Stakeholders of the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board attended a professional day of learning on December 6. Teachers, principals, social workers, guidance counsellors, administrators and trustees gathered to brainstorm creative ideas for supporting pathway programs to meet the needs of all students.
RCCDSB performs very well on effectiveness measures, such as provincial EQAO testing, noted Mark Searson, RCDDSB Superintendent of Educational Services. However the graduation rate or number of ‘early leavers’ from the system is an area of a concern. “We are looking especially at ways to engage students who become disengaged. They are usually the ones who leave the system early,” explained Searson.
Keynote speaker Matt Lemay, Executive Director of the Labour Market Group of Renfrew and Lanark, presented information from research that has been carried out about the local labour market, opportunities that are available, and trends for the future. “Education is a huge piece and making sure youth are prepared,” said Lemay. “We need to assist and empower youth regarding where jobs will be and what training is required.”
Heather Hickson, Student Services at Bishop Smith Catholic High School, said the summit reinforced the importance of the data relating to our region’s labour market. “This type of information is critical when assisting students with post-secondary career choices.”
Some of the pathway programs currently available for students are the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM), Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), Experiential Learning, the School to College Work Initiative (SCWI), Dual Credits and Co-op Programs.
During group discussions, participants were first asked to identify the barriers that may affect students’ pathways to graduation. Some of the barriers that came up repeatedly included mental health and addictions, poverty/financial road blocks, lack of support, lack of transportation or time/scheduling issues.
Later in the agenda, participants were challenged to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions to deal with the barriers and, thereby, increase graduation rates. “We need to work to find a greater understanding of what we think are the needs of our students. Some students are multi-barrier. How do we address all barriers?” Tina Noel, RCCDSB Experiential Learning Coordinator, asked attendees.
Brennan Trainor, Principal, Bishop Smith Catholic High School, summed up the day: “Any time we can come together as a group of secondary educators, along-side our Board support team, senior administration team, and Board trustees, we end up with a very special event. This event was no different. The pathways summit provided all of us with the time and space to look at our current practices, assess their effectiveness, and plan on some things we can do in the future. Our collective goal of keeping our at-risk students as the focal point of the summit was accomplished, and we are hopeful that many of our recommendations will come to fruition in the near future.”
December 11, 2019
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