MONTREAL, DECEMBER 22, 2010 -The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) Council of Commissioners has voted to allocate $3.1 million from a 2009-2010 operating surplus. These funds will go towards literacy and information technology initiatives, the installation of automated external defibrillators in each school and centre, the upgrading of vocational training centres and local projects.
In September 2009 the EMSB launched a large-scale, balanced literacy initiative for all elementary schools, using a $1.2 million allocation from a previous surplus. This three year plan includes improving the material resources in schools, fostering a balanced approach to literacy development, and ensuring ongoing, sustainable professional development for teachers. Now the EMSB is able to embark upon another three-year plan balanced literacy initiative, with this one directed towards Secondary I and II teachers.
“The aim is to improve the level of expertise of high school teachers in reading instruction, as well as their repertoire of teaching approaches, allowing for a balanced approach to literacy instruction,” states EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini. “This program will also ensure that students involved in the EMSB high school literacy initiative receive regular, explicit, strategy and skills instruction, regardless of student reading levels.”
Another part of the planning is to provide weekly, small-group, guided reading and writing support for all students at their instructional level and high quality reading resources that will allow the individual needs of all students to be addressed. Fostering the creation of collaborative teacher communities within schools, in which teachers have regular opportunities to share and develop expertise, is part of the plan as well.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES INTEGRATION
An allocation of $403,000 has been made to fund the second year of the SEIP (Supplementary English Montreal School Board Information and Communication Technologies Program) initiative where selected teachers receive a Smartboard data projector and laptop for their learning and teaching classroom activities and strategies. The equipment is installed in the classroom to take advantage of immediate access to learning resources linked to the curriculum as well as to students' questions and learning needs The teachers are chosen by the school according to their own procedures. The number of teachers selected by the school is dictated by a formula based on the school's September 30 enrolment figures.
Each teacher selected to receive the equipment must agree to attend three days of professional development during the school year. The first day is to receive the laptop and learn how to use the tools and interactive capabilities of the Smartboard and the associated Notebook software. The second is subject specific where teachers learn about, and create resources, for using the Smartboard within a specific subject and level on the third day, the teachers can either choose a second subject that they teach or they can choose a session dealing with project based learning or advanced use of the Smartboard. All teachers are members of an online portal community called SEIP Teachers where they share resources that they have created, information, tips and tools for using the Smartboard, and websites for use with their students or for their own professional development.
The training sessions are run in English and French, by the EMSB Pedagogical Services ICT team of Maureen Baron, Caroline Dupuis and Kish Gue, who also visit the SEIP equipped classrooms to help the teachers integrate the technology into their teaching and learning classroom activities and strategies.
The Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) has initiated a multi-year ICT program to support technology integration in the classrooms through the creation of a pupil computer ratio of three to four in elementary schools and one to four at the secondary level, while we want to develop 21st century learners for a 21st century knowledge based society.
The lack of targeted and coordinated professional development for technology integration is considered one of the most serious obstacles to fully integrating technology into the curriculum. Traditional one day training sessions or one-time-only workshops have not been the most effective strategy in making teachers comfortable with using technology or adept at integrating it into pedagogy. Instead, a well-planned, ongoing professional development program that is sustained by adequate financial support and leadership, is essential if teachers are to integrate technology appropriately to promote learning for all students.
The SEIP initiative answers this need and supports the development of a MELS Teacher Competency, which is to integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) in the preparation and delivery of teaching and learning activities and for instructional management and professional development purposes. There is a well respected and growing body of research demonstrating the advantages of teachers having personal laptop computers for professional development and for use in their classroom practices.
AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS AND OXYGEN SUPPLY
A total of $180,954 has been approved for the purchase of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for all schools and centres. The EMSB serves more than 35,000 students in the youth and adult sectors and also has more than 5,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers and community/sports groups operating out of school and centre facilities each day. It is with this in mind that such a purchase was brought forward, following up on a similar initiative taken last year by the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
Ms. Mancini notes that the survival rate of victims for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is dismal, she cites recent statistics which indicate that as many as 100 children and teens die each year from sudden cardiac arrest in Canada and that AEDs could save a large number of these victims. “Defibrillation in the first few minutes can dramatically improve cardiac arrest survival rates by more than 50 percent,” she remarked.
Commissioner Joseph Lalla, who first brought this idea forward, said that the necessary training will be provided to designated personnel for the operation of defibrillators. “This initiative will further improve our safety and health preparedness for all our students, but even more importantly for our adults who are more prone to heart attacks,” he said.
Each high school and adult centre will also receive an oxygen tank. Those facilities with a population greater than 1,000 will receive two. Elementary schools will get them as well.
UPGRADING VOCATIONAL FACILITIES
One of the first, and main objectives, in the Strategic Plan for the AEVS is to pursue the creation of “single mission” facilities in those buildings where youth and AEVS co-habitate. For example, Rosemount Technology Centre is presently using the main campus, campus II in Montreal North, the John F. Kennedy Business Centre in St. Michel and the Centre Anjou, a facility of the Commission Scolaire Pointe de l’Ile. In addition, the EMSB would have to do major renovations to be able to offer the welding and fitting program at an existing facility – or alternatively, purchase a commercial type building suited for such a program. Just to implement welding and fitting would require at least $1.5 million without the construction or modification to have a suitable workshop. Considering that this is scheduled to take place only in 2012-2013, a total of $2 million would have to be put away, plus additional funds from a possible future surplus or AEVS generated revenue in order to provide the resources and facility for this program alone.
The remainder of the corporate surplus will be used for local projects at the school and centre level. This could be in the form of building maintenance, new equipment or resources for the school, for example.