September is always exciting! After experiencing a different pace that summer has to offer, our staff and students are engaged in a new school year of learning. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to the opportunities that this school year will provide! It is hard to believe that the first month of school has flown by!
There are many exciting topics I will be writing about in the coming weeks and I would like to briefly highlight these topics in my first blog of the 2013-2014 school year.
We will be engaged in projects this year to change the learning environment for our students supported by Ipads for every teacher and student in seven schools, with a plan to implement this project in every school in HWDSB over the next four years. It is important to note that this is not simply a 1:1 IPad project; rather, this project focuses on the interests , strengths and needs of our students, and provides the opportunities for them to explore, create, and think deeply both individually and collectively supported by teachers who create an engaging learning environment informed by student voice and supported by technology. Changing teaching and learning is an exciting challenge and a complex challenge as well!
We will also be implementing our secondary program strategy. This strategy is founded on the belief that all of our secondary schools are great schools because they provide all pathways for our students, and they offer enhanced program choices based on what our students want and need. In the schools where we offer special programs due to a need for a critical number of students or a special facility, enhanced access to these programs will be provided. This strategy is providing us with the opportunity to change our culture, mitigate against the notion of “have and have not” schools and serve a diverse community of learners in every secondary school so that each student may achieve. We speak often about equity in HWDSB and I would suggest that our program strategy is a great example of our board’s commitment to equity being realized.
Since we understand the importance of learning conditions in our school, and we are committed to student achievement and well-being, the creation of a positive school climate in every school is one of our priorities. By integrating our work in equity and inclusion, safe schools and mental health, we will be supporting our schools to create the type of learning environment in HWDSB that supports our students to be resilient, to improve their self-esteem, to build their character, and to engage in service. Our work to create positive school climates in every school is about ensuring that positive relationships exist in every school between students and between students and our staff. These relationships and this culture will improve student achievement and well-being.
Our early learning strategy is assisting us to focus on our youngest learners. By working with our childcare partners, we are committed to providing better access to childcare and seamless transitions between childcare and school. Further, these partnerships help us to align school and childcare programs to support our students and to collaborate in ways that improve our collective service to our students. Our commitment to improve our students’ oral language development through the efforts of our teachers, and speech and language pathologists provides the foundation for our students ability to read. We are implementing Full Day Kindergarten and we are monitoring who is not achieving so that we may intervene appropriately.
The Arts are an important window to enhancing our students creativity. Though HWDSB has always been committed to the arts, we are expanding our students access to instrumental music and continuing our commitment to effective arts programs in every elementary classroom and in all high schools. Our arts strategy supports our work in 21st century learning understanding that when students are engaged, when they experience different perspectives, and they come to understand what they are passionate about, they become people who never stop learning and thinking and creating.
Our learning culture in HWDSB continues to thrive, which in turn supports our important work of improving student achievement and well-being. Everyone in HWDSB, students and staff alike, are expected to learn together in teams which allows us to learn more then we could ever hope to learn on our own. This learning forms the basis for our commitment to continuous improvement, a commitment that is needed in order for us to be the effective learning organization we are becoming in HWDSB.
Our main commitments remain the same: All students reading by the beginning of grade 2; all student achieving in personalized, collaborative, inquiry based learning environments; all students graduating. Improving student achievement and well-being is our priority.
Most importantly, our hope is that everyone in HWDSB will experience the joy of learning. Our moral purpose as educators is to ensure that all students achieve. This purpose compels us to create learning opportunities for our students that supports their love for learning and their achievement and well-being. Students and staff alike understand the magic of an engaged classroom where everyone wants to be there because the learning leads to realities that might be beyond our imagination!
It is an exciting time in HWDSB!!! Our amazing students and our talented staff supported by effective leaders, forward thinking trustees, and engaged parents and guardians will achieve our vision that all students will achieve their full potential.