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FOCUS ON EDUCATION (NOVEMBER 2016): Parents decry lack of resources at local schools

November 18th, 2016 · No Comments

New executive director underscores board’s equity focus

By Clarrie Feinstein

Parents at last month’s Toronto District School Board (TDSB)?ward council meeting leveraged a meet-and-greet with the new director of education into an opportunity to question him about the lack of resources at their children’s schools. Dr. John Malloy was at the Oct. 24 meeting at the invitation of Ausma Malik (TDSB Ward 10, Trinity-Spadina) to introduce the board’s new structure and its four new learning centres.

The audience patiently sat through Malloy’s presentation before angrily launching questions.

“We must ask these difficult and personal questions in order to better our education system”—John Malloy, TDSB

The Huron Street Junior Public School’s ward representative — who did not wish to be named — said the school has only a few computers left after the others were aged out because they were so old they weren’t compatible with the board’s system.

“We’re at a road block,” said the representative. “We have parents that can provide their kids with laptops. But does that give our school an advantage over others where parents can’t afford these necessities? If we can’t privately fund them, will my kids come out of school being behind in technological skills?”

Huron’s annual school budget amounts to approximately $68,000, which includes a $3,402 technology allocation. School budgets are largely determined by enrolment.

Huron, for example, has an enrolment of 404 students and receives $96.50 per student. It also receives per pupil money for the library and the office, a base school allotment, and supplements for special education and learning opportunities. However, the school, which dates back to the 1880s, is in a building that was erected in 1958, and maintenance absorbs a large part of the budget.

Although Malloy urged the Huron representative to speak to the school’s superintendent about the computers, he did note that the TDSB does not have the money to provide new computers for every school. That’s why individual schools are left to solve the problem, sometimes by raising money or by seeking donations to get new computers.

Perhaps ironically, one of the mandates behind the board’s reorganization into four learning centres is to “ensure that all students across the TDSB have equitable access to programs and services”.

The board is at the start of an ambitious three-year plan aimed at ensuring that all students have access to the same high quality of education, no matter which school they attend or their background.

“The goal is to engage with our own bias and barriers and ask, whose voices are heard most?” explained Malloy. “How is this affecting our learning environments? We must ask these difficult and personal questions in order to better our education system as staff and parents.”

Established in September, the centres will help individual schools access specific resources, support classroom teachers, allow staff to be more responsive to their students’ educational needs, and ensure that all students have equal access to programs and services. Each learning centre will be led by an executive superintendent, who in turn will be supported by seven superintendents. Every school in the board will feed into a centre, characterized by the TDSB as “hubs where staff can collaborate and share resources”. Superintendents of education Mike Gallagher and Mary-Jane McNamara are responsible for the schools in Trinity-Spadina, all of which feed into Learning Centre 4, led by executive superintendent Sandy Spyropoulos. All three educators were at the meeting, and expressed their excitement at embarking on the new school year with this forward-thinking strategy.

Malloy said that he believes the learning centres will improve student achievement and well-being by making the board more responsive to the individual needs of Toronto’s diverse communities.

“There needs to be an internal focus, there should be local ownership of the learning,” he said. “Ministry requirements need to be fulfilled, but what about the unique, individual needs of each school?”

 

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