It continues to be my privilege to serve as Chair of the Limestone District School Board of Trustees. School boards across Ontario faced ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-2021 school year. Despite this, the Board of Trustees continued to move ahead with its governance and advocacy work.
Throughout the summer months, Limestone Trustees joined with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) in expressing concern to the Ministry of Education about the provincial school reopening plan and inadequate funding to address ongoing COVID-19 expenses. Trustee associations also worked together to highlight the strengths of our public education in a public awareness campaign spearheaded by OPSBA. The Above and Beyond campaign aims to dispel misconceptions, and raise awareness about the important role local governance plays in our system.
Under the Education Act, Trustees are mandated to develop, maintain and monitor the effectiveness of Board policies. Last year, Trustees spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and updating several board policies as well as bylaws and appendices. These amendments help provide greater clarity in some cases and ensure standard practices in today’s education environment.
The Board of Trustees sought feedback on the development of the 2021-2022 budget through consultation with stakeholders. Participants provided Trustees with valuable feedback on the areas they feel are most important including mental health and well-being, reading and writing skills, the arts, math and outdoor education. Trustees used this feedback to help ensure a balanced budget that directs services and supports with a focus on student achievement and well-being as outlined in the Board’s strategic priorities. Reviewing and passing the budget is one of the Board’s most important roles as governors, and I would like to thank Trustees for their work, diligence and thoughtful enquiries to ensure our finite resources are directed in a manner that supports the vision and values of this Board.
In addition to its governance work, the Board supported staff in moving forward several key initiatives including the development of a draft Equity Action Plan, the first-ever Student Census, and the establishment of a Black caucus to provide input and advice on actions to address racism in our schools, and barriers to an equitable experience. Trustees also voted unanimously in June to initiate a renaming process for the now tentatively named École Kingston East Elementary School to demonstrate our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, and having all students see themselves in Limestone.
The 2020-2021 school year was certainly one for the books. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I extend our appreciation to Limestone staff and school communities for their ongoing outstanding efforts this past year. Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we worked together to respond, adapt and develop new ways of teaching, learning and working, amidst the ongoing pandemic.