Meeting Notes - February 7, 2017

I was delighted to lead my first meeting as Chair of the Education Committee tonight. In consultation with Vice Chair Halberstadt and Superintendent Dr. Howitt, we have developed a theme for this year’s committee which will help set the stage for the presentations and topics that are discussed over the next 11 months: “Educating the Whole Child”. We have a great year planned with topics covering mental health, special needs and exceptional students, academic achievement, socio-demographic challenges, EQAO, health and physical education, technology, and more.

We began with a presentation about our new International Baccalaureate program which is being offered at the Riverside and Leamington District Secondary Schools. There has been an abundance of interest in this program at both locations. Superintendent Salinitri and her co-presenters described the IB program as an advanced curriculum for open-minded and well-rounded students who like an academic challenge. It is delivered by teachers with specialized training and is recognized internationally. It gives students a sense of what university be like and, in fact, universities evaluate students with IB highly when considering applications, and some offer advanced standing to students with IB. For example, the University of Windsor posts that “applicants presenting IB credentials have the option at the point of admission of receiving transfer credit for approved courses” up to a full year.

In terms of implementation, a cohort of grade 9 preparatory courses will start being offered in 2017/18, and this cohort would begin grade 11 IB programming in 2019/20 and graduate in 2020/21. A new cohort will be accepted every year. While IB is heavy on traditional academia, there is some choice, for example, to specialize in science or social sciences, if desired. At GECDSB, bus transportation will be provided within boundaries. There is no cost in grade 9, but there are fees to the program going forward. Applications are due on February 15 and must include copies of the grade 7 final report card and grade 8 February report. For more information see this website, or contact the GECDSB.

We also heard from Superintendent Vicki Houston who is our International Student scout, among many other things in her portfolio. In keeping with the Education Committee’s theme, she began with the remark that this program is about “Educating the Whole Child in the Whole World”. In this capacity, Superintendent Houston’s role involves travelling to various countries to talk about what GECDSB has to offer to international students. Students pay a fee and they can attend a short-term or longer-term program. We have 91 international students currently enrolled. This program benefits not only the international student, but the host schools and students as well because they get to learn and experience other cultures and learning styles. Further information about the program can be found here.

At the end of the meeting I noted that February is Black History Month in Ontario and students across the board are learning about Black Canadians who have made important contributions to our society. The Roads to Freedom document, which is the board’s Black History curriculum document was revised last year, and has been distributed and students are working on various educational activities including biographies of different Black Canadians who have had an impact on our province and our nation, such as Viola Desmond; Michaelle Jean; Dr. Howard McCurdy.

In addition, we have launched our School Climate Surveys, which are done every other year to collect feedback on various aspects of school culture and individual well-being from students, parents, guardians, and staff. The information is used by our Safe School teams to develop strategies for continuous improvement. The link is found on the board website and is open until Friday, March 3. The more responses we get, the better, so spread the word!

Finally, Kindergarten registration begins on February 21 and we are running our Talk to Ten program again this year in which everyone in the GECDSB community is encouraged to tell 10 people about the great things happening at GECDSB. All elementary schools in the board are holding open houses in the evening on February 22. This is a great opportunity to visit our schools.

The Operations and Finance Standing Committee also held its first meeting of 2017 tonight. I am very pleased that we have been able to reduce our deficit from $3.75 million to about $1.5 million. This is mainly attributed to an unexpected increase in enrollment which is mostly due to the newcomers that we have welcomed to the board. On top of the additional funding we will receive based on having more students, we also received $429,000 from the province to support the settlement of Syrian refugees. 

The next board meeting is on February 21. Before then, the community meetings will begin for the Forest Glade and Leamington PARC’s and I will be attending the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative’s Winter Wonderland Festival at Dougall Avenue Public School on Saturday, February 11. This is a free family friendly event with games, crafts, snacks, and face painting – hope to see you there!

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori