Workplace health and parents the priorities of retiring Surrey school chief

School superintendent Jordan Tinney retired this month after working in B.C.’s largest school district for a decade


By Lesia Pogorelo

Even during the worst pandemic in decades, former Surrey school superintendent Jordan Tinney focused on health.

That included the health of the working environment, said Surrey district principal Daniel To, a colleague of Tinney for his entire tenure.

“That was one of Jordan’s sort of passions to make sure that the health and wellness was seen as an important issue,” To said.

He always developed ideas to support students and their families and tried to find best ways in working with parents.

10 years of leadership

Tinney joined the Surrey school district in 2012 as deputy superintendent, and in two years became superintendent. He had come from the Vancouver district, where he worked before, to Surrey, which has the highest enrolment of any school district in B.C. with 73,000 students.

A school superintendent has many tasks, such as overseeing district budgets, approving programs and supervising schools. In interviews with the Voice, Tinney’s colleagues noted his attentiveness to employees, students and their parents.

Tinney said he had to stay on budget, hire staff in difficult times throughout the pandemic and manage dynamics between the different types of directions given from the Ministry of Education and the Surrey school board.

He said the district went through a major revision of its goals after the 2016-2017 year. Then COVID-19 happened.

“None of us expected the pandemic,” Tinney said. “But through the pandemic people look to Surrey as a leader in terms of how are we going to make sense of all of this and how are we going to move forward and make it work.”

One of the many problems at the time of the pandemic – students had to study at home, many of them had slow internet. Surrey school district has always had in mind that every student receives knowledge regardless of social and material well-being.

A superintendent for the parents

For students and some parents, Tinney was more than just a superintendent, he was mentoring them.

Rina Diaz, Surrey district parent advisory council president, worked with Tinney since 2014.

“His advice has . . . provided a lot of guidance, the work that I do as a parent advocate,” Diaz said.

Diaz said Tinney could have allowed more responsibility on the elected school trustees because it always fell on him to answer questions from parents when they were seeking more information from the trustees.

“I’ve heard of so many parents sending emails to the trustees and never hearing anything back from them,” Diaz said. “So, what was the point of the trustees? Right, I feel that he needed to give them more to do instead of it all himself.”

Diaz hopes the new superintendent will change the way the school district holds itself accountable.

Diaz said because Surrey is the biggest school district in the province, it faces struggles with the use of portables, not enough spaces for students and preschools at over capacity.

“That’s probably going to be his challenge as well as it was for Jordan Tinney,” Diaz said.

Tinney’s last working day was March 11. He says he will miss working with students, which he said gave him the most pleasure.

“What can you say when you get… a class with kindergarten kids, how can that not be the best thing in the world,” said Tinney. “On the other hand, when you watch students who are graduating from Grade 12, . . . you see how talented they are.”

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