Minutes of the April 1, 2015, Parents of Prince Street Meeting

Prince Street Home and School
April 1, 2015

There was a round of introductions. Prince Street welcomed a Parents of Prince Street alumnus as a guest. Peter Rukavina is a past president of our school's Home and School and is currently the president of the provincial Home and School Federation.

There was a translator for Arabic, and she took notes to share with Arabic-speaking families. There was no Nepali translator available tonight.

Tonight, we have one main agenda item: to review resolutions (ideas) being brought forward at the provincial Home and School Federation. Our role is to provide feedback to the representatives of Prince Street who will be asked to give feedback and to vote on the resolutions at the Annual General Meeting.

There are nine resolutions. Two of the resolutions are ours, so we have seven to review.

PRINCIPAL'S REPORT
Erin Johnston shared key dates coming up.
* Tomorrow (April 2) is Autism Awareness Day, and the school will be wearing blue head-to-toe.
* On April 16, the School Song launch will take place. There will be a celebration at 1:00 p.m., and parents will be invited.
* Next week, the dental clinic begins.
* April 22 is Earth Day, our Easter Seals visit, Administrative Professionals Day… and it will also be Prince Street Diversity Day. This will be an all-day event with activities to celebrate all cultures and all forms of diversity. This replaces the International Dinner that used to take place and responds to feedback from the school community. Parents will be invited in engaged in those activities as well -- expect a notice in a couple of weeks.
* Thursday, May 14 will be Young Authors Night, and towards May the school will be into all the assessments that take place.
* Staffing processes are well underway and information will be shared when possible.
* May 20 will be Welcome to Kindergarten. Pre-Kindergarten EYE assessments are done and data is back.
* Kindergarten Orientation Day will be Friday, May 29 (a day off for current kindergarten students)
* It has been decided that next year (like this year) K-3 will pay a $35 flat fee for all school supplies, while grades 4-6 will get a list of school supplies to purchase independently. Last year was the first year we formalized this system, with a hope to make it predictable year to year. The decision was made in conjunction with the teachers. An equal number of parents/students seem to want one model vs. the other.
* June 6 will be the Spring Fling.

One thing noticed at Birchwood and other intermediate schools: low turn-out at home and school meetings. How to carry ball forward? Joint meetings for families of schools are an idea being looked at. Lots of feedback on this.

The French Immersion night had excellent turnout and that might be a good opportunity for the Home and School to recruit.

Enrollment at Birchwood is decreasing: initiative to encourage out-of-zone transfers. Particularly good option for families that want small schools and school that has lots of experience and a good reputation for helping students with diverse needs.

Process for out-of-zone transfers is to apply to the Board (written application) and then it goes to the principals.

REVIEW OF RESOLUTIONS

Shelley read the resolutions out loud. Everyone reviewed the background information in print.

Resolution 1-2015
STUDENT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
Submitted by Three Oaks Senior High Parent Council

Some context on school effectiveness plans in schools: These are what the school determines as goals to work on through the school year. Each school requires one literacy-based school goal and has options for goals with other focuses.
This resolution relates to the kind of non-academic goals that could be added in to school effectiveness as an addition.

A parent asked if the French Language School Board has used particular programs for character development already. Is this similar to a program Sr. Norma Gallant was offering in French-language schools a few years ago?

A parent thought this was a worthy goal but questioned if it was of highest priority

Another person liked that it is presented in the context of school effectiveness -- but wondered is it a little vague? The resolution seems to be asking that schools make it mandatory for schools to have a school effectiveness goal related to character development. Should it be part of the school effectiveness plan mandated by the Department or not? To what extent would schools have freedom to choose their goal as a school?

As a school, it is very hard to have umpteen goals. There are large obligations for planning and reporting (accountability) for goals.

It is clear that Three Oaks who proposed this resolution had a wonderful experience they would like to share to other schools.

Is character development something that is naturally part of the learning that happens in our schools? Is this resolution highlighting something schools do anyway?

School effectiveness has moved towards academic achievement. Many people find this to be a positive trend, though it was challenging to make the shift from less academic goals.

There were questions about financial implications (benefits one way or another if it came in or not?). There is nothing in the resolution related to funding except a recommendation there be funding.

Conclusion:
The majority said no to making character development goals mandatory part of the school effectiveness plan, yes to promoting the goals and values of this resolution, with thanks to the movers for sharing the results of positive programs for character development in their school.

 

Resolution 2-2015
STORM CLOSURES
Submitted by West Kent Home and School

How would this resolution make a difference? The implication from the resolution seems to be that the people making the decisions are ill-informed and insufficiently trained. We don't necessarily believe that. The resolution was proposed before recent storms: the general consensus was that the decisions made in February and March were generally good and were appropriately focused on student safety.

There are some flaws in the "whereases" and there are biases we don't share. To the extent we are in favour: we agree this is a communication issue. People will fill in the gaps with conjecture when there is an information vacuum.

Conclusion:
We do not accept this resolution but would value a community–school board conversation with good communications about shared solutions during storm closures. A review of good practices from other jurisdictions would be welcome.

 

Resolution 3-2015
SAFE STUDENT TRANSPORTATION WITH RELATED COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
Submitted by M.E. Callaghan Home and School

Last week was the first time the communications from the schools seemed to default to "check the Internet" as an instruction to parents and students -- and not everyone has the Internet at home. Now that there is plan in place and it has been tested, it may be easier in the future -- and maybe future messages could be communicated through different means.

One parent said she would also like to see the results of the all-encompassing resolution on communications (ours, #7) discussed ahead of this resolution. According to the order laid out now, this one (#2) will be presented first. It could end up being meshed together with the later one. Or, we could request that our resolution be dealt with first.

Conclusion:
Most are in favour of this resolution, with not a lot of changes.

 

Resolution 4-2015
REQUEST FOR OFFSITE ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION CLASSES
Submitted Montague High School Parent Council

Some background: At Montague, the Alt Ed site has been off the school site, and some of the other Alt Ed sites are also offsite. There's been a request in Montague to move the Alt Ed program back into the school, mostly as a way to save money.

Alt Ed happens at all levels: elementary, junior high, and high school. It involves small-group settings, with a higher ratio of teachers and support educators to students. Challenges are usually behaviour-related. Alt Ed is designed for students who can't function in the boxes we call "school" but some programs run inside school buildings. (A+ was housed here, for instance, but is now at St. Jean, and has seven students from variety of local schools.)
There is an academic focus along with a behaviour-changing, life-skills focus. The small groups have varied academic needs as well.

A parent commented that sometimes the reason students don't fit in the school "box" could include bullying or other situations that mean students can't be in the school. The needs are very different among students in Alt Ed.

A parent spoke in favour of offsite Alt Ed -- and pointed out that communication is another major theme in this resolution, as in many others.

A parent who works with people with intellectual disabilities says no to this resolution. This resolution is counter to goal of inclusion. It would segregate people (very likely including people with intellectual disabilities), and segregation has been worked against for a long time.

From the elementary school perspective, Alt Ed is usually a short-term stint to reintegrate a student back into the school environment. It is meant to go in blocks. A "pro" of being in the school is reintegration. There is a need for facilities that are appropriate to support reintegration, too.

One parent observed that it almost seems like for children at the younger age, it is more beneficial to have the students in the school building. Others suggested there are pros and cons to each model.

The resolution makes it exclusive: one thing or the other, Alt Ed offsite or Alt Ed onsite. The Prince Street Home and School emphasized that students' needs are the key thing to consider.

Conclusion:
With one strong nay, the general agreement was that we would support the resolution ONLY with an amendment that there be an "option" to have offsite Alt Ed, and the proviso that decisions one way or the other should be based on educational needs, not on real estate or financial considerations.

 

Resolution 5-2015
ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS
Submitted by West Royalty Elementary Home and School

In a nutshell: We have interventions for students who are struggling, and we want interventions for students who are bored in elementary and junior high school and would benefit from enrichment.

Strong objections: One parent said teachers and staff have enough to deal with with students who are struggling. It is easier to give students who are bored individualized enrichment materials and choices when they are unchallenged. (That is, hand them a book.)

A parent commented that it is generally privileged parents advocating for enrichment. She thought the best enrichment would be investment in enriching programs that are suffering: teacher-librarians and core programs for libraries, gym, music, drama, and art as well as literacy and math.

There is a question of resources not addressed in the motion. We would need it to say that right now for students struggling academically, the Board provides lots of resources, so there would need to be equivalent resources (especially human resources) for students requiring enrichment.

Trying to get students to successfully leave grade twelve with the appropriate level of learning is the goal.

Conclusion:
We generally support this resolution -- with an acknowledgement of privilege and of resource issues.

Some individualized instruction requires more resources than other kinds. It is possible for a parent to ask for a modified or adapted program for a child for ANY reason, including need for enrichment. We want all children with all needs to be supported to learn.

 

Resolution 6-2015
PROMPT ESTABLISHMENT OF ANIMALS IN SCHOOLS POLICY AND PROCEDURES
Submitted by Prince Street Home and School

Update: A parent who has a service animal reported that the service animal is being accommodated at his child's school, and the School Board was spurred by the human rights issue to develop a draft policy ONLY related to service animals. This is good progress but leaves other issues in our resolution unaddressed.

The resolution may need to specify live animals. There is a dissection policy at the School Board already.

Conclusion:
We support this resolution.

 

Resolution 7-2015
ENHANCING SCHOOL BOARD COMMUNICATIONS WITH LOCAL HOME AND SCHOOL ORGANIZATIONS
Submitted by Prince Street Home and School

This one is not as clearly worded or direct, and we're not sure it will pass, but we hope the core message will be clearly communicated that the School Board needs to communicate better with home and school organizations.

ConclusionWe support this resolution.

Peter Rukavina said from a Provincial Home and School perspective, he would like to thank us for taking a local issue and abstracting it into provincially applicable policy resolutions.

 

Resolution 8-2015
ESTABLISH AND SUBSIDIZE A PROVINCIAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM FOR ALL CHILDREN IN ISLAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Montague Consolidated and Montague Regional High School

The next resolution that will be presented at the AGM is revised slightly from the photocopied version most parents were looking at.

Are they asking for a free lunch for every student? Yes. It is acknowledged that this is a big ask.

There exists a patchwork of breakfast and lunch programs across the province: breakfast programs with variety of levels of funding, some schools with none; lunch programs run by schools, home and schools, with big corporate caterers or not, etc.

Key question: What's the best way to ensure adequate nutrition?

One parent would prefer an optional lunch program run on the same principles as the breakfast program. This parent did not think taxpayers should pay for a lunch she could afford to pay for for her children.

One parent talked about better progress on lunch programs in other provinces compared to PEI. She noted there is also a difference between French and English Language School Boards, even within PEI.

More than one parent expressed a  preference for voluntary over mandatory lunch programs. One parent raised a concern about food waste -- this should be added to the considerations.

Some children who have not been introduced to healthy food will be resistant to new foods and may not eat what is offered.

Someone clarified the resolution does not say "free" lunch, but subsidized.

Someone commented on the difficulty of accommodating dietary needs.

Unequal facilities in various schools are an implementation and resource problem.

We can see this from both sides. We worry this would take accountability off parents to provide healthy lunches. At the same time, we want to support children to have enough nutrition to learn, and some parents like the relief of school-provided lunches on days those are available.

One parent reflected on an experience teaching in a program with mandatory breakfast and lunch (staff included) in a program where students were selected from neighbourhoods with prevalence of low income (not necessarily kids with low income families). The experience of shared meals among students and staff was very beneficial. In theory, this parent would value the shared meal idea.

The main message of the resolution is that a child's basic need of food is directly related to academic performance. On Maslow's hierarchy of needs, food is first.

Conclusion:
We support for the resolution and have items from above to add to the discussion. (Addition of avoiding food waste and discussion of pros and cons of voluntary/mandatory programs)

 

Resolution 9-2015
ACTIVATION OF AND ACCESS TO THE STUDENTS ACHIEVE SYSTEM BY PARENTS AT THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL
PEI Home and School Federation

There was some discussion of the Students Achieve System. It is used at all schools for attendance. In upper grades, grades for assignments and tests are communicated through the system as well. SAS can be a communication tool used for other messages as well (closures, mass email messages, etc.) Parents and guardians can set notification levels through email.

A teacher noted that for the kindergarten level, SAS could only record attendance and behaviour, which already would be communicated. Academic outcomes are not on SAS for kindergarten.

Someone noted not all parents have access to Internet -- such a low number of parents in classroom could access SAS. Her experience with a classroom website was that the vast majority of parents could not use it.

SAS is already required as a communication tool at the Junior High and High School level. The intent of resolution is that we need to increase communication between home and school, through whatever tools are available.

Assessment looks different at the elementary school level than at the upper grade levels. SAS may not line up well as a tool with the elementary school assessments or how we handle student achievement. For teachers, the hours beyond 8-4 required to input SAS data would be staggering. It would have to be a lot more smooth system.

However, it still would be useful to have access to what's already in the SAS system -- and still would be a great opportunity for communications to grow and develop. There could be a different tool, or it could be less level of detail than at upper levels.

Conclusion:
With one strong nay, there was general agreement to support the resolution.

CLOSING:
Who wants to come to the annual general meeting on April 11? Details at http://peihsf.ca/. The meeting may be extended to go all day -- organizers are working to include a leaders' forum.
Let Laura know. There is still subsidized space.

Peter Rukavina offered thanks on behalf of the Provincial Home and School for the welcome to attend as a guest and for the engaged discussion on the resolutions.

NEXT MEETINGS:
April 22, 6:30 p.m.
May 13, 6:30 p.m.