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April 29, 2013- Budget Consultation Meeting Minutes
Budget Consultation Meeting
                                                                         April 29, 2013
A Budget Consultation Meeting was held in the Board Room at the Limestone Education Centre, 220~Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston, on Monday, April 29, 2013, at 6:00 p.m.
Present Trustees:
L. French, Chair
G. Beavis
H. Brown
H. Chadwick
E. Crawfod
L. French
A. Goodfellow                                   
D. Jackson
B. Milligan, Student Trustee
P. Murray
S. Ruttan
Present Staff:
S. Hedderson, Principal, École Lundy’s Lane School, and Association of Elementary School Administrators
H. Highet, Principal, Sharbot Lake High School, and Secondary Administrators’ Association Organization
M. Baumann, Manager of Financial Services
K. Burra, Assistant to the Director and Supevisor of Safe and Caring Schools
J. Douglas, Communications Officer
B. Fraser-Stiff, Superintendent of Education
T. Giles, Supervising Principal
R. Holmes, Supervising Principal
B. Hunter, Director of Education
D. Kirkpatrick, Recording Secretary
A. Labrie, Superintendent of Education
S. Lehman, Supervising Principal
N. Marsh, Superintendent of Education
A. McDonnell, Supervising Principal
R. Richard, Superintendent of Business Services
W. Toms, Manager of ITS and Planning Officer    

        Chair French welcomed those present to the meeting, thanking the presenters for attending the meeting to present their budget requests.  She indicated that the information presented this evening will be received and Trustees will take the comments from this evening’s meeting into consideration as they move forward through the budget process.

Declaration of Conflict of Interest

        No Trustee declared a conflict of interest.

Approval of Agenda

        MOVED BY Trustee Jackson, seconded by Trustee Crawford, that the agenda, as distributed, be approved.–Carried


Association of Elementary School Administrators                                         

        Steve Hedderson, Association of Elementary School Administrators (AESA), was present.  He stated that the AESA would like to thank the Board for allowing them the opportunity to share their perspective on budget priorities to consider as part of 2013-2014 budget deliberations.

        Mr. Hedderson commented that AESA recognizes the challenges facing Trustees in budget deliberations this year and are aware that some difficult decisions may have to be made in order to balance next year’s budget.  He expressed AESA’s strong support for maintaining allocated funding in two key areas that they believe are integral to continuing to improve learning and achievement for all Limestone students and two areas that they deem to be essential components in helping to meet the objectives outlined in the Board’s Strategic Plan, Success for All – Professional Learning and Technology.

        Mr. Hedderson commented that Elementary Principals and Vice-Principals remain committed to supporting the ongoing professional learning of all staff, including their own.  He said that across the district, we are seeing positive growth in terms of the use of high-yield instructional strategies to support student learning and achievement in our schools, and we know that in order to sustain the momentum, professional learning needs to continue to be our primary area of focus.

        Mr. Hedderson remarked that for the fourth consecutive year, despite continued provincial restraint in this area, elementary administrators would like to see continued investment in technology.  He stated that elementary administrators acknowledge the role of technology in our schools to help support student engagement and also see the benefit in terms of providing effective feedback opportunities for students to enhance learning as well as providing the ability to create dynamic records of student work to support student growth and to allow for more opportunities to effectively communicate with the families we serve.

        Mr. Hedderson commented that elementary administrators believe that technology is important to helping create dynamic work environments across our system that meet the needs of a changing staff demographic.  He said that access to different types of technology allows staff to more easily develop rich and relevant learning opportunities for students and supports innovation in teaching, learning and communication.

        Mr. Hedderson reviewed the following budget priorities:

Budget Priority #1 – Professional Learning

Elementary administrators are committed to the ongoing learning of all staff.  

When administrators and teachers have time to engage in thoughtful co-planning, co-teaching and co-debriefing opportunities, conversations amongst educators become focused on student learning and lead to more effective monitoring and subsequently increase the likelihood of higher levels of achievement for more students.  Across our schools, learning goals and success criteria in classrooms are helping to make learning more visible to students.  The implementation of a variety of feedback strategies is helping to support more personalized growth and supporting our goal of inclusion while helping to meet the needs of a variety of learners in our classrooms.  Enhancing collaborative problem-solving opportunities is helping to re-frame what it means to be mathematically literate and revisiting our guided practice in service of a more strategic development of children’s reading skills are some of the successes we are seeing in our schools.  Having funding to support the release time of teachers to continue this learning is vital for us to continue to move our system and our schools forward.

In Michael Fullan’s (2013) paper on launching the next stage of Ontario’s Education agenda, Great to Excellence, he stated:

“To go down the path towards excellence requires a high-capacity teaching profession and school leaders to work collectively in focused ways on the consolidation of current success, and on the further development of the profession of teaching that might be called the ‘new pedagogy’ that involve fundamental shifts in the roles of teachers and students in becoming ‘learning partners.’  These more powerful learning modes could be greatly accelerated by the new technologies that are rapidly coming on the scene (p.5).”

We believe in and accept our role in the professional learning cycle as instructional leaders and learning partners and know it is critical to our schools’ success and therefore a continued investment in professional learning release time is our top priority.

Budget Priority #2 – Technology

Elementary administrators continue to see technology as an important area for local investment.  We recognize the students in our schools represent a generation of children and youth, who have no memory of a world without the Internet, without instant access to information, and without an array of media at their fingertips.  The challenge of engaging today’s students is partially about machines and devices; but more about how these tools can be used to support critical and creative thinking, collaboration and highly effective communication skills.

Increased access to computers in schools helps to provide more blended learning opportunities for students as well as providing for more regular access to assistive technology while supporting core academic skills such as writing.

When LCD projectors and document cameras are readily available to all teachers, it helps make learning visible for students.  It also helps to promote self and peer assessment and establishes a healthy feedback system, all of which are critical elements of an engaging and responsive learning environment.  These tools and other technological learning tools help promote a culture where students are motivated to accept responsibility for their learning in an ongoing cycle of inquiry.

Technologically sound school environments would include BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) at some point in time, so students can bring their own tools to support their learning community and a range of approved devices could be sustained on a robust Board network.  More regular access to technology has the potential to improve performance for both students and staff in a variety of areas and also promotes thoughtful, focused innovation in our pedagogy moving forward.

We also see an ongoing technology investment in infrastructure and equipment acknowledging the needs of a changing staff demographic that are also used to having regular access to certain types of technology to support the important work they are engaged in to ultimately improve student achievement.

        Mr. Hedderson thanked the Board for the opportunity to be present to share the priorities of the Association of Elementary School Administrators.

        Trustee Jackson referred to the information relating to Bring Your Own Device and asked about equity for all students given that some families may not be able to afford to buy technology devices for their children.  Mr. Hedderson stated that AESA sees the equity issue is less about who is able or unable to bring their own devices to school, and more about student access at school to technological tools to support learning.  He said that in this scenario, BYOD would actually assist with the equity issue in terms of making more tools available to more students.  He said that schools now have a base amount of tools, and if schools had access to more tools, they could provide a greater number of tools to students who did not have their own.  He indicated that we do some of this now with the Special Equipment Amount (SEA) funding, which buys assistive tools for the students with special education needs, but noting that the assistive tools are shared among other students.

        Trustee Jackson asked Mr. Hedderson what his thoughts are with regard to partnerships with not-for-profit organizations to support technology.  Mr. Hedderson stated that he is representing the Association of Elementary School Administrators, noting that he would not be able to speak on behalf of the members, without consulting with them first.  He said, however, that AESA would be willing to participate in those kinds of discussions in the future to provide more technology in support of student learning and achievement in our schools.

        Chair French thanked Mr. Hedderson for providing the above-noted information.

Secondary Administrators’ Association Organization

        Heather Highet, representing the Secondary Administrators’ Association Organization, was present.  She thanked the Trustees for giving her an opportunity to speak to them this evening, on behalf of the Secondary Administrators’ group, about the budget.

        Principal Highet reported that secondary schools are directly allocated funds based on a per-pupil basis, as determined by the Board.  Trustees also allocate funds to support Board-wide initiatives and programs through the Secondary School Central Program Budget.  In the recent school years, the allocation for this budget was approximately $350,000.

        Ms. Highet reviewed the following information:

Secondary School Central Programs Budget

        The Secondary School Central Program Budget allows for cost effective use of limited financial resources among schools.  It supports a number of initiatives and resources utilized Board-wide.  The budget is used to support our collective mission which is to prepare students within a safe and inclusive environment to embrace a changing world as life-long learners and informed and responsible citizens.  It specifically supports the Board’s Strategic Plan objective of Student success and achievement levels will be increased (1.1).

        Among many things, it is used to support:

  • Co-operative Education
  •         Secondary Curriculum
  •         Outdoor Education
  •         Secondary school enrichment programs
  •         Graduation awards and bursaries
  •         The University and College Information Program
  • Teacher Resource Centre
  •         Cancopy, video, SoCan and other technical licenses
  • Secondary extracurricular activities, including the arts and athletics
Financial Needs for 2013-2014 School Year

Maintenance of the Central Programs Budget is vital to the continued success of our Secondary Schools.  For Principals, collectively reviewing our financial needs and working together with central funds to address needs with cost efficiency and consistency across secondary schools has been proven to be an effective model.

There are three broad areas in which Principals agree there continues to be pressure and we are unable to provide enough financial support without the central budget.  These areas include: purchase of learning resources, information technology allocations, and classroom equipment and furniture repairs and replacements.

Learning Resources to Improve Achievement for All
Previous one-time allocations, typically from the Ministry of Education to Boards, to fund the purchase of print materials (including new textbooks to support changes in secondary curriculum) have greatly assisted schools.  Unfortunately these allocations were not provided in the past two years.  In the past, textbooks have been a significant portion of the learning resources required.  There now is an increasing need to purchase e-books and other electronic resources to support all students, but in particular, to support students using assistive technologies.  

Information Technology Allocations to Enhance Engagement, Accountability and Sustainability

The information technology allocations were eliminated in the 2011-2012 school year as part of a longer range plan.  These allocations supported individual secondary school acquisition of desktop, laptop and notebook computers, peripherals, software, and other learning resources to enhance student engagement in the learning and their achievement.  While Secondary Principals strongly support Information Technology Services’ five-year plan to centralize these purchases and provide technology upgrades to schools on a rotating basis; this plan has become a nine-year plan due to further cuts provincially.  There is pressure to ensure our schools and our teaching remain current, relevant and engaging for our students, who are often ahead of the adults in their world, in this area.

Classroom Equipment and Furniture Repairs and Replacements

Secondary schools have very little funding that can provide for necessary (but mundane) replacement and/or repair of equipment and furniture.  Most classroom furniture, classroom blinds, and other miscellaneous equipment are more than 25 years old and now showing signs of excessive wear and tear.

        Ms. Highet stated that Secondary Principals wish to acknowledge and thank Trustees for their continued support and hard work, particularly during this difficult budget process in very difficult times.  She said that our combined efforts will continue to provide excellent programming, safe and inclusive environments and a high quality educational experience for all of our students.

        Trustee Jackson referred to the limited amount of funding the Board receives in certain areas, and asked her how she feels about the expansion of community partnerships.  He said that one of the discussions Trustees are having now is about the expansion of all schools as community hubs, noting that this scenario means significant changes from the past in how we operate schools.  Ms. Highet said that there are exciting opportunities for partnerships, but we must look at each one cautiously.  She said that as we move forward in the north, we are looking for a partnership with Pathways for Children and Youth to share space successfully, and resources.  She indicated that this partnership will have to be examined carefully, noting that we must remain focused on our students and their futures.

        Trustee Murray referred to information technology, asking Ms. Highet if she sees some level of participation at the secondary level.  Ms. Highet stated that high school students already are bringing their own devices to schools, noting that secondary administrators support and encourage them to do so.  She said that we teach students to use them responsibly.  She said that by having students bring their own devices, it leaves the ones already at schools for others to use.

        Trustee Jackson referred to the partnership idea, and asked Ms. Highet how she felt about municipal use of school facilities and how she would see that blending together.  He said that high schools have lots of use of their facilities by non-school users.  Ms. Highet stated that she would like time to talk about this matter with the others in the Secondary Administrators’ Association Organization.  She said that she believes there will be exciting opportunities, and we should be looking at these opportunities very carefully.

        Chair French thanked Principal Highet for providing the above-noted information.

Christine Sypnowich

        Ms. Sypnowich thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak to them this evening about budget priorities.  She read the following letter from herself that was in response to the Board’s call for input on budget priorities:

        “In answer to the Board’s call for input on budget priorities, I would like to propose that the school board consider allocating funds to much-needed renovations for KCVI.  In particular, funds should be provided to refurbish the magnificent wooden doors of the school.

        As you know, KCVI is a tremendously successful school.  It is filled to capacity with the highest academic results of all high schools in the Limestone Board, yet it is also, like many inner city schools, a school of wonderful socioeconomic diversity, ranking 6 out of 9 in the average family income.

        As well, KCVI is a school of enormous history, the oldest in Ontario, housed in a unique example of collegiate gothic architecture, the only one of its kind in the city.  Yet KCVI has received short shrift when it comes to the allocation of scarce funding for maintenance and repairs; it has had no significant capital investment for at least 10 years.  KCVI has received less than $10,000 from the $43 million Good Places to Learn Fund.  Nonetheless, KCVI has held up surprisingly well.  It is solidly built, and made to last.

        Thus it is a misconception that old buildings are not worth repairing.  Indeed, the Board’s own recent experience in the east end is a cautionary tale about new construction.  Children were bussed back to good old J.E. Horton and Lundy’s Lane schools, both victims of school closures but which had to be re-opened because of problems with facilities in the spanking new Sir John A. Macdonald School.

        I was until recently a member of the Kingston Municipal Heritage Committee for several years, a committee which advises City Council on the modification of heritage properties and on conservation policy.  One of the lessons I took away from that valuable experience was the importance of stewardship of the city’s heritage in the face of pressure to demolish and build anew.  Stewardship means, of course, celebrating the cultural artifacts of our city and preserving them for future generations. What is often not appreciated, however, is how heritage preservation responds to the imperatives of both fiscal responsibility and care for the environment.  It is often said that the greenest building is the one still standing.  But looking after the one still standing is also the most economical.  One must consider the ‘embodied energy’ in building materials that are carted off to landfill sites – they represent not just environmental waste, but also a squandering of economic resources.  It is easy to not put a cost on this forfeiting of economic resources, but we pay for it nonetheless.

        Similar irrationalities lurk in the current situation where school boards are tempted to get provincial funds to build new schools instead of looking after the perfectly serviceable ones that exist – again we can fool ourselves that demolishing and rebuilding doesn’t cost us anything.  But we, the taxpayers, will certainly bear the cost, particularly in this time of scarce public funds.

        These lessons about thrift and financial management, regard for heritage and environmental responsibility, are lessons we impart to students in our schools.  We should live by them too.

        The school doors would be a perfect project (please see appendix for photos).  The cost would be manageable – certainly under $1,000.  The doors are also in urgent need of repair.  The finish on the doors has worn off, the wood is exposed, and the doors are at great risk of rotting.  The symbolic reward of this project would be huge – underscoring how KCVI continues to open its doors and welcome students from all over Kingston to participate in its close-knit community and outstanding academic programmes, as it has done for many generations.

        Many thanks for your consideration of this proposal.”

        Chair French thanked Ms. Sypnowich for her comments.

Sue Streight, Co-Chair, KCVI School Council

        Ms. Streight advised that she is a current Co-Chair of the KCVI School Council.  She thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak to Trustees this evening.  She advised that Terri Hodges, the other Co-Chair of the KCVI School Council, was unable to attend this evening’s meeting to present.  She said that she has had the privilege to travel all over the world and province watching her daughter play basketball, commenting that the only cement gym floor she has seen is at KCVI, which is both unfair and unhealthy.  She read the following letter from herself and Terri Hodges, Co-Chairs, KCVI School Council:

        “We understand that the largest overall cost to running the Board is staffing, and that often times, when budgets are constrained, maintenance of physical plant is deferred.  Having said this, it feels to the KCVI community as though this tactic has been used time and again, and so often in the case of KCVI, that the ‘Prohibitive to Repair’ end result has been engineered.  KCVI is the only remaining secondary school in the Board without refurbished science labs.  The replacement of the single pane windows has suffered from ‘rolling deferral’ for many years.  Our students continue to engage in athletic activities in a gym with a cement floor, which is both unfair, and unhealthy.  There has been no significant capital investment in KCVI – from either annual capital allotments or the Good Places to Learn Fund – for at least the last ten years, and we do not consider the remedying of such on-going, planned neglect on the part of the Board to be ‘doctoring an old building.’  We believe that it’s time to stop balancing the budget on the back of KCVI.

        Regardless of the outcome of the PARC process, it is reasonable to assume that KCVI will continue to be full, with a waiting list, and will be educating LDSB students for several academic years and doing it well.  As such, we believe that KCVI students deserve to learn in science labs on par with those students in the rest of the Board; pursue athletics in a healthy environment on par with their peers; and dwell in a safe environment (resurfacing of main stairs; repair of broken door handles.)  All of these requirements are documented and known to the Board.

        Please, at a minimum, consider the allocation of funds to address some of these issues and not dismiss the need of KCVI’s students for reasonable facilities.”

        Chair French thanked Ms. Streight for her comments.

Written Submission

Matthew Gventer

        Chair French advised that only one written submission was received, which was from Matthew Gventer.  It states, as follows:

“Not knowing what your thinking is on the accommodation issues in Central Kingston, it is difficult to make suggestions.  However, having followed the PARC deliberations and the discussions on Senior Staff recommendations and having gotten to know the situation at QECVI, there are certain generalizations that can be made.  These are made with the respectful assumption that the underlying issues will not be new to you.  They are made with the further assumption that the status quo is not likely to be maintained.

1.      Integration of the youth of the north end will require added resources no matter if a new school is built or not.

2.      A priority will be for upgrading opportunities for those who are having difficulty with the standard program.  As well, a supportive network will be required for those youth who come from socially challenged conditions.

3.      These needs will not diminish over time, and defining the assistance as transition funding suggests that the resources will disappear after a year or two.  Long term funding is required.

4.      The resources will be supplemental to the support network provided by partners such as Pathways for Youth and Pathways to Youth.

5.      I suggest that at least 5 FTEs should be included in the budget to provide such assistance.  These resources may need to be matched in other parts of the LDSB as lower income families become more dispersed.

6.      Shops and Technical program space will be lost if QECVI is closed and will need to be developed elsewhere.  This needs to be included in plans.  If QECVI shop and technical space remains open, funding for maintaining that facility will be required.

7.      Integrating student transportation with Kingston Transit is a worthy proposition.  It gives youth experience with using public transit which will be a growing reality as the environmental challenges become more salient.  It also provides youth with greater mobility, so their capacity to participate in extra-curricular activities will not be curtailed by school bus schedules.  Therefore, funding to expand the pilot project of student bus passes merits inclusion in the budget.  This should be a major priority for north end youth, especially if QECVI closes or is reduced in function.  Funding for publicizing negotiations with the City of Kingston for fare relief for students would encourage widespread support from citizens.  (It will not cost more to allow students to ride busses that often run half full.)

Next Meeting Date

        A Committee of the Whole Board (Budget) Meeting to review expenditures is scheduled for Monday, May 27, 2013, at 6:00 p.m., at the Limestone Education Centre, 220 Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston, in the Board Room.


        MOVED BY Trustee Goodfellow, seconded by Trustee Jackson, that the meeting adjourn at 6:30~p.m.–Carried