St. Thomas Aquinas students learn proper way to butcher a moose during annual trip to Sandy Lake First Nation

Above, Director of Education John Cameron, Teacher Leah Thompson, Nathan Summers, Charis Boland, Juniper Lalonde Cutler, Jocelyn Cooper, Charlotte Wickens, and Chair Todd Lalonde. Courtesy photo

Sandy Lake Exposure Trip 2019

Meeting the goals of the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework is a priority for the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. For the sixth consecutive year, a group of CDSBEO students participated in a service trip to Sandy Lake First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. The trip provides an educational opportunity for students and educators to learn about the challenges of living on an isolated reserve.

This initiative was organized by the department of Religious and Family Life Education, providing the opportunity for new adventures and a chance to build stronger connections between CDSBEO and the Sandy Lake Board of Education. The trip focused deeply on developing a clearer understanding of life in a First Nation community, learning the traditions of the people, being immersed in Indigenous culture and building positive relationships.

Nine CDSBEO students from seven secondary schools participated in the experience, which took place in early June 2019.

“This trip was not to build homes or build objects,” began Nathan Summers, a student from St. Thomas Aquinas CHS. “This trip had one objective – to build bonds and connections with the people of Sandy Lake, and we certainly met the objective of creating relationships and furthering our understanding of Indigenous values and practices.”

Students participated in Treaty Days, which included a wide variety of activities, learned fishing techniques, and observed the proper way to butcher a moose.

“With the moose carving absolutely every part of it is used, and what remains is put back in the ground where the animal was killed and that area becomes sacred,” noted Summers. “Also, right after it is killed, the body is placed in the direction which it was travelling so that its spirit may continue on the path it was headed.”

Charlotte Wickens of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, noted that the group felt extremely welcomed by all members of the community, as though they were part of their family.

“Unfortunately, the people of Sandy Lake don’t have privileges such as automatic heating and cooling, clean water, garbage removal, unlimited electricity, paved roads, health care, and unlimited and affordable food and supplies,” she explained. “The community is one big family, they all work as a team, help each other and support one another. Our group was immediately welcomed, and during my time there I never once felt unwelcome. I felt at ease, I felt as though I was already part of the community, and people went out of their way to ensure that we felt appreciated.”

Many members of the group also noted that the people of Sandy Lake had a different way of experiencing time, and that life was overall more relaxed. Events and activities happened when they happened, without pressure. This was somewhat of a culture shock for the group, as well as a welcome relief from the day to day stress and rigid timetables which are common in their own lives.

The students were happy to have made deep connections and lasting friendships.

“Compassionate, friendly and charitable were only some of the qualities that stood out for us. We had the chance to get to know the youth individually, and when it was time to say goodbye many tears were shed,” noted Jocelyn Cooper of St. John Catholic High School. “Many of us hope to reunite with them. All in all, the Sandy Lake Building Bridges Experience gave us all a second family with kind, generous and humble people.”

Vice-Chair Ron Eamer commended the students and reflected on the potential of their experience.

“First of all, this group of students has demonstrated an unbelievable maturity with regard to the way they express themselves,” concluded Vice-Chair Ron Eamer. “It is so good to hear that you’ve taken something meaningful home from this visit. Thanks for bringing your stories back to us, it is truly gratifying to hear.”

Information and Communications Technology Update

The Board has invested resources in a laptop refresh for students and teachers at all school locations to enhance access and reliability of technology in the classroom. Since the completion of the refresh, the Information and Communication Technology Department has been working with the Curriculum and Special Education Departments to effectively build teacher capacity on leveraging software in this enhanced environment.

CDSBEO has a strong partnership with Microsoft and as such, ICT has established a solid infrastructure where students and teachers seamlessly integrate software in the classroom to help meet curriculum expectations. The infrastructure has allowed the board to leverage many cloud technologies including Office365. Most notably, there is a concerted effort around ensuring teachers can integrate into all subject matter software tools such as OneNote and Minecraft for Education.

Chief Information Officer James Proulx provided an overview of how the device refresh, which took place between January and July 2019 at all schools, is positively impacting students and teachers.

“When considering the need for a refresh, it was important to focus on the opportunity to better manage security concerns, as well as the ability to manage all technical teaching and learning requirements without barriers,” noted Proulx. “Teachers are able to plan for instruction and use of the technology in their classrooms knowing that the device will be present and functional.”

Classes received a mix of devices which varied by grade, with iPads being provided for younger grades, and a mix of iPads and laptops in other grades, with a point of instruction laptop in every classroom.

The enhanced environment has provided the ability for departments to work together to build teacher capacity on leveraging software, including many cloud technologies such as Office365, Microsoft FlipGrid, OneNote, Teams and Minecraft for Education. These learning tools, which have been implemented and embraced in many classrooms, help to engage all students through collaboration, regardless of learning levels. Mr. Proulx shared several videos demonstrating the use of various software in schools, which has been made possible with the new technology infrastructure.

“As you can see, these tools are truly engaging for the students and provide new and exciting ways to learn,” concluded Proulx. “I would like to thank members of Executive Council for helping to make this happen, as well as members of my team who were able to deploy this technology in a relatively short period of time.”

“We are thrilled with what these resources are bringing to our classrooms,” noted Chair Todd Lalonde. “Thank you for your work on this project and congratulations on a successful implementation.”

Financial Statements – September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2019

The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario has reviewed and approved the financial statements for the fiscal period of September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019. Ashley Hutchinson, Manager of Finance, presented the Financial Statements for the 2018-2019 school year, followed by Andrew Newman, partner with KPMG, who presented an unqualified Auditor’s Report to the Board of Trustees.

“As always, the Board strives to make the best use of its fiscal resources, to provide transparency and accountability with regard to the allocation of those resources, and to optimize resources in support of student achievement,” began Hutchinson.

“As the GSNs are largely driven by enrolment, it is important to note that the Board has experienced a growth of 125.63 FTE for the 2018-2019 school year.”

Revenue for the year was $189.5 million, and expenses totaled $189.1 million. The Board’s Statement of Operations reflects an accumulated surplus of $377,511.

“The total costs of the August 2018 arbitrator’s award on transportation were finalized as part of the 2018-2019 financial statements,” noted Hutchinson. “The cumulative transportation deficit is approximately $8.3 million over the three-year period beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The Board has not received any ministry funding for this amount; however, the ministry has committed as part of the 2019-2020 budget to fund the transportation deficit incurred in 2018-2019 of approximately $3.4 million. Board administration continues to work closely with the Ministry of Education staff to recover the $8.3 million overspending in transportation since 2016-2017 and although the ministry has no provisions at this time to fund the past transportation deficit incurred, discussions continue to be collaborative and are on-going. The Board has been funding this transportation deficit with other operating grants and savings.”

Year-end results demonstrate that the Board was able to generate additional grants due to enrolment increases and find savings in various areas that could be applied to the overspending in transportation for 2018-2019. Enrolment increases over the 2017-2018 school year translated into a 1 per cent increase in grants and the Board also received funding to keep rural schools open. Expenditure savings were generated through prior years’ school consolidations, supply costs, plant operations and maintenance, and other areas of operations that have contributed to a positive outcome for 2018-2019.

For budget compliance purposes, as at August 31, 2019, the Board has an operating accumulated deficit that will be carried forward to 2019-2020 in the amount of $881,000.

“This is a significant improvement over the revised estimates for 2018-2019 that the Board reviewed in December 2018, and although we still have some work to do, I am very optimistic.”

Andrew Newman from KPMG came forward to present the Auditor’s Report.

“It’s my pleasure to be here tonight to present the Auditor’s Report. KPMG has completed the audit, and in our opinion, the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of CDSBEO as at August 31. The results of the Board’s operations, and changes in its financial position for the year, are in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles.”

Board Chair, Todd Lalonde, expressed his thanks on behalf of the Board. “Thanks, Mr. Newman, for coming this evening to provide the Auditor’s Report and thanks also goes out to our Finance Department for all of the hard work that goes on throughout the year.“

The 2018-2019 Financial Statements will be submitted to the Ministry of Education by mid-November.

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