Meeting Notes - April 18, 2017

It’s that time of year again in which we celebrate the GECDSB Champions for Education. Every year the board recognizes the invaluable and selfless contributions of 10 community groups and parents in schools across the board. 

Recipients included the Breakfast Club at General Brock Public School which prepares a hot breakfast every morning, and Laurie Bradbury, a parent at Southwood Public School, who volunteers at the school on a daily basis helping with the Kiss n Ride Program as well as menu planning, purchasing the ingredients, and preparing snacks. You can read more about all of the recipients here. Thank you for your generosity and congratulations!

In addition, one of our Superintendents, Dr. Clara Howitt, highlighted her Operational Plan including the EQAO math and literacy targets which are set to be reached in this school year; plans for a Leadership development program for staff called Ignite; changes to our ESL program which will ensure that students learning English can be in their homeroom classrooms as much as possible so they can develop friendships and advance their learning of English right in class; and expanding outdoor education. She also announced that the Indigenous Education Protocol has been finalized and there will be a signing ceremony on June 12. She noted that we are moving to more student-centered planning across the system as a result of the great feedback we received from students during the Math Task Force. The philosophy is, if we want to know what is and what is not working for students, we need to ask them directly.

Plans were also presented for the new K-12 Kingsville Secondary School. We do not have a site yet, however, we recently gathered feedback from the community about the types of things they would like to see in the design. Skilled trades stood out as important to the community, and in response, the plans at this stage include 4 tech rooms: construction, manufacturing, communications, and transportation. We are also discussing the possibility of agriculture programming and greenhouses. Many of those who responded also indicated they would like to see partnerships with the Town of Kingsville in use of the arena and recreation complex. I think any time we can develop partnerships in new areas we should explore them.

During Trustee Question Period, I asked whether there were any updates on potential projects that could be eligible for the $856,000 in retrofitting for community partners that the Ministry of Education allocated to our Board last October (link). Unfortunately, we have not had success. I understand that partnerships do not happen overnight, but it has been 6 months and we are continuing to look at closing schools as we have two Accommodation Reviews happening right now. Personally, I think we should hustle. I don’t want to leave almost $1mill on the table that could reduce empty student spaces and possibly save a school as well as bring needed services into a neighbourhood. It is an opportunity – a gift – to try to develop innovative joint programming between the school board and another community agency. Because this is important to me, I brought the following Notice of Motion:

“That within 60 days, Administration report back to the Board of Trustees a list of schools eligible to receive retrofitting funding to convert school space into space for use by community partners as per Ministry of Education Memorandum 2016:B18, as well as types of community hub projects that would impact the number of empty student spaces across GECDSB, with a plan specifying how we will engage potential community partners.”

The vote will take place on May 16. I hope my colleagues support the motion. It does not guarantee success and I am hearing school boards across Ontario are having challenges. I have asked for some examples of success, and if there aren’t any, my attitude is, then let’s be the first!

The next meeting is on May 2 at 7pm at the board office. This will be for the Standing Committees of Education and Operations & Finance. I attended a Math Task Force progress meeting on April 7 and this will be a topic at the Education Committee. I anticipate that the Operations & Finance Committee will continue with budget presentations. Anyone can attend as an observer, a delegate, or a speaker. We are inviting members of the public to attend and present on budgetary concerns and suggestions, but the general public is welcome to make a presentation on any topic that is important to you at any time. Call the board office at (519)255-3200 if you have any questions. Hope to see you there! Finally, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Student Senate created an initiative to encourage students to create postcards to demonstrate what Canada means to them. Check out the GECDSB twitter account at @gecdsbpro for photos of their thoughtful and colourful artwork!

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori