Meeting Notes - May 2, 2017

Tonight we had a presentation about our Arts programming at the Education Committee meeting. 

In line with our theme of Educating the Whole Child, Vice Chair Alan Halberstadt and I requested this. At the last meeting we had a presentation on Health and Physical Education. We do not often get to hear about these topics in depth, but they are both part of a well-rounded curriculum. GECDSB has strong Arts programming including Drama, Dance, Music, Visual Arts, and Media Arts that is also incorporated across the curriculum into different courses. For example, Learning Through the Arts provides an opportunity for hands-on learning with different activities other than desk work. As we learned when we received the HPE presentation at the last meeting, it is important that students have an opportunity for physical movement and creativity throughout the day as it enhances their learning and attention. We have many community partnerships to enrich arts programming including the University of Windsor, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and the Art Gallery of Windsor. This goes beyond field trips and even involves collaborating on classes. Teachers are provided with resource kits and professional development for incorporating arts across the curriculum.

We also had an update on the Math Task Force. Remember that the MTF was initiated in order to ensure we are achieving the best outcomes for students that we can. EQAO results are one critical measure and unfortunately results for grades 3 and 6 have been declining for years. The board set aggressive targets for improving these scores which we expect to achieve at the end of this school year. We also put out questionnaires for administrators, teachers, parents, and students to understand their attitudes toward math. We found that many required support not just in terms of the content, but also their general comfort level with math. The full MTF document can be found here. We have enhanced our Professional Development based on feedback from administrators, teachers, and students during the MTF development process. Evaluations of the PD sessions have been positive. In addition, we have positioned Math Learning Teams in every elementary school as well as Math Leaders across the system. This allows for learning between peers and is being received very well. Going forward, we will be offering opportunities for teachers to obtain their advanced math qualifications in our schools which will bring the opportunity right to our teachers, hopefully increasing engagement levels in a familiar environment. We have had many newcomer students over the last year, many of whom do not speak English fluently. This presents a major hurdle to overcome during learning and assessment. We of course provide ESL learning to students, and we realized we needed include ESL teachers in our math PD. At the end of the summer we will have a sense of how the strategy is working when we receive the EQAO scores. I have said before that because there are attitudes about math (fear and anxiety, thinking you are not a math person) that are in fact part of broader culture and society, this creates a serious challenge that will take time to overcome. Our strategy is meant to support both students and staff with their growth mind set.  

During Operations and Finance, we had an update on the budget. We started the 2016/17 year in a deficit position and we are hoping for a balanced budget this year. The presentation tonight focused on changes to funding that will impact the budget. These include reductions in class size maximums and the elimination of base top-up funding for empty student spaces. It will take time for Finance to determine the specific impact on our budget. The deadline for submission of our budget to the Ministry of Education is June 30. We will receive another presentation at the June 6 Operations and Finance Committee meeting. This will essentially represent the draft final budget.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday, May 16. Trustees will be voting on my motion to prioritize community hubs so that we can hopefully save schools by reducing the number of empty student spaces, bring new services to a neighbourhood, and access $856,000 that the Ministry of Education will provide for retrofitting space in existing schools.


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Jessica Sartori