By Nick Bernard
The following are brief reports of items discussed at the Nov. 23 Trillium Lakelands District School Board trustees meeting.
The Nov. 23 meeting of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board began with a swearing-in of the new student trustee. Grade 11 student Ben Hunter will be representing his peers at TLDSB meetings alongside Alexia Evans-Turnbull.
Following Ben’s swearing-in, the Director’s Recognition Award was presented to Archie Stouffer Elementary School Principal Dawn Sudsbury, who was nominated by ASES vice-principal Mike Gervais. The Director’s Recognition Award recognizes outstanding and significant staff contributions to the district and its students, over an extended period of time, showing a level of imagination, enthusiasm, and professionalism that constitutes a worthy model for others.
“Dawn is a highly passionate leader,” began Vice-Principal Gervais’ letter of nomination, as read by TLDSB Director Wes Hahn. “She prioritizes the needs of all learners at her school, and makes plans to support their learning and enhance their educational experience. When staff walk into Archie Stouffer school, it is clear that they are stepping into a community, focused on student achievement and equity. Dawn consistently encourages her staff to look for opportunities to be the best educators they can be … Dawn sees potential in all students, and advocates for every child’s right to quality education.”
The nomination was a surprise to Sudsbury, who expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the recognition.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many great people in my career,” Sudsbury said after receiving her award. “Just being a student [in this region] first, and then my own children graduating, I feel really proud to be part of this, to work in this community, to serve our community.”
“Kids are why we come to work every day, and I just have the best job in the world,” she concluded.
The Director’s Recognition Award was also presented to Huntsville High School Alison Turnbull, who was nominated by her Vice-Principals Aaron Beausoleil and Geoff Corbett.
Sudsbury reviews ASES experience with SIEP
As promised by Superintendent Jay MacJanet at the TLDSB meeting on Nov. 9, Sudsbury was on hand to present her experience with Archie Stouffer Elementary School’s Improvement and Equity Plan (SIEP). She described the steps taken by the school to improve student outcomes, especially in the categories of literacy and numeracy. Sudsbury began by explaining that developing the SIEP began at the students’ desks.
“So we want to first start to look at gathering information,” she said. “We want to know what the students know, what they don’t know. We want to start to look at how they’re actually learning, and what might be some barriers to that learning.”
She said this process was done through teacher observations and conversations that they’re having with their students.
In terms of literacy, Sudsbury said it was important to understand how well students could read, how well they could comprehend what they were reading, as well as their understanding of phonics and critical thinking, like summarizing and analyzing bits of text. When it came to math, Sudsbury said they were looking at whether students could count, do elementary math, and whether they could problem-solve.
Following direct consultations based on these observations between teachers, Sudsbury, a teaching-learning coach, and the school’s resource teacher, creation of the SIEP began.
An example goal Sudsbury provided from her school’s SIEP concerned student literacy.
According to a slide included in the presentation, Archie Stouffer’s goal was for 51 per cent of students to accomplish reading at grade-level. Currently, according to the slide, 15 per cent of students in Grades 2 to 8 are reading at grade level.
“Our goal by June is we want 100 percent of our students to demonstrate growth in reading,” Sudsbury said. The 51 per cent was decided based on predictions by teachers.
Sudsbury also described creating an “inquiry question” in order to direct their movements towards reaching that goal. Because of the varying needs of students in different age groups, two inquiry questions were asked.
For students in Grades 2 to 4, staff found students had difficulty employing what Sudsbury described as decoding strategies.
“So what we found is they were really having a hard time looking at the words and actually being able to sound them out and figure out what that word said,” Sudsbury explained. For Junior and Intermediate students in Grades 5 to 8, comprehension was the main concern.
“They are really struggling with comprehension. So they were able to read and decode the text, but once they had done that, they really struggled with making meaning of that text.”
From there, Sudsbury said the strong focus is on supporting teachers to enable them to work directly with students on individually tailored plans for success.
The final piece of the SIEP, Sudsbury said, was a focus on equity.
“Equity for us is just the overarching umbrella of everything we do,” Sudsbury said. “At Archie Stouffer, there are no excuses – all children can achieve.”
She said administrators look at demographic data, poverty rates, and other data in order to “even the playing field,” as Sudsbury describes it.
“We have weekly intervention meetings where we meet together with the [teaching team] and bring certain students forward, and we talk about how we can support them and what our next steps are,” Sudsbury said. “Sometimes it involves bringing in community partners, and sometimes it involves just working with the classroom teacher on their [Individual Education Plan] goals or different pieces to support them.
Sudsbury ended her presentation by saying that completing the SIEP ends at the same place it begins — at the student’s desk.
“We want to make sure … is every task we give a student intentional? Is it purposeful? And is it meeting the need of every student for what they need to be successful?”
An update on antigen screening kits and secondary school semester
Director of Education Wes Hahn provided trustees with an update on the rollout of vaccinations for children aged five to 11. TLDSB is working with local public health units to offer clinics at some school locations. Community members will receive more information when the clinics have been scheduled by the health units.
Hahn also gave an overview of the policies currently in place within TLDSB schools to keep communities safe and healthy, including giving students a take-home COVID-19 test over the holiday break, as an extra layer of screening.
“Prior to the holiday break, students will take home a BTNX rapid antigen screening kit that contains five tests,” Hahn said. He emphasized that taking the test was entirely voluntary. Director Hahn also updated the board on the question of whether to return to a regular four class day schedule, or otherwise stay with the quadmester schedule already in place at secondary schools across the board.
Currently, the Ministry of Education has given school boards clearance to return to regular schedules. TLDSB is in consultation with students and staff to help inform a final decision that would come into effect in February 2022.
“I think what we’re doing very carefully, and I think we’re being very thorough about this, is making sure we speak with our secondary administrators,” Hahn said. “And they’re working with their staffs and talking with students about that return to regular semester.”
Hahn expressed gratitude to teachers and staff on their ability to adapt to these changes in the regular schedule so far.
“So now, there are definitely benefits to going back to regular semesters, and over the next week or so we’ll be working with our staff to weigh those out,” Hahn said.
Student trustee Turnbull posed a question to the director expressing concern for her peers, who, she pointed out, would be the ones most affected by the change of schedule: “How are you planning on gathering student voice through this?”
“That’s coming through the principals to staff,” Hahn replied. “They’ll be working with students in their own building … We’ve got a Google Form – or I guess a spreadsheet, we’ll call it – that will be gathering that information, and will be coming back to our department here [at the school board], and then we’ll look at it as a senior team and make those decisions from there.”
Whatever changes that come are set to go into effect in February 2022.