ATHABASCA — Aspen View Public Schools welcomed a new superintendent and chief executive officer for the division after the 2023-2024 school year commenced at the end of August.
Constantine Kastrinos officially stepped into his new role Sept. 1, and said he’s passionate about fostering community, inclusion, and creating access to “world-class opportunities” for all Aspen View students.
Kastrinos, who came to Athabasca from Edmonton, highlighted how the thread of community-building has been a recurring theme during his career in education, from teaching to central office roles.
“Everyone has a superpower — it could be some people are really bright, some people are good at networking —, mine is I think relational. I like to be in the community, I like to get to know people, and I think that’s a good foundation,” said Kastrinos during a Sept. 11 interview.
Kastrinos’ said he had a busy August making “deposits into the social capital bank,” touring the schools in the district and meeting board members with former superintendent and CEO Neil O’Shea, who announced his retirement in March after five years in the role.
“Part of the reason I applied for this job, because I was happy where I was, was because I heard that it’s a great place with good people with a great (school) board; it made me feel more at ease,” said Kastrinos.
Looking to build on the positive reputation enjoyed by Aspen View, Kastrinos said he’s hoping to continue to foster diverse and engaging education methods, while bringing what he calls “a dedication to a level of excellence,” to the 18 educational outlets within the division.
“Great leadership is simple: you get to know people, get to know what they need, remove the obstacles or get them what they need, and then get the heck out of their way and let them do their job,” said Kastrinos.
“Sometimes it’s easier to get caught in a conversation around, ‘well, it’s not possible here, or we don’t have a resource,’” he added. “For me, it’s about what can I do to support you so that your answer is ‘yes, we can do this, or we can try.’”
Kastrinos highlighted the importance of capitalizing on the existing assets within the division to provide top-tier learning opportunities to students and create stronger bridges to post-secondary education, referencing Premier Danielle Smith’s letter of mandate to minister of education Demetrios Nicolaides.
“It’s a challenge, but I have some ideas going forward in terms of how we can leverage some of the resources we have in this town too to help support all of our edges,” said Kastrinos, citing potential for collaboration with Athabasca University. “I’m excited about that.”
Given his emphasis on relationship building and community connections, Kastrinos is also hoping to implement a superintendent’s student council to encourage student-led representation on key programming and operational topics.
Community connection is key
For Kastrinos, local connections are a strong foundation for great education, an aspect in which he noted Athabasca is not lacking. “From a relational stance and a community stance, I can feel that sense of warmth,” said Kastrinos, noting it was palpable from his first day in town, when he was greeted with a “welcome home,” from a friendly neighbour while moving.
Having spent his early years in Edmonton, Kastrinos touts roots in the Bonnyville area where he completed high school as his family pursued an opportunity in the restaurant industry, capitalizing on their Greek heritage.
In addition to his Albertan roots, Kastrinos said in hindsight, time spent in Greece as a child inspired his passion for the field. “It made me fall in love with education a little bit more because it just gave me a glimpse as to how things in different parts of the world work, and we’re very fortunate here.”
Kastrinos says the biggest obstacle he faces in his new role is evolving rural education.
“That’s something that I’m thinking seriously about — how do we evolve, how do we create more partnerships with businesses, how do we create more partnerships with post-secondary to get students who are not just in high school access to world-class opportunities?”