BY KATHY MCDONALD
At the regular meeting of the Peel District School Board (PDSB) on Tuesday Nov. 22nd 2016, trustees unanimously voted in favour of collecting student data. The Vice Chair of the Board, Suzanne Nurse submitted the following notice of motion. “Whereas the Peel District School Board is committed to inspiring success, confidence and hope in each child; and whereas pursuing the achievement of the above goal the PDSB has embarked on a number of significant initiatives to support student success, the most recent being We Rise Together – the Peel District School Board Action Plan to Support Black Male Students; and whereas the progress of such initiative need to be measured and reported; and whereas the PDSB embraces data-drive decision making and the appropriate allocation of public funds to support student success; therefore be it resolved that, commencing January 2017 the PDSB will begin the research toward the creation of a student census with a plan implementation date no later than December of 2018.”
I was most honoured to second this motion. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and was years in the making. Trustee Rick Williams had worked tirelessly on a similar motion years before and was unable to secure enough votes to make this a reality. However, so much has changed since Trustee Williams was first elected as a trustee and the will of the board has shifted. I remember the first few months of being a trustee, reading incessantly trying to get a full grasp of this vast and complex education system. One of the first questions I asked was why don’t we collect student data? I strongly believe cold, hard data is imperative if we truly hope to inspire success, confidence and hope in each child especially marginalised children. Data, not assumptions is crucial if this progressive board intends to authentically move forward with genuine change. Some of the naysayers would say that the cost of such an initiative is not money well spent. However, I personally believe that you cannot put a price tag on aggregated data. The cost of administering this census will pay for itself rather quickly. Such statistics when used properly can only serve to improve the lives of all students. Improving the lives of students is not a self-serving initiative. The board does not seek to pat itself on the back with better student achievement data. But when all students succeed, including Black and Caribbean students, the society benefits. Student success means there is a reduction in crime and mental health issues. Student success means that there is an increase in positive citizens that pay taxes and reduce the pressures on public assistance.
When the information from the student census is collated, successful strategies can easily be developed to ensure the success of all students. The We Rise Together action plan will be more relevant armed with the results of the student census. The four focus areas of the action plan are: integrate Black Canadian experience into the curriculum; develop bias free and anti-racism professional development; engage with the community and inspire Black student leadership and engagement. Our four focus areas will be enriched because of this concrete data. The aims of each of these focus areas and all the activities that will be developed thus will be more accurate and effective because of the student census.
Parents, I employ you to come on board, get engaged and above all participate. The parent voice is very important as we navigate our action plan to support Black male students as well as Black female students and all student groups that don’t feel included in the PDSB community. If you are concerned about how the education system/ PDSB is impacting your child, if you are concerned about the opportunities for your children, if you are concerned about the achievement and engagement gap for your children; let your voice be heard. The PDSB plans to hold community consultations. A tentative date has been set for Dec the 10th at the central board office at 5650 Hurontario St. and Jan 21st location to be determined. Look out for the ads in your community/ethnic news media, check the PDSB website and above all come out and be heard. The PDSB needs you to journey with us as we, and I quote Director Pontes, “act on the report – together… we will do what needs to be done, because that is the work of inclusion – that is how we make sure our students – all students – can truly rise.” Walk Good, Belle Marché.