Meeting Notes - April 4, 2017

Tonight’s meeting was for the Standing Committee of Education, which I chair, and Operations and Finance, chaired by Trustee Dave Taves. The Education Committee continued with our theme of “Educating the Whole Child”, focusing on Health & Physical Education and Indigenous Education tonight. 

These are two important areas at GECDSB that go beyond what we typically think about as classroom education. I heard from multiple trustees that they found the presentations very informative and refreshing. What impressed me so much about these presentations was the passion from the teachers who were presenting and the cross-curriculum initiatives that are happening across our board.

The Health and Physical Education (HPE) presentation focused on the resources, professional development, programs, and partnerships that are in place to support the revised curriculum from 2015. Indeed, HPE has undergone a significant change from when I was in school and has less focus on competitive sport and more focus on students’ physical and mental health and well-being, as well as inclusion. Hearing my daughter talk to us at home about HPE, there has been a shift from focusing on learning and performing a certain sport, to helping students develop life skills and healthy habits of mind and body. I think our students’ learning is enriched now. In addition to the physical side, other curriculum areas include mental health, substance use and misuse, healthy eating, and physical development and sexual health. I support all of this because not all students receive this education and support at home, and research shows that, like adults, when kids are informed, they can make better choices. Although there are HPE-specific classes, physical activity is implemented across the curriculum with active-body math learning such as outdoor math activities, and calculating energy (calories burned) used after a sport or activity.

The Indigenous Education presentation focused not only on Indigenous curriculum content, but also making learning more culturally appropriate for our Indigenous learners. Much work has been happening in these areas and the teacher who was presenting could not have been more passionate and engaged. GECDSB offers classes in Indigenous topics for course credit and after school language classes in Oneida and Ojibwe. We have Indigenous student support workers and an Indigenous student voice forum. We also offer Camp Migizi in the summer which has programming in Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe culture and traditions through games, music, art, and language. It is great that these programs are not just being attended by our Indigenous students. Other students are taking them out of interest as well. In addition, we have PD for teachers in this area as well as support for Indigenous teachers and staff. And, here as well, we see cross-curricular initiatives happening with "math being taught through a social justice lens", and ensuring that the way we teach math and other courses is appropriate for our Indigenous teachers and learners.

We feel it is our responsibility to bring awareness to Indigenous issues and to share knowledge across the community. In fact, our 2nd Annual PowWow will be held on June 10 at Kennedy Collegiate which anyone can attend. This work is ongoing and we are finalizing our Indigenous Education Protocol with our Indigenous Education Committee which has members from across local groups and organizations. The first tenet is very important and reads, “Institutional commitment to making Indigenous education a priority at every level.”

During the Operations and Finance meeting, we learned that we are still on track for a much reduced deficit for 2016/17 of $1.5 million, down from a deficit of about $3.75 million projected at around this time last year. We have been able to accomplish this without closing schools in the last year or implementing other mitigating measures such as cutting staff and programming. Indeed, we have higher than expected enrolment, which means more per pupil funding from the province, and although we have reduced some staff by natural attrition (e.g., retirements) we have hired more teachers in order to serve more students. We also received almost $500,000 for welcoming hundreds of Syrian refugees. This is all very good news.

The next board meeting is on April 18 at 7pm at the board office. Anyone can attend. We are inviting members of the public to attend and present on budgetary concerns and suggestions. Before then, “A Day in the Life,” inviting parents to visit their children’s classroom in action, will be held on April 5 at all of our elementary schools. Please call your child’s school for more information. Mindforce will be held at Tecumseh Vista Academy on April 8, which is a day-long competition for students in Kindergarten to grade 12. Students form teams and work on problem-solving and creative thinking activities such as creating new technology or theatrical performances. You don’t want to miss it!


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Jessica Sartori