We have been spending time in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board making challenging decisions about our secondary school facilities. We have also been developing our program strategy. The goals of this strategy are: 1) Each of our high schools is a great school; 2) Students have more program choices in their local school; and 3) Enhanced access to system programs is provided.
At our Student Voice Forums, we asked our students to tell us what makes a high school great . Our students spoke very clearly that they believed that a great high school has the following characteristics: a) Caring adults who believe in them; b) Good friends who support them; and c) Engaging programs that interest them.
When I inquired, these students continued to speak about the importance of positive school climate and school spirit. This information provides us with important insights. We definitely want to challenge our students to achieve. We support our students so that they are resilient and healthy, both physically and emotionally. And we are committed to create learning environments that meet our students’ interests, strengths and needs, which means that our schools need to offer a wide variety of courses leading to all pathways.
And while we are providing our students with this type of learning environment, it is necessary for us to pay attention to how well our students experience a sense of belonging and connection in our schools. We must ensure that each student has opportunities to share their voice and to experience caring adults to whom they can turn.
Though engaging programs are important to our students, studying in caring environments is their priority. We will be exploring with our students and our staff how to continue making each classroom and school in HWDSB one that helps our students to achieve, supports them to develop a positive sense of self and offers them an experience of community that inspires them.
Great schools offer a wide variety of program choices and effective instruction in every classroom. These schools know their students, and respond to their interests, strength, and needs. Great schools care about their students and ensure that no student “falls through the cracks”.
In HWDSB we will work diligently to create caring environments in each school while implementing our program strategy.