TLDSB equity task force lifts off

The following are brief reports of items discussed at the board of trustees meeting of Trillium Lakelands District School Board on Nov. 24.

By Jenn Watt

The school board has taken the first necessary steps to get their equity task force off the ground, with plans to conduct a student and staff census and hire third-party consultants to create policies and procedures ensuring a safe and inclusive learning and working environment.

Dave Golden, superintendent of learning, gave context to the initiative, pointing out in his report that “in order to provide meaningful educational experiences and opportunities to our students, we must understand the culture, beliefs, and identities of our students, and embed into our practices a lens of equity, high student achievement and well-being.”
School boards must also comply with provincial standards on identifying and monitoring systemic racism by Jan. 1, 2023 under the Anti-Racism Act.
The task force will consult stakeholders about current programs and practices, gather information on student populations and area communities, locate barriers hindering success, inclusion and wellbeing, and create programs and resources.

A smaller working group will “take on the responsibility of creating documentation and procedures, communicating with contracted partners, and completing action items in a timely manner,” Golden’s report states.
The superintendent told the trustees that an application had been made to the Ministry of Education for $50,000 to collect the necessary demographic data and that a third party would be contracted to do the work of the staff census and student census.
“We have a wonderful consultant group that we know is very experienced in this area that we know will give us some great direction and help us do some analysis of some of the data as well,” he said.
The staff census is to be conducted in the winter and the student census in the fall.
The task force will meet for the first time in December.

Making way for mental health support
Director of education Wes Hahn said a process was underway to ensure that mental health support workers can get into schools, which currently have strict rules around who is allowed in, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is not an easy time to manage as a family who is struggling or a student who is struggling and we will continue to offer those [mental health] supports and we are looking at ways … through special education and mental health to make sure that we have a crisis support plan, if workers need to get into our schools to see students who are in crisis or need additional support, they’re going to get in,” he said.
Hahn said work was currently underway to make that happen and that local agencies would be contacted.

Student success continues to be high with octoblocks
Credit accumulation for the last “octoblock” was 97.7 per cent, superintendent of learning Katherine MacIver said. Secondary students have been studying in an intensive format with one class offered at a time. The intention is to keep class cohorts separate as a precaution against COVID-19. The first octoblock had a success rate of 98 per cent.
“I know someone asked what happened to the other two per cent? We’ve identified a couple of areas where we can provide more student support around credit accumulation,” she said.

Hahn said the current model is working well for many, allowing for better connections between students and teachers and allowing for more time to see projects through.
“There are positives to this and certainly is helping us from an engagement point of view, a mental health point of view, there’s lots of good factors to this,” he said.