Meeting Notes - October 4, 2016

EQAO results were at the top of the Education Committee agenda tonight. 

As I have written before, the EQAO is done annually in all school boards in Ontario. It is an independent assessment of student learning of the literacy and numeracy curricula in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10. EQAO provides important information for school boards about aspects of students’ learning that can be understood on an individual student level through to a board-wide level. GECDSB carefully follows the pattern of the results for students in our board so we can provide support to students and staff in the areas necessary. For example, the board engaged in a Math Task Force initiative from September 2015 through April 2016 to set a plan to support students and staff across the board in the area of numeracy. Targets in all of these areas are set and we feel the Math Task Force has positioned us well to achieve our targets in 16/17.

The results for GECDSB for the 15/16 academic year can be found here. It is clear that we have made gains in some areas, but there was a decline in others. I am very proud that GECDSB is performing 14% higher than the provincial average in Grade 9 Applied math, however, both scores show need of improvement. One unique aspect about the testing last year in our board was the number of new students whom we welcomed to our board in the spring that did not speak English. Unfortunately, these students could not write the test because they are learning English, but they are not eligible to be exempted; according to the rules, they receive zeros. While this would certainly affect the board’s score, it will be very important that we provide the support these kids need. In fact, many of them are recent refugees from Syria, some of whom have never been in school. It is incumbent upon us to give them the excellent education they deserve and we have started on this already.

We also learned about a pilot program to provide intensive reading intervention to students with learning disabilities. The Ministry is providing $150,000 in funding for each year from 2016 to 2019 to evaluate the effectiveness of intensive reading interventions to students in our board. Five schools will be using a program called Empower and another 5 schools will be using the Empower program as well as Lexia Reading Core 5. Students who score below a threshold on standard assessments will be involved in the pilot intervention. I am looking forward to hearing more about the outcomes of this pilot project!

GECDSB is also providing a very unique program to inmates at the Southwest Detention Centre in order to help them achieve their high school credits and graduate with their OSSD. Research has demonstrated that risk of (re)offending is reduced with a supportive network of family and friends, and educational success which helps lead to employment. In addition to a GECDSB teacher who provides their education, they have access to a guidance counsellor, and an employment counsellor. This wrapping around of services is important in order to provide the stability and support they need to be successful. The program is fully funded and began on January 15 of this year. There are currently 33 men and 8 women enrolled in the program. To date 20 credits have been earned and we have already celebrated the graduation of one student! I am very proud of our board for this initiative.

During the Operations & Finance Committee meeting we had an update on the 2016/17 budget. A deficit of $3.75 million is still budgeted at this time. The deficit is primarily due to declining enrolment, reduced top-up funding for operations, and an increase in the occasional/replacement costs for teachers and other educational support staff. Some of the continued risks as identified by Administration are declining enrolment, salary increases including grid movement, and empty student spaces. Administration will be coming forward with ideas for reducing the deficit. They have identified three main categories where savings can be found based on the fact that this is what we can control to an extent: programming, infrastructure, and staffing. I look forward to Administration’s report, however, I think it is clear that we will have some tough decisions to make in the coming months. 

The next board meeting is on October 18. Before then, all trustees have been invited to attend a public meeting put on by Downtown Residents Association on October 6th to help residents understand the accommodation process and where we are in this process as a board. Trustees Halberstadt, McKinley, and I will be attending. 


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Jessica Sartori