June 17, 2020 Meeting of LDSB Board of Trustees
Please note the June 17, 2020 meeting was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 extended school closure.
Private Session Update
Vice Chair Laurie French provided a public report of topics discussed in private sessions ahead of recent meetings. There was a private session at May 20, 2020 meeting where a personnel and Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA) matter were discussed. There were no motions. Private sessions during Committee of the Whole (Director Selection) Meetings from June 3 & 10, 2020 resulted in following motions: Education Centre be approved as the venue for interviews, with the necessary accommodations made for COVID-19 restrictions and after a thorough scoring process and completing the matrix, Trustees approve the shortlist of five candidates for interview. Prior to the June 17, 2020 meeting there was a confidential item regarding OPSBA in private session and one motion to ratify the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation Professional Student Services Personnel group collective agreement.
Chair Suzanne Ruttan provided the following report.
While this is certainly not the end of the school year we planned for, there is still much to celebrate as we wrap up the 2019-2020 school year. On behalf of the Limestone District School Board, I would like to thank all educators, administrators and school support staff on their continued focus on student well-being and achievement this past year especially during the recent challenges of emergency remote learning.
While we will not approve a balanced budget tonight – as we typically do at the June Board Meeting – because we continue to wait for our Grants for Students Needs funding, our budget work is ongoing. We expect staff will present a balanced budget plan sometime this summer. New meeting dates will be shared once they are available.
Our sincere appreciation to Senior Staff, Managers and support staff at the Education Centre who directly support the work of Trustees. Thank-you to my fellow Trustees for your diligence in your governance role. This past year has seen significant obstacles related to labour, funding and our district response to the pandemic but also a year of great progress.
While year-end celebrations are not the same this year, these virtual recognitions do not in any way diminish the accomplishments of our students and staff.
To those who are retiring this year, congratulations and a sincere thank-you for your service to the students and families of the Limestone District School Board. Best wishes on your new adventures –whatever that might be.
To our graduates, congratulations on reaching a significant milestone in your education journey. While the end of the school year looks different, your new beginning remains whatever you will make of it. To our Grade 12 graduates, in particular, we wish you all health, happiness and much success in whatever pathway you choose.
Presentation to retiring Director of Education Debra Rantz
Chair Suzanne Ruttan and Vice Chair Laurie French recognized the career and legacy of Director of Education Debra Rantz on the occasion of her retirement from the Limestone District School Board. The following is an excerpt of that presentation.
Chair Ruttan: It is my honour as Chair, to recognize, on behalf of the Limestone District School Board of Trustees a very special retiree as we recognize the outstanding career of Director of Education Debra Rantz.
After more than 27 years in public education, Director Rantz will retire from the Limestone District School Board at the end of August. Director Rantz joined Limestone in 2015 after an extensive teaching career with roles as teacher, department head, vice-principal, principal, and superintendent. She also served as Chief Assessment Officer with the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) prior to joining Limestone.
Currently, Director Rantz sits as an executive member of the Council of Directors of Education (CODE), is Eastern Region Director of the Provincial Council of Directors of Education (PCODE), and served on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Public Supervisory Officer Association (OPSOA). She was also nominated to the Ontario Institute for Educational Leadership.
Throughout her extensive career in public education, and her system and provincial leadership roles, Director Rantz has remained dedicated to our students – and how educators can support students in achieving success and overall well-being. She is an exemplary leader who embraced Limestone from the moment she arrived and helped facilitate the development of the Board’s ambitious new vision and strategic pillars of wellness, innovation and collaboration which are now embedded in the day-to-day work of serving students. As Trustees, we are so proud of the work on our strategic plan. Now and in the future, I know I will never see at a word cluster without thinking of Deb.
Under her leadership and vision, our school board continues to offer unique and differentiated learning opportunities for all students; delivering initiatives that support student transitions, career pathways, and mental wellness.
Personally, I have admired her complete dedication to our schools. During her tenure in Limestone, despite a busy schedule, she always made time to visit schools and connect with students and staff ensuring she listened and learned, looking for ways to improve their overall experience in Limestone. For Deb, being the Director of Limestone is not just a job, it is a passion!
Vice Chair Laurie French: Director Rantz brought unique experience and skill from her time with EQAO and her link to learning was clear. Her leadership through the strategic plan was a welcome update that was progressive and moved Limestone forward for both the system and for Trustees to conduct their accountability work across our communities. The pillars reached a level of system engagement that was of great value and impact.
The finishing touch of the rebranding work will set us up for the future. A quality in a director that has been of importance to me through several tenures is the joy of being with students in a classroom. Director Rantz never lost sight of our reason for being, and her caring nature of students and staff has been appreciated.
On behalf of LDSB Board of Trustees, Vice Chair French extends sincere congratulations to Director Rantz on her retirement. Thank you, for your excellent leadership to this Board and this district.
Like many celebrations this year, we have to recognize your achievements in a different way. As a gesture of thanks, Trustees have sent you flowers, a golf outing and a beautiful piece of student artwork created by Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute Grade 12 student Sawsan Mohammed to demonstrate our gratitude for your years of dedicated service to Limestone. Best wishes for the future.
Director of Education Debra Rantz provided the following report.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that recent events have had a tragic and devastating impact on the lives of African, Caribbean and Black people. These acts of racism remind us of the necessary and critical work that lies before us as a system and in our communities. On behalf of the Limestone District School Board, I want to say that we are sorry that racism was a part of anyone’s experience in Limestone. As a school district, we will work together to confront and challenge privilege, and break down barriers that perpetuate racism. Staff will share a report on some of our upcoming anti-racism work later in the agenda.
After more than 27 years in public education, it will be an honour to retire as Director of Education with the Limestone District School Board. During my time here, as well as in each of my capacities during my career, I have approached each through the eyes of a teacher, and it is as a teacher that I retire.
Students have inspired every moment of my work, and I delight in their stories of achievement and well-being. This is perhaps what I will miss most as I leave public education. Seeing the wonder on a student’s face as they unlock a new skill or learning. Sharing in their joy as they reach a long-awaited accomplishment. Knowing that together, we have played a part in helping shape and prepare these students for their journey beyond school.
Despite changing conditions and new directions in public education over the past several years, I am proud to say that as a board, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring our collective work benefits all students across the district. This has perhaps never been truer than during these last few months during the pandemic and emergency remote learning. Our staff have gone above and beyond to minimize and mitigate the impact of this disruption to normal classroom routines. The extended closure has been hard on everyone, but our staff have done their best to ensure we continued to support everyone’s success and well-being even if from afar. As I have said before, we will continue to support students for as long as it takes.
I am honoured to have led the Limestone District School Board over the last five years. Limestone has always had a strong foundation based on mutual respect, open communication and a commitment to supporting our students and staff. I leave knowing that our recent work – overseen by the Board of Trustees – to provide a new vision for Limestone focused on our strategic pillars is making a difference where it matters most – in the classroom. By putting wellness first, by turning innovation into action, and being committed to collaboration, we will continue to support, nurture and enhance student achievement, and student and staff well-being.
Relationships are at the heart of every effective classroom and school. By working together, using our strategic plan as our road map, we are moving closer to realizing our vision to foster engaging and innovative learning where everyone achieves success and well-being – where everyone can see themselves in Limestone. I am confident in Limestone’s ability to be responsive and continue to address the unique needs, strengths and challenges of every student in our ever changing world.
As the school year ends, I would like to thank all members of the school community – educators, support staff, administrators, senior staff, school councils, bus drivers, volunteers, community partners and trustees – for their ongoing dedication and support of our students. It has been my privilege, and my pleasure, to serve alongside you in Limestone. Thank you.
Presentation: Outgoing Student Trustees
Chair Suzanne Ruttan acknowledged, on behalf of all Trustees and Senior Staff of the Limestone District School Board, the service of this year’s Student Trustees, Jessica Crook and Annika Putnam.
Chair Ruttan noted that Student Trustees Crook and Putnam have expanded their leadership skills around the horseshoe and enhanced efforts to further develop student voice across this school district, as well as at the provincial level through their work with the Ontario Student Trustee Association. They have both made a positive difference around this horseshoe, and have represented the students of the Limestone District School Board with integrity and passion. Thank you both for your work over the past year.
Next year, Trustee Crook will return to her studies at Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute. Trustee Putnam will return to Sydenham High School and the horseshoe as she is returning as the rural Student Trustee.
To recognize their commitment and efforts as Student Trustees, both were prsented with honorariums in the amount of $2,500.
She shared updates from the Education and Finance Committee which discussed various concerns re Grants for Student Needs (GSNs) which are expected to be status quo, but may be amended as pandemic impacts become clearer. The First Nations Committee has not met although there are concerns for many First Nations communities who have restricted entry during the pandemic. The Government Relations/Communications report indicted there has been regular contact with Ministry staff and outreach at political level during pandemic focused on re-opening, equity associated with distance learning, and mental health supports for students.
OPSBA will again be conducting public polling focused on all aspects of the school closures this year and the various impacts for re-opening. The Ministry is also seeking feedback collected by boards through Directors as they develop plans provincially. Also, three Master’s students from Wilfrid Laurier University are working with OPSBA on a report on equity of access to K-12 education as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the OPSBA budget and priorities were approved, and the OPSBA AGM must occur before end of September. It could follow the September 26, 2020 Board of Directors' Meeting.
Student Trustee Report
Student Trustees Jessica Crook and Annika Putnam provided the following report.
Trustee Crook began by saying the past year has been one of the most amazing experiences of her life which included her work co-chairing InterSchool Council and the Advocacy Working Group within the Ontario Student Trustees' Association. She said that she was proud of all the work everyone has done in the past year. She said that being a Student Trustee allowed her to see various difficulties students have along with their advancements. She is grateful for role of Student Trustee to allow her to grow as a leader and person.
Trustee Putnam said that although this year was far from what would be considered normal, with strike days, snow days and a global pandemic, she was proud to see members of the LDSB community persevere and demonstrate grit. She said she has learned a lot and has enjoyed working alongside everyone around the Board table. She said she looks forward to continuing to work with Board in 2020-2021 school year. She thanked Trustee Crook for her hard work and friendship this past year.
Introduction of Incoming Student Trustees
Student Trustees Jessica Crook and Annika Putnam officially introduced incoming Student Trustees for 2020-2021 school year.
As was shared at the May Board Meeting, LDSB recently held its annual Student Trustee elections. Following virtual nomination and election process due to COVID-19, secondary students selected following students: Quanah Traviss, a fifth year student attending Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute, who will serve as first Indigenous Student Trustee; Namirah Quadir, a Grade 11 student attending Kingston Collegiate & Vocational Institute/Kingston Secondary School who was elected Urban Student Trustee; and Annika Putnam, a Grade 12 student at Sydenham High School, who was re-elected in her position as Rural Student Trustee.
Trustee Crook recognized that it takes courage to step forward and accept the significant responsibility of representing all students of the Limestone District School Board. She thanked the new Student Trustees and welcome them to the horseshoe.
Report for Information: Kingston Secondary School
Superintendent of Business Craig Young and Superintendent of Education Krishna Burra provided an update on Kingston Secondary School KSS).
Construction on the KSS site was halted in April due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Although construction did resume in early May, it was shared earlier this spring that the site would not be ready to welcome students in September as planned. Superintendent Young indicated that the building is currently nearing 95 per-cent-completion. He shared that the expected completion date is at the end of November.
Superintendent Burra said that students and staff will remain at Kingston Collegiate & Vocational Institute & Module Vanier when school resumes in September. He shared that assuming no further delays or disruption to the construction timeline, students and staff will move into the new school by the start of the second semester. The move must consider the cycle of the school year, and minimize the impact on learning and teaching. He added that these timelines and tentative moves are dependent upon provincial and local public health directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board shared information around the timing and logistics of the move once we are closer to occupancy. Families were to receive a letter about the tentative move in, and latest new school newsletter following the Board meeting.
Report for Information: School Re-entry Contingency Planning
Director of Education Debra Rantz highlighted the work being done to enable students and staff to return to instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. She shared that the Ministry of Education has advised a return-to-school plan is being developed in concert with health officials, and that details of the plan will be released before the end of June.
She indicated that the goal is to develop a framework that can be sustained across all boards through the fall of 2020, while allowing boards to add local context. Limestone staff continue to plan for several contingencies to return to in-school learning once Ministry and public health officials deem it is safe.
Director Rantz said that any planning must ensure we maintain healthy & safe environment for all; support vulnerable students; and provide continuity of learning opportunities for all students. The board continues to use the feedback it receives from students, families and staff and make amendments as required. LDSB staff will review and adapt these plans as required to meet the needs within our school district.
Superintendent of Business Young addressed challenges related to transportation for reopening. He said busing is complex as it is shared with co-terminous boards and we cover large urban and rural district. She shared that Tri-Board Student Transportation Services is consulting on various contingencies including adding more drivers and runs, cleaning etc. but more info and direction is needed from the Ministry before plans can be adapted.
Director Rantz noted that Sick Kids Hospital has released its recommendations on reopening. The hospital is advising the Ministry on reopening and does recommend a return in September. Director Rantz indicated that a contingency is being developed if parents do not wish to return their student(s) to school or they cannot return to school.
Report for Information: Anti-Racism Education in Limestone
Superintendent of Education Michele Babcock and Equity & Inclusion Consultant Suchetan James presented a high-level report on the status of anti-racism education efforts in Limestone.
Superintendent Babcock reiterated that board is sorry for any students or staff who do not feel supported and have been victims of racism in LDSB. She shared that the board's goal is to ensure that schools are inclusive and reflect the makeup of their diverse communities. She indicated that there is much work to do.
She shared that some of this work was to have been informed by the board's student identity data collection (student census) which was to be held this spring. The census had to be delayed first due to labour action and then the pandemic. This work will go ahead once we are able to do so.
Superintendent Babcock shared that other work that is ongoing includes changes as a result of student voice initiatives identified by Black, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2s+students. Recently has been a change in mentor texts to be more representative of our student communities (variety of race and ethnicities).
LDSB is also using lessons from other school boards and work they have done and how it relates to our local context. This includes work engaging with our students and families in Black, Indigenous and racialized communities in LDSB.
Consultant James said that following George Floyd incident in U.S., he reached out to Black, Indigenous and racialized educators and staff to help inform our plans. He's been meeting with these staff and former students and families who want to share their experience in LDSB. He has also reached out to others in equity-related roles in city to discuss how to enact anti-racism policies, practices and changes in LDSB. He shared that immediately following protests, educators began reaching out on how they could build community and change. English teachers in particular are engaged on how to become educated and do this work together, alongside the communities who are most affected by racism.
Although recently equity work has been geared to sexual and gender diversity and how to create a sense of belonging for these students and families, the Board will be shifting more heavily on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
Superintendent Babcock said that some further actions include professional reading for administrators, reviewing school learning plans and equity goals (how are they monitored and measured), review of progressive discipline procedures and planning for another student voice day focused on racialized students and building ongoing understanding of staff. She shared that the budget for these initiatives was previously $230,000 and that will be increased to $275,000 for the coming school year.