Boardroom Briefs

November 24, 2021 Meeting of LDSB Board of Trustees

Boardroom Briefs is intended to provide highlights of presentations, reports and decisions made at the regular meeting of the Limestone District School Board of Trustees. These briefs do not serve as the official record of the meeting. Please refer to Board minutes which are approved at the next regular meeting. Community members are also invited to follow along during live tweets of regular Board meetings using the hashtag #LDSBmtg.
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Each meeting, a different Trustee will present the Indigenous Acknowledgement of Territory and include their own personal reflections.

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Private Session Report

Vice Chair Tom Gingrich indicated Minutes from previous meetings were approved, and a personnel update was provided. There was no other business conducted, or motions passed.

Chair's Report

Chair Suzanne Ruttan provided the following report.

The Chair stated that the November 24 meeting concludes the third term of office for the Board of Trustees. Trustees serve a four year mandate.

Over the past year, the Limestone District School Board, and its school communities, have faced many uncertainties about COVID-19. The past year has not been easy on anyone but, together, we have done our best to support students and each other.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, she offered her appreciation to students, and families for their patience, support and understanding as we navigated this year that has been like

no other. We certainly didn’t expect in June to wrap up the school year remotely for the second consecutive year.

Despite the challenges of having to pivot back and forth between modes of learning, Limestone educators, administrators, school support staff, and central office staff found creative and effective ways to support student learning, collaboration, and connection. It is with profound gratitude that I express the Board’s collective appreciation to all staff – in every role - for the hard work, dedication, and personal resolve shown over the past year; and the massive preparation it took to return to in-class learning this September. Thank you.

There is much progress and achievements to be proud of especially as it relates to the Board’s strategic goals in the key areas of Wellness, Innovation and Collaboration.

Limestone is committed to equity, inclusion and ensuring everyone feels a strong sense of belonging. To help understand student identity, lived experience and ability, the board conducted its first-ever student census last Fall, 2020.

This important work will help the board learn more about students – their backgrounds, experiences and needs – to identify potential barriers or gaps, and to determine how to eliminate discriminatory biases in classes and schools to bring us closer to creating supportive and equitable learning environments, where every student sees themselves in Limestone.

To uphold our commitment to truth and reconciliation, and ensure we are creating safe spaces for everyone, Trustees voted unanimously to initiate a renaming process for École Kingston East Elementary School this past June. The Board acknowledges the ongoing pain and harm related to the use of the former name within our school communities and acknowledges the systems that continue to oppress Indigenous and other marginalized communities, including residential schools.

We want schools to be a place where we celebrate and honour each student, their stories, and their voice. We can do this by moving forward education by teaching the truth.

The renaming process will continue over the next several months, through community consultation and input that creates a new and more positive legacy for this school.

We know there is much work to do, as outlined in the Limestone’s Equity Action Plan. This three-year plan demonstrates our commitment to ensure equity at all levels of our system, as we work together to embrace and foster engaging and innovative learning where everyone achieves success and well-being.

A key responsibility of the Board is to develop and adopt policies that are based on the Board’s vision and to monitor and evaluate how efficiently these policies are implemented. Trustees engaged in several sessions over the year to review existing policies to contribute to the continuous improvement of board governance. Trustees discussed and adopted bylaws to help guide the Board and its meetings moving into the future. Trustees have done considerable work, and will continue to do so in the coming term.

In closing, the Chair acknowledged Director Burra, Senior Staff and Trustees for their tireless efforts on behalf of all students this past year…for everyone’s patience and flexibility as we continued to respond, and adapt to new ways of teaching, learning, and working, amidst this ongoing pandemic.

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Student Trustee Report

The Student Trustee Report was presented by Trustees Duncan, Johnson and Roy.

At the recent InterSchool Council meeting of secondary student leaders, Student Trustees provided attendees with a Board meeting recap. They also discussed meeting norms and the upcoming clean water fundraiser. Students received a presentation from United Way on youth homelessness which led to discussions on how to help, educate, and prevent youth homelessness.

Trustees Duncan and Roy provided an update from their recent work at OSTAAECO

including a presentation from Bleed the North, an organization founded by a Queen’s student that aids with period poverty and menstrual education.

Trustees Duncan and Roy had an opportunity to join groups on topics that are a focus for OSTA-AECO. Trustee Duncan joined the Equity and Inclusion breakout session. They discussed making a handbook for teachers’ on how to addresses racism within schools, and the important role teachers have in a classroom. They also talked about gender neutral bathrooms and about adding more diverse literature in school libraries. Trustee Duncan shared what Limestone is doing in these areas and was surprised to hear that Limestone is further head then most school boards on these pieces.

Trustee Roy joined the Indigenous Relations group, where their discussion focused on the need to provide better training for teachers who teach Indigenous classes, as well as the student need for cultural education and cultural celebration.

Student Trustees will meet with their designated groups throughout the year to produce plans and goals for important initiatives. OSTA-AECO will be putting together an Outreach Program to educate students on the role of a Student Trustee.

Director's Report

Director of Education Krishna Burra provided the following report.

Over the past few weeks there has been an unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases and rates per 100,000 in KFL&A. With the holiday season approaching and with Public Health rolling out vaccines for children aged 5-11, we may see continued cases for the next few weeks but hopefully cases will be stemmed and we can minimize school disruptions for students.

As a point of comparison, during the 2019-2020 school year, there were a total of 68 COVID-19 cases that impacted Limestone schools, this number was comprised of nine staff members and 59 students. Of the students, 32 were elementary aged, and 27 were secondary. It should be noted that 28 of the 68 cases occurred during the spring remote learning period from mid-April to the end of June so did not significantly impact school operations.

For the 2021-2022 school year up until November 23, we have seen nine adult cases and 108 student cases for a total of 117. Of the student cases, 94 were among elementary students, and 14 among secondary students. As a result, there are almost double the number of COVID cases last year in just the first three months of this school year. Throughout the pandemic the best indicator of the health of schools has been the overall cases and rates in the broader community. Based on the first three months of this school year, there is no question that Limestone has seen a considerable number of cases at elementary schools.

As a consequence, Public Health has instituted additional screening requirements for students and families. They have indicated that screening is absolutely essential in reducing spread. Similar to a few times last year, the expanded symptom screening will potentially stretch staffing in schools as more students ‘screen out’ and families need to miss work to care for their students. We will be continuing to watch this very closely, but this could be a significant challenge for us over the next few weeks in maintaining operational viability in all schools.

COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 was approved by Health Canada and clinics began this week. Parent consent is required for this vaccination and all clinics are organized and run by KFL&A Public Health.

In addition, the Ministry announced new information related to COVID-19 testing. LDSB will receive rapid antigen test kits for students to take home on a voluntary basis to be used during the holidays and particularly before school resumes in January. The provincial government also announced that secondary schools could return to semesters for the second half of the 2021-2022 year starting in February. School boards will receive the second half of the government's COVID funding that was announced earlier. This is good news and senior staff will provide Trustees with an update related to the second half of the funding in the New Year.

While schools have been extremely busy on the COVID front, November has also been full of lots of great examples of teaching and learning in Limestone. As Trustees are aware, November is Indigenous Education Month and there have been a wide range of activities and learning taking place at schools, along with professional learning for staff. This work has been supported by the Indigenous Education Team and educators across the system. This week is also Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week in Ontario. Schools have been highlighting the significance of kindness, empathy, inclusion, human rights, and the anonymous reporting tool.

With potential winter weather starting to creep into the forecast, the inclement weather protocol has been shared throughout the system to families and staff. This communication should provide clarity regarding the operation of schools when transportation is canceled due to the weather.

Earlier this week the initial ÉKEES renaming survey went live. The renaming committee will be reviewing these results and narrowing the suggested names for a second survey that will serve as the basis for further discussion and eventually a report to the trustees in the winter. The information and resources for this renaming process are on the board and school website.

Director Burra concluded his report thanking LDSB staff for generosity towards the board's United Way Campaign, stating staff has pledged just shy of $50,000. A significant achievement.

OPSBA Report

Trustee French provided the following report.

The Eastern Region Meeting included updates on the Grants for Students Needs consultation and an update on Project Compass. She added that the Public Education Symposium on January 28, 2022 will be virtual.

Presentation - Empower

Associate Superintendent Stephanie Sartor introduced Limestone’s journey with Empower and how the implementation of this program in schools across the board is creating more confident, curious, and life-long readers.

Elementary Literacy Intervention Teachers Richelle Bowen, Jennifer Caldwell, Erika Chesnick and Allison Gladu outlined strategies, data, and student voice.

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Empower runs four to five days a week and contains 110 lessons in groups of four to eight students. In the inaugural year of Empower, eight educators were trained and were placed in eight different schools reaching 48 students. This year, 17 schools are offering Empower to 126 students.

James, a student who is greatly benefiting from this program, and his mother Liz, spoke to Trustees about the incredible transformation James has experienced in his reading. James is now reading above grade level and is excited to learn. Most importantly, Liz says James is now confident and is ready to tackle any challenge. James loves being read to but this year, he has begun to read alone and it is fun!

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Chair Ruttan provided a brief explanation regarding the process of delegations before the Board. The complete presentation by any delegation shall not exceed five (5) minutes, exclusive of Trustee questions. Following the presentation, Trustees may ask questions of clarification. The issues presented through delegations at this meeting will be referred for decision at the January Board Meeting, to consider in private session where appropriate, or to the Director for further action.

Delegation: Beyond the Language of Inclusion: Embracing a Culture of Continuous Improvement for 2SLGBTQIA+ Students

Constance Carriere-Prill and Ruhi Snyder, members of the Parent Involvement Committee, presented Trustees with information gathered from the 2SLGBTQIA+ Focus Group for caregivers. The work of the focus group was informed by student voice through student GSA group leads, district’s GSA teacher liaison and parents with lived experience supporting their 2SLGBTQIA+ children. They provided an overview of education and resources for parents, staff and students, physical and on-site supports, policy improvements and education and awareness.

Delegation: PPE for Teachers: The Right to Choose to Wear an N95 Face Mask

Debra Lefebvre, a Registered Nurse, and member of the Board of Directors of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and Dr. Kaplan-Myrth asked that teachers be permitted to immediately upgrade their masks to a Health Canada approved respirator (N95) if they so choose. They requested that the LDSB permit staff to obtain their own level 3 or higher mask or respirator.

Delegation: Respiratory Protection

Registered Occupational Hygienist Krista Thompson stated that she is providing information on why the board should allow/provide educational workers with adequate airborne protection against COVID-19, saying N95 masks are better than surgical masks. She requested that the LDSB permit staff to obtain their own level 3 or higher mask.

Report for Action: Accumulated Surplus Financial Update

Superintendent of Business Services C. Young provided Trustees with the latest financial information related to the Board’s accumulated surplus and proposed additional investments for 2021-2022 school year.
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Staff suggest the proposed investments of $500K for secondary music instruments, arts and Artist in Residence programs and $500K for devices. These are one-time expenditures that will not contribute to structural deficits.

These areas are in alignment and support of the budget survey results as presented to Trustees on April 21, 2021. Technology investment will support reading, writing and mathematics which ranked second and fourth on the survey while the arts/music/drama ranked third.

Staff recommendation: That the Board approve amending the budget to use an additional $1M of accumulated surplus to support the additional investments for 2021-2022 school year.

Trustees received the report and approved the recommendation.

Report for Information: Masking/PPE Update

This is an update to a previous report from August relating to masking being identified as a key mitigating strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Medical masks (level 2 surgical/procedural) are provided by board for all employees directly by the Ministry of Education.

Director Burra said that while everyone wants to maximize the safety of all staff and students, it should be noted that the mask type most appropriate in the educational context, is an area beyond the expertise of LDSB staff.

Limestone staff consulted with KFL&A Public Health to seek its input and expertise. On both occasions, Public Health indicated it would not recommend N95 or KN95 masks, or other respirators, for individual staff members.

If the Board of Trustees choose to allow staff to purchase and use their own masking PPE, it should be noted that public health authorities, the Ministry of Education or Ministry of Labour could issue order that would override any local decision made by the Board.

Special Committee Reports

Chair Ruttan explained that In advance of the December 1, 2021 Annual Meeting of the Board and subsequent nomination and selection of committees by Trustees, the Special Committee Reports will help guide their decisions on which committee they might want to represent. These reports had been previously presented at the Annual Meeting, but by providing these reports in advance, it will give Trustees more time to review.

There is Trustee representation on the following Committees:

  • Audit Committee
  • Awards Committee
  • Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee
  • Parent Involvement Committee
  • Special Education Advisory Committee
  • Supervised Alternative Learning Committee
  • Food Sharing Project

The Audit Committee and the Special Education Advisory Committee are four-year terms, therefore Trustees currently on these two committees will serve their fourth year in 2022.

Trustees will select the committees they wish to serve on at the Nomination Selection Committee Meeting, December 6, 2001.

New Business: Notice of Motion

A Notice of Motion was brought forward by Trustee Hutcheon:

"That LDSB staff be permitted to purchase their own masks if they choose, provided those masks are better than level 2/surgical masks and are Health Canada approved; and the director ensures this measure is operationally workable in its implementation."

After much discussion, Trustees vote 5-2 in favour of the motion. The Chair only votes in event of tie and Trustee Elliott recused himself.

Trustee Elliott submitted a Notice of Motion:

"That the LDSB write a letter to the Minister of Education regarding the recent memo "Next Steps For De-streaming: Grade 9 Course Codes and Descriptions For the 2022-2023

School Year" requesting that this effort be fully funded to provide maximum opportunity for student success through smaller class sizes and proper staffing."

For the Minutes of the November 24, 2021 Meeting visit the LDSB website.

Limestone District School Board

The Board serves more than 19,000 elementary and secondary students in 60 schools and 8 education centres covering a geographic area of 7,719 square kilometres. To get in touch with your trustee, visit Meet Your Trustees.