One of the main goals of the TDSB’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan is to build strong relationships and partnerships within school communities to support student learning and wellbeing. With this goal in mind, one question we often wonder about at the TDSB is, what voices are we hearing from, and why aren’t we hearing from others?
In Ward 11, our parent councils are active and vibrant organizations, contributing significantly to community building, parent engagement, and information sharing. From pizza lunches and math nights, to Back to School BBQs, together with annual events such as Bessborough’s Mayfair and Northlea’s Spring Fling, all of these events play a central role in fostering the sense of belonging among parents and students in both our schools and our communities. And yet, even with the success of these kinds of events, one thing I have come to appreciate is how hard our parents and schools are working to reach all parents.
The Ministry of Education requires all schools to have individualized School Improvement Plans (SIP). Created by school administrators and teachers, these documents are overseen by the superintendent. SIPs are working documents outlining goals for the school, how they will be achieved, and how achievement will be measured. This year, across TDSB schools, administrators will now be required to consult school communities on their SIP. This not only directly ties parent engagement to school improvement planning, but also encourages parents and staff to reflect on what true engagement means.
Through the SIP, many Leaside schools are reflecting on what voices are missing in their communities, and schools are actively working to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard. At Northlea, for example, children from outside the English catchment attend the school for French immersion. It was noted that families living farther away often don’t attend parent council meetings. Therefore, the parent council has scheduled a meeting in one of the feeder schools, in the hope that parents from that area might be able to attend. They are also alternating meeting times, from morning, to end of school day, to evening. The focus on engaging all parents, and not simply the ones who are already engaged, is key to achieving rich and authentic parent engagement.
This topic is of great interest at a board level too. We are in the beginning stages of developing a new policy surrounding parent and community engagement. To this end, together with Trustee Doyle from Don Valley East, I am hosting a Ward Forum on March 12 at Marc Garneau Collegiate from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Michelle Munroe, from the TDSB’s Parent and Community Engagement Office, will facilitate a consultation on this topic aiming to inform and shape this policy. I hope many of you will have your say in a policy that will affect parent and community voices in our schools.