Ontario Public School Boards' Association: Who We Are - ET Spring 2015

By T.J. Goertz

The Ontario Public School Boards' Association (OPSBA) is a unique organization whose members come together to give strength to public education in Ontario. The association is governed and controlled by our member boards and is a leader for excellence in governance, funding, education program policy and labour relations.

School boards are accountable to the people who elect them for providing sound educational opportunities for all students, for creating conditions that promote student learning and well-being, and for providing opportunities for parents, staff and the public to become involved in setting priorities that work for the local school board and community. It is also all trustees' role and responsibility to develop budgets that turn provincial education funding into programs and services that meet student needs in diverse communities.

Led by President Michael Barrett, OPSBA is positioned to advance the objectives of member boards in the critical areas of influencing public policy and education investment in the province. We work successfully to advance clear, cohesive and authoritative positions that get to the heart of the pressing issues and needs of school boards today. OPSBA will, with our members' support, continue to strengthen a remarkable school system where all students achieve.

Together, our member boards and school authorities--small isolate boards or hospital-based boards- serve the educational needs of almost 70 percent of Ontario's elementary and secondary students.

The Structure of OPSBA

OPSBA's board of directors provides strategic direction to the organization and includes representatives from English public district school boards, OPSBA's First Nations Council and school authorities.

The executive council reports to the board of directors and includes representatives from our five regional councils-Eastern, Western, Central East, Central West and Northern-as well as our president, the first and second vice-presidents and the enrolment vice-president.

In addition, the association hosts numerous committees and work groups, including the Education Program Work Group, the Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health, the Policy Development Work Group, the Labour Relations Council, the Provincial Labour Relations Network and planning/advisory committees for the various annual professional development opportunities that OPSBA provides.

Our expert staff, under the leadership of Executive Director Gail Anderson, is well respected and called upon frequently to advocate on behalf of the best interests and needs of the public school system in Ontario.

What We Do

In addition to our wide-ranging advocacy supporting the goals and initiatives of Ontario's public education system, OPSBA facilitates a number of regular events:

Public Education Symposium Every January, this symposium offers a unique and rich combination of information and resources, guest speakers who are recognized experts in their field, forums and plenary sessions that raise the most critical issues of the day and access to experienced and dedicated professionals.

Education Labour Relations and Human Resources Symposium This comprehensive event provides context for trustees and school board staff on new and emerging issues in the human resources and labour relations sector every March in Toronto.

Annual General Meeting & Program At the AGM, OPSBA members determine priorities and directions for the coming year, elect officers and plan for the future. This event also includes a comprehensive professional development program for trustees. This year, OPSBA's Western Region is the host, and the event runs June 11 to 13, 2015, at the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain.

Summit on Children and Youth Mental Health As a lead organization in the Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health, OPSBA takes a key role in organizing the Summit on Children and Youth Mental Health, which is held every two years. It is designed to deepen knowledge about mental health among all those who work with children and youth, and to highlight programs and services that have been proven to work. The next Summit on Children and Youth Mental Health will occur in April 2016.

Publications

OPSBA's publications include Education Today; the annual Key Work report and the Annual Report, which outline the association's key priorities and subsequent supporting actions; a wide variety of professional development materials for both school board trustees and school board staff; and position papers on a range of education program- and policy-related issues.

For more information on OPSBA and the work we do, please visit our website at www.opsba.org.

T.J. Goertz is an alumnus of the District School Board of Niagara and has a degree from Carleton University's School of Journalism and a post-graduate certificate in public relations from Centennial College. A former community newspaper reporter and editor in Niagara, his career includes corporate communications for the Town of Richmond Hill and a communications/social media portfolio with the Toronto DSB. This included managing the board's Twitter and Facebook accounts. Since 2012, T.J. has worked as a strategic social media specialist for OPSBA and is part of the association's dynamic communications and policy team.  He lives in Toronto with his wife Ashley.