Trustees with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) met on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, for the first meeting of the 2023-2024 school year. Some of the items discussed in the public session are as follows.
Director of Education Ron Ferguson presented the first status update for the 2023-2024 Director’s Work Plan. This is a regular report on the implementation and results achieved, as set out in the district’s multi-year strategic directions and district improvement plans, which includes the Director’s Work Plan.
Director Ferguson outlined the five goals in the work plan, which include:
- Ensuring that students know how to read;
- Improving student success to attain and maintain a 90 per cent graduation rate;
- Enhancing student mental and physical health and sense of belonging;
- Engaging students, staff, and community partners in real-world learning; and
- Ensuring that staff feel supported by the district in their work and have the resources they need to be successful.
For a reading update, Director Ferguson turned it over to Executive Superintendent of Student Achievement and Innovation Eric Hardie and Amanda Nieman, Principal of Teaching and Learning.
The 2023 Summer Learning Program saw 206 students at 14 schools across the district focus on reading, real-world learning, arts and mental health and wellness for a three-week session in July. Data shows that 65 per cent of the students in the program are approaching or now reading at grade level after the three weeks. This program met students where they were at and built on the skills they were developing in their regular classroom learning.
Hardie explained that the new reading curriculum for Grades 1-9 has updated strands that focus on literacy connections and applications, foundations of language, comprehension: understanding and responding to texts, and composition: expressing ideas and creating texts – all of which our staff will be familiar with.
Nieman and Hardie shared that the UCDSB was praised for its work to promote the Science of Reading by Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission during an International Dyslexia Association event.
The next steps with reading goals, programs and training within the district includes pre-school programming expansion, launching of professional learning plan 2023-2024, continued training in new curriculum implementation, learning commons review, looking at system-wide corrective reading training, and currently investigating cursive writing programs.
Executive Superintendent of Business Services Jeremy Hobbs gave a student transportation update. This report included background and details of the recent negotiations with Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) and bus operators and the impact on UCDSB.
STEO is a not-for-profit organization managing bus transportation for UCDSB and Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) students, created in response to a Ministry of Education directive for improved efficiency. STEO negotiates bus contracts, invoices for actual costs, and handles student eligibility and routing. They also interact with parents on transportation matters.
Hobbs noted that STEO oversees transportation for 73 per cent of both boards’ students, totaling 30,000 on 637 routes with 472 buses and 165 special vehicles. Despite some challenges, the school year’s start has been relatively smooth with only three routes cancelled due to a driver shortage and one for mechanical issues since September 7.
The Ministry of Education provides school boards with transportation funding, which the majority goes to STEO to provide busing. STEO’s annual budget for 2023-2024 is expected to be approximately $56M, split between UCDSB and CDSBEO in proportion to ridership, as specified in the membership agreement.
By the end of the four-year contract, the cost is expected to rise to $62M with UCDSB’s share increasing from $36 million to $39 million by the end of the 2027-2028 school year. Hobbs noted that a four-year contract will offer some predictability and stability for the near future instead of the previous one-year deals, however based upon the funding projections, UCDSB will experience a major drop in funding in 2027-2028.
While transportation costs are currently manageable, expense pressure is growing and will continue to grow through the term of this contract and beyond. It will be important to begin planning for the 2027-2028 school year, including looking at expense containment and reduction measures.