During the 2016-2017 school year, many strategies were implemented in both elementary and secondary schools to bring equity to the forefront. Experiential learning activities enable students to see themselves reflected in their own learning.
These learning experiences included:
Black History Month provided a culmination for students and staff in select elementary and secondary schools who worked with Natasha Henry, President of the Ontario Black History Society, to embed Canadian Black history and experiences into curriculum learning.
In April 2017, Shakil Choudhury, an award-winning educator with more than 20 years experience in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated learning for elementary and secondary staff as they embedded Asian Canadian experiences centred on Islamophobia into student curriculum.
The Innovation Project for English as a Second Language (ESL) students was an initiative of the Halton District School Board’s Welcome Centre, an organization that provides initial support to newcomer families. As Halton continues to experience growth in the number of ESL students entering schools, the goal of the project was to smooth their transition into school and create a community of students of similar language and cultural backgrounds. Through the use of Google Groups and technology, newly arrived international students are linked with current students from their country of origin and virtually connected through Google Hangouts to chat in their first language. The goal of the Innovation Project is to smooth the transition for new ESL students so they can be more successful academically, more engaged in their new school and community and can more easily develop relationships with peers.
To see the Innovation Project in action, watch the following video:
LGBTQI2S Identities through Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) at school and GSA Conferences
All secondary schools, and approximately 30 elementary schools, have student GSAs (or equivalents) to provide a supportive and affirming space for students who identify under the LGBTQI2S spectrum and their allies. The GSA groups were invited to attend one of three school-based GSA conferences. Conferences were planned by the secondary school GSAs to build leadership skills for senior students. Conferences included support from superintendents, teachers, keynote speakers and community partners such as Egale Canada, Positive Space Network, SAVIS and Halton Regional Police Service. These conferences provided students with an opportunity to connect with others in the Board, to be affirmed and celebrated in their identities, and to engage in chosen workshops on a variety of topics linked to diverse genders and sexualities. More than 500 students attended the three conferences.
During the month of June, the Halton District School Board, as well as many schools, flew the rainbow flag to acknowledge and celebrate Pride month.
Selected elementary and secondary schools were involved in a Spoken Word poetry initiative. As part of this initiative, training about anti-black racism and Islamophobia was provided to staff. Through the creation of safe spaces, students were empowered to share their narratives and bring voice to their experiences and identities. Finalists were invited to participate in the Halton District School Board’s elementary and secondary school Spoken Word Slams.
Well-being teams have been established in 100% of schools in the Halton District School Board and are tasked with examining safety data to create plans that improve the sense of safety within individual schools. The data source used is the Tell Them From Me survey and the Have Your Say engagement tool.
In the 2016-2017 school year, the Equity and School Programs departments collaborated to add the following equity statement to all secondary course outlines and led related learning with school staff at the April 28, 2017 Professional Development (PD) Day:
All courses within Halton District School Board are taught in learning environments that promote inclusive education, and identify and eliminate discriminatory biases, systemic barriers, and power dynamics that limit the ability of students to participate, learn, grow, and succeed. All students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, so that they are engaged in and empowered by their learning experiences.
Student leaders at Irma Coulson PS were recognized by the Harmony Movement and awarded The Social Changemakers Award. This award recognized the work of students and staff who are leading work in equity and social justice at the school including a student led “Invisible Issues” club, school-wide responses to challenging issues and a student initiated Breakfast Club.
Staff - All staff will engage in learning, and model a culture of equity and inclusion in support of student well-being.
Staff within the Halton District School Board were provided with learning opportunities and resources to build awareness to sustain a culture of equity and inclusion within schools and Board workplaces. These capacity building sessions engaged targeted groups of staff in a variety of learning exercises. For example, all teaching and corporate staff, as well as other employee groups, had the opportunity to participate in a Kairos Blanket Exercise.
On April 28, 2017, a “subject-specific” PD day was held for all secondary teaching staff. The day focused on equity and all child youth counsellors (CYC), social workers and student success staff participated in LGBTQI2S and gender identities training.
New teachers participated in an Indigenous perspectives workshop as part of the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP)
The annual Our Voices conference deepened educator knowledge and awareness, and provided a forum to share student learning experiences across schools in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
The Arrive & Thrive Newcomer Symposium on March 3, 2017 was designed to welcome and support the well-being of newcomer students to Halton. This event built upon the collective capacity of all staff to support students who have different experiences coming to Canada.
The Board’s Instructional Program Leaders participated in a collaborative inquiry project about Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy. This learning informed work carried out at the school level with staff across all curriculum areas.
Training was provided for several schools on the topic of Islamophobia and Anti-Black Racism. Administrators led a school-based book story to various schools based on Shakil Choudhury’s book Deep Diversity. Senior administrative staff participated in a year-long program of equity training, centred around Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy through Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
The Positive Learning Climate Steering Committee met throughout the 2016-2017 school year to formulate a strategy to best address students’ sense of positive learning climates at the classroom level. The Committee designed a Professional Development Framework that was presented to superintendents in November 2017.
System - We will advance a culture of respect for all students, staff, families and community.
The Respectful Workplace Steering Committee has been formed and will select a vendor to assist the Board in developing a Respectful Workplace Survey. Data resulting from this survey will assist in designing an effective training plan and provide baseline data on employees’ perception of the Halton District School Board as an inclusive, caring and respectful organization.
More than 85 schools within the Halton District School Board organized and participated in a variety of activities throughout the 2016-2017 school year to acknowledge and celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Through these events, students and staff engaged the community, celebrated diversity and encouraged creativity. They honoured Canadian music, art and literature, promoted physical activity and environmental stewardship and reflected on what it means to be Canadian.
With the support of a federal grant, all staff throughout the system were able to engage in learning about Residential Schools through the Truth & Reconciliation blanket exercise simulation. School administrators and key staff were trained and provided with the requisite resources to lead this activity at their schools. This learning was further augmented through various school-based learning initiatives to help to decolonize perspectives. Together, students and staff planted the seeds of reconciliation and made a promise for a re-imagined Canada
System -We will use innovative approaches to student accommodation that reflect the changing needs within our communities.
A process was initiated for the design of the new Milton High School. Bi-weekly meetings and consultations took place between the architectural team and staff from Facilities, School Operations and School Programs departments along with the superintendent responsible for innovation. The Board is also consulting with the municipality and public library on potential partnership opportunities.
A pilot project was launched to design innovative learning environments that focus on flexible and adaptable seating. As a result, many schools have shifted from the traditional classroom set-up with desks arranged in rows.
Gary Allan High School’s Oakville location is working closely with the Kerr Street Mission and is hosting Alternative Education classes at their facility this school year.
As a result of the Burlington Program Accommodation Review (PAR), an exploration is underway to create a themed program for Aldershot High School.