Holiday Message

GEDSB Merry Christmas 2017

As we enter the holiday break, I find myself thinking a lot about the importance of community connections. Here in Grand Erie, we are a community made up of many other communities. This is what makes us who we are and what guides us to foster and celebrate inclusive school communities to enhance everyone’s learning experiences and ensure Success for Every Student.

Grand Erie is a community of schools. In these unique school communities, we’ve had a busy fall. We welcomed our new Kindergarten students, and supported our new Grade 9 students as they transitioned into secondary school. Our fall sports schedules got underway as soon as students came back to school in September. Clubs started up, and many school events took place. As we moved through October and November, there were fall fairs, graduations, awards assemblies, and concerts. We held a ground-breaking ceremony for the new elementary school currently being built in Dunnville, and we celebrated our new four classroom addition at Thompson Creek Elementary School. This new space provides extra room to bring two school communities together as one, after Anna Melick Memorial School closed last June. We also held a wide range of parent events to engage them in the learning of their children.

As a system-wide community, we held Remembrance Day events to honour those who have served and continue to serve our country. We took part in Treaties Recognition Week, and we came together to show our support for Orange Shirt day in the spirit of reconciliation. As we entered the holiday season, across our community, we gave back through toy and clothing drives, donations to local food banks and by supporting local families in need. It’s truly inspirational to witness the spirit of giving in our schools and all of our board sites.

To support our community of families, we hosted the School Council Start-up Session in October and we welcomed back our Grand Erie Parent Involvement Committee (GEPIC) with new members and a new Chair. They continue to do great work in supporting school councils across our system.

As a community of staff, we continue to come together for professional learning to support our own development and that of our students. We participated in United Way fundraisers to support the community agencies that support our students and families. We also participated in staff wellness events and student activities.

Our Board of Trustees is also a community. Once again, this fall was busy in the Board Room. Trustees attended events across the system to show their support and to participate in activities along with staff and students. Earlier this month, the annual Board Nomination Meeting was held. We congratulate Trustee Greg Anderson who was elected as our Board Chair for 2018, and we welcome Tom Waldschmidt to the position of Board Vice-Chair.

Recently, we posted the Director’s Annual Report which provides an overview of 2016-17. It’s a great reflection on the year that was and highlights stories from our many communities that make up Grand Erie. I encourage everyone to take a look at the report on our website at

I would encourage all of you to reflect on the communities that impact your life and in this season of giving, how you contribute to those communities. I wish all of our Grand Erie staff and communities a wonderful holiday filled with the peace and warmth of the season.





Inspired and Thankful

HappyThanksgivingAs we enter Thanksgiving weekend, I am reflecting on the many ways that we as a school board value and promote equity and inclusion. I am inspired by our collective efforts and that makes me feel very thankful.

Events like the Terry Fox Run, Orange Shirt Day or our upcoming Accessibility Awareness Day demonstrate Grand Erie’s commitment to equity and inclusion and showcase the incredible work of our students and staff.

The Terry Fox Runs that took place across our schools at the end of September continue the legacy of Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research. Beyond the fundraising, the Terry Fox Run promotes the important traits of courage, humility, responsibility, perseverance, determination and empathy to our students.

Many Grand Erie schools and sites celebrated Orange Shirt Day on September 29 to commemorate Phyllis’ story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day at a residential school. Participation in Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for all of us to come together in the spirt of reconciliation and hope, acknowledging that Every Child Matters.

On November 24, Grand Erie will once again hold an Accessibility Awareness Day. As a community, we recognize that accessibility is a key component of well-being. We also understand the importance of building awareness and respect for individuals with disabilities. On this day, schools will be encouraged to reflect on issues faced by those within their community and to recognize negative attitudes or beliefs about disability.

Thanksgiving is also an ideal time to consider those who may not be as fortunate as us, or those who do not have the same opportunities that we enjoy.

One way we are helping to support the broader Grand Erie community is through the annual United Way campaign at our schools and board offices. We know that one in three people will be helped by United Way-funded programs this year. These programs support the most vulnerable people in our communities, many of whom live below the poverty line, including families, seniors, individuals and children. The United Way invests in programs that are guaranteed to change lives, which helps to build a better and stronger community.

Once again, I am challenging the entire Grand Erie District School Board community to ensure 100% participation in the United Way – by this, I mean that we will see donations coming from all of our schools and board office sites. I ask staff to join me in contributing to the great work that the United Way does to support many local community agencies.

This long weekend, I look forward to enjoying the great outdoors and some wonderful fall weather. As always, being with family and friends to catch up, relax and count the blessings that we have is something I truly value and always look forward to. I also value our Grand Erie community and the great efforts being put forth daily by staff to support and achieve our goal of Success for Every Student.

To all of you, I send the warmest of wishes for a great Thanksgiving weekend spent enjoying time with those close to you. I also hope you take time to reflect on all that you are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!


















Welcome Back – Here we Go . . .

Welcome back Grand Erie MYP-Infographicstudents and staff, and best wishes for a wonderful start to the 2017-18 school year. 

 I hope that you have all had a great summer and are ready to enter this new year with lots of energy and enthusiasm to help you set and meet your goals.

 Our schools and support centres are ready for you.  There has been a great deal of work completed over the summer by our Facilities staff to ensure that our schools are well-maintained, clean and ready to go. The first day of school is a new beginning for all of us, as we get back into our routines and prepare for new opportunities.

 My welcome back message this school year focuses on the theme of high expectations and continuous improvement.

Our Grand Erie Multi-Year Plan states that we will support our goal of Success for Every Student in a culture of high expectations. It’s important that we all have a shared understanding of what this means. We have high expectations for all of our schools, our sites and our service areas. Our focus is on effective instruction, effective leadership and effective conditions for learning and engagement. 

At the core of our plan is Success for Every Student, but it’s important to note that all staff support this goal through work at one of our schools, one of our support centres, or through one of our many service departments. Your work, as staff, helps us achieve our goal through the six indicator areas of the Multi-Year Plan.

 As we enter our second year of the Multi-Year Plan, we will work hard to ensure continuous improvement in our six indicator areas: Achievement, Well-Being, Equity, Environment, Technology and Community. This past spring, we engaged in a monitoring activity to measure awareness and understanding of our Multi-Year Plan amongst our various employee groups. We learned a great deal from this activity, and are actively working on plans to continue to build awareness of the Multi-Year Plan and connections to it for all of our staff.

This year, I look forward to connecting with our Grand Erie community in many ways – through visits to our schools and our sites, through committee and board meetings, and through the many events that happen throughout the year. I also look forward to focusing on high expectations and continuous improvement with our team of Superintendents to support the work of our schools and the system.

Let’s make this a great year of learning and celebrating our journey together. Here we go!

School’s Out for the Summer

It’s that time of the year: a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved over the past number of months, while looking forward to a break before we set out to conquer new goals in September. We have a lot to be proud of in Grand Erie.

The 2016-17 year was the first year of the implementation of our current Multi-Year Plan, which puts Success for Every Student at its centre, and supports that success through the indicators of Technology, Equity, Achievement, Well-Being, Community, and Environment.

Our Renewed Math Strategy launched this year, initiated by the Ministry of Education and adapted by Grand Erie to differentiate instruction and strengthen staff expertise in this vital subject. The Strategy provides the conditions for school and system improvement through differentiated and tiered levels of support for all schools in Grand Erie. While all schools received support, some schools are receiving increased support and a few have seen intensive support. Our educators have been hard at work embedding the subject across the curriculum, and including more experiential learning opportunities in order to build students’ skills.

Grand Erie’s Student Recognition program began this year, and it was a pleasure to meet so many students in person to formally acknowledge their achievements once a month during our Board Meetings. These students have been recognized for outstanding involvement and results achieved in athletics, the arts, community building, and academic success. Congratulations to this year’s recipients, and keep up the wonderful work! We look forward to teachers and administrators continuing to share their students’ success stories with us in the year ahead as the program continues.

Staff and student wellness is a crucial part of Success for Every Student, and this past year saw the launch of Grand Erie’s Be Well campaign within all of our elementary schools. Continuing on the success of Be Well in our secondary schools, the elementary launch revised the language around mental health and wellness to ensure younger learners know how to check in with their own wellness, recognize when they or a friend might need help, and find resources and assistance during critical times.

One important celebration of our inclusive school communities took place during Grand Erie’s Pink Shirt Day. On this special day in February, the whole board donned the colour pink to send a powerful message against bullying, discrimination, and homophobia as part of this international movement. It was truly inspiring to see this positive message accompanying the wave of pink!

This past spring, Grand Erie celebrated with the community at École Confédération for the official opening of the newly renovated school site and expanded French immersion program. It was a fitting time to celebrate its opening as Canada gears up for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation very soon.

I thank all of our students, families and staff for their continued efforts in making Grand Erie a great place to learn and work.

After a busy school year, I look forward to moving away from the routine for a few weeks to relax and recharge in preparation for the next school year.

On that note, I wish all of you a rejuvenating summer break, and look forward to another exciting year in Grand Erie when we return in the fall.



Professional Learning

As the first month of 2017 finishes up and as we move towards the second half of this school year, it is a good time to reflect on what we have accomplished and what still needs to be done. This has led me to think about the importance of professional learning for all members of our organization.

In August 2016 the Ontario College of Teachers released the revised Foundations of Professional Practice and this update includes the revised Professional Learning Framework for the Teaching Profession. Page 24 of the document states the following:

A commitment to ongoing learning is a central tenet of teacher professionalism. Educators’ professional knowledge and efficacy are foster through engagement in professional learning and this is inextricably connected to student learning.

Within our organization our teaching and school administrative staff are part of many formal professional learning opportunities on topics such as the Renewed Math Strategy, literacy, assessment for, as, and of learning, kindergarten teaching and learning just to mention a few. However, it’s not just our teaching staff who participate in ongoing professional learning – our support staff, our service department staff and our senior administration also take time to engage in learning to support the work we do towards our goal of Success for Every Student.

At our weekly Executive Council meeting the senior team participates in professional learning both informally as we review current initiatives, reports going to Board and annual operating plan progress and also formally as we connect our work to the District Effectiveness Framework (2013) in our own learning sessions.

Our Trustees also engage in ongoing professional learning. Recently the Trustees and I spent some time together on a Monday evening to learn more about the Strong Districts Work that has been in place since 2012 and to review the characteristics of strong districts as formalized in the District Effectiveness Framework. Our discussions included what we mean in our 2016 – 2020 Multi-Year Strategic Plan when we refer to “a culture of high expectations” and how this statement includes students, staff and the system as a whole. This was our second professional learning session this school year and we have another one planned in April. These sessions are a great opportunity for our Trustees to gain awareness and knowledge in an environment of co-learning and co-leading. For me it is great to have a team of Trustees who are interested and engaged in what informs our system with Success for Every Student at the centre of our work.

Ongoing professional Learning is a foundation of professional practice for all of us involved in the work of a school board. It is through learning together at all levels of our system that we will move forward in achieving Success for Every Student in a Culture of High Expectations with a Focus on Students and Staff.




Holiday Message

700-x-250_150947_christmas-banner-2016Earlier this month I was considering how every few years, the school-year calendar hits the mark for me as to when we break and when Christmas and New Year’s Day falls.

It seems this year is the best scenario where we can maximize the time between the holidays to relax with family and friends.

We just have to get there first!

Students and staff have been enjoying the spirit of the season all month long.  Families are seeing their children in school performances, students are leading festive activities – from pyjama parties and crazy hat days to ugly sweaters contests – and educators are making connections in the curriculum to the season.

Once again, many of the activities happening at our schools and support centres this holiday season involve giving back to our various communities through food and toy drives and it is inspirational to see the spirit of giving alive and well in Grand Erie.

Community outreach continues to be a theme across our system and the support and generosity of our staff and students warms my heart.  As I think of our Grand Erie family and our staff who work so hard to make a difference for our students and families, I can’t help but feel such pride and gratitude.

While all this activity is happening at our schools and sites we are also working hard at home to prepare for own traditions and celebrations.  It’s certainly a busy time of year but we always seem to get through it.

There are moments during the rush of it all that we find ourselves thinking back on what we did this year and what we have yet to do.  We think of New Year’s resolutions and how we can make improvements in our lives that can help ourselves and benefit others.

This year we are celebrating a new direction with the launch of our 2016-2020 Multi-Year Plan. Our staff embraced this plan and have shown support for our new vision: Success for Every Student.

In my role as Director, I’m fortunate to pull together a collection of accomplishments and highlights from the previous year in my annual report to the community.

I encourage everyone to look at the report as it represents all of your dedication and determination in reaching our vision.

As we get ready to leave for the holidays, I wish to thank the staff, parents and community for being part of our journey to reach Success for Every Student.

Wishing you and your family all the best this holiday season. See you in 2017!


Giving Thanks and Giving Back

As we get ready to celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend, I think it’s important to give thanks for what we have and to consider how we can help others.

Thanksgiving is an ideal time to consider those who may not be as fortunate or have the same opportunities that we enjoy. At this time of year in connecting with staff across Grand Erie, I have heard how various groups are giving thanks and supporting their communities by helping others.

One way we are supporting our Grand Erie community is through the annual United Way campaign at our schools and our board offices. We know that 1 in 3 people will be helped by United Way funded programs. A donation to the United Way is invested locally towards programs that deliver multiple levels of support ranging from temporary relief in crisis situations, to preventative solutions that ensure people have the tools and support that is needed in order for them to prosper. The United Way funds programs that support the most vulnerable people in our local communities, many of whom live below the poverty line – families, seniors, individuals and children. The United Way invests in programs that are guaranteed to change lives in the community which helps to build an overall better community. I will be donating to the United Way this year because I know my donation will be well invested to improve the lives of people in our own community and will have a positive impact on the children and families in our school communities.

This year I am challenging the entire Grand Erie District School Board community to ensure 100% participation in the United Way campaign – by this I mean that we will see donations coming from all our schools and board offices. This can mean one donation per building or many – I know we can do this!  I ask staff to join me in contributing to the great work that the United Way does to support many member agencies.

This weekend I will reflect on the opportunities that I have been given and the ways in which I am fortunate in both my professional and personal lives. I continue to be grateful for family and friends who support me and remind me to seek balance throughout the year.

I look forward to spending some time outside enjoying the beautiful autumn season while taking care of my own wellness agenda.  I also look forward to my home filled with family as we celebrate our traditional Thanksgiving dinner and catch up on everyone’s busy lives.

I thank each of you who work in Grand Erie and contribute every day to supporting our goal of Success for Every Student. I hope that all of you are able to spend this Thanksgiving long weekend being grateful for all that you have and for everyone in your life who is special to you. I can certainly think of no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving.



FaceTime 2.jpg

This past week, Grand Erie held its annual Leadership Gala, the purpose of which was to kick off our leadership program for the school year. Participants heard from staff in the Board about their own leadership journey and various people shared their challenges and successes in the area of leadership.

A key message  shared at the gala was around learning from mentors, both formal and informal, who help guide us through our leadership journey. Taking risks was also mentioned as those risks help to define the direction we go as leaders and though sometimes those risks lead to failure, it’s in failure that we learn and grow and move forward. While I wasn’t able to attend the session as I was off working on my own leadership with other school board Directors that evening, I did send a video taped message connecting leadership to our Multi-Year Plan goal of Success for Every Student and I highlighted that we can reach our goal through a culture of high expectations with a focus on students and staff. The Grand Erie leadership program is one of the ways we focus on our staff to provide excellent opportunities for professional learning.

Every day I see leadership all around me in so many different forms. Just this week I was involved in an activity that required leadership from a teacher and leadership from students in her class. Earlier this month, Liana Clarysse, a teacher at École Dufferin connected with me to comment on my welcome back blog post. Through email we continued a conversation and Liana invited me to be part of a FaceTime interview with her students. Her goal is to give her students the opportunity to see how people in a variety of professions integrate math into their daily lives at work. She wants to observe whether this activity increases for her Grade 3 and 4 students the relevance of what they are doing in the classroom. Of course I jumped at this interesting opportunity to interact with students. Liana’s leadership in seeking out this opportunity for her students was clearly evident but so was the leadership of the students who asked me questions. Prior to the FaceTime interview, the students were briefed on some questions but they had no idea who they would be interviewing that day – to them I was just the FaceTime Friend of the day. I was impressed with the poise of the students and at how competently they asked their questions. I can only hope that I provided them with a clear message about the importance of math in my own position.

We often think of leadership as only being connected to “formal” leaders in our organization, but to me leadership includes all those people who lead in whatever form that takes. Formal leaders direct the way based on the task that needs to be done; however, anyone can step up and show their own leadership attributes and potential. It’s what makes our organization work and makes me proud to be part of the Grand Erie District School Board. I see leadership examples every day and if you look around you, I’m sure you will see them too.



Welcome Back!


As the 2016-17 school year is about to begin, I want to welcome back students and staff and wish everyone a great start to the year. Our schools are ready due to the hard work of our Facilities staff over the summer. Construction and maintenance projects have been completed and our schools are clean and shiny. School administrators and teachers have been at school this past week preparing for the return of students on September 6th.

My welcome back message for the 2016-17 school year is on the theme of success.

Ask a number of people what success means to them and you will likely get a variety of responses based on their own life experience, worldview and opinion. I am fine with this ambiguity as I believe there are a number of ways to describe success. Looking up the definition of success online not surprisingly there are a number of meanings. The one I like best is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” because this allows for a number of aims and purposes.

As we launch the new school year in Grand Erie we are setting a new direction to help guide the work we do for our students. Success for Every Student is at the centre of our new multi-year plan. We will achieve this goal through a focus on students and staff in a culture of high expectations and we have six indicator areas to support our goal: Achievement, Well-Being, Equity, Environment, Technology and Community. It’s important that we have a shared understanding that success – the accomplishment of an aim – can look different for each and every student.

As I enter my second year in the role of Director I am excited about the path we are forging with our new multi-year plan. My first goal is to bring awareness of the plan to all Grand Erie students, staff and communities. I want people to see themselves in the plan and to recognize how the indicators support our goal of success for every student. I look forward to sharing the plan at various meetings with staff, parents and community groups and to working with staff to implement the goals and strategies that we have set out. I also look forward to working with my dynamic senior team as we support the work of schools and the system.

Our Grand Erie students get ready for success each and every day. Each student is special and has their own story to tell. Check out this video:

It’s the beginning of a new chapter. Let’s continue our journey in education.


How I Spent My Summer Holidays

pathwayThe summer break is quickly coming to an end and I have taken this opportunity to reflect on my summer holidays.

The weather this summer was great if you like sun, hot temperatures and humidity. I’m actually fine with all of those conditions and together with family and friends we spent a lot of time hanging out in the backyard under the shade of patio umbrellas and awnings. Our pool offered a welcome relief to the heat. Our barbecue got a good workout and we ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables we picked up from the local farmer’s market which runs every Wednesday not far from our house. Walking around the market and sampling this and that became a highlight of our summer. We also walked to the local ice cream parlour that is only open for the summer months – coconut ice cream became a quick favourite of mine.

This year we didn’t travel too far from home but had a classic “staycation”. My husband and I challenged ourselves during his two weeks off to hike trails we had never hiked and to find patios we had never visited for some refreshment afterwards. We hiked the waterfront trail several times and various sections of the rail trail. We headed down pathways without really knowing where we would end up and had several pleasant surprises as we found new pathways, streams and even waterfalls on our journeys.

We ventured out to restaurants we had never tried before both with friends and by ourselves. We played lots of games of Backgammon and Scrabble sitting on our patio as the sun set and the light faded away. During July we watched the fireflies dart in and out of the darkness. We spent many sultry summer evenings by our fire pit listening to music late into the night and chatting about life, plans for the future and what the fall might bring.

We caught up with friends and family that we don’t get to see as often as we would like due to busy schedules, geography and other dynamics. We went to movie matinees, timing our entrance to when the previews were just ending and racing up the steps of the theatre to sit in the top row and enjoy the coolness of the air conditioning as we lost ourselves in whatever story we had chosen to view that day.

I read many of the books I had on my summer reading list – mainly fiction of the mystery and thriller genre but also some non-fiction. I did a little professional reading from the folder of articles I saved through the year waiting for the moment when I had some free time to dedicate my attention to my own learning.

Like many educators I took a course this summer. I participated in mentor coach training in Toronto and learned a great deal about the power of professional coaching. I got together with other Ontario Directors of Education during the annual Directors’ meetings that are held in mid-August. It was great to reconnect and to network while learning about Ministry priorities and sharing our own plans for this next school year.

I feel like my summer was the perfect balance of activity and relaxation. I am rested and rejuvenated and ready to embark on a new school year. I hope that you have also had a wonderful summer and are preparing for the journey of the school year ahead.