News Local

Busy year for RCDSB

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

The Renfrew County District School Board has welcomed Pino Buffone as its new director of education.

The Renfrew County District School Board has welcomed Pino Buffone as its new director of education.

The Renfrew County District School Board had a busy year in 2017, as its new education director found his footing.

 

Pino Buffone presented his first ever annual report to the school board during its inaugural meeting, a task required under the Education Act.

“It has been just under a year since I began as Director of Education, and I have witnessed first-hand across the system instructional leadership, operational management, and organizational citizenship – the behaviour of individuals within the organization that are beyond the normally-assigned duties of any given position so as to demonstrate being a part of a larger organization,” he said.

Buffone said in his visits to schools and central sites, he saw how staff creates safe and caring, inclusive and respectful environments where educators are empowered to establish vibrant teaching and learning spaces for students of all backgrounds and abilities to flourish.

“We know that education is personal. It is a process of self-discovery. We all learn at our own pace, in our own way,” he said.

“It is why we work with each and every student to understand who they are so that we can better tailor our programs and/or services, as well as our feedback and support, differentiated to meet their individual needs.”

Buffone said commitment to this is central to the 2017-2020 strategic plan, which they approved this year, one of the more significant accomplishments the board can hang its hat on.

“This document has established before us a pathway to ensure our schools can continue to offer a range of academic, artistic, athletic, and extra-curricular programs and/or services that invest in our students and staff, and, challenge us all to strive for excellence,” he said, and will serve as a blueprint for board activities over the next three years.

Buffone said as they look back on this past year, the annual report includes a variety of highlights and examples of how they are meeting this challenge.

He said the district received the results of the provincial assessments for primary and junior divisions, as well as Grade 9 Mathematics applied and academic, with the results of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) received in the spring of 2017.

“As is always the case, the assessments reveal areas of strength for celebration as well as areas of growth for consideration,” Buffone said. It shows the board has much to work on in order to help improve student performance.

“Moving forward, our collective work will need to carefully weave the effective, research-based instructional practices in literacy and numeracy of the past decade into an evolving, innovative vision of teaching and learning environments of the future that continue to enhance global competencies of critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, communication, creativity, character development and citizenship,” he said.

To that end, the Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Well-being (BIP) developed this fall includes a continued focus on mathematics at the elementary and secondary levels through the Ministry of Education’s Renewed Mathematics Strategy (RMS), as well as an engagement survey of staff with respect to their well-being in order to complement the work in this area for the students.

Buffone said their work in Indigenous Education continues to be important to the board as they continue to incorporate strategies for students of aboriginal ancestry, and make progress in realizing the goals outlined in the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework.

“Specifically, we offered 39 sections of Indigenous Studies courses at the secondary level in 2016-2017 and in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the RCDSB hosted a Student Voice and Staff Development Day,” he said. Feedback from participants has informed the strategies the board will use to achieve the goals outlined in this year’s Action Plan on Indigenous Education.

“So many elements of this plan align with our strategic plan and staff continue to collaborate with our community partners on inquiry projects centered on traditional teachings, Algonquin history and cultural celebrations,” Buffone said.

The director said during the 2016-2017 school year, work on mental health and well-being was constructive and productive, deciding future discussions aimed at strengthening student and staff well-being could be better incorporated into all aspects of the teaching and learning environment.

“The Mental Health and Well-Being Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 continues to focus on providing school communities with the leadership and support to build capacity related to evidence-based/informed practices for tiered mental health,” he said.

This plan aligns the “Pathways to Thrive Framework” with the tiered approach to Mental Health. Buffone said results from the ‘Our Schools Survey’ highlighted the need to continue focusing on increasing knowledge and application of strategies to support students experiencing anxiety and depression. He said new areas of focus will include system coordination and specific populations that may have unique needs in mental health, including early years, LGBTQ, First Nations/Metis/Inuit, military and high achievers.

Another highlight this year was the labour symposium for principals and HR professionals, which Buffone said attracted participants from throughout Eastern Ontario, and included presentations by Michael Hines, Richard Sinclair, Ralph Cuthbertson and former Superintendent Dennis Jenkins.

“The keynote address focused on cases involving human rights, and management best practice, while other panelists offered the group insight on a variety of legal topics including performance appraisals, privacy issues, discipline and workplace investigations and human rights,” he said. “Participants received helpful hints and strategies in relation to investigations involving harassment and human rights from two active and experienced practitioners.”

Buffone said leadership continues to be a priority within the board. Two new supervisory officers, and eight new principals and vice-principals were placed as part of district-wide appointments last school year. Additionally, a new manager in the HR Department has been hired and has been a great asset.

“I am extremely pleased with the addition of these new administrators and wish them continued success in their roles and responsibilities,” he said.

The director said as they end our calendar year, it is a time to be thankful for all that we have accomplished, and look forward with anticipation and excitement to all that is yet to come in the new year.

He thanked the board's chairwoman and vice-chair woman for their support, and the trustees for their commitment, cooperation, diligence and wisdom in decision-making for the benefit of our students, our staff and our school communities.

“Your oversight and guardianship extends beyond being good stewards of the public purse,” Buffone said. “It speaks to your care for public education in our county. From our conversations at school events, to thoughtful questions and comments at board meetings, your passion and interest in the well being and success of all is sincere and always on display.”

SUhler@postmedia.com