UCDSB talks equity and inclusion

·2 min read

MORRISBURG – The topic of equity and inclusion played a large part in the most recent Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) meeting. During the March 24 virtual event, superintendent of schools David Coombs presented an update for the 2018-2020 installment of UCDSB’s Equity and Inclusion Plan, which included a summary of results, as well as suggestions for next steps. He said his last update to the board was March 13, 2020, just before the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was announced. “I would say that the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of equity and inclusion, and I would say certainly coming out of the pandemic, in a post-pandemic world, equity and inclusion will be a critical element in the success of our students and to this board,” Coombs said. Among the seven key deliverables listed for the 2018-2020 plan, only two were listed as completed: review and establish self-reflection and self-assessment tools to determine the effectiveness of the school’s equity and inclusive education plans and procedures; and implement a procedure for the support and accommodation of transgender and gender non-conforming students. The remaining five deliverables are all listed as “progressing.” As for next steps, Coombs recommended an external review of UCDSB’s policies, procedures, and practices “through an equity and inclusion lens.” He noted that the process of hiring an external reviewer is already underway and the plan is for the results to be used in defining the board’s 2021-2023 Equity and Inclusion Plan. Trustee Corina Parisien, one of only two women on the 10-person board, asked how the board could improve diversity. Coombs said many boards are already spending significant time on this issue and he believes that hiring an external reviewer is the best place to start, as it will give a “good outside viewpoint of us.” The discussion ended with comments from board chair John McAllister: “As enlightened as I think I am, I’m aware of my own ignorance to a certain extent on the complexities that are involved in this whole thing. I’m extremely pleased that our policies are updated and current. We are gathering data based on our surveys. We sometimes don’t know what we don’t know, and if we listen, we’ll learn more. So, we are listening. Our antennas are raised to a heightened extent right now, and we are availing ourselves of various resources. We are prepared to act and this external review, I think, is an excellent opportunity. I think we are on the right track.”

Sandy Casselman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chesterville Record