Education/Human Resources Committee
March 24, 2010
A meeting of the Education/Human Resources Committee was held in the Board Room at the Limestone Education Centre, 220 Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston, on Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 4:30 p.m.
H. Brown, Chair
H. Chadwick, Ex-Officio
J. Clements, International Education Coordinator
B. Fraser-Stiff, Superintendent of Education
A. Labrie, Superintendent of Human Resources
N. Marsh, Superintendent of Education
J. Nataline, Homestay Coordinator
T. Phippen, Administrative Assistant, International Education
D. Kirkpatrick, Recording Secretary
Chair Brown called the meeting to order, welcoming those present to the meeting. She reported that regrets were received from Trustee Murray.
Approval of Agenda
MOVED BY Trustee Goodfellow, that the agenda, as amended, be approved.–Carried
Superintendent Labrie introduced John Clements, International Education Coordinator, noting that Mr. Clements will provide an overview of the LDSB International Education program.
Mr. Clements thanked the Education/Human Resource Committee for inviting him to this afternoon’s meeting to provide an overview of the Board’s International Education program. He introduced Joanne Natalini, Homestay Coordinator, and Tomoko Phippen, Administrative Assistant - International Education.
Mr. Clements reported that an International Education Program has been part of the Limestone District School Board since 1974 when Jack Linscott, a former Principal at LCVI introduced the recruitment program because of declining enrolment. He advised that in 1981-82 there were over 200 students from Hong Kong, as the former Frontenac County Board of Education was one of the few boards that accepted international students. LCVI was chosen as the school for international students because of its close proximity to Ann Clachan, a Queen’s University housing complex on MacPherson Avenue where most of the people living there are Masters or PhD students at Queen’s from other countries. He said that most of the children from that housing complex attend Centennial PS,
Calvin Park PS and LCVI. He said that LCVI was the only education centre for English as a Second Language (ESL) students for many years.
Mr. Clements also reported that in the mid 1980s, the former Frontenac County Board of Education had a contract with the Malaysian government. He said that many of those students went on to university.
Mr. Clements said that in the mid 1990s, international education was no longer a priority for the Board, and he advised that when he took over the program in 2001 there were only four international students left in the program. Now that number has increased to approximately 130 students.
Mr. Clements advised that most local boards in Canada are recruiting international students. He said that the boards that have the most international students are those located in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa. He reported that there are 34,390 international students enrolled in secondary schools in Canada, with 11,432 enrolled in secondary schools in Ontario. He said that the Ontario government hopes to increase the number of international students in universities and colleges. Mr. Clements said that the total economic impact for Canada is $6.53 billion.
Mr. Clements reported that the LDSB is trying to develop a “niche” market, noting that we have students from Korea, China, Mexico and Hong Kong, as well as a few students from other countries. He said that we are looking for the best return with regard to money, noting that we often have to pay agents to bring students. He said that if a Hong Kong student comes, they usually do not use agents. Mr. Clements said that the LDSB is the only school board that meets with parents in Korea, Hong Kong and China twice a year to bring their child’s report card to them, and that the LDSB will have parent days.
Mr. Clements advised that as of October 30, 2009 enrolment data, there are 14 Korean elementary Visa students in 11 of the Board’s elementary schools, and six Mexican elementary Visa students in four of the Board’s elementary schools. He reviewed the number of secondary Visa students in the Board’s secondary schools, noting that there are 108 students in total, from the following countries: Korea (40 students), Hong Kong (19 students), Mexico (7 students), China (29 students). He indicated that there are a total of 13 secondary Visa students from the following countries: Malaysia, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Columbia, Spain and Germany.
In response to a question, Mr. Clements indicated that we take students as young as Grade 4. He said that there are also a few mothers who come with the children. He said that most elementary students come to our schools for the cultural experience. He stated that some Korean students come for Grade 10 and stay for three years, while other students come only for one or two semesters. He advised that the Board tries to place the international students in schools throughout the district.
Mr. Clements reviewed the following marketing techniques used:
Mr. Clements reviewed the following International Education Programs that the Board offers:
- Winter camp
- Summer camp
- Secondary short term
Mr. Clements stated that his goal is to have 250 international students enrolled in the Limestone District School Board for the future. He said that the homestay program is an important component of the program, noting that they try to match students successfully with homestay families. He advised that homestay families are asked to provide references and they must have a CPIC.
Mr. Clements stated that he, Ms. Natalini and Ms. Phippen work as a team. He said that Ms. Natalini is responsible for recruiting students from Mexico and South America, and he is responsible for the Asian countries. He reported that Ms. Phippen is responsible for Japan and that she travels with him once a year to Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
Trustee Jackson asked Mr. Clements how he sees the International Education program evolving in terms of what the Board is trying to do with its Strategic Plan.
Mr. Clements said that he would report back to Trustee Jackson. He said in terms of Canada’s future, there is an emphasis on immigration. He said that the number of English as a Second Language programs the Board will have to have will be significant. He said that he sees more and more students from other countries coming to Canada, and this will give the Board an opportunity to expand its English as a Second Language programs.
In response to a question, Mr. Clements stated that students in Asian countries attend school for 12 hours per day. He said that it costs families from other countries approximately $25,000 per year for each of their children to attend our schools, noting that this includes tuition fees, homestay fees, and fees for activities. He stated that the international students are expected to produce. He said that a few international students have been taken to a hospital with stress related diseases because they can not cope with the pressure. He said that an international students who comes from an international schools would have a higher level of English and their acquisition of the English language in Canada would be much higher. He said that not every
international students is in one of the Board’s English as a second language programs.
Trustee Jackson stated that the Board’s Strategic Plan is evolving, noting that Mr. Clements alluded to expanding the International Education Program. Trustee Jackson asked if there is any way that the Board can help with the way in which it does business.
Mr. Clements stated that he would report back to Trustee Jackson on this matter. He said that KEDCO is bringing new immigrants to the City of Kingston. He said that the Separate School board is minimizing their ESL programs at the high school level in Kingston; they are putting an emphasis on their international programs in the Belleville region.
Mr. Clements distributed bags containing the English version of the International Education Program brochure, a DVD regarding the ESL program which was produced by David Axford’s students at LCVI, and a DVD about sailing on the Brigantine. He said that he hopes that Trustees will be an ambassador for the LDSB International Education Program.
Chair Brown thanked Mr. Clements for the materials. She also thanked him for attending this afternoon’s meeting, and for providing information about the International Education Program. She congratulated him on the success of the program and wished him future success.
Mr. Clements, Ms. Natalini and Ms. Phippen withdrew from the meeting.
Elementary LEAP and Challenge Program Review Report (Follow-Up)
Chair Brown advised that Superintendent Fraser-Stiff did an excellent presentation on the Elementary LEAP and Challenge Program Review at the February meeting of the Education/Human Resources Committee. She further advised that Trustee Jackson had requested that this matter be deferred to the March meeting of the Education/Human Resources Committee. She said that since we had such a good presentation at the last meeting, she would open the floor for questions and discussion at this time.
Trustee McLaren referred to the additional review of these programs, the registrar the Board had hired and the process the Board has gone through, and asked what the costs were to review these programs.
Superintendent Fraser-Stiff stated that the approximate cost of the program review is somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000, and that the continued use of the registrar each year after this process would be between $8,000 and $10,000.
Trustee Jackson read the following statement:
“Thank you madam Chair:
Since our last Education/Human Resources Committee meeting I have had the opportunity to hear from a number of parents who have had direct experience with the elementary LEAP and Challenge programs. In reviewed the Elementary LEAP/Challenge Program Report (report), the parents have noted that the many changes recommended are more in line with the policies of other district school boards. The efforts at objectivity have improved considerably. The report is also clear, practical, and straightforward. I believe the public will be pleased with many of these changes.
My comments today are to provide some additional insight and points for reflection and consideration as these programs continue to evolve and possibly expand.
There are two key parts to this report, the first being the access to the programs, and the second, the effectiveness of the programs.
On the issue of access and selection process, it appears that there have been improvements made to the selection process. But there is still provision for the selection o children from other boards or private schools to be selected over children currently enrolled at the Board. Since there are a limited number of spaces available, our Board needs to focus on children from within the Board as its first priority.
The exclusivity of these programs troubles some parents. But having committed to continuing these programs we need to ensure that children from within the Board are given every opportunity to have access.
In the first round, there is a quota from each home school. I have been asked questions about what the quota is per home school. For example, what is the quota for Winston Churchill Public School, Centennial Public School, etc. and is this fairly equated? The report is silent on this issue. The quota is presumably used to ensure that children from each school have opportunities.
The 2008-2009 Parent Survey, in the Appendix, notes that parents felt there was equitable access to the programs. Interestingly, 63% of the survey respondents were parents with children already in the program. How far reaching was this survey, and did it survey grade 5/6 parents from the home schools?
The survey results, while presenting various viewpoints, are not broadly representative given the small and selective survey sample and the limited location of existing programs in Board schools.
We do not know from the report how many children are eligible, but do not get placed in one of the programs. The report is silent on this issue. This would be an important number to know when considering expanding the number of eligible spots available.
As an alternative, a lottery selection system may be more understandable and easier to implement. It is equitable, it is fair, it is cheap and it does not undermine children’s self worth like the current system does.
Recommendation 5 addresses the need to look at the program purpose of high achievers vs. gifted children. The report indicates that children classified by the Board as gifted are automatically entered into both programs. But these children may fare no better or worse than other children who also need enrichment. Gifted children are already given individualized learning plans and some already participate in specialized programs within the Board. Attentive bright learners are not. The purpose of this recommendation is unclear.
Academic research has shown that there are many differences between how girls and boys learn. One of the benefits of the Challenge Program is that it enables boys to excel in a less structured, more informal and yet challenging environment.
On the second issue, program evaluation, there is no doubt that these programs are well thought of by many children and their parents. But it is not a program for every high achiever as the demands and rigor are significant and stress levels are higher.
There needs to be more focus on creating enrichment opportunities in all schools regardless of the future of these programs. The success of these programs will often come down to who the teacher is, what administrative and program support is available, etc.
One of the recommendations calls for the clear definition of what students these programs are designed to assist. This is one of the most important of the recommendations since all other decisions follow from it.
Consistency and Transparency of the Selection Process
Any public education program should met the criterion of public transparency. As well, any assessment of the merits of the program should be reviewed by more than the participants in the program.
Programs that segregate children are bound to raise issues over time. Attempts to revise the process are well merited; although, questions remain about the revised process for determining participant qualification.
High achievers who function well within the regular classroom should not necessarily be given priority consideration. Consideration should also be given to students who would excel in alternative educational environments, but who may need more focused measures of assessment.
Student selection criterion should be defined more broadly to benefit students across the Board, and be the primary consideration for placements in order to achieve.
- Consistency across programs
- Equity of access to programs from across the District
- Clarity of communication about program objectives
In 2006, Senior Staff confirmed that the teachers in LEAP had altered evaluations that home room teachers had provided without their knowledge. While a rationale was provided for these changes it unfortunately undermined perceptions of the fairness of the acceptance procedures for the programs.
Senior Staff also acknowledged that any children that did not attend the Limestone District School Board were exempt from the one child, one school policy described under the “second round process” of the report (page 4). The result was that the children applying and qualifying from any private school or separate school would be offered a spot before a second qualified child from a particular school would be offered a placement. This is why approximately 17 children from the public school system were left on the waiting list after initial offers were made. No ‘qualified children’ from any other board were on the waiting list. They had all received placement notification. Most of those public school children never made it into the
program. This resulted in the immediate placement of five children from a private school that had only six children who were eligible.
In November 2006, the male to female ratio was reported by Senior Board Staff to be 10:1 for the grade 7 cohort. Ten boys were offered placement at that time. When the boys declined the offer these placements were filled by girls.
To address the gender disparity described it has been proposed that a quota be established. Does that mean that if a boy declines a placement that he will be replaced by another boy? The report is silent on this point.
Special program selection should be fair and transparent in how children are selected. Detailed information on the selection process should be included on the Board’s web site.
Other program information should be included:
- The schools that are being represented during the placement stage relative to the number of children at their specified school.
- Availability of private parent interviews for clarification purposes with respect to the application process or where there child is placed on the selection list.
- To avoid perceptions of favouritism for children of Board employees the total number of those children who are related to Board employees should be identified in annual reporting of student placements.
Number of students in each program
There was a perception in the community in 2007 that the children of Board employees were being favoured over the general public. Whether or not this was an accurate assessment of the selection process it certainly fueled the perception of unfairness.
The systemic discrimination of public school board children by only subjecting them to a one student, one school policy via the second round selection has not been addressed in the revised selection process. It should be clearly laid out for the purposes of clarity and transparency.
Another issue is the relatively small number of children in the LEAP and Challenge Programs. This was brought up in 2006 and has not been mentioned in the report. Other Board schools with non-specialized grade 7 classrooms did not have the equipment or facilities or opportunities that were made available to the LEAP and Challenge students. If LEAP and Challenge students have been selected based on their enthusiasm, teamwork, aptitudes and other qualities, do they need smaller classes?
Our Board encourages and is expected to present a wide variety of programs beyond LEAP and Challenge at the elementary level. In the future, as we consider sports schools, performing arts schools or other focus programs, we will need to carefully consider the costs and benefits of these specialized programs. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) appears to be heading in this direction by broadly diversifying program offerings. Policy research by the TDSB may be helpful as we consider changes in our Board.
One issue that is not clear in the report is how LEAP and Challenge programs will deal with identified exceptional students. According to the Ministry of Education exceptional students cannot be excluded from education programs because of their exceptionalities.
However, even with the report’s recommended improvements, it may be too easy for the LEAP/Challenge selection committee to dismiss an identified student’s application as unsuitable since these students may not present themselves well. But given that regular classroom settings also have difficulties coping with exceptional students, these students require fair consideration for alternative programs such as LEAP and Challenge.
The dilemma for the selection committee is to be tempted to choose students who “fit the program”, rather than shaping the program around the students who need it.
It would be preferable to see clearly defined guidelines that cover students with ADHD, Asperger syndrome, Tourette’s, and other behavioural issues. Such guidelines would also be useful for preventing discrimination against applicants who are socially immature, such as are many boys at this ages, who may face the same disadvantages in the selection process.
The level of community engagement described in the report seems to be rather restrictive. Input was received from a limited population who largely appear to have a self interest in the program.
To suggest that the development of the report has received wide community input is misleading. Interested individuals were contacted, but there were no ads in the various local media asking for input or advertised meeting dates, as possible changes were considered.
The report should specify exactly how many people were contacted and by what means their input was provided: interview, questionnaire, focus groups, attendance at a meeting, etc.
Expansion of these programs may further deplete schools of talented students and teachers, cost more money and adversely affect the neighbourhood school concept.
These programs are expensive in terms of bus transportation and other resources. Unless the programs can be made more universally available across the District they will continue to undermine the concept of neighbourhood schools. If these programs are to be expanded to more schools the issues raised in criticism of the programs need to be addressed in the Board’s overall strategic planning.
To improve transparency of program costs we need to identify the expenditures for each program and not just the annual budgets. Additional funds committed to specialized education programs may deprive general education programs of funds. The existence of elite programs may create a division of staff focus instead of having one common elementary public school program.
Finally, the program changes do not appear to deal with the feeling of rejection of students who are not selected for LEAP or Challenge unless creating more spaces is seen to address this issues. The issue of ‘rejection’ really speaks to the perceived arbitariness of the selection process. It is unclear why one person, the Registrar, handling things will improve the situation. There will always be students who are not chosen. But the rejection is more manageable when the selection process is perceived to be open and fair. Future changes to the programs need to come to terms with this issues.”
Trustee Chadwick said that she needed to see all of Trustee Jackson’s statement in order to review it; however, she took exception to one comment in particular that she wanted to mention now regarding the program teachers changing marks. She said that she was intimately involved with this matter and it was her feeling that it was a misunderstanding. She indicted that the classroom teacher had used a different methodology to get the overall mark for the applicant. She said that forms were always looked at to ensure the methodology was consistent. She said that has been addressed for the application process now and is in the report. She said that Trustee Jackson was making comments that might be particularly injurious to our staff, and she does not believe
his comments were correct based on her knowledge of the matter.
Trustee McLaren asked Trustee Jackson how many parents are still finding fault with the selection process.
Trustee Jackson stated that in responding to Trustee Chadwick’s comments he was reflecting on what happened historically with these programs. He said that parents and other stakeholders perceived that there were problems with the process for accepting students. He said that his comments were a reflection on how these programs can continue to improve and evolve as new opportunities were considered for their expansion.
Trustee Jackson said that he heard from a number of parents (approximately 15 or 16) whose children were directly involved in the programs over the last three years. He said that these parents felt that the program acceptance procedure was unfair. He noted that the Board had clearly made progress in the proposed changes to the two programs identified in the program report.
Chair Brown stated that her feedback from the Ernestown area has been positive.
Trustee McLaren referred to her background with regard to the Challenge North program, her 15 years of involvement with our Board and several schools in it, particularly as a School Council Chair, and said that there have been hundreds of parents involved throughout the years, yet she has heard very little complaint from parents.
Trustee Chadwick stated that whenever acceptance into programs is by application, some children will get into a program while others will not. She said that there will be disappointment and that parents will feel emotional about their child’s disappointment. She said that there could be more disappointed children in the City of Kingston, as the number of children applying to these programs is higher. She said that the review of the selection process has been wonderful as it has given the Board an opportunity to address the concerns of parents, and we can respond in an effective manner.
Trustee Jackson stated that his concern was not about children getting into the programs. He stated that if the perception of some parents has been wrong with regard to their child(ren) being accepted into the programs, it is important for the Board to show in a communication how it is “bending over backwards”. He said that the changes to the acceptance process and administration of the programs should help to improve and reduce the perception of procedural unfairness felt by some parents.
Early Learning Program Status Discussion
Chair Brown advised that at the February 17, 2010 meeting of the Education/Human Resources Committee, Trustee Jackson had suggested that this item be included in the March agenda of the Education/Human Resources Committee.
Trustee Jackson acknowledged the extensive time that had been spent developing the Board’s Strategic Plan including provisions for the Early Learning Program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education. He expressed concern on a number of issues starting to come out in the media with respect to the program; for example, before and after school childcare program funding; the cost of fees to parents; and possible competition with our co-terminus boards. He also asked Senior Staff for their initial comments on the direction and roll out of the program to more schools in its second year. He commented that the Ministry appeared to be ill prepared with regard to the initial roll out of the Early Learning Program this September.
Chair Brown stated that here have been many things not answered yet.
Trustee Goodfellow asked Trustee Jackson if he was asking for a formal report. Trustee Jackson indicated that he was not; he was asking for an informal update.
Superintendent Labrie stated that the Board has not received enough information from the Ministry of Education regarding the Early Learning Program at this time to provide a report on this matter; for example, the information about the co-terminus board situation with respect to before and after school programs, and the cost of fees to parents. He said that we are working with the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic DSB and the Hastings-Prince Edward DSB to discuss the Early Learning program.
Superintendent Fraser-Stiff said that it is her understanding that the Hastings-Prince Edward DSB would publish information about before and after school fees after March Break. She said that she does not know for sure if they have done so at this time. She reported that the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic DSB (ALCDSB) were looking to publish their fee structure about the same time as the Hastings-Prince Edward DSB.
Superintendent Labrie said that both the ALCDSB and the Hastings-Prince Edward DSB have given us their price range, and we have indicated that our fees would be in the same range as theirs, so that there would be no competitiveness.
Superintendent Fraser-Stiff said that the fee structure was established by the Business Superintendents of the three boards.
Superintendent Labrie said that with regard to the comments regarding daycare providers, he cannot speak to them. He advised that Supervising Principal Akey sits on the local committee regarding the Early Learning Program. He said that there are ongoing conversations around the impacts on daycares. He said that some of the Early Childhood Educators at daycare centres may want to work for district school boards, as the pay might be better. He said that this matter is not contentious at this time, noting that there is open dialogue about this matter right now. Superintendent Labrie reported that the Board is going through registration and are asking parents if they are interested in before and after school programs; that data is being collected at this
Trustee Goodfellow stated that at one point, the Ministry had talked about how entry to the daycare would be seamless, and asked if in the rural areas, if the Ministry has loosened up their aspects about daycare provides outside of the school. She asked what happens to the older siblings who may have daycare at another site.
Superintendent Labrie said that the rules have not loosened up yet. The Early Learning Program Before and After School programs are only for four and five year olds.
Trustee Chadwick stated that in one communication from the Assistant Deputy Minister regarding Early Learning, he talks about the changes to the Education Act and Day Nurseries Act, and that the participants in the full-day learning, including the wrap-around care, will be considered students. She said that in the same paragraph, he talks about the warp-around care being operated on a cost recovery basis. She expressed concern about having public education and students in school, and then talking about paying for it. She said that she has a problem with that from an ethical point of view.
Trustee Chadwick stated that she understands the rationale of ensuring the care of the child; however, to put that in the Education Act under the banner of public education seems to be a “slippery slope”.
Trustee Goodfellow stated that she had been speaking to a few Early Childhood Educators (ECC) and they said that at this time there is one ECE to every eight children, but in the classroom the ratio would be 1:13. She asked if the money would that be much different.
Trustee Chadwick expressed concern that some daycare centres do not pay their early childhood educators what we pay our educational assistants. She said that the Early Learning program has the potential of raiding daycares of their early childhood educators.
Superintendent Labrie said that these are some of the things we are working on. He said that we are still anticipating program documentation from the Ministry that will help to flush out some of these things. He commented on the staffing process associated with our current kindergarten teachers, noting that they do not know what the curriculum is, and what their relationship with the early childhood educators would be. He said that we have to figure out how to determine which teachers would be in these programs, indicating that there would be no half-time programs and currently we have many kindergarten teachers who are half-time. Superintendent Labrie indicated that for the first year of the program any Early Program teacher must be full time. He said if that
were not the case, then we would lose continuity; the teacher must be full time so there is a continuous adult for the children. He referred to the early childhood educators, indicating that a job description has yet to be developed. As well, the rate of pay for the early child educator has to be determined – the Ministry has given a dollar value, but it does not match what our educational assistants are paid. There is also the question of union representation. Superintendent Labrie stated that these items are currently being reviewed. Superintendent Labrie stated that boards are anticipating within the next month or so, much information about the Early Learning Program from the Ministry of Education.
Chair Brown stated that we will look forward to these updates.
Superintendent Fraser-Stiff said that Senior Staff believe that the Early Learning Program will be good for children in their growth and development. The children will be nurtured, taught and supported by qualified teachers and early childhood educators. She said that we are working daily to resolve and answer questions coming forward, noting that teachers have submitted questions to Senior Staff through their Union. She said that the eight Early Learning Program schools are thrilled and excited to offer this opportunity. She said that the teachers are keen to work with our youngest students.
Superintendent Fraser-Stiff stated that Trustee Jackson had alluded to Phase 2 schools, noting that boards have been asked to look towards year 2 implementation. She said that Supervising Principal Akey and she sit on a committee with the community daycare partners, advising that there continues to be an excellent collaborative partnership in looking ahead to Phase 2 site selection. She said that the Board is in collaboration with its community partners about the selection of schools, noting that we are looking at Phase 2 sites before we have phase 1 completed.
Trustee Goodfellow suggested that an update on the Early Learning Program be a standing item on the Education/Human Resources Committee agenda. Committee members agreed.
Trustee Jackson stated that the discussion was quite helpful in gauging the progress to date in establishing the program for this September. He thanked the Chair for placing this item on the agenda for discussion.
Next Meeting Date
The next meeting of the Education/Human Resources Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at 4:30 p.m.
MOVED BY Trustee Goodfellow, that the meeting adjourn at 5:50 p.m.–Carried