With the amount of driving I do, I often catch myself pondering where we’ve been, where we are, and where we might be headed as a district. Last month, I was given the unique experience of speaking with educators from Michigan who are undergoing consultations around system reform. Last week I reviewed Program Enhancement applications with Trustees. And just yesterday I had an opportunity to enjoy a Thanksgiving lunch with a group of young people at our Alternate Education and Training Centre in Huntsville. Almost daily, I’m fortunate to be able to meet and talk with community leaders, students, teachers, support staff, and school administrators and I’m struck by the optimism and hope that people have for our young people and communities. Sometimes, however, I come across individuals who may not share such a positive view. So, if you’re ever wondering where we are in the scheme of things, here are some thoughts for your consideration…

Our EQAO results over the past several years have shown continued improvement for the most part, which is something to be thankful for. However, the truly inspiring story with our EQAO scores rests in the progress we have been making in reducing the gap between the performance of students with special needs in relation to all students. The number of students with special needs who achieve levels three or four on the primary assessment has increased by 15% in reading, 9% in writing, and has declined by 4% in mathematics. For all students in our board, those numbers are 5% in reading, 4% in writing, and a decline of 5% in mathematics. On the junior assessment, the number of students with special needs achieving levels three or four over the past five years has increased by 14% in reading, while in writing that number is 17%, and in mathematics the number has declined by 7%, compared with 6%, 5%, and a decline of 15% respectively for all students. These improvements don’t happen by accident and they are a result of many deliberate initiatives taking place. In my view, our results are clearly something we can celebrate and give thanks for.

I mentioned that we’ve recently looked at Program Enhancement Grant applications. For our Trustees, this is one of the highlights of the year. This is a time where they have an opportunity to see firsthand the scope of the work that takes place to augment or enhance the curriculum at all levels in our schools. All of us who get to review the applications leave the conversations feeling buoyed by the excitement and engagement that obviously resonates through the system. This year, we saw a record number of applications (over 100). Our Trustees and senior team are grateful to all members of the TLDSB community who have taken the time to prepare not only the activities, but the applications to receive funding. We will make announcements in the coming days regarding approved projects.

Finally, with regard to the Michigan conversation that is underway, Superintendent Andrea Gillespie and I both left the discussion feeling very fortunate on a number of levels. We don’t have the same conversations about funding and solvency as some of our colleagues elsewhere; in fact we continue to be well-supported from our current government. Full day learning has been implemented for our youngest students and we are seeing the results of this work every day in our schools. We continue to enjoy and build a high level of public confidence because of the outstanding product we offer our students from kindergarten through to graduation.

Take some time to reflect over the long weekend and give thanks for what we’ve accomplished together so far, what we continue to do, and what awaits us. I know I will.

Larry