Director General's Report to Council
for January 2022

par Cindy Finn, Directrice générale, CSLBP

Every year in early January, it is customary to wish each other Happy New Year/Bonne Année! It is a time when we can share warm thoughts and well wishes for the months ahead. Even though January has come and gone, I will still extend New Year’s greetings to everyone, partly because it is the first DG report of 2022 but also because the start of February also marks the Chinese or Lunar New Year. To me, it is encouraging that this holiday is also referred to in Asia as the Spring Festival. Although Spring here in North America is more than a little ways off, it is heartening to think about the end of cold winter days and the arrival of a new season that symbolizes new beginnings and growth.

This new year of 2022 began a little unusually with a delay to in-person learning. Our first official day back was January 5th, and we had eight days of remote learning imposed by public health restrictions. During this period, our elementary schools opened their doors to welcome students who required daycare services. I wish to acknowledge our daycare educators, daycare co-ordinators, and administrators who heeded the call to offer essential daycare services as a time where there was much uncertainty about what this latest wave of the pandemic would bring. I offer words of appreciation and admiration to you, our essential workers, for keeping our children safe and able to continue their remote learning.

The mandated shutdown in January allowed more time to put in place some of the new measures and procedures now required by the Quebec government. We needed to pivot away from the reporting system of positive covid cases established by Santé Publique and the Ministry of Education and begin reporting on student and staff absences. We also spent time working with our health and social service partners to understand and communicate with our community about the new procedures regarding isolation for known or suspected Covid cases. We also benefited from the extra time to continue installing carbon dioxide monitors in our schools and centres and communicating with staff about how to maximize ventilation in our buildings. Since reopening, we have also received and distributed the much-anticipated rapid tests to our elementary schools. The second round of vaccination clinics in our elementary schools is now underway. January was a busy month!

With the return to in-person instruction, so too comes the return of other familiar routines. On January 21, we had a board-wide pedagogical day, and that was an opportunity for all Lester B. Pearson administrators and staff to participate in various professional learning activities. Professionals from the Student Services and Educational Services Departments provided a menu of workshops that were oriented around the theme of inclusion, a priority we have identified as we continue our efforts to tackle issues of equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI). The upcoming regional pedagogical days will afford another opportunity for us to continue our EDI journey and help us move forward on our collective journey toward organizational change. February also marks the start of Black History month, a time when our schools and centres can celebrate the contributions of Black Canadians, both past and present.

We are now squarely in the second half of the year and with that come signs that we are beginning preparations for the 2022-23 school year. All elementary and secondary virtual open houses have taken place, budget consultations are in progress, registration and reregistration are underway, and students who will be graduating are busy making their plans for the next step in their education or career path. Our board-wide virtual career fair took place on January 25th; this was an occasion not only for our senior students to learn more about their post-secondary options but was also an opportunity for our adult education and vocational training centres to showcase their fine program offerings. This year’s event surpassed last year’s participation rate; we had over 3200 registrations and there were 27, 879 visits to individual booths. Quite the success!

In closing, I wish to draw attention to events that took place at the end of January which are a cause for deep reflection. These are difficult times; there are many reminders all around us that hate and intolerance continue to be forces against which we must fight. The recent discovery of 93 suspected burial sites in Williams Lake B.C. was another sobering reminder of wrongs done to indigenous children that need to be righted. January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and January 29th marked the 5th anniversary of the Quebec City Mosque shooting which has become a National Day of remembrance and action against islamophobia. Both of these serve as calls to remember and pledge to do better as a society. These days were marked in different ways in our schools and centres but the common message is that as an education system, we have an imperative to teach our students about the suffering and the wrongs of the past in the hopes of building a future that is more peaceful and just.

As we continue to find our way through this pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the importance of support and kindness. Together we really are better, and I urge us to find examples of goodness and emphasize those, rather than resort to cynicism and sarcasm for the former breeds hope while the latter only culminates in hate. We are at the start of a new year, so there is still time for us to plant seeds of hope and grace that will bloom and grow in the seasons to come.