Meeting Notes - February 6, 2018

Tonight was the first meeting of the 2018 Education Committee. I am pleased to serve as the Chair once again along with Vice Chair Trustee Alan Halberstadt and Superintendent Dr. Clara Howitt.

We are working on a schedule of public presentations which support our new Education Committee theme: Seeking, Responding, and Celebrating Student Voice Throughout the Curriculum." We benefitted from the extensive opportunities for student voice on the Math Task Force and we now have this focus throughout the system in a direct and meaningful way. 

Trustees received an Indigenous Education update which is something we have been working on for a few years in order to ensure that our Indigenous students have the support and same opportunities for success in school as other kids. We know they face barriers in school and GECDSB is working actively on Truth and Reconciliation initiatives. Some of the ways we are doing this include having FNMI student support workers across families of schools, providing authentic and culturally appropriate learning opportunities such as using beading in math, doing our best to ensure that students can use their own language, taking the opportunity to use Indigenous teaching materials and teaching Indigenous culture and history across subjects, and asking students what their needs are. The fact that people ask, "Why is Truth and Reconciliation necessary? Why are you putting so much focus on this?" means this is important and challenging work. We developed our Indigenous Education Protocol last year, the first its kind in Ontario, and we will continue to live our promises.  

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Pyke also presented her Operational Plan update. Part of her portfolio involves Student Well-Being. We discussed suspension stats, seeing an apparent increase in elementary suspensions but a decrease in secondary suspensions. One of the reasons is that there were some issues with data entry and the immunization suspensions were also included with the behavioural suspensions. She also presented some of the work being done for student well-being including the anti-bullying Choose Kind campaign, culturally appropriate bereavement rituals, and early years socio-emotional research. It will be important to receive an update on whether the strategies are working.

Trustees also voted on a recommendation from the By-Law Review Committee to hire a certified parliamentarian to facilitate a review of the board's governance by-laws. I supported this motion. The cost is minimal and Board Chair, Kim McKinley, has offered to cover the cost with her Chair's discretionary funds. Over the years questions have come up including whether electronic voting should be allowed (which would put trustees in Kingsville and Leamington at a disadvantage were it not allowed and there was bad weather) and whether the same community person can come and present on the same issue more than once in one year (for the record, I don't see why not - we should be as open as possible to hearing from the public). While they are a hobby horse for some trustees, we are not experts, and I think it's important that we have an objective professional come in to help us out. 

The Operations and Finance Committee also had its first meeting of 2018 tonight with Trustee Dave Taves in the Chair spot, Cheryl Lovell as Vice Chair, and Superintendent Cathy Lynd as the administrative lead. We received great news that the increased enrolment seen in the fall is still holding which means we may be in a growth cycle. Other good news is that we are on track to balance the budget. We have made significant progress since we projected a large deficit two years ago and in fact we have hired since then.

The next public board meeting is on February 20. See you there!


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Jessica Sartori