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When Parent Source wanted to find out about the changes and challenges facing our Durham public school system, who better to ask than DDSB Chair Michael Barrett; Oshawa native, board member, former teacher and father of six, yes six.
Chair Barrett, the Durham Region has grown tremendously, especially in the last five years; what has been the biggest challenge for the DDSB in coping with this growth, aside from the obvious of needing more schools?


Besides the obvious restraints of not having an adequate funding model from the Ministry of Education  for the building and refurbishing of schools, Durham faces many other issues with the growth that we are experiencing. These challenges are:

 1. Funding - not only for capital assets but for programming.
As our population changes we need to ensure that our programming reflects both the community and provincial standards and expectations.

 2. Special Education – there are glaring needs within this community.We need to ensure that we give the same educational opportunity to every single student within our region; to allow students to reach their full potential.  Not only is there a need to recognize a new funding model, but to recognize that our outreach needs to continue to expand; we need to ensure adequate resourcing and skills within our professional staff.

 3. Communication – with a growing population, how do we ensure that parents are communicated with in an effective manner? How do we insure that the broader community is involved within our education system? Our public education system is the greatest gift we can give to the next generation, but how do we ensure community involvement and commitment? How do we ensure that those communities without a voice have one?

 4. Standards - The ministry continues to centralize its control of programming, negotiations and public standards.  We need to ensure that our region reflects the needs of its community and not a centralized, monolithic educational monopoly.  We need education to give the foundations to our children, but we need to insure that it reflects the diverse and divergent needs of our local community.  

 5. Diversity - we have to recognize that our community is changing.  We have to continue to recognize the needs of our diverse communities - and it to recognize that they are broader than we can imagine; new communities versus old communities; growing schools versus declining enrolments; north versus south, and  rural versus urban. We have many communities to represent and include.

 Are there any changes or new programs that Durham parents can look forward to seeing this 2006/07 school year that will make DDSB schools a better place to learn?

The Ministry continues to raise the bar both on programming and standards. We can expect the following:

  • Continued discussion on class size caps
  • Programming to keep our children in school until they are 18 years of age
  • Changing standards on special education funding and programming
  • Programs that offer high risk students an avenue to return to school
  • Further nutritional restrictions within our schools
  • Mandatory physical education requirements
  • Further testing, analysis and specific program funding.

Parents often have ideas for changes or improvements they'd like to see to their child's school or education, but they don't always know who to speak with, or   how to get involved. How would you suggest parents get involved in not only their child's education, but in making DDSB schools better places?  

I believe it is important first and foremost to keep the lines of communication open with your child's teacher.  They are the first and greatest resource for information and aid. Our teachers are committed to student success.

Second, get involved with your School Community Council.  It is an avenue to become involved at your child's school.  Not everyone can give as much time to events but if you can attend a meeting a month, it gives you an opportunity to interact with the staff and Principal at the school.  Many schools provide child minding to facilitate attendance.

Third, search the web.  There is a lot of information available, especially on the local Durham District School Board and the Ministry of Education websites.

Fourth, the Regional SCC (School Community Council) run by parents with children in Durham public schools, provide a minimum of three sessions a year providing information.  The Parents as Partners conference is a real opportunity for information.

Fifth, attend Durham District School Board Meetings. Get to know your Trustee - use them as your advocate.

Lastly, talk to your child. Know, through their eyes, what is going on at your school.

Parents are the strongest advocates for their children.  We should not be shy in fulfilling this role.
You're a former teacher, and a father of six, how did you find yourself as DDSB Chair?

Certainly I am committed to the public education system.  With six children, I have a great deal at stake in the educational system.  My motto is that long after governments fall, ministers change, trustees move on, systems change, my children will carry their educational experience with them for a lifetime.  It is important to be involved, to influence and advocate for our children and our community.  It is one of the biggest investments we make in our society.  I became involved because I have six children and as all parents, care about what happens within our school system.







For more information on the Durham District School and its programs, visit the DDSB website.