The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

A collection of items which highlight recent happenings at the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board.

Highly successful technology program

An exciting new program that brings state-of-the-art technology into the classroom is receiving rave reviews from teachers and students. The Classroom 2000-Plus program has been implemented in 30 grade four classrooms, with another 40 grade four classes to be equipped with the technology by the end of the current school year.

The program provides a number of benefits for the students by promoting cooperative learning, addressing individual needs, preparing the students for future self-directed learning and cultivating responsibility, making learning fun, exciting and stimulating, and providing an opportunity for students to work with a variety of technology and develop their technological skills.

The program will be expanded to include additional classrooms in the coming years. In the 2000-2001 school year, a total of 56 grade four, three/four and four/five classrooms will be added, while in the 2001-2002 school year another 140 grade five classrooms will be added. Finally, in the 2002-2003 school year, 140 grade six classrooms will be equipped.

The implementation plan allows students involved in the program this year to continue operating in high-technology classrooms in coming years.

Each classroom contains the following technological equipment: five computers, a laser printer, a flatbed scanner, headphones, a digital camera, a television, VCR, an LCD projector and a CD player. Participating schools are also encouraged to purchase a video camera that can be used by the entire school.

The technology is integrated into the curriculum. The curriculum units include hands-on kits, software and textbooks. Teachers and students agree the program provides an excellent learning environment and is fun.

Funding increase inadequate

Despite the media attention surrounding the Ontario government's announced increase in education funding in March, the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board's grants will rise less than 1%.

“The Education Minister makes a point of saying her government is committed to investing in quality education, but much of it is smoke and mirrors,” said June Flynn-Turner, OCCSB Chairperson. “Our Board would have been getting most of the additional grants anyway, as a result of increased enrolment.”

In March, Education Minister Janet Ecker announced that $190 million in additional funding would be provided to school boards for the next school year. She said in a news release that the Ontario government “has listened carefully to education partners, especially parents, students and taxpayers” and as a result has provided school boards across the province “with the resources they need to negotiate fair and reasonable agreements with their employees.”

Grants for the OCCSB are expected to increase by $6.5 million for the 2000-2001 school year, but of that total, $4.5 million or 67%, is directly attributable to projected enrolment increases. Therefore, the funding announcement will result in an increase of only $2 million, which represents less than 1% of the Board's 1999-2000 budget of $243 million.

Phil Rocco, Director of Education, said that despite the claim that the best interests of the students are at the forefront of this announcement, the Ministry of Education's funding is woefully inadequate.

“Education funding needs a significant boost if we are to keep up to the demands of the times and offer students the type of education that they need and deserve,” said Mr. Rocco.

New ESL centres

A number of English as a Second Language Centres are being established throughout the Board next school year, which will provide better programming for students.

The ESL Centres will be set up at Frank Ryan Senior Elementary School, St. Patrick's Intermediate School, and St. Pius X, St. Patrick's, Notre Dame and Lester B. Pearson Catholic High Schools. Immaculata High School will maintain its current ESL students, but any new students will be directed to Lester B. Pearson.

The transition to ESL centres will be phased in, starting with the current grade 6 students who are designated as requiring ESL support in grade 7. Students from the grade 7 to OAC level requiring ESL support will be transported to one of these centres. Because of the small number of ESL students at individual intermediate and high schools, a full ESL program can only be provided if these students are moved to a central location.

“Students will get a better ESL program at these centres,” Phil Rocco, Director of Education, told the Board. “The Intermediate and Secondary principals are very supportive of this change.”

ESL support will continue to be provided for elementary students at their present schools. The number of students who will be moved to ESL centres is relatively small. At this point only 16 students will be going to another site. The Board will provide transportation to the ESL centres for these students.

Electronic participation by trustees

The Board recently adopted a policy which permits trustees who are absent from Board meetings to participate in the debate and voting by conference telephone call if necessary. The electronic participation at Board or committee meetings by trustees in the event of an unavoidable absence from the Region or other special circumstances must be requested at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.