Brockville – Trustees with the Upper Canada District School Board passed the 2018-19 budget last Wednesday night.
The budget details $370.4 million in operating expenses and outlines $44.8 million in capital expenses. It also includes a projected operating deficit of $1.8 million, said Superintendent of Business Robert Backstrom.
For the 2018-19 year, Upper Canada will receive supplemental funds to better prepare students and staff for the realities faced in today’s classroom environment. Some of the key investments focus on Ministry of Education initiatives such as Addressing Waitlists for Assessments and Increasing Services in Special Education, Mental Health Workers in Schools, Preparing for Success in High School in relation to grades 7 and 8 students, and expanding the experiential learning component of the Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy.
Superintendent Backstrom presented to Trustees a detailed account of what senior staff identified to be various budget pressures earlier in the spring, and how staff have addressed these matters in the proposed budget while ensuring ministry compliance requirements were achieved. The budget continues to fully support student learning and achievement while ensuring sound financial stewardship.
“I am very proud of the work of Trustees and senior staff in bringing together a Ministry compliant budget during what is always a very challenging process,” said Chair Jeff McMillan of the 2018 budget deliberations.
“What has resulted is a budget that responsibly addresses today’s fiscal realities.” McMillan stressed that student programming remains a priority under the new budget, and will continue to serve as a key factor in all Board decisions.
The Board also addressed the following items during last night’s meeting:
• South Edwardsburg Public School Presentation: Principal Chris Bourne presented on the South Edwardsburg Public School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Wellness. The plan defines how the school is enhancing math and literacy scores as well as staff and student wellness. In literacy, the school uses an assessment tool to evaluate student understanding and to design teaching strategies to help them improve. Grades 1 and 2 students are learning how to create proper sentences. They are given a “Five Star” checklist providing hints on how to make a proper sentence – such as capitalizing the first word, and ensuring proper spacing between each word. Each student has a copy of the checklist on their desk and it is also displayed on the classroom wall. Grade 4 students are discussing paragraphs and are given graphic organizers which walk them through the steps of creating a proper paragraph such as deciding the main point of a paragraph so their writing is focused. The charts allow students to self-assess their work to see if they are completing it correctly. In math, the school is using problem solving templates to help students in the Grades 2/3 and 5/6 classes succeed with word problems. The templates encourage students to read carefully to find out exactly what the problem is asking them to do. They then lead students through problem-solving steps such as drawing pictures to visualize a problem, writing an equation, solving the equation and then clearly writing what their answer is to gain a deeper understanding. To enhance wellness, the school offers the Zones of Regulation Program, WITS program, a running club, intramural and school sports, a nutrition program, and many other initiatives.
• Communications and Relationship Management Plan Update: Superintendent of District Alignment Phil Dawes and Communications Manager Andrea Walasek presented an update on the Communications and Relationship Management Plan. The plan outlines how the department is supporting the goals of the Board’s Strategic Plan by offering: targeted school support; Board-wide school support; advertising and marketing; and committees, events and District support. The presentation outlined progress made over the last year in these four areas. The pair also discussed feedback received and updates to the plan for the coming year. Notable accomplishments last year include graduation and school event livestreaming, the “What’s Happening in Upper Canada” video series, video tours of schools, advertising initiatives, a redesign of the school and Board websites, coverage of special events of Board-wide relevance, and an increasingly strong social media presence. Walasek noted the strong impact of the UCDSB Facebook page. From April 16-May 13 alone the site posted a reach of more than 58,000 people (up 8 per cent), video views of 11,629 (up 3 per cent), and post-engagement of 19,504 (up 7 per cent). Areas of focus for the coming year include an increase in coverage of academic accomplishments, further outreach to our community partners in Akwesasne, support for targeted marketing in various communities, and an increased focus on UCDSB international
• Capital Spending Update: Jeremy Hobbs, Superintendent of Human Resources and System Operations, reported on capital projects planned for the summer of 2018. Hobbs said the Board plans to spend $24.3 million this year on a range of projects including: repaving of selected play areas at Pineview Public School; repaving of the bus lane, parking area and play areas at Rockland District High School, Laggan Public School and South Edwardsburg Public School. Other projects include installation of a new canopy at South Edwardsburg Public School and Rockland District High School, a memorial shade structure at South Crosby Public School, repaving of play areas at Longue Sault Public School, and reconditioning of the granular track at Char-Lan District High School.
• Director of Education’s Work Plan and Status Update: Director Stephen Sliwa presented a report on progress made under the 2017-18 Director of Education’s Work Plan. The plan outlines 18 separate actions that direct and define the efforts of senior staff to support priorities identified by the Board of Trustees. Sliwa’s status update showed significant progress under the four overarching goals of Graduation Rate, Staff Culture, Student Culture, and Community outlined in the plan. Projects that are progressing well, or have been achieved, include: the development and introduction of a Family of Schools Credit Accumulation Tracking and Support Team; enhancement of human resources on a site-by-site basis to further existing efforts to personalize instructional strategies; creating materials to connect school staff, and central department staff, to the Strategic Plan; implementing wellness goals at all schools as part of the SIPSA cycle of inquiry using the Healthy Schools Framework; and creating a discussion table with community leaders regarding career education and experiential learning.
• Director of Education Work Plan Quarterly Report: Director Stephen Sliwa presented his quarterly report to the Board of Trustees. The top three achievements of the last three months were: initial implementation of the Director’s Work Plan for 2017-18, hiring and onboarding of a new Superintendent of Business, and supporting the recent budget presentation process for the 2018-2019 budget. He listed the top three challenges in the coming three months as: addressing key priorities within Year 2 of the Ministry of Education’s Equity Action Plan, identifying and presenting the Board with key considerations for a review of Special Education, and following up on time-sensitive commitments from the 2017 Pupil Accommodation Review. The top three priorities over the next three months are: to support the Board’s efforts to review its Work Plan for 2017-2018 and to support the development of its 2018-2019 Work Plan; to review, with senior staff, the Director’s Work Plan priorities for 2018-2019, and the hiring and onboarding of a new Superintendent of Schools.