Meeting Notes - February 16, 2016

We had a busy night with presentations of the Annual Operations Plans from two of our Superintendents, as well as many speakers, and multiple Notices of Motion.

First, we recognized our February Student of the Month, Waseem Boudali, a Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Secondary School. Waseem is very active at his school and maintains high grades in the enriched academic program. He is the lead organizer of many events at Massey including the Multicultural Dinner, the Debate Team, the World Issues Club, and the school’s annual can drive that brought in more than 10,000 cans in two weeks. Congratulations Waseem!

We then heard from Superintendent Vicky Houston who discussed plans for the International Baccalaureate program which is under development at our board. She will be scheduling school visits in late March and early April in order to develop recommendations for site selection. I am looking forward to it!

Next, Superintendent John Howitt talked about his family of schools which include West Windsor and South Windsor. I was excited to hear about Marlborough’s new culinary program with a state of the art kitchen and a chef teacher. I am very pleased that we could expand the programming at Marlborough. He also discussed that the board has made gains in technology with the addition of Edsby (see this blog post) and the fact that all students now have access to Office 365 which provides online word processing software among other features. Finally, he indicated that we now have better inventory control over our 5300 iPads which should allow for easier sharing.

Superintendent Cathy Lynd also read a prepared statement regarding the sale of Forster. The official board statement can be found here. It outlines the timelines and major considerations for the decision to sell Forster which was supported by the majority of trustees - but not unanimously.

On a related note, the first Notice of Motion was mine:

That the Board hold a public information session in Sandwich Town regarding the sale of Forster.

I brought this motion on January 19 because I believe it is important to participate in community engagement as much as possible, particularly around issues that are of serious concern to the community. Community engagement is a tenet of our strategic plan. I believe communication from elected officials to the community is extremely important and that is one of the reasons I keep this blog. I also believe there needs to be as much opportunity as possible for communication from residents to the board.

Discussions about property sales generally occur in private session and this does make sense considering the nature of negotiations. Indeed, much information had come forward between the night I made the motion and the night of the vote. Although I agreed with trustees that there was not much more to be said, I stated that we should be leaders and stand before the community whose tax dollars support our board to hear their feedback and concerns. There are lessons to be learned from this situation. Unfortunately the motion was defeated with a tie vote, 5-5, in spite of community members speaking that night at the board in support. Here is some additional coverage of the motion from the Windsor Star.

Since that night I have been considering a public meeting of my own. My thinking right now is that I will not only hold a public meeting in Sandwich Town, which is in one of my wards; I would like to hold town halls in each of my three wards, 1, 2, and 9, at some point in the coming months to gather your general feedback as I will be about half way through my term. I will let you know of further plans.

I was happy to support the next motion on the agenda from Trustee Burgess:

That the GECDSB adopt the practice to formally acknowledge the Indigenous lands on which we conduct our business at the call to order of our public meetings. An acceptable example of this would be, but not limited to: “The Greater Essex County District School Board acknowledges that we are on the traditional lands of the Three Fires Confederacy – A council of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Peoples.”  

Particularly in light of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, I believe our board needs to consider how we will begin to address our responsibilities to this community. Trustee Burgess indicated she has been researching and working with the community for several years on this sensitive issue and I applaud her leadership. Trustee Burgess did indicate further consultation was necessary and that it would occur but suggested that we do not indefinitely delay proceeding with any action. The majority of trustees believed further consultation was needed before implementing anything and the motion was defeated. Indeed, this was a tough call because there were speakers there in support of the motion and speakers there who were calling for further consultation. I voted against the deferral believing that we should start with this acknowledgement now while knowing that we would continue to evolve our response to the call to action with further consultation. Again, this was a tough call considering the value I place on community input. I do believe that sometimes you have to get started before you can identify everything you really need to do. In my working life, I lead many projects. Of course, I lay out project plans as much as possible but until I begin I don’t see the whole picture and so the plans evolve. That was my thinking around this motion – that we would get started with the good intent of this motion and then keep working.

There were two other motions on the agenda but unfortunately the meeting ended abruptly at 11pm. We have a process whereby all trustees must support continuing a meeting if we reach the 11pm mark. This vote did not receive unanimous support on February 16 and the meeting ended immediately. Please note that the remaining motions will be considered at the next board meeting:

That the GECDSB adopt an Indigenous Education Protocol in principle and establish an ad hoc committee to address the policy, procedure, and practices that would aid in implementing it (Trustee Burgess)

and

That the board clarify the intent of its by-law on appointing four trustees to the policy committee, each year, on a two year rotating term, with the only exception being if two new trustees do not volunteer to sit on the committee in any given year (Trustee Halberstadt).

We now have a break in board meetings until March 22, but the work continues. We have started accepting applications for student trustees. Here is a link to the application process. I am one of the trustees on the selection committee. I also will be continuing with the Math Task Force and taking in “Anything Goes” at Walkerville Centre for the Creative Arts on March 5. Here is a link to the flyer. WCCA puts on incredible shows and I hope you come out. I can’t wait!

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori