Dec. 23, 2011
By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
It’s been a very busy time for many Halton District School Board staff. For a few ‘special’ dozen staff members, it has been extra busy because they have been helping a certain jolly elf from the North Pole answer letters to Santa Claus.
For the past 20 years, Board staff members have been tapped on the shoulder by Saint Nick himself to help answer the thousands of letters Kindergarten to Grade 3 students write him every holiday season. It’s a big-time operation and even Santa could use extra hands to help respond to the students’ requests.
Students have asked if they could just meet Santa, how the reindeer fly, how does he deliver the presents so quickly in one night, how cold is it in the North Pole, does Rudolph only shine his nose one night a year, in addition to requesting toys and games. In response, students have been told Santa had been working on his tan earlier in the year but “it is way too cold for that now.” Kids have also been reminded the reindeer love carrots and juicy apples, and Santa enjoys cookies and milk.
One particular elf has seen these kinds of questions and more. His name is Mike Davis, the Board’s Consultant for Elementary Mathematics and Numeracy, and you could say he’s Santa’s volunteer executive assistant at the Halton District School Board. He supervises the 3,600 English and 250 French letters that come through the Board’s email system starting in late November. He assigns those letters to 50 Board elves who, with the advice and wisdom of Santa, help answer children’s wishes.
“We still get a few letters from older people who still want to believe,” Davis says with a smile, noting he and his team help ensure students who missed sending a Santa letter can still submit one.
The Board introduced an electronic email system in 1991 and Davis thought a great way to introduce the technology to younger Board students was to have them write letters to Santa. Davis contacted the North Pole and told Santa about the idea. Santa was so thrilled with it, he laughed and his round belly shook like a bowl full of jelly.
‘Elf’ Julie, from the School Programs department, has helped Davis respond to letters for many years. She says it has been a great experience.
“It’s keeping alive the notion to believe in Santa,” she says with a wink. “I’m still a believer.”
As the holiday season nears, this will be the last year for Davis in his unique role as letters supervisor. He has talked it over at great length with Santa and has decided it’s time retire after 17 years and turn the operation over to another lucky believer. Santa Claus already has interviews lined up after Christmas and hopes to make a decision early in the new year about Davis’s replacement.
Davis says he will miss reading the wonderful letters and seeing the joy of Christmas through the young students who write them.
“It’s been great,” he says.