A Message from Director of Education
As we embark upon 2023, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on all that we accomplished, all that we navigated and all that we learned in 2022. While previously titled, The Director’s Report, moving forward, this report will be called the WRDSB Annual Report.
It is a reflection of the shift in our organization and of the significant teamwork required to accomplish our goals. There are many faces on the frontlines and behind the scenes who work diligently each day on behalf of all the students we serve.
Though we continued to face interruptions from the pandemic, we witnessed students, staff, parents, caregivers, families and community partners coming together to support all students in achieving their fullest potential.
To guide the entire system in this work, in 2022 we launched our new Strategic Plan - a roadmap built with the voices of those we serve. Through the strategic planning process we heard from over 10,000 people, making this by far, the most broad consultation the WRDSB has ever engaged in. Participants included families, community members, partner organizations, and most importantly, students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
We are committed to developing an education district that centres student voice and making students active partners in their educational journey. This begins by prioritizing their voices. We saw just how eager they were to take the reins and articulate what they need and want through their school experiences. More than half of those taking part in the strategic planning process were K-12 students. More than 5,000 of the students we serve told us about what they need to support their success and well-being.
The consultation process included innovative approaches to help ensure every student had the chance to offer meaningful feedback about their experiences at school, and what they want to take away from their time in the WRDSB.
Our Strategic Plan development was guided by the Board of Trustees at every stage in the process. Each of our Trustees offered careful guidance and input to help ensure that the voices of their constituents were heard as we put together a new plan to serve them better than ever before.
The resulting Strategic Plan is one that will guide us towards the creation of an educational system that prepares students for success as we move towards the 22nd century. From our new vision and mission, to the seven attributes of the Learner Profile and our six Strategic Directions, this plan will help us build a school system that better supports the needs of ALL the students we serve. One that provides excellent educational experiences and opportunities for all students, that helps them achieve to their highest potential and shape who they become as human beings and contributing members within their communities, society and world.
This new plan has led us to articulate a new Ethical Core that is being used to guide our decisions as an organization and a reconceptualization of our organizational chart to better serve the needs of students and families.
Our Strategic Plan recognizes that the global context into which students are venturing and many of the jobs that students will hold when they graduate do not yet exist and they will be required to solve problems we can’t currently conceive. The educational foundation we build for them needs to offer a broad array of knowledge and skills, to equip them to be successful wherever life and work take them. This means a continued and increased focus on mathematics, literacy, and supporting the development of students’ capacity for compassion, creativity, curiosity and social responsibility. Together, these skills will allow students to imagine, innovate and create a better world.
As a part of our commitment to a public education system that serves all students, we have encountered significant challenges with ongoing racist and hateful campaigns of misinformation. This report addresses this in more detail under Opportunities and Challenges.
This hateful onslaught has been tough on staff and families across our system, but its impact is most concerning for the children we serve. Our most recent student census showed us that a third of students who responded identified as racialized, and 24% of those in Grades 7 to 12 self-identified with at least one 2SLGBTQIA+ sexual orientation. We know that many of these students are overrepresented in achievement gaps - our work to support them is about maintaining excellence for all students, while supporting those who are most marginalized.
As I said to the Globe and Mail, making sure that all kids can be successful is not a woke agenda. It’s us, as a public school district, caring about all kids. We remain more committed than ever to taking a caring approach to preparing all students for success on their chosen pathways after their time in the WRDSB.
Through all of this, 2022 represented another year of offering WRDSB students the excellence in education that has come to be expected from our school board in the community we serve. Students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 had extraordinary learning opportunities and experiences that helped them to gain skills and knowledge that they otherwise might not have.
Whether it was students in our secondary schools taking part in co-operative education placements, gaining valuable experience for their post-secondary pathway, or elementary students venturing out to the White Owl Native Ancestry Association (WONAA) maple syrup sugarbush to learn about everything from original techniques to modern production methods. These experiential learning opportunities are due in great part to the close partnerships we foster with community organizations and businesses - we are all invested in seeing the students in Waterloo Region reach their full potential.
The culture of innovation in Waterloo Region, and in the WRDSB, continues to shine bright. Thanks to a partnership with Smart Waterloo Region, secondary students at five schools are becoming better prepared for the world that they will graduate into. Together, we are supporting a ground-up approach for WRDSB educators in learning how to use the Global Innovation Management Institute’s (GIMI) Impact Program in their classrooms, to inspire students to take a design thinking approach to solving real-world problems in their communities.
Innovation isn’t confined to the classroom, by any means. In April 2022, the Region of Waterloo awarded the WRDSB with a Water Efficiency Excellence Award as part of their Water Efficient Technology (WET) program. We as an organization think about how we become better stewards of the environment, we had to consider how to better take care of the water. This award recognized our work in upgrading 16 schools to reduce water consumption, and the installation of high-tech water meters to provide 24/7 data in case of water leaks. These investments are saving 18,000 litres of water every day - that’s roughly the same amount of water used by 41 households of three people.
In the meantime, we continue to work towards becoming a system where our schools become the heart of the communities. In modelling this, we are happy that our relationship with our neighbours at our Education Centre, A Better Tent City, continues to flourish. It is a reminder for us that when our most vulnerable community members are looked after, the communities in which our children are growing up are safer for us all. We hope this model will continue to inspire others across Waterloo Region and beyond to work in this way. We have had visits from officials in other parts of the province and across the country to learn from this example of compassionate partnership. We are better and stronger when we are together.
This approach to community and municipal partnership continued to grow in 2022 with the creation of new roundtables where we are seeking to share priorities, align services and better work together across the region.
As we look to the road ahead, we remain laser focused on Student Achievement and Wellbeing. We believe that the pathways we are forging will establish the WRDSB as a sector leader in public education. Our Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP) helps us take our Strategic Plan from ideas to action. Along with continuing to prioritize and support student achievement, we also aim to increase support for sovereignty, equity and human rights. The WRDSB will become a human-rights based organization to ensure that every student and staff member have equitable opportunities in an environment free from discrimination.
We’ve begun to lay the groundwork to support every member of the WRDSB in playing an active role in our work of ensuring every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential. In late 2022, we launched the WRDSB Sovereignty Affirming and Equity Competencies, designed to complement the Ontario Leadership Framework. This living guide will continue to evolve as we learn and grow as an educational institution and recognizes that these competencies are not optional as we seek to be responsive to students, staff and communities.
Food security is increasingly becoming an important issue for families in Waterloo Region. We know that a student who is fed, is one who is able to achieve their fullest potential in the classroom. In early 2022, the Waterloo Education Foundation Inc. (WEFI) donated $21,000 to our partners in student nutrition at Nutrition for Learning, Food4Kids Waterloo Region and the May Court Club of Kitchener-Waterloo. I look forward to continuing our work with our partners to help ensure that no student is distracted by or suffers from a lack of access to food.
In 2023, I know we will only continue to build on the foundation of success that we built in 2022. The education and support of students is not something we undertake alone, though, as every parent, caregiver, family or community member and more are our partners in helping to prepare the students we serve for success in learning and life.
I look forward to another year of growth, innovation, creativity, learning and love in the WRDSB.
Director of Education