Challenges are opportunities

 At our initial Board meeting on December 5, 2011, I had the opportunity to reflect upon some of the challenging decisions that need to be made in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board this year.  We are engaged in an accommodation review process in 15 of our secondary schools.  Though this process tends to focus on closing schools, I would assert that this process is also about engaging students through effective programs and learning environments.

I wish to focus on the voices of our students who provide the back drop for the challenging work that lies ahead of us this year.

Our students want their schools to be engaging places, where they build strong relationships and where they feel safe and accepted. They look to the staff in our schools as the people they can turn to for assistance both in their classes and beyond. They want choice in terms of what they learn, when they learn and how they learn. Access to technology and collaborative learning spaces are key for our students. Our students want to succeed and they want to be sure they are truly understood by their educators at each and every school. They would like access to different programs, and the ability to show that they have fulfilled their learning goals in different ways.

 Some of these requests challenge us to think differently about how, when and where we educate our students…which, brings me to my significant point.

 Though challenges may be ahead in the decisions that need to be made, there is also an amazing opportunity. Trustees have the opportunity to provide direction to ensure that the voices of our students are heard.

 Our Program Strategy intends to provide Access, Opportunity and Successful Outcomes for our students who would have the opportunity to engage in programming that allows each student to be successful. Though student achievement is improving in HWDSB, we can continue to improve student achievement and well-being by thinking differently about our programs, and our buildings. Further, by creating learning communities where students who possess different learning needs, styles, and strengths, and where students from all backgrounds come together, we will be providing effective opportunities for our students.

Our Board of Trustees will provide this direction by making difficult and challenging decisions on behalf of all. Our staff will engage with our trustees and with our students, parents and communities to make the dreams in our Strategic Directions a reality in this new year.

 In conclusion, a student at the Student Voice Forum said to me, “We are different people, with different interests, strengths and needs. We learn differently ……. yet in school so much is the same ….. why is that?”

 We are at a significant time and place in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. We have the opportunity to do something differently so that our students achieve, that they grow in confidence and self knowledge, that they become resilient, creative, and capable, and that they engage each other in vibrant school communities.  

Our students have the potential to make a huge difference in our world when they walk into the world from their parents’ homes and our schools — is there any better legacy than this?



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3 Responses to Challenges are opportunities

  1. Libby Beckham says:

    Its great that you think this way sir; That you look toward our future and the future of the students that will be entering secondary. But what you overlook is the status of our well being now.

    The School Board gave Hill Park the hefty verdict to review 12 teachers. With the uncertainty of these 12 staff members fates, 36 classes, including ones students need to attend University or Graduate (4U Chemistry, 4U Writers Craft, 4u History, etc) have had to be cancelled. Other faculty have to debate whether they can continue to run or help students run clubs because they now must cover things such as hall, cafeteria and other duties more often. Our faculty are stretched so thin, its a wonder so many are able to do so well at their jobs.

    In point sir, Thank you for looking at what you hope my little brother’s school experiences will be like. But mine is happening right now, and is worth just as much of your consideration. As a post grad, there’s no place I can transfer myself off too but Hill Park, and honestly doing so would make me miserable. Don’t let your students of today get lost in the hopes for the students of the future.


  2. John,

    I enjoyed your blog post and will share it with our team. Challenges are opportunities, and it takes strong leadership to make the vision clear to all stakeholders. Best wishes on meeting your objectives in 2012.



  3. John Malloy says:

    Hi Libby, thanks for your comments. We certainly are concerned about the well-being of all of our students, and I hope that I can explain what happens when a course is cancelled.

    It is common practice at secondary schools across Ontario to cancel courses that suffer from low enrolment. There comes a point when it is not possible for a school to offer a course, due to lack of interest.

    However, this is not done lightly. Before school administrators cancel a course, staff take the time to examine the student lists to ensure that this will not jeopardize any student’s chosen post-secondary pathway. That is to say, staff talk to students to see if the students needs a course as a prerequesite for post-secondary.

    Our schools also look at other options, including their ability to partner with other schools. This would allow for a greater selection of courses to be offered, perhaps at another site or through night school when the course must be taken during that semester.


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