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New school board committee to discuss program issues

Smaller group allows for better deliberations, vice-chair says

 By Richard Leitner, News Staff

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is creating a subcommittee to delve into program-related issues and monitor the success of a new secondary strategy that will let students attend schools outside of their area for specialty courses.

Vice-chair Todd White said he hopes trustees will approve the terms of reference for the new program committee by the end of this month, allowing for an inaugural meeting in April.

If so, it will become the fifth special subcommittee, joining those dealing with governance, policy, finance and human resources.

White, who pushed for the new subcommittee, said the board presently lacks a vehicle to address issues like French immersion and high school programming, which means they go directly to the board’s standing committee of all 11 trustees.

That’s too unwieldy to allow for the full discussion possible at subcommittees, which typically have three to five members, the Ward 5 trustee said.

“As trustees, one of the larger concerns we hear from parents are program suggestions,” White said.

“To this point we haven’t had much opportunity, except behind the scenes, to weigh in on programming, so this brings it to a transparent, democratic committee where parents can even come,” he said.

“They can provide a public delegation, they can speak to us, we can receive correspondence, and we can actually speak as a trustee committee on what we want to do with that correspondence or request and move it through the proper channels.”

Board chair Jessica Brennan said she supports the new committee, although she is concerned about adding to trustees’ workload – an objection raised by Mountain trustee Lillian Orban, who cast the lone vote against the plan last month.

“It’s pretty hard to have a lot of committees because you’re using the same people over and over again and they get worn out,” Brennan said.

“Having said that, there are large pieces of work that come directly to the board table that have great impact and implications in terms of programs,” she said.

“It allows for some new ideas to be sought out and tested and some proposals to be considered, and then they can go to the whole group at the board level and the board can put its considerable thinking onto it as well.”

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