Boardroom Briefs

November 11, 2020 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.

Private Session Update

Vice Chair Laurie French provided a public report of topics discussed in private session which are held prior to Public Session. The minutes from the following meetings were approved: Board Meeting October 14; and Audit Committee November 9. Trustees received updates on labour, legal and OPSBA. No other items were discussed or subject to a motion.

Chair's Report

Chair Suzanne Ruttan, on behalf of all Trustees, offered their deepest sympathy to family and friends of Scottie Legg, a Grade 11 student at Frontenac Secondary School, who recently died following a motor vehicle collision.

The Chair stated that on this Remembrance Day, students, staff and Trustees honoured those who served, continue to serve, and remembered those who fell. She added this year on the 75th Anniversary of WWII V-D and V-E Days, a commemorative flag was flown at the Education Centre to mark this occasion.

Tonight’s meeting closes out this Board’s second year in office. Chair Ruttan said the COVID-19 pandemic has tested everyone’s resilience and capacity for change: school closures, emergency remote learning, curriculum development, facilities services work, and school re-entry.

She added that despite these transformational changes staff, students, families and school communities remain focused on Limestone’s vision and mission, where everyone achieves success and well-being. She believes this commitment to student well-being and achievement has helped the Board move forward in constructive ways, for the continual delivery of initiatives that support student transitions, career paths, character development, and interventions that ensure success for all students.

The Chair thanked her fellow Trustees for the work they have all done representing constituents and ensuring students receive quality public education every year, and especially during this year with labour disruption and a global pandemic.

Director's Update

Director of Education Krishna Burra stated that it is now the 11th week of school and the end of the second octomester for secondary students. After visiting over 45 schools, he continues to be extremely impressed with how staff and students have adapted to their new realities. Students and staff have persevered to support the learning and well-being of everyone Limestone serves.

The partnership with KFL&A Public Health has been of critical importance as the district navigated four positive cases in schools in recent weeks. He recognized the incredible efforts of central and school-based staff, along with Public Health, in intercepting cases quickly and preventing any school-based spread of COVID-19.

Director Burra acknowledged the impressive range of activities schools organized to recognize Remembrance Day. Many schools adapted and scheduled virtual or physically-distanced events to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the coming weeks, Limestone students will be asked to participate in the Board's confidential See Yourself in Limestone Student Census. The Director explained this first-ever student census was originally planned for the spring of 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19 school closures. The Board has rescheduled the census for the week of November 23, 2020.

Presentation on Indigenous Education

Gillianne Mundell, Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Lead, shared highlights of Limestone's Indigenous education efforts. She acknowledged the work of her LDSB colleagues and Knowledge Keepers who have helped her understand Indigenous culture, tradition and ceremony.

Ms. Mundell explained the team works closely with central and school staff, and the Indigenous Education Advisory Council, to support improved Indigenous student achievement and well-being, and enhance the knowledge and awareness of all students about First Nation, Métis & Inuit cultures, histories and perspectives.

Indigenous education is built into School and Board Improvement Plans, school lesson plans, professional development opportunities, Program Team meetings, and Board Meetings.

November is Indigenous Education Month and posters were distributed to schools to help them be aware of different ways in which they could celebrate. She advised the importance of creating an environment in LDSB where Indigenous Education is embedded at the system, school, and classroom levels. This linear approach supports all three levels as equals.

This year, Ms. Mundell worked with Knowledge Keepers and Gould Lake Outdoor Education Centre staff to plan a day of professional development with each school's Indigenous Education lead focused on wellness, cultural activities and land-based learning. Learning and engagement was brought back and shared with other staff and students at the schools.

OPSBA Report

Trustee French provided a short update of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA). The recent Eastern Region Meeting included an overview of the Ontario budget and discussion of the annual public education symposium, which will be virtual this year. The Board of Directors' meeting is at the end of November.

Student Trustee Report

Trustee Namirah Quadir applauded all students for striving to work hard and taking care of themselves as students in secondary school wrapped up their second octomester. She extended appreciation to the incredible teachers and support staff for aiding students in the development of strategies to combat the fast-paced nature of the octomester. She added, that she and Student Trustees Putnam and Traviss believe the data and student voice that will be collected, as part of the upcoming student census, is imperative to their growth and success as a Board in meeting the needs of the district's diverse population of students; thanking LDSB for being one of the first boards in the province to conduct such a census.

Trustee Annika Putnam reported that the second InterSchool Council meeting of the year was held November 3 with representation from almost all secondary schools. The council serves as a great opportunity for student representatives to come together to discuss the complexities surrounding school spirit initiatives and organizing events, amidst the pandemic. At the next meeting in December they will connect with the Board's mental health lead Laura Conboy to discuss some mental health campaigns and ideas for InterSchool Council.

Trustee Quanah Traviss said that although the Indigenous Student Leadership Circle did not have an opportunity to meet on November 3, he did have an opportunity to answer questions at InterSchool Council, and provided a rough plan for next few months.

Reports for Information

Virtual School Update

This report updated Trustees on the status of the Virtual School enrolment.

Elementary Virtual School began with an initial enrolment of 1,241 students and was staffed by teachers requiring accommodations and teachers who were surplus to their school through the September reorganization and staffing process. Families were given another opportunity to either opt-in or out of in-school instruction by October 29. Following this, the Elementary Virtual School now has an enrollment of 1,425 students (220 in French Immersion and 1,205 in English).

The Secondary Virtual School, which follows the same octomester/block timetable model that most secondary schools are following, has risen from 530 students to 625 students for octomester/block three.

Superintendents Michèle Babcock and Jessica Silver stated the enrolment in LDSB Virtual School will continue to be monitored, and adjustments made as space allows. As indicated previously, another opt-in or opt-out date for elementary students is undetermined. Any potential opportunity will be dependent on provincial direction, discussions with ETFO, and financial considerations. Secondary Virtual School will be timetabled for Semester 2, to provide students with a range of course offerings to complement Semester 1.

Trustee Discussion

Trustee Garrett Elliott asked if there is anecdotal evidence about how families and students are feeling about virtual school. Staff indicate both students and staff are settling into new routines and staff are building close relationships with students and families. Teaching virtually is different than face-to-face. Trying to replicate what happens in a physical classroom is a challenge and that is not how virtual classes work. This work is ongoing to support critical skills in students. Staff report many secondary students are highly successful and other students are finding it challenging. Staff are implementing supports to ensure students achieve credits. Octomester is challenging but everyone is working together and schools have seen improvements.

Trustee Bob Godkin asked how at-risk students are being served? Staff replied that there are mechanisms to track student achievement and growth to keep students engaged whether in-school or virtual. Again, mentioning that Virtual school has allowed some students to flourish.

Trustee Joy Morning asked if Educational Assistants and Student Support Teachers are a one-to-one ratio? Staff replied that the virtual model is similar to face-to-face and could be one-to-one ratio or could be in small groups depending on the needs of students. Staff added that students remain attached to their home school so they are connected with familiar staff and programming.

Trustee Judith Brown said constituents indicate virtual learning is working well and better than what was provided in the spring, when it was emergency remote learning.

Trustee Laurie French said virtual teachers are scheduling many "normal" activities despite challenges and safety requirements due to COVID-19 and the virtual platform. She expressed gratitude for staff efforts. She asked what ability schools will have to assess student achievement when it is both virtual and in-person. Staff indicated curriculum expectations are the same but pathways to get there are different based on delivery. For example, students might not get to every science unit but essential skills of science will be covered - that is how progress will be measured. Central staff are working with school staff on diagnostics and assessment to ensure students are achieving. Elementary progress reports are to go home November 20.

In secondary, schools need to focus on overall critical expectations and prioritize teaching and learning. Feedback to students is key and perhaps limiting summative assessments as content is condensed into 22 days.

Trustee Namirah Quadir says she has received lots of positive feedback from her secondary peers around virtual school. She also asked what mental health supports are in effect for remote learners? Staff replied that students are supported once identified. School staff teams, whether in-person or virtual, meet to discuss student needs including mental health needs. Virtual support, resources and counselling sessions are available. The Ministry of Education has provided funding for a social worker for virtual school.

Trustee Karen McGregor asked if any students who had opted to home school have now switched to virtual school learning? Staff did see increase in home school requests in September (this is where a student is removed from school system and families do teaching at home). Some home school families have returned to in-person school and virtual school.

Staff concluded the report acknowledging the Board of Trustees for recently approving the use of additional reserve funds to help fund staffing for LDSB Virtual School. This has allowed Limestone to avoid an additional school reorganization at the elementary level, to maintain student cohorts while providing families with the opportunity to make decisions based on their unique circumstances.

Strategic Plan 2019-2020: End-of-year status report

Director Burra highlighted LDSB’s Strategic Plan Priorities for the end of 2019-2020 school year (pages 52-84 in the Agenda Package) with a focus on items that have been assessed as red (needs further attention) or yellow (making progress). Given the disruptions present during the 2019-2020 school year, there are more red and yellow than green indicators.

Senior Staff went through the Strategic Plan and highlighted the following areas of focus: Student Voice, Equity and Inclusion, International Education, English Second Language, Police/Board Protocol, Capital Improvements, Environmental Sustainability, Literacy, Mathematics, UDL, Technology Enhanced Education, Indigenous Education and Cashless Schools. Much of the meeting was dedicated to Trustees' questions and requests for further details on items included in the end-of-year report.

The Chair complimented staff on the abundance of work that was completed despite the challenges over the last school year.

Trustees received the report.

Reports Requiring Decisions

Equity Action Plan 2020-2023

This report provided Trustees with a three-year draft Equity Action Plan that identifies

specific actions related to breaking down barriers of systemic racism with an emphasis on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

Superintendent Michèle Babcock re-stated that Limestone is committed to equity and inclusion, and acknowledges the importance of confronting anti-Black racism. Work continues to be required to eliminate racism in all its forms across the school district.

In June 2020, a preliminary report of anti-racism education planned was shared with Trustees. At the October 2020 Board Meeting, Student Trustees with support of Trustee Brown, made a request for more information related to equity work and provided a list of recommendations or actions. In addition, a motion was passed reflecting the Trustees’ desire to have a plan of action that would be substantive in supporting anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Limestone.

Superintendent Babcock explained a three-year draft Limestone Equity Action Plan has been developed based on input from Trustees, data collected from a variety of sources, and the Ontario Equity Action Plan 2017.

She further outlined the areas of focus, timelines and how it will be evaluated, adding that the document will remain in draft form while feedback is gathered and the plan evolves.

After further questions and discussion, Trustees passed the following motion:

MOTION Moved by: Trustee Elliott and seconded by Trustee French that Trustees approve the draft Limestone Equity Action Plan and support next steps in collecting feedback from students, staff, and the community. Carried.

Notice of Motion

Two notices of motion were brought forward from Trustees Brown and French. These motions will be discussed at the December meeting.

Moved by Trustee Brown and seconded by Trustee French, that as part of the continued strategic plan progress aligned within the Wellness Pillar, section 2.2 Equity and Inclusion, the Board requests LDSB staff undertake to engage the Black community in Limestone DSB, be it in consultation or an ongoing caucus to be formed similar to the Indigenous Advisory Committee, to provide input and advice on actions to address racism in our schools, and barriers to equitable experience.

2. Moved by Trustee Brown and seconded by Trustee French, that following the planned survey, the Board requests staff update Trustees on the plan for use of racialized achievement data for Limestone DSB students, with a focus on the results of Black and Indigenous students, to inform strategies to improve their experience and learning outcomes.

Upcoming Board Meetings

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 6pm - Caucus / Initial Meeting of the Board

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.