The Last Two Weeks
in the Life of the Director!
Lynda Johnston Goes the Extra Mile
This amazing mother of two has been recognized for leading the way in social media communications among office administrators in our schools.
Johnston is reinventing the role of the office administrator in the restructured environment at our schools. She understands that with the new financial assistant’s position in place, we have taken a great deal of the old banking responsibilities away from office administrators – a responsibility that many front-line staff found uncomfortable because of the high level of scrutiny it entailed.
The 55-year-old understands that with relief from that responsibility, there is time for office administrators to help improve school communications through social media. Instead of resisting this challenge, Johnston has moved toward it and has become an expert on Facebook and has dramatically improved the quality of the Caldwell Street Public School website. She has helped shape how Caldwell is seen in the community. Parents have a positive outlook on the school because they are given accurate, easily accessible information about school life through the online world they now use to interact with family, friends and neighbours.
The school’s Facebook site affords a chance for people dealing with the reality of today’s family and work life to keep up with their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – even from other continents. There are 139 followers on the school Facebook site, many from countries such as the United States, the Philippines, Costa Rica and England. The reach for the school site last week alone was 1,051 users.
The veteran employee also maintains the school’s “Power of a Friend” photo wall, recently helped prepare a celebratory luncheon for office staff, serves as the non-teaching representative on school council, and is the member of Caldwell’s School Success Plan team in charge of communications.
She is also involved with the Upper Canada District School Board Champions for Kids Foundation. She volunteered at the recent Christmas concert in Carleton Place, and the 2012 Family Ski and Fun Day in Pakenham, and she is now helping with an upcoming fundraising concert this spring featuring local singer Jordan McIntosh.
For helping set an example for others about the positive power social media can have in our schools, the Upper Canada District School Board is proud to induct Johnston into the Director’s Extra Mile Club.
Spotlight on Students
Champions for Kids celebrated Family Day February 18 with the Champions for Kids Foundation Ski and Fun Day in Pakenham. The event, and associated fundraisers, generated about $1,100 for the Champions for Kids Foundation. The event was important because it allowed families to visit Mount Pakenham and enjoy skiing, tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with a portion of the proceeds from the event being donated to the foundation. The day stressed the benefits of physical fitness and the importance of families spending time together.
The event was organized by Pakenham Public School Principal Paul LeRoy. Families enjoyed the wonderful winter weather and supported a great cause. Visitors started the day with a breakfast of pancakes, sausages and baked beans. The meal was free but guests were encouraged to make a donation to Champions. People who volunteered to help with the day included: Cath Clouthier, Laura Dazzle, Carole Dufort, Lea Doxey, Shelley Riddell, Trustee Anne McRae and her friend Bruce Monteith.
George Tindal Remembered
I would like to acknowledge the recent passing of George Tindal, former superintendent of business for the Leeds and Grenville County Board of Education.
Tindal prospered in a career devoted to public service. Before working with our predecessor board, he served as clerk-treasurer of Morrisburg during planning for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, and then became secretary-treasurer of the Ontario St. Lawrence Parks Commission as it developed a series of parks from Quebec to Adolphustown. He began his job with the Leeds and Grenville County Board of Education in 1969.
Tindal died February 25. He was a great friend of public education. He cared about students and their welfare. Our condolences go out to the family of this fine gentleman.
Director Visits Toniata PS and Lyn PS
On February 19, I visited Lyn Public School and Toniata Public School. I was particularly pleased with the schools’ music programs. I witnessed Grade 6 classes at both schools involved in instrumental music. Although I am no expert on music, I was particularly impressed with the level of engagement I saw among students in both classes.
Labour Relations Update
On February 20, I met with the chair and 1st vice chair of the Board, as well as principals, to bring them up-to-date on the status of our Ontario Labour Relations Board application. I shared with our principals advice on how to keep their schools focused on teaching for learning and advised them to spread the message that we value teachers who volunteer and the important role that teachers play in volunteering for extracurriculars in our schools. I stressed the importance of conveying to our teachers it is their decision to volunteer and we deeply respect that.
I also shared details on what is happening in our schools in an open and honest manner. As we all know, we have had a collective agreement imposed on us by the McGuinty government. Although we did not like the way it was imposed, we must respect the fact that it is a legal agreement and understand that we should be focused now in our schools on student engagement and student success.
Chair Greg Pietersma also thanked the principals for their exemplary leadership at this very difficult time and encouraged them to work collaboratively so that no one feels isolated at this challenging time.
Director Meets with Local OPC Executive
I met February 20 with the local executive of the Ontario Principals’ Council to discuss the impact of provincewide labour issues on our system. We discussed the impact of Bill 155 and the issues that the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are creating in our schools.
We also discussed the role volunteer parent coaches and other volunteer coaches from outside our system are having in our schools and the parameters for their involvement going forward. We must encourage more of this volunteerism in athletics, music and drama so our students gain the most from their public school experience, provided the volunteers have the skills, aptitude and positive attitude to do so, and if they meet the terms of the police screening process.
We also discussed principals’ concerns over the Board’s StudentsFirstAlways! blog. Some principals felt that the red, yellow and green colour-coding system used to tell parents about the status of extracurriculars at our schools was putting undue pressure on principals to restart extracurriculars. I told them our intention was nothing of the sort, but that we simply wanted to be transparent, open and honest in the way that we accurately tell the community what is happening in our schools because the public is watching – particularly our parents. I assured principals they would not be judged in any manner if their school was listed as red, yellow or green.
We also wish to assure the public that we are in a good position, with staff members volunteering for extracurriculars in the vast majority of our schools.
National Canadian Safe Schools Conference
I was in Toronto on February 26 addressing the 2013 National Canadian Safe Schools Conference about character education, our Link Crew program and the connection between those initiatives and creating a safe, inclusive and accepting environment in our schools for all students. These supports will enable our staff and community at a very high level to identify students at risk with mental health issues and other personal crises because they have a network of caring people surrounding and supporting them. The conference featured more than 25 workshops throughout the day that covered a wealth of topics including cyber safety, sexual assault, legal issues, school climate, and the impact of gangs.
Report by Communications and Relationship Management Department
I was very pleased with the great deal of support trustees showed for the Communications and Relationship Management Department on February 27 following a report to the Committee of the Whole. The trustees praised the department for its refocused efforts on communications and relationship management. This focus recognizes it is our responsibility to not only push information out but that we also must become very responsive to the messaging being sent out on the Web by our many community stakeholders. It helps us to understand the priorities and wishes of the communities we serve.
We are very pleased with the initiatives the department has introduced and believe it will have a positive impact on our system – particularly the department’s use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and our blogs.
The second initiative that we are pleased with is UCTV. We have been able to live stream recent volleyball and basketball competitions among our intermediate and high school students. This means that relatives – no matter whether they are engineers working in Australia or grandparents sitting in nursing homes in Arnprior, can log on and enjoy live coverage of these games.
Boundary 2020 Report
During the Committee of the Whole session on February 27, Planning and Research Officer Phil Dawes made a very impressive presentation about the wrap-up of Boundary 2020 and the positive impact it has had on the whole system. It also led to a very reflective discussion that some schools in our system, by the very nature of their isolated locations, will always be considered essential.
Labour Update for Trustees
During the Committee of the Whole on February 27, trustees received an update from the human resources department on the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) application and whether the OLRB would come back with broad or specific recommendations. I think it was very important for the Board to understand that some school boards in Ontario are very worried about the relationship they have with their unions and they put those relationships ahead of the relationships they should have with the communities they serve, their parents and particularly their students. In our Board, there is a genuine commitment to students first.
Director Reviews Charters
On February 28, I spent the entire day going over CREW charters with the various leaders who head up the projects. Of particular note were the meetings that I had with leaders of the 2013 Small School Summit and the Physical and Nutritional Literacy Project. I met with 2013 Summit Co-Chairs Kelty Grant, Chris Boston, and Derek Cole to talk about next fall’s Summit, which will take place October 24 and 25 in Cornwall at the Nav Canada Training and Conference Centre. The theme of the event is Innovate Now! I also met with Project Leader Randy Ruttan to review improvements to our Physical and Nutritional Literacy Project.
On March 1, my partner Nancy Hanna and I were pleased to attend the March Breakdown event for Champions for Kids at the Keystorm Pub in Brockville. Staff members from across the Board took to the stage – including members of the featured band The Crewzers – to play classic rock tunes ranging from The Beatles to Journey. The event raised $2,025 for the Champions for Kids Foundation. Special thanks go out to key organizers Ewen McIntosh and Carla Vanderhelm for bringing us a fantastic night.