In 2017–2018, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board helped students to learn, flourish and achieve their personal best in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. As described in its Annual Report, the RCCDSB’s focus was clearly aligned with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s goals of equity and inclusion to promote the well-being and achievement of all students.
In one of many successes over the year, RCCDSB students outperformed provincial averages in every one of the nine standardized EQAO tests. Meanwhile the Board continued to follow its five-year Strategic Plan (2017–2022) based on the pillars of Dignity and Belonging, Wholeness and Wellness, Achievement and Potential, and Witness and Integrity.
As a Catholic education system, RCCDSB is committed to providing school communities characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy, said Director of Education Jaimie Perry. “It continues to be our hope that by building community in a faith-filled environment, our students will find the exact conditions needed to thrive.”
The Board gathered feedback about its progress in providing inclusive school environments with tools such as the School Climate survey, as well as exploring innovative new strategies for student engagement and success.
The RCCDSB leadership team undertook an Equity Action plan, allowing for rich discussion and the provision of resources to promote equity and inclusion. An Equity and Inclusion survey for RCCDSB employees and a focus group of key staff helped to determine next steps in furthering equity efforts. Sessions on inclusion were held throughout the year, such as with Indigenous students and allies to learn traditions and teachings about drum making, and an Indigenous Leadership camp.
The RCCDSB’s model for Special Education also continues to focus on inclusion for all students, while providing added supports where required. During the year, classroom teachers and special education resource teachers collaborated to co-plan, co-teach and co-assess in an inclusive general classroom setting. The Board also purchased a licence for Snapverter, a Google Read-and-Write extension that turns handouts into texts to be read aloud on a Chromebook or iPad, providing further opportunities for inclusive student learning.
Students of diverse backgrounds and abilities had the opportunity to voice their ideas on the Board’s Strategic Plan at two day-long forums, which also encouraged student engagement and community building. Data collected from the forums was shared with staff and provided the basis for discussion within the Leadership Team.
A student survey conducted at Bishop Smith and St. Joseph’s high schools, as well as consultations with guidance and student success teams, helped to identify students needing help in post-secondary planning. Those students received assistance in accessing university, college and workplace sites, as well as help with applications, and meetings to discuss options and opportunities in programs.
Other events included an Orange Shirt Day to honour Indigenous survivors of Canada’s Residential Schools and their families. During a Treaty Week initiative, champion teachers and the Board’s Indigenous Education Leader visited all the schools to talk about Canada’s treaties with Indigenous peoples. Other activities throughout the year included Culture Day at Pikwakanagan, visits by Indigenous artists and authors, drum and dance presentations, Elder visits, and making dreamcatchers in art classes.
Wellness Week focused on mental health issues with input from religious and outdoor education, safe schools, and technology. There were also leadership gatherings consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action focusing on relationship-building efforts with local First Nations and Inuit groups and a PD day for Educational Assistants that focused on Indigenous Education among other things.
Other initiatives included developing students’ self-regulation and emotional regulation skills, which included training staff in the Zones of Regulation framework. The Board also moved forward with experiential learning opportunities involving the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and the Specialist High Skills Major. As well, the Board continued to focus on improving student success in mathematics and increasing student outdoor play.
In all of this work, the Board remains committed to and rooted in its distinctive character as a Catholic school system. Principals used a Catholic School Audit to gather input from staff and school councils around Catholic culture, Faith Development, Parish Relationships and other topics. School communities were called to examine how faith guides daily actions and interactions in concrete ways in their school community. Principals used the information gathered to inform their School Improvement Process throughout the school year. Religious education leads have been established in every school and the Board continues to implement the Growing in Faith, Growing in Christ series. As well, the Board was privileged to connect its local work with the rest of the province at the Institute for Catholic Education Symposium in November of 2017. “Relationship is at the heart of effective classrooms and schools,” said Director Perry, “and fostering relationships modelled on the example and invitation of Jesus is our foundation. All of this work is undertaken with passion, precision and professionalism by the RCCDSB team of teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians, secretaries, principals and vice-principals, and a host of support staff with whom we are so blessed to work.”
December 18, 2018
For further information, please contact:
Jaimie Perry, Director of Education
Renfrew County Catholic District School Board
499 Pembroke Street West
Pembroke, ON K8A 5P1
Phone: 613-735-1031 or 1-800-267-0191