Public Education Symposium (PES) 2016 Wrap-up


​More than 350 trustees, student trustees, Directors of Education and senior school board administrators participated in the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association’s (OPSBA) very successful PES 2016, jointly hosted with the Association des conseil scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO). This leading professional development symposium, specifically designed for school boards, offered dynamic sessions on topics directly affecting the role of trustee and the broader environment within which school boards operate.

Michael Barrett, President of OPSBA and Denis Labelle, President of ACÉPO, opened the Pre-Symposium day by welcoming Minister of Education Liz Sandals, who highlighted key successes in the education sector as set out in Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. Minister Sandals also touched on the issues of community hubs and school consolidation, refugee and newcomer supports, the updating of First Nations, Métis and Inuit-related curriculum following the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Ministry’s mathematics action plan.

Additional sessions from the well-received pre-Symposium included:

  • Nancy Matthews, Assistant Deputy Minister, Early Years Division – Moving Forward with our Shared Vision for the Early Years in Ontario
  • Carol Campbell, OISE/UT, and Education Advisor to the Premier and Minister of Education – Leadership of and for Learning: Developing Evidence-Informed Educational Improvement
  • An interactive session to allow for trustee feedback on the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act process, and
  • A panel discussion on the Board’s leadership role in the Director of Education selection process.

First Nation Trustees Session
The open session offered by OPSBA’s First Nation Trustees Council to all trustees was well attended. First Nation Director Peter Garrow gave a presentation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and the role of education in the reconciliation process. Julia Candlish, Director of Education with Chiefs of Ontario, outlined highlights from the recent Political Accord signed between the government of Ontario and First Nations and focused on the First Nations Education Strategy that will flow from this new relationship. The lively question and answer period that followed demonstrated the depth of support that Trustees have for ensuring that school boards are engaged in First Nation, Métis and Inuit initiatives that uphold the spirit of education for reconciliation.

Keynotes, Panels and Dialogue Forums
First Nations Trustees Peter Garrow and Howard Archibald opened the Main Symposium on Thursday evening with a smudge ceremony, bringing official greetings from Ontario’s First Nations to the event.

British speaker Richard Gerver brought his energetic message of unleashing human potential to embrace and lead change to the keynote stage on Thursday night, following an outstanding student performance from La Chorale de la Salle from Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario.

Space robotics engineer, rocket scientist, pilot and explorer Natalie Panek opened Friday morning’s program with an inspiring talk regarding her ongoing quest for knowledge and the need for education to be at the forefront of exploration and innovation. Her message to encourage young women to continue their studies in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as the importance of including Art in education, was particularly well-received by attendees.

Panek’s keynote was followed up by an intriguing presentation on the Mind, Brain and Education from Western University’s Dr. Daniel Ansari who denounced “myths” such as “learning styles” and “left/right brain dominance”. A primer on the new role of the Ombudsman of Ontario from Acting Ombudsman Barbara Finlay, concluded the morning sessions.

Afternoon sessions included:

  • Shelley White, President of CEO of the United Way of Peel Region – an informative overview of The Three P’s of Reducing Poverty: pupil, parents and public policy.
  • Sean Mallen, Communications Consultant and former television reporter – a lively presentation on the current state of the Canadian media, with a focus on social media.
  • Workshops included A Blueprint for Addressing Poverty in Ontario Schools, presented by the Chair and staff of Durham District School Board; school board legal issues presented by Sheila MacKinnon, partner at Shibley Righton LLP and Jennifer McIntyre, OPSBA’s Director of Policy; internal audits and audit committees and a special Student Trustee leadership session.

On Saturday morning, Michael Hines, partner at Hicks Morley, discussed school board governance as established by the Education Act.

Bill Carr, actor, writer and humourist, provided an entertaining and thought-provoking closing keynote on the topic of Managing Change with Humour.

Trustees also had an opportunity at Saturday morning regional meetings to network and share issues and solutions with each other on the pressing challenges in today’s education environment.

Youth Entertainment
The symposium audience was delighted by the outstanding Thursday evening performance of student choir La Chorale de la Salle, from Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario, organized by ACÉPO.

Friday evening’s production featured a moving multimedia show from the Waterloo Region District School Board group Crossing Borders. These amazing students tell the stories of participating refugees, immigrants and “ally” Canadian-born students through music, spoken word and story telling.

Many thanks to all participating students, who showed attendees what an investment in arts education can look like.

Additional thanks to our sponsors, Hicks Morley LLP and Shibley Righton LLP, as well as all of our exhibitors.

Additional Information:

A selection of photographs from the Symposium is available on our Flickr page.

Tweets from the three days can be read by clicking here.