President's Message - ET Fall 2016

"Use Our Voice"

A year of important changes

For my first column, I would like to begin with my sincere thanks to my colleagues across the province — not only for your encouragement, which has allowed me this opportunity to serve as your president, but for your own dedication to leadership in education and commitment to student success. I am humbled by the votes of confidence and am determined to promote and strengthen the role of the locally elected trustee. Together, we can help to foster confidence in public education.  It is with that in mind that I look forward to a wonderful year ahead. 

It is a year of change on many levels: within OPSBA we have a new executive council, at the Ministry we have a new minister and deputy minister, and in our governance role we have a number of important changes that we must ensure are implemented within our provincial priorities. These include revisions to the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, improvements to First Nations, Métis and Inuit education, support of mental health and well-being strategies, fostering inclusion and equity, sustaining and furthering the Ontario Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health, and ongoing changes to funding for special education and capital programs that most of us will continue to grapple with.

Leadership in education will be as critical as ever — at individual board tables, at the provincial association level and personally. We must always be aware of public scrutiny and attention to our role as we continue to lead by example, demonstrating the strength in public education governance and inspiring our students, those future leaders, to get involved in their communities to make a difference.

We are well positioned to demonstrate the integrity of elected trustees, our boards and OPSBA as governors of this complex system and historic elected role. Acting with wisdom and courage on behalf of students, we have adopted a code of conduct for our provincial board of directors, as most boards across the province have done within their governance role, thus demonstrating the high standards of conduct we have independently set for ourselves.

In my address to trustees following my acclamation, I read an excerpt by Clara, a nine-year-old student, from a writing project spearheaded by one of our outstanding teachers, and she encouraged us to "use our voice." I similarly encourage trustees to continue to speak up for the truth and for others, to stand up and be strong, as Clara encouraged us.  I thank you all for the challenge and the gift to be your voice as we look to the next year supporting students in the goals of being successful in school and in life.

Of particular note, this edition of Education Today is the first "themed" issue. You will find a focus on the brain, and we are considering having this type of feature become an annual occurrence in the publication. I am excited that the magazine will be able to explore a key topic more fully, and I give my thanks to the editorial board for their efforts to engage readers and provide learning for us all.  Best wishes to all for an outstanding school year in Ontario!

Laurie French