Click on THE key policy thrusts BELOW to EXPAND for POLICY Details.
Note also a starter list of my proposed motions and motions discussion here.
Note also the policy summary and policies highlight material in the online campaign pamphlet available here.
Help Zone 5 College schools shine their brightest and really build community. Let's talk.
Ensure that the rights and interests of Zone 5 OCDSB families are recognized and protected with respect to the impact of, and access to, specialty programs, bussing, accommodations, and other resources
Support the growth of vibrant and independently-minded School Councils. Support them in community outreach, student well-being and achievement support, advice to the School, input on District procedures and Board policy and spending input, and in public education advocacy, as well as support them in providing the extras for students.
Greater integration of schools with community partner programs such as Pinecrest-Queensway’s Pathways program, post-21 transition and supports, community association and community-building initiatives, hot lunches programs and volunteers in the schools
Review the adequacy of Zone 5 schools in the aftermath of the area-wide review, Sep 2018 Putnam closure, and IB West. Monitor whether Bell HS is too overcrowded with perma-portables and lack of gym time. Monitor for adequate after-school care space in elementary schools as after-school continues its growth.
Review Zone 5 school well-being and achievement outcomes, listen to community, student, and staff feedback, and look for resource allocation and/or policy changes for general District benefit, and which might help Zone 5 schools shine their brightest
Work to ensure that principals, teachers, admin staff, and other support professionals get the support they need to do a great job servicing students and their families
Public ed is all about providing opportunities to excel and equitable outcomes for all students. If we really want to see over-all District achievement and well-being rates increase then targeting the biggest achievement and well-being deficits is the way to go - helping the students most directly affected helps all others in the class also.
Operationalize a solid definition of equity and agree on its proper scope of application (Hint: equity does not equal mere inclusion, equity does not mean equality of treatment)
Tie Board and District accountability more closely to measurable advances in equity (spec ed, mental health, poverty, racialization, LGBTQ, other)
Link budget decisions, HR allocation and training investment, and policy initiatives more clearly to equity goals … creating equity is not cost or discomfort-free and is not just a sing-along
Require the Advisory Committee on Equity to regularly web post minutes and agenda, and fund and resource it to allow it to spawn effective working subcommittees
Ensure that inadequate Provincial equity requirements are supplemented meaningfully by the OCDSB, especially with respect to poverty provisions
Significant investment in analysing dropout /graduation rates, suspension / expulsion rates, school readiness, needs index and other data to pinpoint worthwhile interventions
Adopt more of a culture of engagement and acceptance of community and line staff critiques when it comes to resourcing lacks
Include equity orientation and progress in all leadership performance assessment and in new hires assessment
Examine the OCDSB’s options, and support and/or direct staff as appropriate to fill the pedagogical gaps recently created by the Provincial government in the health, indigenous history, and math curricula
The OCDSB exists to serve its clients: the students, families, and citizens of Ottawa. Engaging, informing, and genuinely consulting makes the OCDSB better and improves service.
Review implementation of the consultation policy, especially provisions requiring meaningful post-consultation satisfaction assessment and ‘lessons learned’ feedback loops
Increase School and District accountability for functioning School and Student Councils for both elementary and secondary schools, including specialty schools
Require more lead time for consultation exercises
Ensure greater promotion of consultation exercises amongst stakeholders, including community associations and others
Change the ground rules so that more consultations allow for new creative ideas coming from the community to be considered
Tier policy decisions appropriately so that consultations do not lose focus but also are not undermined by a lack of policy consensus
Increase Trustee involvement in staff-led consultations, and provide increased support to Trustee-led area consultation
Join the modern open data movement, along with the City of Ottawa and other progressive public entities, and make more District data freely and useably available to communities for independent analysis and data integration: including enrollment reports in CSV and not just PDF image format, mapping data in SHP and not just PDF image format, etc.
'Governance' sounds boring, but its not and its vital. It goes to whether there is dysfunction on the Board or not, whether important measures actually are getting to oversight and monitoring they need, whether everyone who should be has been engaged, whether resources are wasted, and whether the Board moves forward or not or spins its wheels reactively.
Require reports and initiatives to come to Trustees much further in advance for pre-discussion and possible redrafting direction
Tie Director of Education performance assessment more meaningfully to Board of Trustee strategic plan targets and to the demonstrable coherence of annual staff plans, budget and policy proposals with the strat plan
Much greater investment by the Board of Trustees in a strategic plan with measurable teeth, avoiding the temptation to protect all current work and thinking with a goal, and ensuring that one cannot satisfy goals by anecdote or drive a bus through them, but which come with challenging yet real-world targets
Greater flexibility by the Board of Trustees in research investment: if the Board has research interests, it needs to ensure that staff or contractors are available to pursue
Greater clarity of Board and senior staff purview, including the delegated nature of authority and Board responsibilities for oversight and implementation of intent
Increased expectations of the Board of Trustees and senior staff to critically examine proposals, ask value-added questions, improve collegial and senior staff communication quality and flexibility, focus on policy and budget priority framing changes, and to avoid a cloud of nickel-and-diming amendments at Budget (usually a sign of consultation, communication, policy frame, or flexibility failure)
Improve Board of Trustees culture to be more collaborative and respectful, focused on appreciative listening and value-added debate, and set higher expectations for individual Trustee engagement, meeting readiness, and quality of debate
Re-establish a regular policy review cycle, and a standing Board of Trustees Policy Committee, or subcommittee to Committee of the Whole: too little policy review and discussion time is invested, and too many last minute policy tweaks are proposed last minute, or not proposed at all and which should be
Establish a clearer strat plan-based trajectory to Board of Trustees agenda planning, with less assumption that proposals will be slam dunks or that there is nothing serious for the Board of Trustees to review, monitor, or discuss
Dollar and HR resources are tight, and they may get tighter still. While its fine and a good idea to advocate for more funding, meanwhile a core duty of a Trustee is to make sure that each dollar is spent in the best way in the long run for all students.
Invest in a budget ‘deep dive’, perhaps phased over two years, to carefully re-examine past budgetary assumptions and investments: annual budgets are always ‘deltas’ from previous budgets and the last line-by-line review looking at all central positions and other spending was at least 15 years ago
Assess the need to re-examine special education spending identification
Move toward value-for-money audits of minor and major programming investments: too many initiatives are invested in without clear measurable outcomes defined or are drawn down without critical assessment
Re-orient Audit Committee work toward Board of Trustee audit research interests, and invest more in audit work if OCDSB audit interests do not happen to align with consortium audit partners
Re-examine sole-source and also double-dipping and succession planning expectations at the OCDSB
Extend the Budget Committee cycle to earlier in the school year, for at least the first two years of the mandate, with the option of a smaller Trustee-staff subcommittees tasked with detailed budget review and building and based credibly and traceably building from the Board approved strategic plan – rushed multi-purpose end of year budget planning cannot realistically do this work properly
Re-examine the audit materiality threshold in light of the scope of de facto OCDSB scope of spending control (i.e. less Provincial direction on centrally negotiated salaries, long-term locked-in contracts or liabilities, other), and increase forecasting and spending accountability
Drop the effort to achieve an unqualified audit report by unduly restricting school fundraising, if minor audit qualifications ultimately do not affect the OCDSB rate of borrowing
Develop integrated multi-year Board-approved high-level investment plans in training, IT, capital refurbishment and expansion, program reviews, and in other areas, to simplify and streamline budget planning and decision-making
There are a whole bunch of areas where we can re-imagine how we do business and change up the existing framework. We need to ask ourselves what the essential purpose of something is or should be, and reframe and refocus for better results as needed. Trustees don't just set policy and approve budget provisions, but must actively monitor for results and call for a re-set if the results aren't matching policy or budgetary intent.
Examine the unequal state of school fundraising and its impacts, and level the playing field with Education Foundation promotion and by putting all ideas on the table. Some are: limits on fundraising purposes, loosened definition of what is useful for education, required fundraising ‘tithing’, sufficient cash to socio-economic have-not community schools, and/or other ideas. Its important to ensure that good playgrounds, sports, instrument repair, trips, science in the schools, tutoring, same or greater access to computers, and other resources are assured as well for have-not school communities. What about greater support for Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE) school volunteers, and/or a pool of Board-wide volunteers? The OCDSB should not be in the business of promoting two-tier education.
Fuse Board operational next-school year budget decision-making into a single comprehensive budget, either before Provincial funding is known in early May with Board-directed topups of draw downs later on once funding is announced, or by shifting all budget decision-making until late in the school year … early investments in budget debate should remove the need for last-minute amendments by building trust and understanding both ways across all parties
Comprehensive examination the Board’s implementation of the recommendations of the Special Education Policy Ad Hoc Committee (SEPAHC) five years on: what has worked, what not, have we given up too early on certain recommendations, and do new pressing ideas need to be considered?
Refocus on early detection of student well-being or achievement problems: serious special education supports often do not swing into place until a student is effectively two years behind or has endured years of serious stress, alternate schools and special supports abound at later grade levels but at a point where very serious interventions are needed and can no longer be ignored, and not so much at an earlier stage where appropriate intervention can occur more effectively and seamlessly
Develop and then operationalize a definition of and tracking metrics for student well-being, to complement all those for achievement and for a more holistic assessment and accountability for the Board and for staff.
Critically examine school accommodation planning and investment criteria including equality of building and yard spaces and uses across the District, the ultimate meaningfulness or evidence-based desirability or force of current accommodation planning criteria, and placing a higher value on community-building and addressing equity concerns, and with time invested to iron out differences in perspective on these matters
Examine the feasibility of finally redeveloping the large Albert St. site, and lands, and relocating Board of Trustee and associated offices and both official and consultative public meetings downtown on the new metro route for enhanced public access and more functional OCDSB and 3rd party social org lessee space
Increased focus on alignment of OCDSB daycare and 3rd party daycare providers, especially with respect to special education supports
Review the impact on schools of having JK/SK Early Childhood Educator (ECE) staff reliably available in the classroom whether after and before school daycare is provided by OCDSB or 3rd party staff
A better job of determining, defining, and critically evaluating, the value-added and strategic purpose(s) of all programs, service tiers, supports, and specialty schools, from both a student achievement and well-being perspectives
Tying programming and special supports of all kinds better and earlier to student needs, with strong application of socio-economic and identity-based equity lenses
What is the status of the alternative elementary program? What official or unofficial strategic purposes does it fulfill or fail at? What safety net does it provide? Is there a place for French Immersion of Secondary alternative school programming? Are model changes or reinvestment necessary, or is it now unnecessary or beyond rescue? Almost 10 years after its last serious review, its time to look again at this program. Those looking to a program review to provide cover to kill the program, and those looking to defend it against any criticism or serious examination, are equally invited to park those views at the door.
Develop a preferred end-state vision for the OCDSB with respect to its English language programs and the ever-increasing impact of impact French Immersion programs on English language program attendance: has the time come to look at expanding the 50/50 bilingual JK/SK model to Primary grades as well? What are the forecast French language outcomes? What are the impacts on access, quality, community, and equity? Can we provide spec ed and other supports more equitably? … the Board has been sleep-walking through disruptive change while the elephant in the room continues to grow and grow: what is the ultimate plan here?
What can we do to make our high schools operate more like a set of dispersed college or university campus buildings? How do we ensure access to maximum course and program choice for all students while preserving community schools and needed integrated community supports? High schools should not be student silos or fiefdoms which ‘own’ students: how do we pry them open? Where is the District’s plan to establish or take advantage well-placed specialty learning hubs on Ottawa’s new mass transit lines to come?
Move faster on getting all schools to Ecoschool status and start to lift the number of Platinum level schools. What about better access to outdoor ed?
Open up direct dialogue with staff at all levels. What are the pinch points, and different perspectives?
How does the Board of Trustees get out of the ‘bubble’?
Encourage staff 360 performance reviews.
The role of Trustee is not only to passively distribute what resources it is provided in prescribed ways. Trustees have a duty of care for the students, families, and staff of the District, and must ensure that needs are communicated effectively to the Ministry, and as needed must speak truth to power when the Province is wrong. Trustees can act directly, by building local consensus, by acting through the Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA), and in other ways.
Lobby the Province strongly for sufficient autism and others spec ed supports, taking into account the actual number of students requiring services at a School Board (NB: even slightly better services at one Board draws spec ed need students to that Board out of sync with Provincial funding based on gross Board population and thereby artificially capping spending in a way unrelated to actual significant student need and encouraging Boards instead to race to the bottom in terms of service levels for at-risk students)
Advocate for the return of taxation or local levy authority for capital needs for new or renovated school construction, or require municipalities to fund this. The Board has always had local levy authority for needed land costs but not to pay for any of the buildings on this land, and yet the need for new or renovated schools is driven my municipal planning decisions as well as local District needs. Devolve the central planning on capital needs locally to save on Provincial administration, save us from Provincial inaction, and to better meet the reality of expanding communities and old building stock in need of renewal.
Advocate for a single publicly funded English language school system in Ontario, to cut unnecessary duplication, to allow instead for many more walkable community schools that don’t split communities and children, to ensure that more students have more access to specialist music, spec ed, and other resources at more vibrant schools, and to help make each school a heart of the whole community.
Advocate for free or subsidized daycare and pre-school care for all students, but especially for lower income communities and where research shows quality early care and access to resources can significantly support families in increasing student school readiness
Lobby for increased funding to alleviate the gargantuan backlog in OCDSB school facility investments (now several hundreds of millions of dollars!). Investments in school infrastructure Province-wide have been inadequate.
In reaction Provincial moves on several fronts, vigorously defend the 2015 Health curriculum, insist on the importance of an indigenous Studies curriculum developed in partnership, and guard against changes to the math curriculum which might unduly reduce to focus on critical thinking and problem-solving.
The policy directions outlined above reflect my current thinking on these topics.
However, what do you think is important? And, what local or system problems and solutions do you see? – Let’s engage!
Cheers – Rob