Sharing our continuous progress on equity and inclusion
At this year’s Starting Point, Director of Education Tony Pontes launched four new goals—our Peel Board Plan for Student Success—to guide our work to achieve our mission to inspire success, confidence and hope in each student. A key pillar of the new strategic plan is Equity and Inclusion—a clear, defined goal to help steer our journey to achieve inclusion for all.
“What I’m proud of this year is our continuous progress towards inclusion,” says Pontes. “That work flowed from new structures, from new and sometimes difficult conversations. And those conversations are powerful—and resulted in positive change.”
The new structures and committees – including a senior level Equity Advisory Committee chaired by equity lead, Associate Director of Instructional Support Services Scott Moreash – has brought equity to the top of the agenda and allowed the Peel board to work on our goal of continuous progress towards inclusion and alignment with the Plan for Student Success 2016-21. The Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee is comprised of leaders from a range of departments within our board and subdivided into four main areas: senior leadership structures, equity and inclusion, school structures and department equity teams.
Available on the Peel board's intranet site:
View the members and areas of focus of the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee
View the Peel board’s equity org chart
Stay tuned as we continue to share our continuous progress on equity and inclusion initiatives through Roadmap - the Peel board’s equity and inclusion newsletter.
Defining key terms
As we continue our journey towards inclusion, it’s important that we understand what exactly we’re talking about. What is equity and how does it differ from inclusion? Here’s an infographic to help us understand.
Help us paint a picture of the Peel board family
Participate in the anonymous Count Me in Peel! workforce census from Nov. 14 to 25, 2016
The Peel District School Board is comprised of nearly 16,000 full-time permanent employees and close to 3,000 part-time or contract employees. But these numbers don’t give us a detailed picture of who really makes up our Peel board family. Which is why we need your help!
You are invited to participate in the Count Me in Peel! workforce census to help us better understand and recognize our diverse, unique employee groups.
Count Me in Peel! is an anonymous, confidential workforce census that is part of our commitment to promote and enhance equity and inclusion in our workplace. It also supports the board’s strategic Plan for Student Success in its goal to achieve inclusion for all through continuous progress on equity.
With your support and participation, the voluntary census will help to:
- paint a picture of who we are as a workforce community;
- identify strengths and barriers to equity and inclusion; and
- develop and implement plans and supports to address workplace equity.
Below are some commonly asked questioned regarding the Count Me in Peel! workforce census:
- Who can complete the survey? All Peel board employees are eligible to complete the survey, regardless of job title or length of time with the board.
- Will my information be shared? The workforce census will not require respondents to specifically identify themselves and is intended to identify general trends. The questions do not ask for identifying information, such as name or employee number, and cannot be tracked back to any individual employee.
- When is the census available? The census is available from Nov. 14 to 25, 2016
- How long will it take? The census takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.
- How can I participate? The census can be completed in either of the two formats:
- Online survey – link to the online census will be available from Monday, Nov. 14 on our workforce census intranet page
- Paper survey – available through your principal/supervisor
Watch the video below for more details:
Introducing the new Manager of Workplace Equity - Farrell Hall
Farrell Hall, our new Manager of Workplace Equity, joined the Peel board in August 2016. He brings to the role a strong background in human resources leadership with a key focus on embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in all employee initiatives. He has been a long-time champion of employees while challenging unfair workplace practices.
Farrell spent the last seven years in the not-for-profit fundraising sector, namely the Heart & Stroke Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. While at the Heart & Stroke Foundation, he co-led their initiative to launch and implement diversity and inclusion training to the Ontario organization. Now, he says he’s thrilled to be in this role at the Peel board, and looks forward to the opportunity to strengthen the organization’s focus on equity and inclusion, especially as it relates to improving the daily experiences of staff in the workplace.
Some key priorities for Farrell as he begins his role include managing the launch of the workforce census—Count Me in Peel!—in November, integrating himself in the work of various equity and inclusion committees, implementing the remaining findings of The Journey Ahead, all while continuing to find opportunities to build and enhance equity and inclusion initiatives.
Among his outside interests, Farrell spent nine years singing with Forté - The Toronto Men’s’ Chorus. On weekends, he can be found with a camera in-hand as he masters the art of being an amateur photographer.
The Peel board Action Plan to Support Black Male Students
The Peel board has published We Rise Together, its action plan to identify, understand, minimize and eliminate the marginalization experienced by black males in Peel board schools. This important work began last year, when we held focus groups with black students from Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga schools, including a mix of students who were engaged and/or experiencing academic success in school and students who were disengaged and/or struggling academically in school.
The students shared their perceptions that:
- black males are guided into the workplace and college stream more than others
- there are stereotypes that affect how they are treated at school
- they do not often see themselves reflected in the staff at school
We need to reflect on their statements and honour their voices. These students were courageous enough to share their feelings and concerns, and we know that there are others who feel the same way. We have heard the same things from our community, and now that we've heard it from our students, it's time to focus on what we can do to improve.
What matters most is not what has been said, but what we do about it. This is not about blame, but rather following our moral imperative as educators to help every student succeed. Together, we will work on the implementation of our action plan and staff will be supported in our implementation. With our school administrators and School Success action teams, the senior leadership team will participate in equity training on power, privilege, race, bias, stereotyping, etc. The board will also develop workshops for teachers based on the refresh of The Future We Want, with a focus on inclusive teaching and learning environments that promote the intellectual engagement of black males and reflect their narratives, interests, strengths and cultural perspectives.
Together, we will be courageous to do the right thing. We will do what needs to be done because that is the work of equity and inclusion. This is how we will help ensure students—all students—can truly rise.
Embedding First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture in schools and worksites
As part of the Peel board’s commitment to equity and inclusion, a number of steps have been taken to incorporate and promote First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) culture in schools and work sites.
In line with this work, last year, the board proactively reviewed the team names and logos of all Peel schools. In consultation with FNMI community leaders on Peel’s Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and Peel’s Educational Advisory Circle, two Peel board schools—Chinguacousy and Port Credit secondary schools—were identified. As a result, Chinguacousy’s team name and mascot were changed from “Chiefs” to “Timberwolves,” and plans to phase out the the Port Credit Warriors’ logo, featuring a Chief’s head and yellow feathers, will be completed during the 2016-17 school year. The board will continue addressing the issue of school logos.
“For us, the key value in our schools is inclusion. At the Peel board, we feel that it’s our responsibility to change logos and names that do not,” says Brian Woodland, director of communications. “Through a careful and inclusive process, supported by board staff and community members, changes were made to make these names and logos more equitable and inclusive.”
The idea of acknowledging the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was first discussed at a Regular Meeting of the Board. The acknowledgement was then approved for all school locations and board-hosted events.
At the Regular Meeting of the Board on March 9, 2016, trustees approved a motion to begin each Regular Meeting of the Board with the following statement: We would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
On Sept. 30, 2016, trustees approved that each school day at all Peel schools and all board-hosted events at which the Canadian national anthem is played will begin with the following statement: We would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
“This is more than just an acknowledgement of the traditional territory of our First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities,” says Tony Pontes, director of education. “This is an opportunity for staff and students alike to learn more about the history of our land and about our First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Together, we can learn from one another and continue to make our schools and work sites equitable and inclusive spaces to inspire success, confidence and hope.”
As a support to schools, the board has provided the following support materials:
- an explanation of the reasons for this acknowledgement, written in student-friendly language for primary, junior and intermediate/senior-level students. This can be adapted for announcements, newsletters, etc.
- a DVD (for schools who tele-broadcast announcements) or CD (for schools who make audio announcements) that includes the acknowledgement along with the Canadian national anthem. Future plans include students of varying ages on different versions of the DVD/CD.
- A script of the acknowledgement for schools who choose to have it spoken “live” on a daily basis. The script was also provided in French for French Immersion/Extended French schools.
The territorial acknowledgement of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation has opened the door for conversation, rich learning, and inquiry into the historical and contemporary lives of the Indigenous populations here in Canada. This system-wide work is an important step in the Peel board's response to the Calls to Action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Meet the new Coordinating Principal of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Equity - Harjit Aujla
With a strong rooted commitment to the work of equity and inclusion and demonstrating his passion for this work in our schools and his post graduate studies, Harjit began his new role as Coordinating Principal of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Equity in August 2016. He has served the board in various capacities, most recently as a principal of Beryl Ford Public School and Calderstone Middle School. In his leadership role at the schools, he created multiple engagement activities with staff that reflected on their personal narratives as they learned to identify and deconstruct their own personal biases, while developing curriculum that had a student voice.
As a member of Curriculum and Instruction Support Services, Harjit's role will focus on the following areas of equity:
- proceed with the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action
- find opportunities to diversify the curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12 by embedding the historical and contemporary contributions of our Indigenous partners in Peel’s teaching and learning programs
- build links into the curriculum to reflect the residential school experience of our Indigenous population
- re-launch the board’s The Future We Want project
- support the review and update of the board's Equity and Inclusive Education Policy
- support the development of a comprehensive strategy to support students from marginalized communities
“This new role has enabled me to blend my passion for curriculum development with my commitment to the foundational blocks of equity and inclusion,” says Harjit. “I hope that the progress we make in the area of equity and inclusive education will enable our students to see themselves directly represented in all aspects of their learning on a regular basis.”
Harjit recognizes that success looks different for each student and his personal work philosophy is to create the conditions needed in order for students to achieve success through hard work and perseverance. Outside of the office, he has many roles as a father, husband, son, brother and friend to many. He enjoys spending time outdoors and travelling whenever possible to increase his own understanding of the vast diversity in the world.
Gender Identity and Gender Expression Guidelines
Ensuring a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe environment for all
At the Peel board, we believe that staff and students should work and learn in a safe environment that is respectful of individual diversity and is free from bullying, discrimination and harassment.
In 2016, the Gender Identity and Gender Expression Guidelines were developed to reflect this commitment, and support the work already taking place in schools and work sites including the creation of GSA clubs and taking part in the Pride family picnic in Peel.
The guidelines have been designed to ensure inclusion, raise awareness and help protect against discrimination and harassment related to gender identity and gender expression. Below are some of the areas covered in the guidelines:
- glossary for understanding gender identity and gender expression
- confidentiality and privacy
- legal duty to accommodate
- principles for students and staff
- procedural requirements regarding students and staff
A key part of this work has already begun in our secondary schools. By the end of this school year, every secondary school will implement either a designated “Inclusive Washroom” (wheelchair accessible) or "All-Gender Washroom" (not wheelchair accessible) — typically an existing, single-stall bathroom — for students who need that place of safety. The long-term vision is to implement this in all Peel schools and continue to move guidelines into policy and procedure.
As Tony Pontes said in his Starting Point speech, “Our job is that when students identify, we make sure they have a place of safety — just as we do for every other student. That is what it means to stand behind our value of being inclusive — to make it more than a word on a poster.”
Throughout the year, the leadership development and school support services team will train staff, including administrative, school and business staff and social workers, to start the discussion and understand the language surrounding gender identity and gender expression.
Aspiring Racialized, First Nations, Métis, Inuit Leaders Mentoring Program
The Aspiring Racialized, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Leaders Mentoring Program is a leadership development program to encourage, support and inspire leaders of tomorrow. The 2016-17 program is already underway—in spring 2016, mentees were partnered with mentors and encouraged to connect over a cup of coffee.
On Oct. 26, 2016, participants came together for a day of professional development at a full-day workshop. On that day, the mentors and mentees reviewed their personal Lumina portraits to help them identify how to improve their working relationships with others. Participants also discussed the Peel Leadership Framework and connected with each other through meaningful conversation.
Moving forward, participants will take part in a deeply self-reflective exercise to examine their own personal biases and stereotypes. This work will help them understand how personal biases and stereotypes must be deconstructed and unpacked in order to be a truly equity-focused school leader.
“We are looking forward to an exciting year ahead with several other formal and informal opportunities to connect,” says Paul Woodley, acting school support officer – leadership. Watch for updates throughout the year about this exciting program.