End of School Year Message from School Board Chair Val Windsor

Category: DistrictSchool

At the June 7 Public Board Meeting, Chair Val Windsor delivered the following end of academic year message.

As you know, this is our final Public Board Meeting of the 2021/2022 school year, and as is customary, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the events of the past year.

This time last year, I gave a statement on behalf of the Delta Board of Education following the awful discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since then, Indigenous investigations have found evidence of more than 1,100 graves across the country. Sadly, I’m sure that more will be found. The suffering of Indigenous children and families as a result of the Indian Residential School System is truly shocking and inexcusable, and continues to weigh heavily on our hearts.

Across the school district, led by our Indigenous Education Department, we remain committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. Throughout the month of June, the Indigenous Education Department will be acknowledging and raising up Indigenous voices during the weekly virtual Monday Morning Acknowledgments, and will be encouraging all learners and teachers to explore in depth the true history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples across Canada.

During the past year, the district has continued to expand on the important diversity and antiracism initiatives that have taken place in recent years. In the fall, Delta’s Antiracism Committee used a staff survey to gather baseline data on antiracism. More than 430 district staff participated and the survey results were shared with staff recently. I encourage you to take a look at the summary, which can be found on the district’s website. The survey results have been extremely helpful in identifying areas where the district needs to deliberately focus time and attention in order to move forward if we are to make every student and staff member feel valued, seen and heard.

Another important antiracism initiative was completed by students recently. Last year, the district received a grant of $10,000 to support a student-initiated project to provide voice and action against racism in our schools. One of the key deliverables from this is an educational video to help increase community understanding related to racism. The video will be shown in all classes, and will be shared on the district website shortly. If we are to achieve our Vision of being an innovative, inclusive community where all learners belong and everyone soars, all members of our school communities must feel safe, valued and respected.

Speaking of our Vision, we launched our new Vision for 2030 at the end of October following several months of extensive engagement with staff, students, families, education partners and local First Nations. Through a variety of conversations and activities including Zoom calls, online surveys, whiteboard spaces and photo murals, the voices of almost 3,000 individuals were heard, resulting in a new Vision, Mission and Values that we are confident reflects the wishes of our key stakeholders as we support Delta’s students present and future.

In line with our Vision for 2030 and strategic plan, we initiated a new important public engagement process to help stakeholders learn more about the budget and give them a chance to provide their feedback and ideas.  In addition to the usual budget meeting with the Delta Teachers’ Association (DTA), CUPE 1091 and the Delta Principals and Vice Principals Association (DPVPA), the district held a budget webinar for the public on February 23 that contained presentations and short videos aimed at explaining the budget process and providing an overview of district departments and their priorities.

The district also hosted a budget public engagement session on March 8 to encourage discussion and gather important feedback from the community on their funding priorities for the draft budget. Following the release of the 2022/2023 draft budget, the district held a Special Budget Consultation Board Meeting on May 3 to listen to stakeholders’ feedback on the draft budget. Participants were also encouraged to send feedback via email and/or complete an online survey. The engagement process provided an opportunity to have valuable conversations with our stakeholders and learn how we can best support each other through these challenging times, and we are extremely appreciative to all who participated.

As we entered this school year, our hope was that we would see a return to closer-to-normal learning experiences for students. Although it took several months, most health and safety measures were lifted by the end of March. By mid of April, we were thrilled to be able to return to 100% capacity for school gathering and events. This opened the way for school musicals and theatre productions, sports events and most importantly, graduation celebrations. Our Secondary Schools put on some amazing performances – from Who’s Dying to be a Millionaire? and The Addams Family to Little Shop of Horrors and Matilda! It’s been so wonderful to see students participating in activities and events, and having fun together.

To our 2022 graduates, we are extremely proud of you and hope you are proud of yourselves. Your resiliency over the past couple of years is impressive. I’m sure you won’t forget these last few years at high school! They have been unconventional to say the least! Wherever you are headed next, have faith in how far you can go and please accept our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling future! Congratulations, graduates of 2022!

I am so proud of our staff for yet again providing in-class instruction throughout the entire 2021/2022 school year. With the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the province, we consider ourselves fortunate that we did not have to initiate a ‘functional closure’ of any of our schools. Unfortunately, not all school districts were so lucky. A huge thank you to all of our staff for their continued hard work and commitment. We know this year has been another tough go for everyone.

As a result of the increase in COVID cases, in January, the Delta Board of Education directed the school district to create and implement a Proof of Vaccination Regarding COVID-19 Operations Procedure to help protect the health and safety of both staff and students. District staff who are unvaccinated or who failed to disclose their vaccination are required to undergo regular rapid testing in order to continue work, or take an Extraordinary Leave Of Absence. We feel very strongly about protecting students and staff and believe anything we can do to reduce their risk of getting COVID, lessen the severity of their symptoms or reduce their time away from work or school is worth doing.

Our Inclusive Education Department continued to provide support and learning opportunities for parents and caregivers. More than 25 free online workshops and seminars were offered during the past school year. Topics included dating in the teen world, career conversations, social media awareness, maintaining a positive relationship with food, supporting child experience trauma, preparing for kindergarten, and talking to kids about drugs and alcohol. These events were well attended and much appreciated by participants.

Last year, the district partnered with the City of Delta and Delta Police Department to develop the End the Stigma campaign which used various channels such as social media and bus shelter advertising to share the message that substance use is a reality in our communities. Sadly, the opioid crisis continues to worsen in B.C. On April 13, the district joined forces with the City of Delta, Delta Police Department, Fraser Health Authority, and Tsawwassen First Nation and participated in the End the Stigma Community Forum. The forum featured panelists and a Q&A session on navigating the opioid crisis as a family member, opioid user or community partner. As the opioid crisis continues to claim lives here in Delta, it is so important that we, as a community, need to continue to take an honest look at how to best support drug users and those suffering from addiction.

On a more positive note, students have continued to show leadership and citizenship in developing fundraisers to help those in need in our community, with fundraising initiatives such as the Delta Secondary food drive, Hope 4 Hope Flood Food Drive, Sands Secondary Ukraine fundraiser and Delview’s Thanks 4 Giving Food Drive, to name just a few!

In closing, I would like to thank all of students, parents, staff and community partners for their hard work, dedication and commitment as we bid farewell to yet another pandemic-affected school year. Let’s hope the 2022/2023 school year will see the pandemic have far less of an impact.

Wishing everyone a restful and enjoyable summer.