September Letter from our Trustee, Jennifer Story

Dear Friends,

Welcome back!

The 2015/2016 school year is in full swing. I hope you and yours have had a smooth and successful introduction to your new teachers, classrooms and grades. Whether your child is entering school for the first time or moving to the next grade, it can be a challenge for us all to adjust to new routines. My best wishes to all of you for a clear road ahead.

If you are not already involved in your child’s school, I strongly encourage you to do so. Our school councils are, along with the staff, the backbone of our schools, providing a parent voice on important school decisions and raising funds to support staff and parent goals. Hopefully you received information about your school council in your back-to-school package. If you have not, contact the office and ask how to reach the school council leadership. New elections are generally held every September/October.

Labour Update

Central bargaining with Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation has concluded with a tentative agreement.

As of the time of writing, The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Province and the Ontario Public School Boards association have recently reached an impasse after some intensive bargaining earlier this month. The union has continued its partial withdrawal of service (not participating in some school meetings, many curriculum nights have been cancelled). This is a continuation of their work action that saw teachers choosing not to produce report cards at the end of last academic year (and our principals and administrators stepping in to produce summaries of marks). The union has announced that it will intensify its withdrawal of service unless the parties return to the bargaining table.

CUPE, the union representing a wide range of support staff, is also in strike position and has begun its own work action which is described as “work to rule instructions.”

Regular bargaining updates are provided by the Ontario Public School Boards Association, on the front page of .

Trustee Survey of Parent and Community Concerns

Over the summer I surveyed my email newsletter subscribers regarding the key school/TDSB/education issues they are concerned with or want to learn more about. I received a great response rate and lots of detail. To those who participated, thank you for taking the time.

I will use the results of this survey to guide my work, in terms of issues that require further advocacy, and to choose topics for Ward Council meetings, special events and newsletter content.

For those who are interested, I will include a summary of the survey results in an upcoming newsletter and post it on my website as well. One of the concerns raised was class size, and you will find a blurb on this issue further in this newsletter.

The Role of the Trustee

As parents we all want the best for our kids and will do whatever we can to support their success. Our teachers, administrators and central staff also want to make sure our students succeed. The vast majority of the time that journey is a smooth one. Sometimes, however, we can encounter bumps on the road.

As your trustee, I am here to assist with issues that cannot be resolved at the school level or where communication may have broken down. Your first point of contact must be your classroom teacher, then your principal. The superintendent, the direct line supervisor of the principals, also plays an essential role in helping parents navigate issues or problems that cannot be resolved at the school level.

The trustee also has responsibilities in policy development and budget oversight. If you have any questions regarding these matters feel free to send me an email.

Elementary Class Size

One issue I hear a lot about from parents of elementary students is class size.

I want to take this opportunity to outline how class sizes are arrived at, and occasionally altered.

Our planning department is tasked with projecting enrolment in the spring and allocating staff according to those projections and according to the Ministry of Education’s requirements for class sizes.

These are the ministry requirements:
Kindergarten: there is no ministry cap, but funding is provided on an average class size of 26
Grades 1-3: 90% of all classes must be no more than 20, and 10% can have up to 23 students across the entire Board
Grades 4-8: class size is determined and funded by a board average of 23.4
There is often adjusting in September based on actual enrolment. Principals work with central and school staff to make adjustments within ministry requirements.

Last year I received many emails from parents expressing alarm regarding the size of some of our kindergarten classes. I share these concerns and I encourage you to share your thoughts with the Minister of Education and the Premier.

Ward Council Meetings

The Ward Council is a monthly meeting for parents and constituents of TDSB Ward 15 (the same boundaries as municipal Wards 29 and 30) to come together to learn more about our school system, to share information and best practices and to ask questions. I give a report on current and emerging issues at every meeting, as does the superintendent. The meetings are open to anyone, and I strongly encourage school councils to select a regular rep. We keep meetings to two hours. Locations rotate among schools in the ward. This year we will alternate between roundtable discussions one month and guest speakers or workshops the next.

The schedule for Ward Council meetings this fall is as follows: Monday October 5, Tuesday November 3, and Thursday December 3. Time: 7-9pm. Locations: to be confirmed.

If your school would like to host please let me know by email to .

Syrian Refugee Response: One School’s Story and the 1000 School Challenge

Many of us have been following the news for updates on the Syrian refugee crisis and have been deeply moved by what we have heard. When the school community of Dewson Street Junior Public School came together to begin a new school year, they saw an opportunity to take action and help. They formed the Dewson School Community Refugees Welcome and launched a campaign to raise $30,000 in 30 days to prepare to sponsor a refugee family. You can check out their inspiring initiative on their website and their Indiegogo page. They are also challenging 1000 schools to start similar initiatives and are supporting other schools by providing tools and resources. For more information email .

I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming meeting, but in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments, questions or concerns.