allowing for real change. By engaging families and valuing Aboriginal ways of teaching; that’s so rich and you can’t teach that. It’s about respect and that’s why we have seen signs of success from this approach,” he observed.

“We need more self-declared folks in leadership roles in the province and that’s really important. It doesn’t matter where you look in the world, education is key to change,” Bazylak stressed.

His wife Tracy is also a teacher in the Saskatoon Catholic system and they have a daughter Alora and a stepson Brandon. Interestingly, while his mother Claire was a teacher it was not a purposeful career path Bazylak had originally chosen, having written his Law School Admission Test with thoughts of becoming a lawyer.

However, he gravitated toward education because he had a passion for helping people. While he refers to education as hard work, he has never regretted his decision for an instant.

He is also involved in the community, including his role as chair of the Emmanuel Health Board of Directors, which specializes in looking after Elders, in particular.

He has seen the ravages of COVID-19, including the incredible hardships it has placed on teachers and school staff.

“I have unbelievable respect for our first responders and our front-line health workers. I also put teachers right up there because as teachers you’re often a counsellor too and I’m extremely proud of all our staff and how hard they are working. There are pieces that we can keep from this whole experience and moving forward there are things we can learn,” Bazylak said.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference and one of the regrets I have is that we haven’t done enough for self-declared students, in particular. There is so much more work to do and I look forward to this new challenge.

“I’m happy, sad and a bit nervous at the same time but that’s probably a good way to be. I feel like I’m leaving a great school division and am going to another great division. I can’t wait,” he summed up.