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.

 

Leadership

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!

MYP-Infographic

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:

http://youtu.be/jKYiUMWsfWI

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Break

IMG_3099

Here we are at the end of another school year and ready to welcome the summer break.

As I finish my first year as Director, I reflect on all the things that have happened during the 2015-16 school year that is now behind us. We experienced many challenges this year and worked on shared solutions. We worked together in a collaborative manner to find positive resolutions to these challenges. I commend our staff, our students, families and our communities for their willingness to come together to listen, to learn and to move forward in the spirit of maintaining positive relationships.

We also had many successes this year.  I’m sure that all of you have highlights of your school year that come to mind. For me, the highlights of the year were found in my school visits where I saw learning in action and heard about the successes of students and staff. I would also highlight my own learning within new portfolios including First Nations, Métis and Inuit education and working closely with our Trustees on various issues. A major highlight from my perspective is the journey that began in January as we worked through the process of developing a new multi-year plan.

In May, Grand Erie Trustees approved our new strategic directions to guide our work throughout the next four years. In the centre of this multi-year plan is Success for Every Student. We will achieve this through a focus on students and staff and in a culture of high expectations. The indicators that will support our goal include Achievement, Well-Being, Equity, Environment, Technology, and Community.

As we complete one school year and plan for another, I hope you share my excitement for the important work that lies ahead for Grand Erie. There will be many opportunities to share in the Board’s new and exciting Multi-Year Plan starting in the new year.

I thank all of our students, families and staff for their continued efforts in making Grand Erie a great place to learn and work. I wish all of you a summer break where you can enjoy time with family and friends so that you can relax and recharge.

I look forward to moving away from the routine of the school year for a couple of months and to spending time with family and friends as I also reflect, relax and recharge in preparation for the next school year.

Please look for my next blog post in late August when the routine will start again as we prepare to welcome students and staff back to school.

Have a great summer!

School Visits

For the past few weeks I have been visiting secondary schools. The visits usually start with a chat in the Principal’s office and then a tour of the school. I learn a lot about the school, staff and students on those tours and I always leave the school with a good feeling about the educational programs we are providing in Grand Erie.

I have seen many innovative programs so far and I am only halfway through my visits. One of the things I look for is student engagement and I have seen many examples of this. From observing a drama class in action to students hard at work in a greenhouse or preparing food in a kitchen classroom there are many examples of programs that mix experiential learning with academics. I have seen displays of success criteria and descriptive feedback and listened as students engage in purposeful talk as part of subject area inquiry. In discussion with students I have heard about staff who challenge them, inspire them and support them in their learning. In conversations with staff I have seen a real passion for the work they do each day.

One of the highlights of my visits is the presentation of gifts to staff who have reached the 25-year mark in their career.  As I present the gift I ask the staff member if he or she remembers their first day of work with the Board and I have heard some great stories about those early years.

Visiting schools is a wonderful part of my job. I get to see what is happening that is influenced at the system level and I witness first hand the work of staff and students. I also get a first-hand account of both the successes and the challenges at our schools and this allows me to be more informed in decision-making. My travels through Grand Erie also offer me the opportunity to experience the various communities that make up our Board and how those communities are reflected in the work and activities of each school.

This week I am scheduled to visit five more secondary schools and I am looking forward to interesting conversations, school tours and an expansion of my own learning.

 

 

Ability

Rotary Classic 2016Today a group of us from the Ed Centre participated in the Brantford Rotary Classic. It was a great day for a walk and it was wonderful to see all the school teams out taking part in the various events. Most of our group has been there before – we have done the 10k run, the 5k run and today we did the 3 mile walk. We walked because most of us hadn’t been training or have injuries that prevent running at this time. It’s all about knowing our abilities and working within those abilities.

This past week our Student Trustees presided over the final Student Senate of this school year. At this meeting the Student Trustee elections are held for the upcoming school year. So when I think of abilities I also think of this amazing group of student leaders who represent their schools so well. I think of the students who applied to be Student Trustee and how poised they were as they presented to the Student Senate. I think of how they responded to questions from the group and how they were able to focus on their abilities and their assets in describing what they wanted to accomplish as a Student Trustee.

Also this past week, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell and the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, visited Brantford Collegiate Institute. Her honour, the Lieutenant Governor spoke to the audience of staff and students about the importance of being good stewards of the land and specifically the Great Lakes due to issues facing our Great Lakes. The message I took away was that people in powerful positions believe that our students have the ability to make a difference and I couldn’t agree more. It’s important for us to support the capacity of our students to be change agents.

As I visit schools and speak to staff and students I am constantly impressed with the talents on display – in every classroom, in the things I see exhibited in the hallways, and in school events and activities. What is most satisfying to me is how the programs we offer allow for students to choose the pathway that best reflects their own aptitudes and ability. Whether a student shines in technological areas, the arts, or athletics, there are opportunities for those students to find an area where their talent and skills can best be demonstrated.

Ability by definition is the quality of being able to do something. In education we build ability in our students through the teaching and learning process. We can also recognize those talents and skills that our students have and encourage them in those areas.

For me, I will continue to reflect on the abilities I see on display in our classrooms and schools. And, I will determine my own abilities – where I need growth, where I need change. Maybe next year I will be able to run again in the Brantford Rotary Classic.