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Reopening school doors ushers in a new era

Last updated on Friday, September 30, 2016

Picture of Todd WhiteHamilton Mountain News
By Todd White

When school starts Tuesday nearly 50,000 of our students will enter more than a building. They will enter a new era.

That’s because this fall marks the launch of a bold new direction at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).

Soon after being elected in 2014, trustees launched a sweeping review of HWDSB’s vision and focus. We felt the board needed to address its weaknesses to become a stronger and more effective organization.

We knew this process, Reimagine HWDSB, wasn’t going to be quick or pretty. We wanted our community to tell us how we were doing, warts and all.

We heard from hundreds of respondents. They saw “critical and mounting issues” in our culture, communication, community partnerships and the way we allocate resources.

This shaped our new vision with priorities that will change how staff work, how trustees think and how we achieve our goals. Our vision transcends posters and letterhead; each priority is attached to real-world metrics to tell us how we are doing.

Take partnerships, for example. Do we have the right partners? Are our most vital partners – families – at the heart of this thinking?

Or school renewal. We all want great school facilities. But when we open or close schools, are we moving too slow or too fast for our community? Are we making realistic requests for provincial funding?

As we pursue effective communications, we will ask if the right staff have the right information at the right time.

We continue to focus on student learning and achievement. But we want to know if we are moving forward in tangible ways we can track, like our graduation rate.

The essence of HWDSB will always be our staff. We will work on equity and inclusion to make positive culture and well-being the norm for our staff.

Our vision is like a diagnosis, received from the public. You told us the problem. We asked if we heard you right. Now it’s time to publicly commit to and follow a treatment plan.

It’s purposeful, accountable and transparent. And it will make HWDSB a stronger, more effective school board for our students, families and staff.

Todd White is chairman of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

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