The first of seven townhall meetings with Catholic School Councils kicked off at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School on May 13.
Welcoming council members from Annunciation of Our Lord, Regina Mundi, St. Michael, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Thomas More to the board’s “Journeying Together” consultation into the development of its new Multi-Year Strategic Plan, Trustee John Valvasori called it a trial run for the Thoughtexchange parent platform.
“You’re the guinea pigs,” he joked. “You’re the first group the board is putting through this process and how you do tonight will determine how the other families of schools will conduct their survey.”
The townhall meeting was part of a large scale consultation undertaken by the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board seeking input into the development of its 2019-2022 Multi-Year Strategic Plan. Under the Education Act, every school board must create a multi-year plan that outlines long-term strategic priorities and goals.
“We have to know where we’re going, we have to have guidelines to get there and we have to have something that holds us accountable,” Valvasori explained. “And the Multi-Year Strategic Plan, which is done every three to four years, will do that for us.”
He added, “It’s very important to us, as trustees, to ensure that the plan we come up with reflects your wishes, your dreams, what directions you think we should be going as a Catholic school board. So that’s why we have this very comprehensive consultation process wherein we can hear your ideas and gather all of your thoughts.”
A Multi-Year Strategic Plan is important at any time, but is even more important in a time of fiscal restraint and change, said Chairperson Patrick Daly in a video message.
“The development of our plan comes at an ideal time, a time in which we continue to renew the promise of publicly funded Catholic education,” he commented. “Through the process of renewing the promise, what there has been consensus on is that, although the 2,000 year mission of Catholic education has remained unchanged, the strategies by which we realize that mission are clearly in need of review and, in some cases, change.”
To help with its deliberations, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School is consulting widely with its staff, students and parents to glean what it’s doing well, and where it can improve. Feedback is gathered through Thoughtexchange, an online stakeholder engagement tool, and through face-to-face consultations – feedback from which is added to the Thoughtexchange platform.
“Thoughtexchange is different from anything you’ve ever done,” Director of Education David Hansen told the group.
Unlike traditional surveys that ask multiple questions, “Thoughtexchange starts right away with an open-ended opportunity for people to provide feedback into what they think, and then lets you go in and see what other people said,” he elaborated.
Participants not only get to see what others said, but are able to rate their thoughts, and discover emerging trends.
“We’re asking a simple but deep question, but tonight we’ll be looking at it from three different perspectives – Believing, Achieving, Serving.”
That question was: “What do you value most about the programs and services provided by the board, and what do you think we can do better to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of the future?”
Parents had lots to say on the topic, sharing 205 “thoughts” on the platform and rating almost 2,000 thoughts from others over the course of the evening.
Thanking the council members for their participation, Hansen added that their input will help the board to strengthen its focus on ‘Believing, Achieving, Serving.’
He encouraged parents to return to the site often. “The more thoughts you rate, the greater the depth of the information that we have to build a strategic plan.”
“If you have a burning thought in the middle of the night, you can go back in,” he invited. “Or you can just sit back and watch the conversation unfold online.”
The survey is open until June 14th.
Please visit the HWCDSB Multi-Year Strategic Plan Exchange to share your ideas at https://www.hwcdsb.ca/myspconsultation/