President's Message - Summer 2018

“Teach children the beauty of music, and music will teach them the beauty of life” Jose Antonio Abreu, Founder, EI Sistema Venezuela

This issue of Education Today is dedicated to the importance of Arts programming in our public schools. I recently came across the quote above and reflected on the simple message that it conveys. It goes beyond just music however, in my opinion. One could replace the word with any other example of artistic expression (dance, drama, visual art) and the statement wouldn’t be any less true.

Art, in whatever form, can play a key role in the development and growth of the whole child. When we expose children and youth to the arts, we expose them to the power of self-expression and inspire them to be all they can become. Art can open the door to their creative instincts and ultimately unlock their potential to explore the world, well beyond the limits they set for themselves.

I, along, with many of my trustee colleagues, witnessed first-hand the real and beautiful impact of providing arts programs for students in schools at our Public Education Symposium in January which featured an amazing display of student talent.

I was incredibly proud to have a group of students perform from my own Limestone District School Board under the direction of teacher Tim Stiff, who shared with us a rousing and wholly Canadian medley of musical excerpts. Spoken word artists from the Toronto District School Board and the O’Neill CVI Chamber Choir from the Durham District School Board similarly demonstrated their skills, talent and creativity through their performances.

This event, and the many examples of artistic talent featured in this edition remind us of the gift we in education can give to our students, and the need to ensure our approach to education programming and funding provides for all areas of learning and expression. Ongoing investment in dance, drama, music and visual arts provides students with access and exposure to many skills, and as Jose Antonio Abreu so aptly articulated, “the beauty of life.”

As this is also my final message as President of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, I would like to take this opportunity to once again restate my gratitude for the support of Trustees across the province over my last two terms, and share the immense pride I feel to have served on behalf of school boards and in the best interests of students in Ontario.

While I have decided not to seek reelection to this important role, I am confident that the new Executive team in leadership of the Association will continue to promote and advocate for our strategic priorities which focus on supporting and improving student achievement and that OPSBA will continue to be a strong, effective and influential voice on behalf of public education in the province.

Sincere personal thanks to Jerry Chadwick and Cathy Abraham as my steadfast VPs, and the regional VPs, and our Executive Director Rusty Hick. His outstanding team serves us and education so well. As always, there is important work for Boards and for OPSBA on the horizon as we continue to advance the strategic priorities of the Association, respond to new initiatives, and advocate for students throughout the provincial election campaign.

Nominations for Ontario’s 2018 Municipal and School Board Elections are also now open, and our staff have worked diligently to develop resources that promote the valuable role of Trustees as the oldest form of locally elected representatives responsible for student achievement and an enduring presence as the voice in our communities. To those trustees who will not continue in the role, I say thank you for your contributions to student achievement and I wish you well as you perhaps regain more family or leisure time. To those who will continue to serve as Trustees, I hope that together we will continue to focus our efforts on strong governance practices with integrity and raise public confidence in public education. We have a unique role to serve in our communities that cannot be underestimated in value to our future society through the success of our children, whether constituents have children in the system or not.

Trustees unselfishly commit their time to supporting public education, but that dedication to public service requires the ongoing encouragement of family and close friends. On behalf of Trustees across the province, to all those who support us to be leaders in education including my own family who’ve supported me, I say a heartfelt thank you.

I want to share a thought from a recent conference in the health sector, where I heard an excellent analogy about “the invisible backpack” we all wear, and how those achieving success in life have a backpack filled with skills, knowledge and life experiences that contributed to their success in life. I strongly believe that public education is the great equalizer that will help to fill the backpacks of Ontario children, regardless of their circumstance.

As I pass the torch to my successor and humbly join the list of Past Presidents, I will continue to support the work of the association and public education wholeheartedly. Wishing you all a safe and happy summer with family and friends.

Laurie French