Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
Board Highlights for November Meeting
The following are the highlights of the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.
Board updated on Indigenous Youth Circle
Allen Lewis Trodd, a student at Parry Sound High School, gave Trustees an update on the work of the Indigenous Youth Circle. That group will be meeting to ensure Indigenous student voices are part of the conversation at NNDSB.
Lewis Trodd introduced himself as Anishinaabe and Coast Salish, and said he is involved in the Indigenous Youth Circle because he and his peers “are trying to make school a nice place”.
He said his school provided a safe cultural space, in which students can gather and spend time together, “which makes people happy”. He noted not all schools have space and opportunity for Indigenous students, and the group wants to change that.
Lewis Trodd said he was happy to be at the meeting, and said it was important to have Indigenous voices at the (Board) table. He wrapped up his presentation saying that if you listen, you can learn.
The Indigenous Youth Circle is in the process of determining what the role of Indigenous Student Trustee will look like and how they want to select an Indigenous Student Trustee on the Board.
Revised administrative guidelines presented
The Board received a report about updated administrative guidelines, which are operational protocols that ensure a best practice approach to operations. The public has 30 days in which to provide input.
Three administrative guidelines that have been revised following the 30-day public consultation were shared with Trustees.
Board in compliance with elementary class size
In her report to the Board, Superintendent of Business Seija Van Haesendonck confirmed NNDSB is in compliance with the government’s limits on class size.
The board is required to maintain 100 per cent of its primary classes below 23 and 90 per cent of the classes below 20. Board must also maintain a maximum board-wide average class of 23.3 for Grades 4-8.
Highlights of Superintendent Van Haesendonck’s report that 91.5 per cent of primary classes have 20 or fewer students, and that 100 per cent of primary classes have 23 and fewer students. The average junior/intermediate class size is 23.29.
District-wide PSW program launched
In his report to the Board, Director of Education Craig Myles spoke of the launch of the personal support worker (PSW) living classroom program, which has now secured partners in Sturgeon Falls, North Bay, Mattawa and Parry Sound.
The program will see participants 18 and older train to become PSWs in a classroom that is located in a healthcare facility. Rather than having to wait for placement modules to practice theoretical learning, students will be able to move between the theoretical and practical application of knowledge regularly.
Participant intake is taking place, with program registration taking place in January. The program will begin in March 2022.
In addition to becoming a fully-trained PSW, students who have not yet completed their Grade 12 can earn up to six credits towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
Chair Jay Aspin, who also sits on the Board of Directors of Ontario Health, noted the need for PSWs in the province, and called the program “a real winner. I can see nothing but growth and goodwill.”
This collaborative program exemplifies the dedication of the board to align all decisions with the pillars of the Multi-Year Strategic Plan. The PSW program can be situated within the board’s commitment to Excellence in Innovation and Excellence in Relationships.
Environmental working group will be established
Director Myles, via his report to the board, shared that NNDSB’s program department will be establishing an environmental education/environmental stewardship working group during the 2021-2022 school year. The group will be comprised of educators from both elementary and secondary panels, administrators and system leaders.
Staff and students are already participating in several environmental initiatives, including the walking school bus (planned to start soon with Nipissing Parry Sound Student Transportation Services), a whole-school focus on electronic communications as an environmental strategy and recognition for Take Me Outside Day.
NNDSB has also been communicating with Forestry Ontario about a tree-planting initiative in the spring of 2022, in which students in the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) Environment programs will mentor students in feeder schools about the benefits of planting trees to improve the environment.
COVID-19 management updates
Superintendent Tim Graves provided Trustees with an update on board management of COVID-19. He acknowledged the work of NNDSB and its collaborative work with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (NBPSDHU) and the co-terminus boards, noting no schools in the district have been in an outbreak.
Chair Jay Aspin congratulated Superintendent Graves and his team on the work being done since the return to in-person learning. Despite pressure on the board to allow spectators to attend sports events, Chair Aspin noted NNDSB and the co-terminus boards stuck to their guns about protocols. Chair Aspin said the work done by NNDSB is “putting our students and staff first.”
Director Myles also thanked staff, the senior team, union partners and Trustees for their support of the COVID-19 management strategy. He said NNDSB has seen low numbers of COVID-19 cases “because of our strict adherence to protocols.”
Those protocols also include not permitting community use of schools to ensure to reduce the risk of transmission by reducing the number of people in buildings.
Effective Nov. 10, the Ministry of Education is requiring individuals who are subject to rapid antigen testing requirements must now provide negative test results three times a week (it had been twice weekly). Staff to whom the policy applies have been given a testing schedule and access to additional test kits.
Although new testing approaches were made available to public health units, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has opted not to implement them, citing low case counts and strong testing measures already in place.
NNDSB is working with Nipissing District Athletics (NDA) to allow spectators at school hockey games. The facilities’ COVID-19 policies and practices will be enforced.
Northern school boards identify challenges
In the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) report to the Board, a research project that detailed unique challenges facing Northern boards was shared.
OPSBA’s Northern Region meeting earlier in November saw the release of a report that identified four priority areas that require greater support from the Ministry of Education – Indigenous education, special education, experiential learning and mental health and well-being. The research, conducted by three Master of Applied Politics students, found that funding and staffing were the two greatest challenges facing the research participants.
The report’s final recommendations were: for the Ministry of Education to consult with Northern Boards and Authorities when determining funding packages, to address unique needs of communities in the North; to implement needs assessment for each Board or Authority to ensure equitable access to services for all students, regardless of where they live; implement flexibility in teaching qualifications for specialized staff in Northern regions, to ensure hiring based on relevant skills.
Marc Morin appointed to audit committee
The Board accepted the recommendation of the Audit Selection Committee and approved of the selection of Marc Morin of Mattawa to fill the external member vacancy on the Board’s audit committee, following a public application process.
Morin is a professor in the School of Business at Canadore College and has supported other boards in a similar audit committee capacity.
His three-year term is effective immediately and will end Nov. 16, 2024.
Note: the full agenda package is posted on the website prior to meetings, and official minutes are posted after they are approved at the next board meeting.
For more information, please contact:
Deb Bartlett (she/her)
Near North District School Board
P. (705) 472-8170 ext. 5010