Director General's Report to Council for February 2023
by Cindy Finn, Director General, LBPSB
February is a month of recognition and appreciation at Lester B. Pearson. There are many events and opportunities to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the people and cultures around us. Three such examples will form the basis of my report this month.
Les journées de la perseverance scolaire or Hooked on Schools week took place the week of February 13-17th. This is an annual provincial event celebrating the resilience of students and emphasizing the importance of staying in school. In Montreal, the week was launched with a special event that took place at our very own Beurling Academy in Verdun on the morning of February 13th. The Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, along with spokesperson Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, MNAs, municipal officials and community partners were on hand to discuss the importance of remaining in school, supporting our students, and helping them stay on the path toward personal success.
We were very proud to be a part of this launch; it was the first time the event has been held in person in a school in many years. It was an absolute honour for us to host this event at Beurling since it afforded an opportunity for Principal Jason Ferris and some of his students to talk about what helps to keep them motivated and engaged in school. Continuing education was also featured as a wonderful pathway for students seeking to return to school to get their secondary diploma or pursue a trade. One of our students from Verdun Adult and Career Centre (VACC) spoke eloquently about his very positive experience in the General Building Maintenance program. It was also the second time that Mr. Drainville has visited our school board since he became Minister, and he again reiterated how impressed he was with our students and staff.
Speaking of staff, Feb 13-17 was also staff appreciation week at Lester B. Pearson. Each February, we reserve a week in which we pay tribute to our entire team, to thank our caretakers, support staff, teachers, professionals, and administrators for the dedication and care they bring to their role in education. Each day during the week we focused on a particular employee group and shared messages written by parents and students who expressed their gratitude for the educators in their lives. Many home and school associations also took this opportunity to shower kindness upon our schools and centres by providing food and other tokens of appreciation for staff. We should remember to share our appreciation all year long, because education is much more than just lesson plans and report cards; it is a vocation where people are committed to making a positive difference in the lives of students.
I will end my report this evening by talking about Black History Month. All across North America, February is recognized as a time to place particular emphasis on Black history and culture. It is as much about recognizing harmful history and mistakes of the past as it is about celebrating Black culture. Many of our schools and centres do celebrate the richness of Black history and hold cultural events – scroll through the Instagram posts of most schools and centres and you will find pictures of African drumming and dancing, Caribbean-inspired meals, and other forms of cultural upliftment and appreciation. What you will also find, more and more, that this is also an opportunity for our students to learn more about Black Canadians and the ongoing struggles of Black Canadians. These struggles are not just rooted in the past; anti-Black racism and discrimination are present today. We still see them in individual interactions, and we also know we have work to do to change systems for the better. Recent events affecting our own students in the community show that as a collective, we all have work to do to send a clear message that there is no place for hate and maltreatment in all of the living spaces that humans inhabit, be they classrooms, school yards, ice rinks, or shopping centres. We have made a commitment in our school board to address all forms of prejudice and discrimination. That commitment lasts well beyond Black History month and involves all of us. I am proud to say that our schools and centres are tackling social justice issues and many of our students are taking the lead in actively working to end anti-Black racism, but we all must do our part to create a stronger community that is rooted in kindness and caring. There is clearly more work to do, and this extends far beyond the month of February.