BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK — The new superintendent of the Pembina Hills School Division will be a familiar face to many who work within the jurisdiction or who attended either Fort Assiniboine School or R.F. Staples School in the last two decades.
On Feb. 2, an announcement was posted to the Pembina Hills website announcing that assistant superintendent of human resources Brett Cooper would be taking over as superintendent of schools effective March 1, 2024.
Cooper will be replacing Michael Borgfjord, who announced in November that he was moving on to a new position as the superintendent of the Black Gold School Division, which is based south of Edmonton.
In an interview on Feb. 6, Cooper said he applied for the position at least in part to continue the work done over the past two and a half years that Borgfjord has served as superintendent.
“We have great momentum going. We have great traction going with our principals, our teachers and our senior admin team. We wanted to maintain that momentum, so it seemed like the logical choice that I apply,” said Cooper.
Cooper, who has a Bachelor of Education Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Alberta and a Masters Degree through the University of Lethbridge, began working with the Pembina Hills School Division in the fall of 2002, taking on the role of associate principal at Fort Assiniboine School.
He then spent seven years as the principal of R.F. Staples School in Westlock before going to work as the principal of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) in Barrhead.
He then took on the role of assistant superintendent of human resources in 2016 and has held the position since then.
Cooper, who lives on an acreage south of Barrhead with his wife Sherry, joked that it wasn't his plan to work his way up from being the associate principal of a small school to the new superintendent, but he has learned a lot from the “wonderful people” throughout the division he has worked with over the years.
“I’m happy to carry on working with them for the next while,” he said.
“The big thing is just making sure that we don’t lose the work that we’ve begun. I know that our school board wants to see student learning continue being the focus. We’re going to make sure that happens.”
Because it is late in the school year, Cooper indicated he will also continue acting as assistant superintendent of human resources until Pembina Hills eventually hires a replacement.
It is worth noting that Cooper is the fourth superintendent of Pembina Hills in roughly a decade.
Borgfjord had been the replacement for David Garbutt, who retired at the end end of the 2020-2021 school year. Garbutt himself had been the replacement for Colleen Symyrozum-Watt, who departed in February 2017.