The third year of our four-year term was indeed a milestone year for Limestone. Our Board of Trustees remained focused on student achievement and well-being and making decisions that benefit the entire district. We are proud of the work we have completed with our staff, colleagues and community partners to ensure that all of our students have equal opportunities to reach their maximum potential.
Working closely with Senior Staff, the Board directed resources in a manner that best supports staff’s operational priorities and the renewed vision and values of Trustees. As part of the development of the Board’s new strategic plan, Trustees created a new vision statement – Together we embrace and foster engaging and innovative learning where everyone achieves success and well-being – and a set of core values to help support student achievement and well-being. Our core values – Accountability, Collaboration, Fairness, Inclusion, Integrity, Optimism, Perseverance, and Respect – are critical to achieving our priorities as outlined in our mission and vision.
Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, Trustees played a key role in several accomplishments.
We began the year with the introduction of our Indigenous acknowledgment of territory developed in concert with local Indigenous leaders and knowledge keepers. The acknowledgment, which recognizes that the Limestone District School Board is situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, aims to recognize the enduring presence of these peoples, honour their cultures and celebrate their commitment to this land. The acknowledgment is now read at all Board and committee meetings and is also used in schools as appropriate.
Despite ongoing challenges of declining enrolment and reduced or altered provincial funding, Trustees approved a balanced budget. While the provincial two-year labour contract extensions with federations did help the budget planning process, it doesn’t remove the fiscal challenges before us, especially in special education. We will, however, continue to advocate for increased funding for programs and services to support all of our students including those with special learning needs.
With the support of Trustees, Board staff worked with the City of Kingston and Kingston Transit to renew and extend our student transit pass partnership. This collaboration allows students in Grade 9 to 12 to ride the bus to access recreational programs, volunteer opportunities, jobs or school programs for free. The success of the program is astounding. Students completed 28,000 rides in its pilot year. This past school year, there were more than 575,000 student trips. This program, the first of its kind in Canada, provide students with equitable access to transit but it also supports the Board’s sustainability priorities.
The Board continues to work with the City of Kingston on additional partnership opportunities including the Rideau Heights Community Centre hub located adjacent to Rideau Heights Public School that will include a seniors/youth space, gymnasium, kitchen, multi-purpose room, lounge, specialty rooms and a new Kingston Frontenac Public Library branch. Our new intermediate and secondary school will also feature a KFPL book kiosk and a revitalized multi-use Champlain Park thanks to a collaboration with the city.
Together with our school communities, community, and provincial partners, we celebrated the official opening of the new Molly Brant Elementary School. The dedication ceremony was an ideal opportunity for Trustees to recognize everyone involved in constructing the new school and providing our students with relevant, effective and engaging learning experiences, in a safe and healthy environment.
Trustees have contributed both locally, and at the provincial level, in maintaining and advancing positive changes in education. Trustees participated in Local Government Week activities at schools to share first-hand with students the important role local government plays in our communities, and especially how trustees play a critical role in supporting a strong public education system. Loyalist & Stone Mills Trustee Wess Garrod helped spearhead a unique Canada 150 project through the Limestone Learning Foundation that saw the inclusion of a Canadian flag in every classroom in Limestone.
We are also fortunate to have Greater Napanee Trustee Laurie French leading us provincially as the President of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association. Trustee French’s depth of experience and invaluable knowledge of the province’s school system allows her to provide unique insight and influence in contributing to the strength of public education in the province of Ontario. Our Student Trustees, Josiah Ascough and Will Sanderson, also played significant provincial roles through their involvement with the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association. Their continued efforts to further develop student representation across the district, and at the provincial level, is both remarkable and admirable. Their passion and positivity for advancing student voice set them apart as role models and leaders for all students of the Limestone District School Board.
To help share the important work of the Board of Trustees, we launched a new electronic newsletter – Around the Horseshoe – in 2016. Produced every three months during the school year, the newsletter aims to keep the public and municipal and community partners informed about our initiatives and activities. Since its inception in November 2016, we have received positive feedback about this new tool to help inform and engage our communities.
I wish to thank my fellow Trustees for their continued focus on our students and our collective commitment to Limestone. It has been a year of complex discussions and decisions, but I am proud to say we remain focused on what is best for all students across the district.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would also like to congratulate students on their achievements, thank our families for their support and understanding, and recognize staff for their ongoing efforts to support the success and well-being of students and each other – every day.