Public School Board Update

By Shawn Menard, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Trustee

Gifted Program Review

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board has been going through what I would characterize as a massive change-management undertaking. There have been changes proposed by senior staff to the way we deliver programming in JK/SK, changes in course offerings for adult learners, severe budget constraints and learning-disability program changes, among others. A review is ongoing of boundaries and learning accommodation (read: potential closures).

Senior board staff have now approached trustees with recommended changes to the Gifted program.

Staff brought the following recommended changes to trustees at a recent meeting:

1. Segregated classes for Gifted students in Grades 1 to 4 would be eliminated.
2. Segregated classes for Gifted students would remain in Grades 5 to 8, but more variety would be offered. One stream of classes would be offered for children who are gifted in one area, but challenged in another. Another stream would be for the profoundly gifted (above the 99.6 percentile of the population). An ‘inquiry’ stream would be available to all.
3. The number of secondary schools offering segregated gifted classes would be reduced from four to three, eliminating the program at Merivale High School.
4. A new screening process would be introduced in Grade 3 that would include measures to try to get rid of bias in the selection process and possibly broaden the definition of gifted.
5. Students would be offered a place in a Gifted program at one school; parents could not request placement at another school.

At that meeting, trustees listened to more than 20 delegations and to staff detailing the report. The primary issue around the table was that trustees were not happy with what was perceived as a lack of a proper consultation plan and the timelines being imposed (implementation for Sept 2017). They had concerns about the changes themselves. I personally support some of the changes (a new screening process that provides better equity). I oppose others (elimination of Grade 1-4 gifted).

A vote was taken and trustees approved having staff come back to the board with a far more comprehensive consultation plan, a general issue that I have felt very strongly about since becoming a trustee in 2014.

The next steps will be to review that consultation plan and discuss and incorporate community feedback into our decision-making on this issue.

If you have questions or comments you wish to share with me, please send them to Shawn.Menard@ocdsb.ca

All the best,

Shawn

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