Caratao: Success for Reding's AltEd and more from the HCDSB
BY DAVIN CARATAO reporting from BURLINGTON, ON
Hello once again BR, Davin Caratao here. You may know me as the guy on the announcements, but I also moonlight as the Student Trustee on our HCDSB. This is the fourth time I've recorded the various transpirings of the Halton Catholic Board. The Regular Board Meetings are the main meetings of our school board, where presentations are heard and Board policies are made and approved.
A presentation from the social workers of the HCDSB shone light on one of the great success stories of the Alternate Education program in Bishop Reding. A student from our school shared, through their social worker, their story in the Thomas Merton Alt Ed program. The student, plagued by anxiety, attendance problems mental health issues, and drug use, was recommended to the HCDSB’s alternate program. They made the hard decision to join the program. After a semester in the program, the student’s attendance has become complete and their marks have drastically increased. The student attributed this change to genuinely respectful staff who made school a worthwhile and welcoming environment for them. They noted not only behavioural and academic improvements but also felt safer and more self-actualized. They even mentioned how the program helped them improve their relationship with their parents. Another individual in the program noted how the Alt Ed program “saves lives” by supporting the vulnerable, especially suicidal individuals. The first student quoted Joshua 1:9;
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
The social worker noted the student’s courage in speaking up and joining the program, and quoted the former BR student’s concerns and their call to action in supporting the program and expanding it, so it may support more kids. They commended the school’s acceptance and accommodation for the program, and asked the board to have the program in other school buildings. They also noted how despite all the progress, there was not nearly enough space in the program for everyone who wanted to join the alternate education program. They called, specifically, for a third portable in Bishop Reding. While he warned that over-promotion of the program may damage the privacy of the students, they did note the importance of general understanding in mental health awareness.
Trustee Guzzo made a motion to direct Board Staff to prepare a plan to expand the Alternative Education program in order to reflect future growth and need. I suggested an amendment to the motion which would also address the current need and waitlist. However, Director of Education Pat Daly noted how the report may not ensure the feasibility of the expansion, and as such, Trustee Guzzo instead made a motion requesting a feasibility study on the issue, which passed unanimously.
A comprehensive report of parents’ concerns regarding the expansion of the French immersion program and the boundary review was presented to the board by Board staff. The report was a compilation of the survey responses of hundreds of parents. These concerns were grouped into a number of chief concerns: the school boundaries and boundary review, staffing for the Extended French Immersion program, the waitlist, a sibling rule, and capacity at FI schools. A Miltonian parent, Matthew Salvaterra, delegated to the board his opinion on the EFI consultation. He believed the wording survey given out to parents was biased and induced the English stream parents, 98% of the HCDSB’s parents, to believe there was a high likelihood that English-stream students would be disproportionately affected by the expansion, which he believes to be false. Salvaterra also mentioned how there could be misinformation in the statistics provided by the board. An Oakvillian parent, Fatou Okenge, noted, as many have, the great benefits of French Immersion, the need and very real ability to eliminate the waitlist.
Trustees made their last statements before a motion by Milton Trustee Patrick Murphy was presented to the board. The motion would approve adding 7 new French Immersion classes in all parts of the HCDSB for the next school year. The motion would then leave for review any changes for later years. An amendment to make the motion in concordance with other board policies was first passed by the Board. The motion itself to expand the FI program was passed unanimously. The gallery of dozens of FI-supporting parents cleared in victory.
The board also approved the purchase of a number of elementary-school religion textbooks.
Once again, Trustee Suan and myself provided the very thorough student trustees’ report to the board, which can be found here: https://www.hcdsb.org/Board/Meeting%20Documents/BOARD_2020_02_18_REPORT.pdf
Superintendent Merrick noted the continuing progress on the construction of Bishop Reding, including the installation of windows, roofing, and insulation in the new classroom addition. The load-bearing walls of the new cafe have been set, and the child-care addition continues well.
The minutes and a video recording of the meeting will be available on https://www.hcdsb.org/Board/Pages/MeetingInformation.aspx and on the HCDSB youtube page.
Stay tuned for more updates, and if you guys ever have any questions or ideas on what you’d like to see changed or implemented in our school and board, you can email me at CarataoD@hcdsb.org, or DM @isitdavincaratao on Instagram. You can even pick up my business card in Student Services.