In the News at the DDSB...


At DDSB, School's in for summer

School may be out for most students in Durham District School Board (DDSB) schools, but that’s not necessarily the case for their teachers.

Professional development continues through the summer months, culminating with the annual Summer Learning Institute, a series of workshops offered to teachers, mainly at the DDSB Education Centre in Whitby, running through much of August.

Workshops range from part-days to several days in length and run a wide gamut of topics, from instructional strategies to special education to the arts to equity.

“It’s our goal to build a community of learners,” said DDSB Superintendent of Education/Program Services, Luigia Ayotte.  “We know quality education is supported by system-wide professional development for staff, and we strive to provide them with the types of learning opportunities they need to help drive student achievement and make schools a welcoming, safe place for all.”

More than 450 DDSB staff members, including teachers, administrators and other staff attended the Summer Learning Institute last year.


“These workshops help staff develop everything from differentiated instructional strategies to effective use of technology to skills in First Aid and CPR,” Ayotte  said. “Our staff works hard in the summer to ensure we have a real culture of system-wide professional growth and development.”


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Port Perry High School students take top prizes in writing contest

Port Perry High School (PPHS) students have taken top prizes in both the French and English categories of the Hong Kong Veterans’ Commemorative Association (HKVCA) Cross-Canada Writing Contest.

Jake Foster won the English side while Josianne Garriock took top honours on the French side of the contest, entitled “Portraits of Valour/Portraits de Courage,” at the Junior (Grade 9 and 10) level.

Top prize was $150.

“This is a national contest, and they are competing against students from all over Canada,” said PPHS teacher Nancy Hamer-Strahl. “We are very proud of them here at PPHS.”

The HKVCA is an organization dedicated to educating Canadians on the role of Canadian soldiers in the Battle of Hong Kong, which took place during the Second World War.

More information on the writing contest can be found at



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Challenge Track and Field Meet brings more than 500 Durham District School Board athletes to Oshawa

By mid-day on Friday, June 15, 2012, Uxbridge Secondary School student Laurence Broome already had two first-place showings at the Challenge Track and Field meet, but heading into the 100 metre dash, his final event of the day, he wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“There are some really athletic people here,” said Broome, fresh from a personal best showing in the high jump.

“I was really happy about that,” he said.

As he should be, said Durham District School Board chair Joe Allin.

“Congratulations to all the athletes who took part,” he said. “Thanks, too, to the many coaches who have worked so hard to help their students to such amazing achievements.”


Broome was among more than 500 athletes with special needs at the tenth annual Challenge Track and Field meet at Civic Fields in Oshawa. And while he was focused on competing, he also had another goal in mind.

“We come here to support each other and say, ‘Good job,’” he said.

That’s what it’s all about, said Oshawa trustee Larry Jacula who was in attendance at the event.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to not only show what fine athletes they are, but to encourage each other,” he said. “You just have to listen from the stands to hear the calls of encouragement – not just from coaches but between athletes.”

The meet included a full array of track and field events, including running, high jump, running long jump, ball throw and shot-put. The day kicked off with the reading of the Athletes’ Oath, and a release of doves, which circled the field just as events began.

Donald A. Wilson Secondary School students Erich Weiss and Austin Beelen also sported first-place ribbons for events they had participated in. The two said they had been training for some time during their Adaptive Phys. Ed. classes at school. But beyond the competition, there was something else they were both at the event to do.


“I’m looking forward to seeing friends,” said Weiss, as Beelen nodded in agreement. “I’ve been coming here since I was little. You get to see your friends from childhood.”


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Durham District School Board Staff Development Officer Recognized by Local PFLAG Group

Durham District School Board (DDSB) Education Officer for Staff Development Barry Bedford has been honoured by the Durham Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) for “making a difference.”

Bedford recently received PFLAG Durham’s Champions Against Homophobia/Transphobia Award. He was congratulated for this honour Monday, June 18, 2012, at a Board meeting.

The award is granted to individuals, organizations and companies in the public, private or non-profit sector making a difference to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, by a variety of means. They include encouraging employees, volunteers, students or clients to use inclusive language that does not assume sexual orientation or gender identity; advocating zero tolerance for homophobic and transphobic slurs; and creating safe spaces or connections through which people can discuss personal issues pertaining to sexual orientation or gender identity.

In his role with the DDSB, Bedford has championed the goals the award recognizes, by helping to craft documents like the recently-produced “Happens to be . . . “, a guide to introducing LGBT issues to students in age-appropriate ways. He’s aided in implementation of the Provincially-mandated Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, and helped form a group for LGBT DDSB staff to get together and share experiences, seek support and ensure working and learning environments are welcoming places for all. He has worked to ensure diversity is reflected in learning materials for students.

“Barry has gone well above and beyond in ensuring we are talking about and modeling equity throughout the DDSB,” said Luigia Ayotte, Superintendent of Education/Programs. “His work goes a long way toward our goal of making our facilities welcoming and inclusive environments for all.”

But while Bedford accepted and was named on the award, he shies away from taking all the credit.

“I may be the face of this work, but it would not be possible without the full support of DDSB administration, staff and trustees,” he said. “I believe the DDSB is leading the way in providing the supports we require to achieve true equity.”

Pictured here with Barry Bedford on the left is Vice Chairperson and Pickering Trustee, Chris Braney and Board Chairperson Joe Allin. Barry is holding his son Jayden.

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Durham District School Board Researcher Awarded for Leadership and Achievement

Durham District School Board (DDSB) educational researcher Chris Conley has been granted an award by the Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association (CERA), recognizing him for leadership and achievement in his field.

The award is granted annually to an educational researcher based in the province in which CERA’s annual conference is held. This year’s event, at which the award was presented, was held in late May in Waterloo.

Conley said he was “surprised and very honoured” on learning he had been selected to receive the award, which is granted to recognize leadership and achievement in the field of evidence-based educational research.


An almost two decade veteran of his field, Conley has worked with the DDSB since 2004. His role is varied: as a research analyst, he works with various Board departments, analyzing student results on EQAO and other assessment results, supporting the Board with Ministry of Education projects, development of surveys and data collection and analysis.

He knows how it sounds.

“People can have the impression that research is dry and dull, but when you are trying to answer a question regarding a group of students you care about, or if you want to explore whether a program you have spent a lot of time and energy on is helping students or administrators you can’t help but be passionate,” he said.

Conley is a member of an array of research networks in Ontario, and currently sits on the executive of the Early Years Education Ontario Network and as chair of the Hierarchical Linear Model Learning and Research community.

His goal, says Conley, is to make research findings accessible and engaging.

“The answers to research questions aren’t always the ones we might hope for, but the best research invites enthusiastic discussion and more questions,” he said. “I’m grateful to be part of that.”

Pictured here with Chris Conley in the middle of the photo is Vice Chairperson and Pickering Trustee, Chris Braney (left) and Board Chairperson Joe Allin (on right)..

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Port Perry High School teacher honoured with Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

What started as a quest to find information for a young boy with a photo of his grandfather, about whom he knew only that he was a Veteran of the Battle of Hong Kong, has led to an award commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee for Port Perry High School Teacher Nancy Hamer Strahl.

Hamer Strahl received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recently at a ceremony in Niagara Falls, after being nominated by the Hong Kong Veteran's Commemorative Association (HKVCA).

The medal, which marks the 60th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II taking the Throne, honours significant contributions or achievements by Canadians.

(pictured here with Nancy Hamer Strahl (left) is Derrill Henderson - vice chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada and Flora Fung, Department Head of Canadian World Studies at Oshawa Central Collegiate. Flora is also an award winner of the Queen's Diamond Jublie Medal)

Hamer Strahl has long worked alongside the HKVCA, to help ensure Canadians remember the role of Canadian soldiers in the Second World War Battle of Hong Kong.

“This whole journey started with a little boy who came up to me with a picture,” recalled Hamer Strahl. “He said, ‘I don’t know anything about my grandpa, except that he was a Hong Kong Veteran.”

Hamer Strahl started doing research, eventually attending HKVCA national conferences and forging relationships with the group. It also helped lead to a trip to Hong Kong with students, and soon, a book of pieces of personal reflection, compiled by students and made up, in large part, of interviews with Veterans, called Passing the Torch: Our Youth Remembers Hong Kong.

In turn, the HKVCA made Hamer Stahl an honorary member, bestowed an array of honours upon her, and eventually, nominated her for the most recent honour.

“They sent me an email two weeks ago, and I literally almost fell off my chair,” she said. “It was so touching.”

The organization has never forgotten that “DDSB teachers really took an interest in their story,” said Hamer Strahl.
Clearly, it’s appreciated.

“We haven’t forgotten them, and they never forget us,” Hamer Strahl said.


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Oshawa Central Collegiate teacher receives Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

Helping students make connections between the classroom and everyday life while honouring Veterans has led to an award commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for Oshawa Central Collegiate Institute History Teacher Flora Fung.

Fung was nominated for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Hong Kong Veteran’s Commemorative Association (HKVCA) for her work in “ensuring that the story of the Battle of Hong Kong continues to be told,” said an email from  HKVCA Regional Director for Ontario, Mike Babin.

The medal, which marks the 60th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II taking the Throne, honours significant contributions or achievements by Canadians.

The award is the result of Fung’s extensive work with the group, beginning with her hearing about nine Oshawa Veterans of the Second World War’s Battle of Hong Kong who had not previously been recognized locally. She worked to have the Veterans “adopted” by her school, ensuring a plaque commemorating their involvement now hangs at Oshawa Central, and is honoured each Remembrance Day.

Hearing more about young men who walked the same streets as them helped bring history alive for her students, Fung said, noting that is key to teaching history.

“I try to make as many external connections as possible to what they’re doing in the classroom,” she said.

Fung continues to work with the HKVCA though the Portraits of Valour writing contest, which is open to students across Canada. Through the contest, five Hong Kong Veterans are honoured each year.

Fung received her medal from a member of the HKCVA at a ceremony held recently in Niagara Falls.

“It is certainly my pleasure to tell a part of Canadian history that is often forgotten about,” Fung said.

(photo): Flora Fung, Department Head of Canadian World Studies at Oshawa Central Collegiate (left) stands with Nancy Hamer Strahl from Port Perry High School, also an award winner of the Queen's Diamond Jublie Medal.


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Toronto Blue Jay pitcher brings healthy choices message to Fallingbrook Public School

When it comes to the message about healthy choices he delivered to Fallingbrook Public School on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Blue Jays relief pitcher Luis Perez didn’t just talk the talk – he also danced the dance.

Perez spent about an hour with Grade 6 students at the Whitby school, as part of a Blue Jays community outreach program aimed at promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle to school-aged children.

The relief pitcher, Blue Jays representatives said, wasn’t confident enough in his English to conduct the event in his second language. But that didn’t present a problem at Fallingbrook, where students greeted him in his native Spanish, and teacher Ian Gill’s bilingual wife, Danoris, was on hand to act as translator.

“He was really happy this group tried to speak his language,” Danoris Gill said, after translating for Perez through a question-and-answer period, during which Perez, through Gill, passed along the healthy choices message.

“Focus on your studies, but take time to relax and play sports,” he said. “Have fun."

It wasn’t just talk. After the question-and-answer session, Perez joined students, along with Blue Jays’ mascot Ace and members of the J-Force Fan Activation Team (otherwise known as the people who run the Seventh Inning Stretch during Blue Jays’ home games), as they took to the gym for an action-filled dance work-out.

That was the best part of the visit, agreed Grade 6 students Kamal Baines, 12, and Alexis Angrove, 11.

“I liked the part where you got to do any baseball move you wanted,” said Baines, who chose to show his grand-slam swing during the dance portion.

Despite the language barrier, Perez’ message to students was clear, Angrove said.

“Stay active and fit,” she said.

Having a Blue Jay visit is an excellent way to get that message across, said Teacher Ian Gill.

“I don’t think you can overstate how much it meant to the students,” he said. “We push the idea of exercise and healthy eating every day, but hearing that message from an elite athlete? That’s something they’ll never forget.”

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Focus Is on Fun at ADAPTS Track and Field Event

The focus was on fun as the Durham District School Board’s ADAPTS (Athletes Doing Accessible Programs Through Sport) program held its ‘Smiles for Miles’ track and field festival at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering recently.

The event gave student-athletes with special needs an opportunity to participate in events at the school’s track.

“It’s a chance to take part in this kind of event at an appropriate level of friendly competition,” said Pat Martorelli, DDSB’s ADAPTS coordinator.

With music pumping in the background and the sun shining brightly overhead, students participated in events including races, an obstacle course and a ball-toss.

“We practiced every day” before the event, said Misty-Jo McLean, a G. L. Roberts student, as she proudly displayed a “Champion” ribbon. “The running part’s the fun part. It’s what I like to do.”

The focus was on participating, noted Senior Associated Teacher Marianne Schwartz.

“It’s competitive enough, but not focused on the importance of winning,” she said. “Everybody plays and that’s very important.”


ADAPTS provides student-athletes with a variety of opportunities for personal growth through sport, and held four events this year: track and field, basketball, floor hockey and t-ball.


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DDSB Outdoor Environmental Education staff honoured by Region of Durham

Outdoor and Environmental Education staff with the Durham District School Board (DDSB) have been honoured by the Region of Durham for the work they do in fostering effective communication, sharing knowledge and exhibiting leadership in helping others learn about the natural environment.

The Irene Kock Education/Communication award, named for a dedicated Durham-based environmentalist who died in 2001, was presented recently to staff from the program.

Staff from the DDSB’s three Outdoor and Environmental Education Centres – Duffins Creek, Nonquon and Durham Forest – “provide high quality environmental programming and outdoor experiences for over 15,000 Durham students a year,” said Luigia Ayotte, Superintendent of Education, Program Services.

“At all three centres, ecological environmental stewardship is taught through outdoor experiences that are effective and enjoyable,” she added.

“Programs offered compliment the curriculum and give students a real opportunity for some experiential learning.”

Leaders from each of the centres were presented with plaques to hang at the facilities

Pictured here from left to right in the back row are DDSB Chairperson, Joe Allin, Director of Education, Martyn Beckett, and DDSB Vice Chairperson, Chris Braney. In the front row from left to right is CaraLee Gregory, Outdoor Education Instructor, Facilitators, Michael Morandin and Jay Thibert, Interpreter, Cathy Galberg and DDSB Facilitators, Jason Bellinger and Susan Bolt-Stephenson.


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Sinclair SS helping other young women break the cycle of "Miss Representation"

What started as a few friends watching a movie about how women tend to be misrepresented in media blossomed into a full-day conference helping to empower other young women to help break down stereotypes.

The Girl Meets World Conference, held Tuesday May 29 at the Durham District School Board Education Centre, was organized by Sinclair Secondary School Grade 11 students Khrystal Sturridge, Ouvedi Rama Naiken, Dayna Lau, Shalini Ramgoolam and Karin Onno.

The event initially stemmed from a discussion amongst some female high school students about an interest in forming a women’s rights club. Then, some of the group viewed the movie “Miss Representation,” which delves into the idea that youth are “being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality,” reads the movie’s website. The movie strives to eradicate gender stereotyping to create lasting sociological change.

“A conversation started,” Rama Naiken said. “The movie really made us think.”

The group of young women, with support from their school, set about putting the conference together, inviting their peers from other schools to view the movie and engage in conversation about the issues into which the movie delves. There were also workshops and a panel discussion with a number of adult women.

Panelists included Jennifer Nash of Girls Inc., an organization aimed at encouraging girls to be strong, smart and bold; Shannon Clarke of Denise House, an Oshawa-based emergency shelter for abused women and their children; Gloria Garvie of Roots of Character, a group that works to help girls recognize their own value; and author Kelley Armstrong.

The Durham District School Department Safe Schools Departments believes:

  • Each student is unique
  • Each student is valued
  • Each student is welcome
  • Each student is supported
  • Each student has an important voice
  • We are better together

The ideas found in Miss Representation came as no surprise to Armstrong, who said she sees it up close as a female author. She pointed to young adult author Stephenie Meyer, who is often discussed as much for physical attributes as writing talents.

“We don’t see this for male authors,” she said. “We would be shocked to see this for male authors, but it is there, unfortunately, for women.”

The idea of women acting as each other’s own enemies also came up.


“We need to be aware of how we are conducting ourselves,” Clarke said of women’s relationships with others of the same gender.

To help combat the tendency, women need confidence, Garvie suggested.

“Often, people won’t be able to value someone else when they don’t believe in their own value,” she said.

One student asked the panelists how they dealt with the negative stereotypes often associated with feminism. Nash suggested it can be a simple matter of wording: if you ask, “Do you believe all people should be treated equally and with respect?” and the answer is yes, then the respondent, whether they identify that way or not, is a feminist, she said.

“You just put it in a way that people can buy into and understand,” Nash said.

The day’s events acted as a “call to action,” said Kendra Godin-Svoboda, Program Facilitator – Safe Schools with the Durham District School Board.

She challenged the women on hand to take what they’d learned and put it into action.

“You have the power to change one person and that is you,” she said.

Grade 11 O’Neill Collegiate student Emma Sharp said she was taken aback by some of the statistics provided by “Miss Represented.”

“I really don’t think I was aware” of just how prevalent misrepresentation of women in media was, she said.

“I knew there was a lot of exploitation, but the amount is ridiculous,” agreed her classmate, Victoria Butler.

Organizers hoped seeing the movie would help young women “be able to question and criticize” the images found in media, said Rama Naiken.

“It’s about being a filter, not a sponge,” said Sturridge.

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Dunbarton High School student wins prestigious scholarship

A secondary school career aimed at “empowering people to help other people in return” has landed Dunbarton High School graduating student Sajjad Jaffery a significant scholarship.

The 17-year-old was chosen as one of 20 recipients, out of 3,200 applicants from across Canada, of the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership, worth up to $70,000.

The scholarship includes up to $10,000 per year for tuition, and $7,500 annually to help with living expenses. As well, it provides an offer of paid summer employment, mentorship opportunities and invitations to gatherings, networking opportunities and events.

It’s an enormous opportunity, he said.

“A lot of people get lost in the financial aspect of the scholarship, but it also offers me the opportunity to be mentored, to network,” said Jaffery.

(pictured here with Sajjad is Principal Carol Maher-Hawken)

Early in his high school career, Jaffery was inspired to start a community-based organization called the Dunbarton Peace Project, which promotes peace and social justice and has over 100 supporters. The group works to increase awareness and raise funds for impoverished global communities.

He’s been involved in an array of projects, including a penny drive to build classrooms in northern Pakistan, and a fundraiser to renovate a Kindergarten classroom in Ghana.

As well, Jaffery is co-president of his school’s environmental group, where he has aided in starting a number of projects, including an outdoor classroom, a butterfly garden and recycling programs. He’s also currently head delegate of his Model United Nations chapter, and has volunteered at a local hospital.

A lot of what he does “has to do with how I’ve been brought up,” Jaffery said, noting his father was, in years past, involved in activism for free, fair elections in Pakistan. His mother “worked very hard,” raising six children, of whom Jaffery is the eldest.

“That helped me become a leader,” he said.

His grandmother, a doctor, “helps people for free on the streets of Pakistan.”

The Dunbarton student plans to attend the University of Toronto next year, and doesn’t know yet if he’ll follow his grandmother’s footsteps into medicine, specifically endocrinology, or if he’ll get more involved in social entrepreneurship.

“There are growing problems in the economy,” he said. “Social entrepreneurship allows a lot of relief and repair to these systems.”

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DDSB competes in Destination ImagiNation global finals

Students from Westcreek, William Dunbar, Frenchman's Bay, Claremont and Dunbarton qualified to attend the Destination Imagination Global Finals May 22- 26 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  These teams of students worked collaboratively to solve multiple challenges using their creative thinking, teamwork, problem solving and artistic skills! Teacher and parent managers helped the students prepare over the year and teams demonstrated a commitment to constant improvement following each level of competition.

Following the provincial competition, the team from Dunbarton HS rewrote their script and reworked sets to accommodate a stronger approach to meeting the criteria for the challenge, “The World Canvas”. This team created various community outreach projects during the year raising awareness and money for Mental Health Issues and Ontario Shores Center for Mental Health Sciences.  Their performance challenge highlighted the successes they achieved in a dramatic presentation. This resulted in an excellent performance and an end result of 6th place overall on this world stage!  Even more impressive was the team's second place finish for their Instant Problem Solving Challenge. 

It was a proud moment to see the Durham District School Board represented at this international competition. Congratulations to all students, teachers and parents that have participated in the Destination ImagiNation challenges this year!



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Durham students Race Against Drugs

Wearing goggles that simulate impairment and attempting to walk a straight line caused immediate giggles, but then sober second thought at the annual Racing Against Drugs Durham (RADD) event, which ran from Monday, April 30 to Friday, May 4 in Whitby.

“I learned that alcohol affects your vision a lot,” said Allison Brunette, a Grade 5 student at Glen Street Public School.

Neither Allison nor her classmate Nathaniel Corbin liked the feeling.

“It felt like your mind was all swirly and you were all dizzy,” said Nathaniel.

The Racing Against Drugs program, developed by the RCMP, is an initiative that encourages students to adopt healthy, drug-free lifestyles. To date, more than 80,000 Durham District School Board students have participated in RADD and received information on the dangers of substance abuse, the benefits of healthy alternatives and the importance of personal safety.

They were messages students received loud and clear by participating in fun, noisy and hands-on “pit stops”, run by an array of agencies including police and other emergency services.

“I learned that drinking and drugs do a lot of harm to your body,” Allison said.

Alcohol and drugs can also “make your judgment weird, and you can do a lot of things you don’t want to do,” Nathaniel said. “You should never do drugs, because they can affect you and the people around you.”

For more information, visit


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Durham students gather to celebrate Canadian books

“Funny,” “descriptive,” and “well-written” were among the descriptors students were using to talk about books they read as part of the annual Silver Birch program, as the awards ceremony was held recently in Whitby.

The Silver Birch program, for students in Grades 3 to 6, is one of six programs comprising the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading, which promotes both reading and Canadian literature. Province-wide, more than 250,000 elementary and high school students participate in the programs by reading at least five books from the lists of official selections and voting on their favourites.

Students from Durham District School Board and the coterminous Catholic board gathered at Iroquois Park for the awards ceremony, which included visits from authors, lunch, music, draw prizes and more.

“I really like that all the authors who came here came on their own time so we could meet them,” said Abby Spadzinski, a Grade 5 student from Colonel J. E. Farewell Public School.

For many of the students, having to read so many books to complete the program was no chore.

“I really like reading, so I was excited to read them,” Spadzinski said.

Both she and her classmate Mikayla Wake say they’d like to write books of their own one day.

“I would write a funny, adventurous book,” Wake said.

Author Jan Andrews, who wrote When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean, a book nominated in the Sliver Birch Express category, was on hand to hear she had won. Most literary awards, she noted, are voted on by adults.

“The fact that it’s the people who are my readers that chose me for this award is something else again,” she said.

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DDSB Education Centre Staff Fundraise for MADD

The Staff Association at the DDSB's Education Centre recently raised $1,724 to support MADD. The funds were raised through a raffle with the prizes being donated by various departments throughout the Education Centre. The money raised will stay in the Durham area and will help to purchase educational materials, and support local families who have had their lives forever changed because of impaired drivers.

Thanks to all of the generous supporter who donated raffle items and to all those
who purchased tickets.


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Canadian astronaut Julie Payette on hand to launch Whitby school named for her

She holds legions of honorary degrees, speaks six languages, has twice travelled into space via space shuttles and headed up Canada’s space agency, but as Canadian astronaut Julie Payette pulled into the driveway of the Whitby school named for her and saw her name on the sign out front, she felt honoured in a way she has not experienced before.

Then, despite her rather exceptional list of accomplishments, she did what any parent would.

“My first thought was, ‘I’ve got to take out my cell phone and take a picture for my eight-year-old,’” Payette said, as she took part in the recent grand opening of the school.

“There is something surreal about hearing and seeing your name everywhere,” she said, as she stood on stage beside a podium bearing her name. “I didn’t really expect that.”

Julie Payette Public School, named for the second Canadian woman to travel into space, opened its doors at 300 Garden Street in Whitby on September 6, 2011 and is home to 690 students and 50 staff. The vision for the school includes powerful teaching to support a bilingual culture, encouraging a caring school community, fostering global awareness and challenging students to “Dream. Aspire. Become.”

The school also boasts a number of green features, including large windows for natural light, an outdoor classroom and a state-of-the-art green roof, covered in vegetation to, among other purposes, serve as environmentally-friendly insulation, said Whitby trustee Christine Winters during the school’s opening ceremony. But that’s far from all the school has to be proud of, she noted.

“It is truly an honour to have this Whitby school named after you,” she told Payette.

Kimberley Zeppieri, also a Whitby trustee, concurred.

“Julie Payette is a beautiful school, one we’re exceptionally proud of, but we’re even more proud of the woman it’s named after,” she said.

Having the school bear Payette’s name will encourage its students, said Durham District School Board chair Joe Allin.

“Your accomplishments will indeed inspire children today and in generations to come to dream, aspire and become, as they make their way through their personal educational voyage,” he said.

But, Payette was quick to say the school, despite its name, is already forging its own identity, largely based in the school’s motto.

“It’s not about me; it’s about a dream,” she said. “It’s about telling you that you can think of something, something for the future, even if it might seem a little too much, that if you put the effort into it, anything is possible.”

After all, Payette said as she relayed the story of sitting in her school gym watching coverage of early space trips on a TV, that’s what she did.

“I was 10 years old,” she said. “I spoke only French at the time. I was a girl. I was Canadian. There was no such thing as a Canadian astronaut. No one in my family had even been in an airplane, and I wanted to go to the moon.”

After participating in the more formal grand opening ceremony, Payette returned to the school the next morning for an informal event, at which she showed video of one of her trips to space, and took part in a bilingual question-and-answer period with students at the French immersion school. She told students she had high hopes for them.

“This school has made itself already into an entity that you can feel has so much power and so much possibility for the future,” she said. “When I come back one day, I hope I’m going to hear stories that you’ve worked on your passions, and about what you’ve become.”


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Claremont Public School Celebrates with the Community

Submitted story by: Claremont PS

On May 10th, Claremont P.S. held a "Celebration of Community" to commemorate the great
work in the school's year long projects and installations of the Eco-Classroom and School
Community Totem Pole.

Honoured guests, Trustee Chris Braney, City Councillor Peter Rodrigues, and DDSB
greening consultant Margaret Mackenzie enjoyed being part of the final chapter . A day
long celebration was planned for our students and our school community. Students
attended morning breakout sessions guided by Mr. Brian Jones, Leadership Officer on
Synergy, Mr. Powers & Ms. Cheryl Rock, Equity, Diversity and Race Relations Facilitator, with the S.T.A.R. students on
leadership, Mr. Jeff Salem in Creativity through Drumming, and Mr. Craig Wilson on Unity.

The afternoon session began with a passionate discussion on Unity led by Ms. Sue Lunn, Aboriginal Education Officer, and Medicine Wheel teachings by Aboriginal Education Facilitator, Ms. Deanna Fry. Highlights of the celebration were the presentation by TribalVision who regaled our community with their artistic and powerful interpretations of several First Nations dances and songs and our culminating community drumming circle around our Totem Pole.

Congratulations to Claremont PS and to the entire community for a very successful effort this year!

For more information, please contact Claremont Public School.


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Whitby students gather to show how they’re better together

Whitby Durham District School Board students got an opportunity on Wednesday, May 9 to show how they’re “Better Together.”

About 135 students gathered, along with teachers, administrators, Whitby Trustee Christine Winters, Director of Education Martyn Beckett and Superintendent of Education/Whitby John Bowyer for the annual Wonderful Whitby event.

This year’s theme was “We Are Better Together,” and students at the event were able to share how that was true through digital presentations of how positive character traits and equity education are brought to life within their school communities.

“It’s amazing to see how students are putting ideas into action to make their community a better place,” said Winters.

Those gathered at the event, at Sinclair Secondary School, also heard from C. E. Broughton Public School graduate Scott Cannata, who shared how the character traits learned while a student of the DDSB helped drive him both before and as he ran across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

To date, Cannata’s run has raised more than $57,000.

“The values and experiences I took from school helped build my character so I could do what I did,” said Cannata.
Cannata completed his 8,500-kilometre odyssey in January, running the equivalent of “202 marathons across this great country of ours,” he said.

The first character trait necessary to even begin achieving his goal was optimism.

“It took me a year-and-a-half to get from the idea to the doing,” Cannata told students. “That took optimism. Without optimism, you shortchange yourself.

“If I wasn’t optimistic about being successful I might not have taken that chance in the first place,” he said of the run.

Cannata encouraged students to put the character traits they learn in school into action. It’s the only way to get results, he said.

“How did we do it? We did it because we tried,” he said. “If there’s something you believe in that you think you can do to make a difference, try it.”

Cannata’s story helps drive home an important message, said Bowyer.

“Scott is a real example of how one person can make a difference,” he said. “He’s an inspiration to students and educators.”

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Pickering DDSB Students Show Their Character

After spending the morning with a group of elementary school students during the annual Proud of Pickering celebration on Tuesday, May 8, Grade 12 Pine Ridge Secondary School student Cody Morrison was sure of one thing.

“I’m leaving Pine Ridge, but we’re leaving it in good hands,” said Morrison, who had helped emcee the annual event celebrating character education.

Proud of Pickering is an annual event at which each Pickering elementary and secondary school take on a project and initiatives to give back and make a difference in the lives of others. This is done at the school, local community and global level. Students present musical performances and student projects to also show how the school community demonstrates the traits involved with character education. This year’s theme was “I Am Who I Am,” based on the wildly successful campaign which raised more than $19,000 for Muscular Dystrophy.

The campaign stressed the importance of acceptance, understanding and celebrating uniqueness.

Student project boards showed the array of activities students had participated in to make their community a better place.

“It’s just fantastic to see how the younger students see problems in the community and want to fix them,” Morrison said.

Students were joined by Durham District School Board officials, including vice-chairman/trustee Chris Braney, Director Martyn Beckett, and Superintendent Lisa Millar. Also in attendance were Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan, and representatives of Durham Regional Police and the local business community.

“It’s amazing to see the level of dedication and commitment of our Pickering students who want to give back, help others and choose projects that truly change the lives of others in their local community and abroad,” Braney said.

“Proud of Pickering has become absolutely one of the highlights of the year for me,” Millar said, noting the event gives an opportunity to “celebrate how we work together and how we give back to the community and to each other.”

It gave students an opportunity to reflect on the ways the school community helps the community-at-large, students said.

“It’s good, because we get to help out local places, and help out our community,” said Grade 6 student Bryanna Payne.

Her classmate, Amber Khan, agreed.

“We’re making a change to the city, making it better,” she said.


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New DDSB classrooms provide state-of-the-art facilities filled with natural light

Bright with natural light, filled with energy-efficient features, and detailed with touches to make for a positive and unique learning environment, Julie Payette Public School in Whitby is the latest member of the Durham District School Board family.

The school, which opened in September, 2011, is one of 10 either built or planned for construction by DDSB between 2009 and 2013. It’s all part of a larger plan: between 2008 and 2013, the Durham District School Board is spending about $237 million, creating significant numbers of additional pupil places in the form of new schools or additions to existing ones --- the equivalent of about 480 portables.

“The availability of funding and the desire to decrease the number of portables being used have combined to allow us to create new pupil places for over 10,000 students,” said David Visser, DDSB’s Superintendent of Education – Facilities Services.

Building a new school or expanding or renovating an existing one is a job that requires a great deal of care and planning, and at DDSB, consideration is given to a vast array of matters, from how to keep existing mature trees on the site, right down to where best to place an electrical outlet.

DDSB has a number of school designs it chooses from when building a new school, says Brenda Coward, DDSB’s Manager of Facilities Design/Construction.

“We look at the neighbourhood, the site configuration, capacity and other matters before determining which one to use,” she said.

Choosing from a set of designs that have been used before has a definite advantage, Coward said.

“We talk to people at current facilities before repeating the design to see what, if any, improvements should be made,” she said. “Suggestions can range from the location of the washrooms to the placement of electrical or data outlets.”

Re-using designs, though, doesn’t mean cookie-cutter schools.

“Even though the designs are repeated, we try to make every school individual through things like the use of colour schemes,” Coward said.

“We spend a lot of time on that, to make sure each school is unique.”

Six new schools opened in 2009 and 2010: Romeo Dallaire PS in Ajax; Vimy Ridge PS in Ajax; Blair Ridge PS in Brooklin; Robert Munsch PS in Brooklin; Whitby Shores PS in Whitby; and, Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa.

The new spaces help accommodate growth occurring in some areas of the District, especially the area north of Taunton Road. They also help move students out of portables or older facilities into buildings better suited to today’s educational programs. Often, they are built to fall in line with recommendations of Accommodation Review Committees.

An accommodation review is sometimes the result of a process known as the Pupil Accommodation Review, which follow guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education. The Board must annually review its schools to identify schools with projected enrolment declines which could compromise school programs. That initial process can lead to appointment of an Accommodation Review Committee (ARC), made up of community members and other stakeholders. The ARC is an extensive consultation process that leads to recommendations which are eventually voted on by the Board of Trustees.

For example, Julie Payette PS is the result of an ARC process involving six Whitby schools. The ARC recommended that three schools which were in need of significant repair – Florence M. Heard PS, Leslie McFarlane PS, and Palmerston Avenue PS – be closed or consolidated. That resulted in construction of Julie Payette PS and additions to Captain Michael VandenBos and Pringle Creek public schools.

While the ARC process can sometimes mean the difficult decision to close a school, it also has an upside.

“What new classrooms and buildings do is they allow students and teaching staff to focus more on education,” Visser said. “The building is no longer a distraction. It’s an enhancement.”

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Grade 8 students at Dr. Roberta Bondar PS learn charity can start in the classroom

A group of Grade 8 students at Dr. Roberta Bondar Public School in Ajax have learned charity can start in the classroom.

The students, in Shahana Arain and Mike Leslie’s classes at the school, completed Action for Equity projects in April, in which they were divided into groups to plan events to support causes and charities meaningful to them.

The students were first asked to think about what they were good at, and what they were interested in achieving. After that, students with like causes came together to form eight groups to plan events supporting various charities and initiatives.

One of the first orders of business for the students was to create organizational charts, detailing everything, including estimated expenses.

“At first, I think they didn’t have a full grasp of the immensity of what they were undertaking,” Arain said.

For many, there was a personal connection to the cause for which they planned events. For example, in one group, three of the five participants had, at some point, been patients at the Hospital for Sick Children, so raising money, through a student-teacher baseball game, for the hospital’s foundation was an obvious choice. Another group was made up of members who had friends or family members who had dealt with bullying or harassment as a result of their sexual orientation. They chose to send proceeds from their rainbow lemonade stand, run during the baseball game, to My GSA, a branch of Egale Canada aimed at creating safer schools for LGBTQ youth and educators. A member of another group has a cousin who was adopted from an orphanage in The Congo, so holding a carwash to aid that orphanage was chosen.

Beyond planning the event, students were also charged with coming up with a fact sheet, explaining why their cause was important and why people should support it.

For one group, getting the message across was one of the most rewarding parts of the project.

“It was really neat having kids understand what the cause was, and having them warm up to acceptance of diversity,” said student Emily Kowtiuk, who was part of the group running the rainbow lemonade stand.

When all was said and done, the students’ projects had raised $2056 in cash, along with hundreds of books and cans of food, and two full boxes of towel donations for the Humane Society.

The project will culminate with students making a photo essay documenting their journey. That will give them a chance to think about “what they learned about themselves,” Arain said.

Many felt the project showed them, in a way they hadn’t fully understood before, how they could make an impact.

“Ms. Arain said, ‘Look what five people can do when they put their minds to it,’” said student Clive Thomas. “That made me feel good on the inside.”

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Canoe finds home at Whitby Shores Public School

An old canoe has found new life as well as a permanent home in a place of honour at Whitby Shores Public School.

Staff at Whitby Shores purchased the Peterborough canoe, made by the company that produced the boats from the 1890s until the early 1960s, and it has turned into a school-wide art project that will eventually be the centrepiece of the main hallway of the school.

“We’re using the canoe as a canvas,” said Karen Latimer, the school’s Teacher/Librarian.

The bottom of the canoe’s hull has an Inukshuk design in glass mosaic, which uses coloured glass, applied by students, and an eco-friendly adhesive.

“Every student in our school will, by the end, have participated in creation of the mosaic,” Latimer said.

Inside the canoe, along the vessel’s ribs, is more glass mosaic, done exclusively by this year’s Grade 8 students.

The work of art is expected to be completed before school lets out for summer.

When finished, the canoe will hang from the ceiling in the school’s naturally-lit central hallway, as a permanent emblem to the school’s commitment to both the environment and embracing difference. The Inukshuk, with its symbolism in Aboriginal history, seemed to fit with the theme of the piece, Latimer said.

“It looks like the Inukshuk’s arms are around the canoe, showing that we’re all together and connected, and that together we’ve been able to create something beautiful that will be here forever,” she said.

The idea first started brewing when Principal Mike Whitmarsh, an avid paddler, was looking for a way to decorate the two-storey hallway. Soon, Education Assistant Tamara Kellett had found the canoe on an online buy-and-sell site, and the plan for the art was set in motion.

That everyone in the school had a hand in the piece makes it really special, said Grade 8 student Kacey Rafferty, noting fitting the glass pieces into the Inukshuk is “like a puzzle.”

The design “represents that we’re all interconnected,” said Laura Abucater, another Grade 8 student.

Classmate Megan Carroll agreed.

“It will look really good when it’s done,” she said. “The whole school has put so much effort into it.”


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Robotics event challenges DDSB students to use creativity, technology and teamwork

When a group of four College Hill Public School students started working on their challenge at the fifth annual Durham Robotics event held Friday, April 27, 2012, they “thought it was going to be easy,” said Grade 8 student Farzana Shaikh.

The team wasn’t long dissuading itself of that notion.

“It’s a little more complicated than we thought it would be,” said Grade 7 student Sharndeep Sidhu.

The College Hill group was among more than 150 students, from Grade 4 through 12, to participate in the fifth annual Durham Robotics event.
Most of the participating students having been working throughout the year at their own schools, taking part in robotics clubs, designed and building different robots. The Robotics Challenge gave them the opportunity to test those skills by building robots that could compete in challenges held secret until the actual event.

The event is aimed at “fostering students’ high order reasoning through problem-based learning scenarios that stimulate the creative mind and challenge the learner,” said David Rule, Programs Facilitator – Educational Technology, with the DDSB.

A group from O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute was working on designing a robot that could track down a ball, and then fling it. The entire process had to be completed via remote control. Building the robot required “strong teamwork skills,” said Grade 10 student Matthew Withers.

It was Jack Miner Public School student Adeeb Khan’s third time to such an event, but this time around, he found it more complicated.
“It’s nothing like ‘newbie’ or ‘novice,’ that’s for sure,” he said


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DDSB students bring history to life at Heritage Fair

Kedron Public School student Brayden Wraxall counts Don Cherry and Mario Lemieux among his Canadian heroes, but a recent Heritage Fair project brought him a new and unexpected one: ballerina Karen Kain.

The Grade 5 student drew Kain’s name out of a hat, and at first, didn’t recognize the name he had drawn.

“I thought she might be a runner or something,” Wraxall said.

Then, he said, making exactly the face you’d expect him to make on the discovery, “I found out she was a ballet dancer.”

But before long, he decided Kain was “really cool.”

“She won the Companion of the Order of Canada,” he said as he displayed his project as part of the Durham Region Heritage Fair held at the Durham District School Board Education Centre April 24 and 25. “That’s one of Canada’s top awards.”

The event, which is much like a science fair but based on Canadian heritage, saw students vying to represent the DDSB at an upcoming provincial event.

More than 2,000 students from Grades 4 to 8 participated in school-based heritage fairs across the District. From those, about 120 students were selected to represent their school at the Regional event.

From there, two students will be chosen to attend the provincial fair in Toronto in June. Two more will be selected to attend the event as part of the Young Citizen’s program, a complementary component of the Heritage Fair which allows students to present results of their research on Canadian heroes, legends and key events.

Awards are to be presented Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 4 p.m.

Preparing the projects helped bring history alive, said Diana Lawryshyn, a Kedron PS student who researched an Oshawa street – Kitchen Court – for her project. She had seen street signs with the poppy motif, but “I didn’t know what it meant.”

The Grade 8 student built a diorama of the street, and learned enough about the man for whom it was named, Gordon Henry Earl Kitchen, a Second World War Veteran, to write several different pieces about him. She was impressed by what she found out.

“He was one of the Canadians who stepped up, and he lived right in Oshawa,” she said.


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Education Minister Laurel Broten visits DDSB schools

Students in Teacher Lynn Davies’ Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) class at Pickering’s Glengrove Public School had some very special guests as readers at story-time on Thursday, April 12:  Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten and Scarborough-Pickering East MPP Tracy MacCharles.

(l-r) Principal Gert Rosenau, Glengrove PS; Minister of Education Laurel Broten; Scarborough-Pickering East MPP Tracy MacCharles;
Vice Chair and Pickering Trustee Chris Braney, Board Chairperson Joe Allin; Superintendent of Education/Pickering Schools and
Early Years Lisa Millar and Superintendent of Education/Special Education, Doug Crichton

Broten first chose one of her six-year-old twins’ favourite stories – The Very Hungry Caterpillar then read from a story authored by the children themselves.

The stop at Davies’ classroom was part of a Durham District School Board (DDSB) visit that included trips to both Glengrove and Vaughan Willard Public Schools, offering the Minister a glimpse into daily life at the Pickering schools. Highlights included stops at classrooms offering FDK and assistive technology for students. It also provided opportunity for the Minister and Board officials including Vice Chair and Pickering Trustee Chris Braney, Superintendent of Education/Pickering Schools and Early Years Lisa Millar and Superintendent of Education/Special Education, Doug Crichton, to meet with parents, volunteers and educators from the school community.

“I know I really enjoyed seeing first-hand how you are helping the Durham District School Board’s youngest learners in the Full Day Kindergarten program,” said Joe Allin, chair of the DDSB, said of the school community.

Broten praised educators, parents and volunteers for their ability to “create the love of learning, to teach children from their earliest days that learning is fun.

“The care and passion of everyone here at Glengrove Public School has and is making a difference,”
she said.

It was also a good opportunity to show the Minister what’s happening in DDSB schools.

“We appreciate the Minister visiting our schools to see our current FDK programs, Parent and Family Centre and how we are preparing our classroom facilities for our new FDK programs,” said Chris Braney, vice-chair of the DDSB.

At Vaughan Willard PS, the Minister had a chance to see how the DDSB has partnered with other agencies to provide opportunities for early learning. She also visited an Assistive Technology Classroom, in which students use laptops to facilitate intensive technology training.

The technology “makes life easier, and gives us this great opportunity to learn about technology,” one student told Broten.


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Durham District School Board takes Steps for Life

Representatives of the Durham District School Board and its schools will join with other community partners to take Steps for Life on Sunday, May 6, 2012.

The five-kilometre walk will raise funds for families of those involved in workplace tragedy, and awareness about the national issue of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

“Providing a secure, healthy and safe environment for staff and students has long been a priority of the DDSB,” said Kerri Stewart, Associate Occupational Hygienist with the DDSB. “The walk is a unique link to our schools as it offers an opportunity to educate and involve our staff and students in community health and safety initiatives.”

This is the second year the DDSB has been involved in the walk, which also partners with other community organizations: Ontario Power Generation, the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, Safe Communities of Pickering and Ajax (SCOPA), Home Depot, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, and Threads of Life.

Threads of Life is a national registered charity dedicated to supporting families affected by workplace tragedy.

It hits close to home for Patti Penny, spokesperson for Durham Region’s second Steps for Life walk. Penny’s son, Luke, a construction worker, was killed when a concrete wall collapsed on him in Whitby.

“This is a really great opportunity to increase community awareness on workplace safety,” she said. “Since being involved with Threads of Life and all the support they have given to me and my family, we know that we are not alone in the tragedy that happened to our family.”

Walk registration begins at 9 a.m. at the Pickering Nuclear Information Centre, 1675 Montgomery Park Road. The walk, five kilometres along the Waterfront Trail, kicks off at 10 a.m. Walkers will return to the Info Centre for refreshments.

All walkers will receive a free T-shirt.

A number of teams from the DDSB have already signed up to participate. Any others wishing to take part are asked to contact Kerri Stewart at 905-666-5500, ext. 5416.

“Steps for Life is an opportunity for the DDSB to team up with our community safety partners to work towards a common goal: raising awareness about the importance of workplace health and safety and supporting families that have gone through a workplace tragedy,” said John Bowyer, Superintendent of Schools/Safe Schools.

For more information, visit


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Waverly PS student to represent the DDSB at
Canada-wide science fair

Waverly Public School Student Medals at Canada-Wide
Science Fair

Waverly Public School student Andy Glendinning brought home a bronze medal from the Canada-wide Science Fair, held recently in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Glendinning’s invention came in the form of a large brace that snaps on to the arm, aimed at assisting people with disabilities or who are elderly open lids on jars.

“This would help these people become more independent with this simple chore,” Glendinning said.

His award, a bronze medal in the Excellence Awards in his age category, came with a $300 cash prize and two entrance scholarships for $1,000 each to the University of Ottawa and the University of Western Ontario.

Glendinning earned the honour of moving on to the Canada-Wide Science Fair after taking the 2012 Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Stepping Stone award for his project at the Regional Science Fair at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in April.

Moving on to the Canada-wide event “was truly a life-altering experience and definitely an unbelievably memorable event in his life and that of his staff supervisor, Teacher Andrew Hodgson,” said Waverly Principal Howard Boothby.

Teacher Timothy Boucher also aided students in preparing for school, regional and national level science fair competitions.

“Andy was an awesome ambassador for all of us and demonstrated a great deal of risk-taking as he stepped outside of his personal comfort zone to engage in dialogues with fellow scientists from across Canada,” Mr. Boothby added. “He can be extremely proud of his hard work and his deportment on behalf of all of us.”

Waverly Public School student Andy Glendinning (far left in photo) will represent the Durham District School Board at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Charlottetown, PEI, in May.

Glendinning’s project, Designing a Better Gripper, was judged best overall at the Regional Science Fair at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) on Saturday, April 14, 2012, earning him the privilege of attending the national event.

The win came after hard work by Waverly intermediate students who were capably guided by teachers Tim Boucher and Andy Hodgson.  Students first displayed their science fair projects in their school gym on Wednesday, April 4, 2012.

“All of these young scientists demonstrated a deep understanding of their subject matter,” said Principal Howard Boothby. “Projects covered everything from bacteria to human body functions to more efficient use of levers and pulleys.”

From the school event, 10 students moved on to the Regional event at UOIT. Students moving on included: Meaghann Dubien (middle in photo), Lucas Glendinning, Andy Glendinning, Jane Nguyen, Angelique Dack, Evan Burgess, Brandon Finley, Alec Veley, Emily Jenkinson and Sarah Ash.

After judging was complete, results were announced, with Andy Glendinning taking the 2012 Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Stepping Stone Award for his project, earning him the honour of moving on to the Canada-Wide competition.

Lucas Glendinning (far right in photo) won the 2012 Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority Award, with a $100 cash prize, for his project on Salt Effects on Plant Growth. Meaghann Dubien won the 2012 Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories Award, also with a $100 cash prize, for her project on Cleaning Bacteria.

School staff is “very proud of all our aspiring scientists and wish Andy the
best of luck next month,” said Mr. Boothby.







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Gay Straight Alliance members gather
for annual conference

Friday, April 13 was a rainbow day at the Durham District School Board, as students and educators gathered for the annual Gay Straight Alliance conference.

The event, presented by the DDSB and District 13 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, is aimed at providing participants and leaders with the opportunity to explore issues of homophobia and sexual diversity through workshops, discussions and information sessions.

Keynote speaker Nichola (Nicki) Ward, a trans rights activist, was among those leading workshops at the event. Her workshop allowed students to talk about transgender issues and inclusive language. She also encouraged students to be true to and love themselves.

“If you have a label, love it,” she said. “If you don’t love it, change it.”

Students Jodie Matsushita and Nikki Sale said ensuring everyone is accepted for who they are played a large role in why they attended the GSA Conference.

“It’s basically about being the change,” said Matsushita, who said she found Ward’s keynote address “empowering.”

“It showed it’s OK to be who you are,” she said.

Ward’s talk also helped illuminate the power of the individual.

“She really talked about how much of a difference one person can make,” Sale said.


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Ensuring Inclusive Schools at the DDSB

Upwards of 70 per cent of students in a Canada-wide survey say they hear phrases like “That’s so gay” at least weekly at school, but in Durham District School Board schools, work is being done to ensure that will soon become a thing of the past.

That’s the driver behind much staff development in the area of equity and inclusive education, including a recent forum called Courageous Conversations, which featured a keynote address from Helen Kennedy, executive director of EGALE Canada, a human rights organization which fights for “Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere.”

EGALE recently surveyed students at schools across Canada, including in DDSB. Unlike many Boards, Durham released its results, which Kennedy referred to as “a very good thing.”

Courageous Conversations was mandatory for at least one school administrator and one equity representative, as well as a third person “as appropriate to school needs,” from each school, says DDSB Education Officer for Staff Development Barry Bedford.

The Board’s Programs department paid for release time necessary to allow each school to be represented. It’s important, Kennedy stressed.

“Simple changes can have a dramatic impact on the safety of our kids,” she said, noting working toward equity isn’t simply a matter of teaching tolerance, an idea she stresses with her own children.

“I want them to respect difference,” she said.

And it also has nothing to do with sex education.

“It’s not about teaching children at an early age about sex,” Kennedy said. “It’s got nothing to do with that.”

Building a more inclusive environment can be as simple as thinking about inclusivity before speaking, noted Bedford.

“If you say, ‘take this home to your mom’, you may have unintentionally singled someone out because they don’t have a mom,” he said.

Or, it could be a matter of ensuring different family structures are represented in curriculum materials and items sent home from school, he noted.

“You may not intentionally be leaving anybody out, but people may notice it when they don’t see anything they identify with coming home from their child’s school,” he said.

The event also provided an opportunity for educators to be reassured that they would have Board support and encouragement when implementing measures aimed at equity.

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TSN Host Shares His Struggle with Depression
with DDSB Students

Says he hopes sharing will help wipe out the stigma, prompt people to get help

There’s a pretty good chance, TSN host Michael Landsberg told students at Brooklin Village Public School, that some of them will eventually suffer from or care for someone who suffers from depression.

And he hopes they’ll treat it like what it is: an illness.

“We seem to think mental illness is for people who are really weak,” he told Grade 7 and 8 students during a recent school visit. “But, I know beyond a reasonable doubt that my depression is an illness. How many of you would hesitate to say,’ When I was a kid, I had ear infections.’ It’s no different.”

Landsberg, host of TSN’s popular Off the Record, has long been open about his battles with mental illness and his fight to end the stigma attached with such struggles.

In preparation for his visit, students watched Landsberg’s recent documentary, Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me. The documentary deals with not only Landsberg’s struggles, but with those of well-known athletes who have also dealt with the illness, like Canadian Summer and Winter Olympian Clara Hughes, retired baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry and ex-Montreal Canadien Stephane Richer.

The discussion helped bring a face to some of what students are learning, aided by the Durham Talking about Mental Illness Coalition (TAMI). The coalition includes a number of stakeholders, including the DDSB and Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. TAMI’s goal is to provide teachers with information on mental illness to use in class, and to assist with curriculum-based mental health education. As well, the group helps provide opportunities for students and teachers to meet with people who have dealt with mental illness first-hand.

It was about 15 years ago, just as his television show launched, that Landsberg said he “realized that the person I had been was long gone.”

He sought help, and found relief.

“I still suffer from depression,” he told the students. “I believe depression is not just a bump on the road for me. It is the road.”
That means being vigilant to ensure she gets appropriate help when he needs it. Three years ago, he again found himself in a “really, really, really bad place.

“I was so sick that, if I thought I had to feel this way for the rest of my life, I would have considered taking my own life.”

Knowing help was available saved him. That’s part of why he chose to share his story: the hope that others in similar circumstance would know that help is available.

Landsberg and ex-Hab Richer had an open on-air discussion about their experiences with depression a few years ago. For some time after, Landsberg got emails from people who were also suffering --- many in silence. Hearing the two men talk about it openly helped some to share their burden, and seek help.

“They said it changed their lives, to see two guys talking about depression,” Landsberg said.

The documentary helps blow a lot of preconceived notions about depression and other forms of mental illness out of the water. Landsberg points to Hughes, a six-time Olympic medalist in cycling and speed-skating and the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Olympics, as a prime example of the fact depression doesn’t equate to weakness.

“Clara Hughes is known as the toughest athlete out there. No one else deals with pain the way she does,” said Landsberg. “Obviously, she’s not weak.”

Students had many well-informed questions for Landsberg, including a query about how people reacted to his candor about his struggle.

“The biggest problem we all have is that we worry about what other people think,” Landsberg said. “I always knew that this was not my fault. I just said, I’m sick; I’ve got this thing called depression. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything to bring it on, and I can’t get rid of it on my own.

“At a certain point, you don’t care what other people think,” he said.

He urged students, if they felt they were struggling with mental health issues, to share the burden with family or friends, and to seek help.

“People who are depressed are just sick, and there’s a solution to their sickness,” Landsberg said. “What do you do when you’re sick? You go to a doctor.”

DDSB Mental Health Symposium - Wednesday, April 11, 2012
DDSB Students hear about the importance of good mental health, from someone who knows


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Helping DDSB kids keep 'Cool'
Group Program Helps Students with Anxiety

If a student experiences anxiety, it can affect his or her academic achievement.

And, it would seem more and more students are experiencing anxiety, say Durham District School Board social workers Theresa Gray-Sorichetti and Andrea Malyon.

That’s why the two ran a pilot program called ‘Cool Kids,’ an Australian-developed program which uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help students deal with anxiety.

Gray-Sorichetti and Malyon had noticed there seemed to be “several schools needing the same kind of help,” Malyon said. “Anxiety seemed to be an issue that was key.”

So, they began a pilot of the Cool Kids program to serve the four Brooklin elementary schools.

The program, which ran from October to February 2012, uses CBT, a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people understand how their thoughts and feelings affect their behaviour, to help students dealing with anxiety disorders.

In Brooklin, the group started with seven children, aged 10 to 12, an age that is “often a time when anxiety becomes an identified issue,” said Malyon. But students were far from alone in participating in the program. It was facilitated by Sorichetti and Malyon, with formal sessions taking place for an hour-and-a-half each week during the school day. Parents also played a key role, taking part in three evening parent sessions.

Parental involvement was aimed at “helping parents to help their children to face their fears,” said Sorichetti.

Beyond that, in each student’s case, they were able to choose a staff member from their home school, to act as a coach.

Coaches agreed to meet with the child each school day to help them practise the skills they were learning.

“Some of the coaches said they were really honoured and humbled to have been chosen for the role,” said Sorichetti, noting the role required a large commitment.

During the program, students were taught to be specific about their fears, and develop coping mechanisms aimed at dealing with those fears via a variety of means including gradual exposure and skills training. Parents and coaches received instruction on how to support that work.
Not only that, but the program “gave students an opportunity to share and see they’re not alone,” Sorichetti said. “It was a safe place where they could share the things that they were working on.”

By the end, all involved were seeing results.

“My son is starting to have increased calmness and confidence,” wrote one parent in a testimonial. “Helpful tips were provided to us that we can keep working on. Facilitators helped making talking about difficult topics easier and positive and helped my son to feel that he was not alone in his anxiety issues.”

“I learned how to face my fears,” wrote one student participant.

Both Malyon and Sorichetti said they see value in running the program on a wider scale, something the DDSB’s Social Work department plans to do. After all, they said, anxious kids have a tendency to go on to become adults who suffer depression.

“If we can help them when they’re young, maybe there’s less chance they’ll suffer serious depression later on, maybe they’ll have strategies to cope,” Sorichetti said.


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DDSB students elect three new student trustees to represent them in the 2012-2013 school year

Each April, secondary students of the DDSB hold three elections to choose one representative from each of the three areas in Durham to represent them at the Boardroom table. Student trustees serve for a one-year team.

The DDSB thanks all student candidates who participated in the election and would like to welcome to the Boardroom table in September 2012, Edbert Khong of Pickering High School to represent the students from Ajax/Pickering; Jacob Pullia of Uxbridge Secondary School to represent students from northern schools and Bryce Paxton of Henry Street High School to represent the students from Oshawa/Whitby schools.

Ajax-Pickering Student Candidates Elections - April 12, 2012
(photo: left to right)

Edbert Khong, Pickering HS

Bryan Hansraj, Pine Ridge SS
Anisa Hajizadeh, (current student Trustee)
Erum Ahmed, J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate
Suzanna Matic, Dunbarton HS

Brock-Uxbridge-Scugog Student Candidates Elections - April 11, 2012

(photo: left to right)

Emily Cavers, Cartwright HS
Evan Paisley, Port Perry HS
Joe Allin, Board Chairperson/Trustee, Brock and
Uxbridge Schools

Jacob Pullia, Uxbridge SS
Carolyn Morton, Trustee, Township of Scugog Schools
Ally Jobe, Port Perry HS (current student Trustee)
Kristen Buchner, Brock HS

Oshawa/Whitby Student Candidates Elections - April 5, 2012

(photo: left to right)

Sarah Singh, Maxwell Heights SS
Dishan Ratnajothi, Sinclair SS
Bryce Paxton, Henry Street HS
Emma Sharp, O’Neill CVI
Alexander James Wray, Eastdale CVI
Samantha Busch, D.A. Wilson SS



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DDSB students hear about the importance of good mental health, from someone who knows

Sean Campbell had a question for students as he spoke as part of the Durham District School Board’s (DDSB) “Hope in Mental Health” symposium Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

“What are you going to do to benefit your mental wellness?” the 22-year-old New York-based mental health advocate told a packed house of students during one of three addresses he made during the symposium.

It’s a question Campbell has spent a lot of time contemplating. After all, he grew up in a home where his father had bipolar disorder, which went long undiagnosed. And he’s struggled with his own brushes with mental illness, though not to the extent his father has.

Campbell shared his story as part of the symposium, run by the DDSB’s Student Support Leadership Initiative. The event included the keynote address as well as a number of workshops open to students and educators. As well, a number of Durham Region community mental health agencies provided displays and information for participants.

The symposium was aimed at raising awareness of child and youth mental health needs and resources.

It’s believed that one-in-five children and youth in Canada has a mental health problem, and many more students experience distress serious enough to interfere with academic performance and social well-being. But, up to 80 per cent will not receive treatment, due to fear, embarrassment, peer pressure or stigma.

For a very long time, Campbell’s father was among those who did not seek help.

“I grew up in an environment where we did not talk about the tough personal issues . . . never mind confront or deal with them,” he said.

Left untreated, his father’s mental illness led him to leave a lucrative career, and eventually self-medicate with alcohol. That eventually led to him going to prison, after his sixteenth drinking-and-driving related charge.

The experience left Campbell “pretty self-aware,” he told students. It also made clear to him that his father wasn’t the only one who needed to deal with mental health related issues.

“Since I was 14, I have not only been negotiating with my family’s mental illness, but I have been dealing with my own mental illness as well,” he said.


By developing coping mechanisms and through use of talk therapy, Campbell says he’s been able to keep ahead of his issues. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had moments when he thought he might not be so different from his dad.

“I would think, ‘How much time do I have before I become my father?’” he said.

The situation has illuminated the importance of practicing good mental hygiene.

He encouraged students to “monitor feelings, thoughts, and emotions on a daily basis, and treat mental health with the same regard as you treat any other sort of hygiene.”

Identifying the source of stress and dealing with it is key, Campbell said.

“I cope with things,” he said. “It’s not that I’ve overcome anything. It’s that I cope with these things and actually deal with them.”

It’s an important message for students, said Grade 10 student Rebecca Johnson, who is in Grade 10. She said she knows people who are grappling with such issues and need to know there’s nothing wrong with seeking treatment.

“People won’t know what to do with it unless they get help,” she said.


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Durham Black Educators Network seeks to support staff, students, and parents of African or Caribbean descent

The keynote speaker at the recent And Still We Rise conference made a point that really stuck with Chrystal Bryan, chairwoman of the Durham Black Educators Network (DBEN).

Prompted by keynote speaker Jacqueline Spence, Durham District School Board students of African or Caribbean descent were easily able to identify some of the first white explorers of North America. But they weren’t nearly so quick to put a name to Mathieu da Costa, the first black person recorded to have been on Canadian soil.

It’s that type of “cultural relevancy” DBEN seeks to impart to staff as part of its mandate, through the implementation of Professional Development sessions, Bryan said.

“We’re here to optimize the educational experience for students of African and Caribbean descent, while supporting parent engagement,” she said.

DBEN was established in 2005, and meets regularly with an eye to sharing ideas, building community and discussing issues and events involving or affecting students, teachers and parents in Durham.

To that end, the group has been involved in a number of initiatives for staff, parents and students.  One of the first curriculum focused initiatives was the development of the Black Studies curriculum.  This interdisciplinary course is now being offered to high school students at several Durham District School Board Schools. In addition, the group has held forums for parents, to help better understand legislation affecting students. It has also held events to help parents better understand their role during standardized testing.

The group also holds workshops for teachers, with some focusing on potential leadership roles in the District, like facilitator, department heads and other administrative roles, such as vice-principal and principal.

“That’s where you can make the change,” Bryan said, noting it also provides opportunity to act as “direct role models” for students.

DBEN’s biggest annual effort is the And Still We Rise conference. The event, which has run for the past three years, is aimed at motivating

DDSB students to give back to their communities while maximizing their own potential and becoming agents of social change.

“It focusses on the things they’re going to need to be able to succeed,” she said of the event, held March 2 this year. “It looks at how they’re working within their own community to move their community forward.”

For more information on DBEN, contact Cheryl Rock at or Nyla John at  


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Athabasca Street PS students getting hands-on lessons in digital citizenship

Every day in her Grade 3 classroom at Athabasca Street Public School, there’s an opportunity for Teacher Jennifer Montgomery to re-iterate the importance of digital citizenship.

That’s because her class is entirely outfitted with iPod Touch devices. Montgomery was one of the first teachers in the District to take part in a pilot project during the 2010-2011 school year, in which Grade 3 classes at five schools received class sets of the devices to use as a learning tool to support literacy. Again this school year, her class is using iPods.

Having the devices on hand allows the opportunity to remind students of the importance of digital citizenship on a daily basis.

But that her class is the only one in the school with iPods as a classroom tool doesn’t mean her students are the only ones receiving the message on being good digital citizens. Each month, a different class takes on a leadership role in running an assembly into which lessons on digital citizenship are integrated.

“Our class did an assembly about digital responsibility,” Montgomery explains. Using a game show format, students acted out a skit showing how to responsibly use digital devices, with the rest of the school as audience.

In her class, Montgomery has discussed with students the importance of safe browsing, such as the idea that if they get to a website they know they shouldn’t be on, they should immediately report it to an adult in charge, whether it’s a teacher, parent or caregiver. They’ve talked about respecting digital property, and further, the need to create a bibliography. That has a positive repercussion beyond giving credit where it’s due, said student Amy Nickerson.

“For the bibliography, we had to write down all of the website title or the title of the book, and the author and page number,” she said. “That way, you know what you’ve used and if it’s a good site, how to find it again for next time.”

Beyond their usefulness for lessons in digital citizenship, Amy said she’s found having an iPod available to her has another benefit: it inspires her to complete her work more efficiently.

“Then, when I get done math, I can go on the iPod to a math app,” she said.


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DDSB students celebrate literacy day with authors

Event Also Helps Raise Funds for The Creation of Hope Initiative

A giant, foam peanut butter sandwich that often acts as a prop when author Ted Staunton speaks to students may be responsible for Staunton’s continued success as a writer after his first book was published.

Staunton was one of five popular Canadian Young Adult authors who spoke to more than 600 Grade 7, 8 and 9 students at Eastdale Collegiate’s recently renovated theatre on Wednesday, April 4.

Other authors taking part included Eric Walters, Kathy Kacer, Teresa Toten and Shane Peacock.

Staunton told students that soon after his first book was published, he started getting requests from his publishing company for more of his work. The problem was he didn’t really have any idea what he would write about.

“I thought that if you were a writer, you just opened your brain and there were ideas there,” he told students.

It wasn’t quite that easy. But then, he spoke to a group of students. In the midst of his talk, a student crept up and tried to take a bite of the enormous foam peanut butter sandwich he used as a prop. Hilarity ensued. And what’s more, he found the basis for his next story.

“As soon as I realized that I had almost missed a story, I started paying attention,” Staunton said. “I need stuff from real life to get me going.”

Beyond hearing about how working authors go about the writing process, there were also readings from the authors’ works and music.

The event was also a fundraiser to support The Creation of Hope initiative. Launched by author Walters, the project works to bring hope to children who live in disadvantaged communities in other parts of the world. All proceeds from ticket sales to the Eastdale event were donated to support The Creation of Hope projects in Kenya.

Durham Literacy Day was a great opportunity for students, said Isabelle Hobbs, Library/Media Facilitator with the DDSB.

“This gave hundreds of students a chance to hear and talk about reading and writing with their favourite authors,” she said.


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DDSB Gay-Straight Alliances offer a place where students can be themselves

Annual GSA Conference - April 13, 2012


There’s a message Daphne Marsella hopes students will take away from the fifth annual Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Conference, set for Friday, April 13, 2012, at the Durham District School Board Education Centre.

“We want them to go back knowing that it can be better now,” said the Durham Alternative Secondary School teacher, referring to the oft-heard ‘It Gets Better’ slogan, which is aimed at creating hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youth that it will get better – if they can just get through the teen years. But they shouldn’t have to wait, said Marsella.

“There’s no reason high school can’t be a positive experience for everyone.”

The April 13 event brings together students and teacher-advisors from GSAs across the District. It’s presented by the DDSB and District 13 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, with an eye to providing participants with an opportunity to explore issues of homophobia and sexual diversity. The GSA conference includes a keynote address by Nichola Ward, a trans rights activist who founded, an array of workshops on topics ranging from Pride Journals to Healthy Relationships, displays from community agencies and an end-of-day coffee house.

It’s a day Sean Badgley and Emily Crawford, members of the Maxwell Heights Secondary School GSA, are looking forward to. Both just joined their school’s GSA this year.

“I started coming (to the lunch-time group) when I started making friends with people who were LGBTQ,” Sean said. “I thought, why not support them?”

Emily knew she’d join the group as soon as she heard about it, last year, during a Grade 9 information night.

“I just think it’s really important to accept everyone, no matter what,” she said.

GSAs  are formed at DDSB secondary school, with the aim of providing safer community spaces and promote rights for all people. The goal is to create safer, more accepting school environments.

So far, that’s exactly what it is at Maxwell Heights.

“It’s possibly one of the greatest groups at the school,” Sean said. “It’s just the fact that it’s the place where everyone can be themselves, where no matter what, you won’t be judged.”


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Two DDSB Whitby schools compete for Mayor's Cup

It was Rivalry Week recently for two Durham District School Board Whitby secondary schools, as Anderson Collegiate and Vocational Institute and Henry Street High School faced off for the Mayor’s Cup.

The annual championship, which pits the two schools against each other in five different events, went to Henry Street this year, evening the four-year series at two wins apiece.

Rivalry Week sees the two schools go head-to-head in five different events, with the first to win three taking the coveted title.

This year, Anderson hosted day one, with the visitors being successful as Henry Street’s junior girls’ volleyball team defeated Anderson 25-16 and 25-12.

Anderson quickly tied the series, with the school’s OFSAA champion senior boys’ basketball team defeating Henry Street 60-31.

On day two, in front of a jam-packed crowed at Iroquois Park, Henry Street’s senior boys’ hockey team edged out Anderson 3-2, after coming back from a 2-1 second period deficit.

Day three continued the drama, with Anderson’s junior boys’ basketball team extending the series to five games with a 54-38 win.
But, Henry came back, victorious in a LOSSA senior girls’ volleyball final rematch that left crowds on the edge of their seats.
Henry won the event in its inaugural year, while Anderson took the following two years of the Mayor’s Cup.


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DDSB Arts Camp help boost students' confidence, reach their potential

For Kaipa Bharucha, Durham Integrated Arts Camp (DIAC) meant more than an opportunity to immerse herself in the arts for 10 days each summer between Grades 7 and 12.

“I realized in Grade 7 and 8 that I was passionate about art, but I was shy,” said Bharucha, a Pickering High School graduate who is now a first-year student at Wilfred Laurier University, where she studies music.

Camp, she said, provided her an opportunity to “open up, break out of my comfort zone, in a really supportive environment.”

She wound up attending all six years she was eligible.

DIAC is a 10-day immersion experience in the arts. Students in Grades 7 through 12 have the opportunity to study in-depth in the artistic discipline of their choice, in the inspiring surroundings of Camp White Pine near Haliburton. Areas of study include instrumental music, music theatre, dance, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, print-making and wood-working. In addition to honing their own artistic skills, students get an opportunity to see world-class performances during the camp.

It’s estimated almost 10,000 students have attended the camp over its 25 years of existence.

An event set for Friday, March 23 at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate, 1355 Harwood Ave. N. in Ajax, will raise money to go toward scholarships to allow deserving students who are experiencing economic difficulty to attend the camp. The event includes a silent auction, which begins at 7 p.m., and performances, beginning at 8 p.m.

Performers include Neil Crone of Little Mosque on the Prairie, Kevin Frank of Second City, Torq Percussion Quartet, and DIAC staff including Jim Parker, Tim Watson, Andrew Ivens, and Doug Brillenger.

It’s a worthwhile cause, said Cassie Miller, another six-year DIAC attendee who graduated from Uxbridge Secondary School.

“After my first few years at DIAC, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to inspire students like my teachers have inspired me,’” Miller, now a fourth-year student at Queen’s University, where she is studying for her Bachelor’s degree in music with a specialty in education, with an eye to becoming a teacher. But, “it has influenced my life in ways beyond setting me on my career path. It’s made me more confident, taught me leadership skills.”

For tickets to the upcoming fundraiser, contact Manon Laplante at 905-666-6383 or


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'And Still We Rise' gives students a chance to shine

There was a time when the fact Amia Ogieva couldn’t pass the “paper bag test” would have a significant negative impact on her life.

The Grade 12 Pickering High School student was among a large group of And Still We Rise Student Ambassadors, who worked with Durham District School Board staff on the third annual And Still We Rise conference, held Thursday, March 1 at the Education Centre.  As part of the session offerings, Student Ambassadors researched and developed two engaging sessions – “More Complex Than Complexion – The Truth About Shadism”, and “Erase The ‘N’ Word”.

The conference, hosted by the Durham Black Educators Network, is aimed at motivating DDSB students to give back to their communities while maximizing their own potential and becoming agents of social change.

Among the exhibits was one related to the “Brown Paper Bag” test. The test, Amia explained, has its roots in slavery, when lighter skin – in other words, skin lighter than the colour of a brown paper bag - could result in better treatment of people of African descent. It carried on, into what is known as “shadism,” a form of skin-tone bias that identifies the potential of people on the basis of their degree of pigmentation.

 “I would have failed” the test, said Amia, holding the paper bag up to her arm, noting shadeism isn’t a thing of the past. Being involved in And Still We Rise has provided an opportunity to learn more about its roots, she said.

“I know that still, people who are lighter-skinned are sometimes seen as higher up,” she said. “When you learn about why it’s been going on for so long, you see things in a whole different light.”

The event’s themes this year were Optimism, Ownership and Opportunity. Participants started the day by hearing from Toronto District School Board Central Coordinating Principal for Equity and Inclusive Education, Jacqueline Spence, then participated in workshops. They also had opportunities to check out exhibits from community groups, and wrapped up the day by taking part in an “Opportunity Panel.”

The day provided an opportunity to grow and challenge “the way we see the world around us,” said student ambassador Justis Croasdale, a Grade 12 student at Sinclair Secondary School.

“It was an opportunity to learn a little more about myself, my history, an opportunity to grow as a person,” he said.


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DDSB students I Am Who I Am campaign raises more than $19,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Association

When all was said and done, Sarah Slim had just one thing to say: “We did it!”

In fact, students from the Durham District School Board’s Pickering Family of Schools more than did it, almost doubling their original $10,000 fundraising goal for I Am Who I Am, a student-led endeavour inspired by Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old boy who took his own life in September, 2011.

Joined by dignitaries from Queen’s Park, Parliament Hill, Pickering City Hall and police and fire services, students presented a cheque for $19,341.48 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association Friday, March 2, 2012.

Mitchell had Muscular Dystrophy, a disease that would likely have eventually caused him to require a wheelchair.

To remember Mitchell, students from the DDSB’s Pickering Family of Schools sold wristbands, for a minimum $1 donation, and t-shirts, for $8, featuring the I Am Who I Am theme. The campaign also included a number of other activities focussed on character education and safe schools.

So successful was the campaign that organizers had to set up a PayPal account to allow for payments from elsewhere.

“Within three weeks, we had reached our goal of $10,000,” said Pine Ridge student Cody Morrison.  The theme of the campaign resounded with many. “This is about acceptance in its best form,” he said.

Money raised will go to six Durham families, as well as one from elsewhere in the GTA, who have a child with Muscular Dystrophy, for items they require such as wheelchairs or breathing apparatus.


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Scientists in the School celebrates milestone in DDSB school where it all began

It was 1989 when, in a Kindergarten classroom at Lakeside Public School, the very first Scientists in the School workshop took place.
Twenty-three years later, the program marked its five-millionth student through its workshops, at a special event at the very same school.

“We value this program very much here at Lakeside,” said Lakeside PS Principal Gail Perroni, during a celebration that included an almost-$1 million funding announcement, to fund programs elsewhere in Ontario, by Ajax-Pickering Member of Parliament Chris Alexander.

Scientists in the School was founded in 1989 in Ajax by two moms who were also science professionals. It has since grown to become the largest youth science outreach charity in Canada, as measured by student participation, with branches all over Ontario and a recently-opened branch in Lethbridge, Alberta.

“Scientists in the School would still be a seed of an idea if it weren’t for DDSB, had it not embraced the idea,” said the program’s executive director, Cindy Adams. “This is where it all started.”

Students have derived great benefit from the program, noted Superintendent of Education/Program Services, Luigia Ayotte.

“This program has been helping foster a love of science in DDSB students for more than 20 years,” Ayotte said. “We are pleased to help them celebrate their 5-millionth student milestone.”

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DDSB supports pink shirt day

DDSB's leadership team shows its support for Pink Shirt Day and bullying prevention.
(back row - L to R) Doug Crichton, Supt. of Education/Special Ed./Grove School; John Beatty, Supt. of Education/Brock/Uxbridge & Scugog Schools/Continuing Education/Durham Alternative Secondary Schools; David Visser, Supt. of Education/Facilities Services: Mark Joel, Supt. of Education/Operations/Transportation/Leadership Development; Edward Hodgins, Supt. of Education/Business & Treasurer; Camille Taylor, Supt. of Education/Ajax Schools/ School Councils/Parent Engagement; Lisa Millar,  Supt. of Education/Pickering Schools/Early Learning/Childcare; Jeannine Joubert, Supt. of Education/Oshawa Schools; Martyn Beckett, Director of Education and Secretary to the Board; John Bowyer, Supt. of Education/Whitby Schools/Safety & Security; Luigia Ayotte, Supt. of Education/Program Services/Staff Development; Janet Edwards, Supt. of Education/Employee Relations

On February 29, 2012, Durham District School Board (DDSB) students, staff and school community members will be sporting pink shirts to show their support for Pink Shirt Day. Pink Shirt Day aims to bring awareness and dialogue on the issue of bullying and in particular, bullying prevention. Pink Shirt Day is just one of the many events and strategies used at the DDSB to tackle the important issue of bullying prevention.

More information about bullying prevention initiatives can be found on the DDSB’s website, in the Parent Resources/Safe Schools section.

Pink Shirt Day originated in Nova Scotia where a young man was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day of high school. A group of older students chose to support this young man by purchasing and wearing pink shirts the following day. Their act of support to address homophobia sent a clear message to all students in their school: Bullying is not tolerated here.

The Safe Schools Department aims to send the same message to all members of the Durham District School Board and surrounding community through the poster, Bullying is not tolerated here. The posters include Safe Schools Core Values: (see image)

DDSB Schools will display the posters in areas of high traffic where this visible sign of belief and practice will be seen by the entire school community.

Resources and activities for Pink Shirt Day have been developed by the Safe Schools and Equity Departments.  The aim of the resources and activities is to engage staff and students in conversations about inclusion, acceptance and bullying prevention. The resources support staff as they work with student leaders to develop school-based activities.

For more information about Pink Shirt Day visit




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Female DDSB students in Ajax challenged to start "Finding Kind"

Standing before a sea of about 350 girls, Eagle Ridge PS principal Martine Robinson asked her audience to close their eyes, and raise their hands if they had ever been negatively affected by the behaviour of another female.

Almost every hand in the room – including those belonging to adult guests and staff – went up.

The response came as no surprise to Robinson, who said she has seen a rise in recent years of the number of females visiting the school office as a result of inappropriate, often mean, behaviour between girls.

“But this is not just an Ajax epidemic,” she told the Grade 6, 7 and 8 girls from three area schools who gathered at Eagle Ridge PS on February 15. “This is happening all over the world.”

Further provoked by a recent viewing of the film Miss Representation, which documents how media misrepresentation of women has led to under-representation of females in positions of power and influence, and urged on by the lingering question, “What now?”, Robinson and Vice Principal Patricia Yeomans started looking into what they could do to help avert the trend.

That’s when they found the Kindness Campaign. The campaign is an internationally-recognized movement, documentary and school program conceived of by two young women in California. The two, troubled by negative behaviour between young women and the lingering effects thereof, travelled by van across the United States, speaking to young women and documenting their efforts. They visited 60 cities in 28 States, and as one of the women said, “We haven’t met a single girl on this journey who hasn’t been affected by this.”

Robinson and Yeomans decided female students would benefit from viewing the documentary, and invited Grade 7 and 8 girls from nearby Lincoln Alexander and Alexander Graham Bell public schools to join Eagle Ridge PS’s Grade 6, 7 and 8 girls to see it and then discuss their responses with a panel, facilitated by Girls Incorporated of Durham, a group that encourages girls to be strong, smart, and bold through advocacy, education and programs. The panel was made up of a group of women Robinson referred to as “Phenomenal Females.”

The response from the young women in the audience was immediate and emotional. Tissue boxes could be seen being passed around during the film, and after, when the girls were asked to speak up on what they would do to change the tide, a number of specific, powerful and tearful apologies were made.

“I have been a bully to one of my friends,” one girl said. “I wish I could take that moment back, because I never wanted to hurt her.”

Turning toward her peer, the girl continued, “I’m so sorry I called you what I called you. I wish I could take it back. I’m very, very sorry.”
Another admitted she’d been both a bystander and a participant in girl bullying.

“People bully other people in groups, and I’ve gotten caught up in it and wanted to fit in,” she said, before apologizing for past behaviour and pledging to try not to act that way in future.

Changing the current trend may be as simple as being conscientious and conscious, another girl said.

“You just have to be nice,” she said. “You will always remember the mean things people did to you, but you’ll also remember the kind things.”


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New group gives LGBTQ teachers a place to share experiences, seek support

Things have changed a fair bit since Steven Bland started teaching more than 30 years ago.

Then, “I could have been fired for my sexual identity,” recalls Bland, who will soon retire as Head of English at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School.

Now, not only is he out to both colleagues and students, he’s part of newly formed group of DDSB Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgendered-Queer (LGBTQ) educators. The group, the brainchild of Staff Development Officer Barry Bedford, recently held its inaugural meeting.

The primary goal, Bedford says, is to “ensure all teaching staff knows that every member of our system is valued regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But the possibility of other positive outcomes is also likely, say some of the teachers involved.

Daniel McPherson-Styles, a Kindergarten teacher at Dr. Robert Thornton Public School, said he was at first a little wary of such a group. If it was just going to be people getting together to complain about issues, “I’m not into that kind of pity group,” he says. But, that isn’t what the group is about.

“It’s good to get teachers together to collaborate,” he says.

It’s also a good opportunity to provide support to those who don’t feel comfortable letting anyone know about their sexual orientation, Bland says, noting he still sees some discomfort. He hopes the group’s membership expands.

“It would be nice to see many more teachers involved so people don’t feel like they’re alone,” he says.

Beyond that, it provides a venue to find ways to ensure schools are dealing with equity and diversity issues, including issues surrounding family make-up.

“It’s really hit me since I became a parent: do my kids feel like they are represented in their school?” says McPherson-Styles, noting he and his husband have attempted to help with that, volunteering together in their children’s school.

It’s only recently that students became aware of Bland’s sexual identity. He had come out to colleagues long ago, but only with the advent of Gay-Straight Alliances, of which he is the staff coordinator at his school, has he been “openly out with students.” But, it’s important, he says, to let students know that not only are they not alone, but there are people like them from all walks of life.

Bland hopes, over the short term, the group gives teachers an opportunity to “come together with like-minded people to discuss things like homophobia.” But he has a longer term wish for the group as well.

“Ultimately, I’d like to see that the teachers’ group doesn’t exist because there’s no need for it,” he says.

For more information on the group, teachers should contact Bedford at


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Pickering High School student works to empower
other young women

Durham District School Board student Atiyya Bacchus is making a difference in her community, and it’s not going unnoticed.

The 16-year-old Pickering High School Grade 11 student was recently honoured as a “Global Changemaker” by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation, as part of International Development Week.

Atiyya was one of five young women across the province to be so honoured, for her efforts toward empowering and making a difference in the lives of women and girls in their communities and around the globe.

The teen’s list of achievements is as impressive as it is lengthy. It includes mentoring younger girls, starting a crocheting circle of young mothers, providing guidance and support for other girls who have recently immigrated to Canada, volunteering at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Guyana and raising funds for community development projects in Sierra Leone.

Atiyya also earned the YMCA Peace Medallion for the Durham Region in 2011.

And it’s all happened since she started high school and began to come out of her shell.

“I wasn’t always like this,” the now outgoing teen said with a laugh.

Atiyya and her family moved from Guyana only five years ago. Everything, she said, “was completely new.”

“There was a lot of upheaval,” she said of her early time in Canada. “It wasn’t a time when I was involved in a lot of clubs or sports or anything for that matter.”

In Grade 9, all of that changed. Embracing a healthier lifestyle helped give Atiyya the self-confidence to get more and more involved in a variety of activities. The combination “cascaded into me becoming who I am today.

Getting to Pickering High School was an enormous turning point,” Atiyya said.

“Having all these teachers who were open about talking about issues in the world, that was really important,” she said.

Knowing about issues affecting the broader world is helping shape Atiyya’s future goals as well. She is contemplating applying to medical school after completing her under-graduate degree.

“That way, I can still be involved in social activism,” she said. “Medicine is the most humane of the social sciences, so it would be a good way to give back. My goal is always to be the best I can be.”


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Character Education applies in both on-line
and off-line worlds

Students are more connected than ever, both at home and at school, and that’s why it’s important to remind them that character education applies to both their online and offline life.

The DDSB has proclaimed the 2011-2012 school year the “Year of Digital Citizenship,” which means schools are focussing on linking the 10 traits of character education to students’ digital practices.

The two are inextricably linked, says DDSB Education Director Martyn Beckett.

“To ensure effective use of technology, this ‘digital generation’ of students must be provided opportunities to learn offline behaviours and character traits needed to translate into positive behaviour in their online life as well,” he said. “Awareness of the character traits can help reduce negative online behaviour in matters ranging from cyber-bullying to copyright infringement.”

The proclamation and resulting actions support the many technology initiatives currently underway within the Board, including the ongoing Instructional Laptop Pilot (ILP) in which teachers have been provided laptops for instructional use.

As part of the ILP, teachers take a two-hour course in digital citizenship, to help them translate that lesson for use in the classroom.
Naming this the Year of Digital Citizenship also recognizes the fact students are “more connected than ever,” both at school and at home, said Tim Ralph, DDSB’s Education Officer, Curriculum and Technology.

The idea partially “percolated up because of the huge expansion of social media use by people of all ages,” Ralph noted.

It also recognizes the evolution of the cell phone for student use.

Ralph noted a huge proportion of older students now carry so-called Smart-Phones.

“They now essentially have compact computers in their pockets all the time,” he said. “They’ve got these very powerful tools sitting in their backpacks.”

Throughout the school year, Ralph and his team have visited schools, providing seminars and tips for parents who want more information about use of technology. Because the advent of the internet post-dated a lot of parents’ childhood and teen years, there can be a bit of a “generational gap” in that parents are unlikely to have their own experience to draw on, Ralph said.

Adults seem to be very supportive of their kids’ use of technology and are looking for information on how to keep their kids safe online, but also on how to promote healthy and productive use of technology.

It’s important that students learn “not only the hard skills of how to use the technology, but also the soft skills, like how to communicate properly with it,” Ralph said. That’s where the character traits can come into play.

“The key is to ensure those same attributes of character – like respect, responsibility and empathy – are being used by kids when they’re online, too,” Ralph said.

Through the work of DDSB staff, students learn how the same behaviours are expected online as off-line, he said.

“They need to know that they are accountable and not anonymous when they’re online,” Ralph said.

 “Children are quick to adopt new technologies so it is important that we promote positive behaviour early,” Beckett said.


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Village Union Public School receives national award

One of Thirty Schools Across the Country to Receive Grant for Playground Rebuild

Village Union PS parent volunteers, students and staff members gather around to show their excitement for the new community build playground project. Shown here, (left to right in the back row) John Love, vice principal Village Union PS; Parent Volunteers Deb Brown; Liz Hughes; Bonnie Moffit; Pam Williams; Jesse John, Let Them Be Kids representative; Val Brooks, principal Village Union PS; Jay Schleiffer, teacher and Marko Ivancicevic, parent volunteer.

Oshawa, ON -- Thanks to the hard work of a group of community volunteers, Village Union Public School was chosen as one of 30 organizations to win a national award that will allow them to re-develop the playground in their school yard.

The support comes from Let Them Be Kids, an all volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the joy of play to kids. This initiative will receive strong support and leadership provided by Let Them Be Kids, the Village Union PS community and the City of Oshawa.

The project will involve a group of volunteers, “Playground Champions,” working together with parents and children to redesign the playground at Village Union PS, located at 240 Simcoe Street South. Adding a play structure includes the creation of a new playground and much more.

“I am excited that the children will have a safe and fun place to play,” says Deb Brown, parent.

Although the planning will occur over the next five months, June 9, 2012 is designated as build day. On this day, community residents and supporters are invited to volunteer to be a part the team to build the new playground.

“This is going to be an exciting and wonderful day for our community,” says John Love, vice principal, Village Union Public School. “The children in our school are looking forward to being part of the design process and playing in their new yard. It will also serve as a gathering place for the community and we are grateful to Let Them Be Kids for their tremendous support,” he added.

The Let Them Be Kids foundation helps build stronger communities across Canada and helps bring affordable fun and play to all children and families.

“We are proud to award Village Union PS as one of the 30 Let Them Be Kids award recipients for 2012. It is clear that the organizing committee is passionate and driven, and it is also clear that the community of Oshawa is a special place. We are looking forward to the awesome job that the community will do for the kids on June ninth,” said Ian Hill, chairman of the Board of Directors for Let Them Be Kids.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: If you are interested in supporting this initiative, either through donations or volunteering, please visit the website at or call the school at 905-725-1622.

Follow Village Union Public School's progress on


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DDSB schools collect 460 boxes of clothing for Northern Ontario First Nations Communities

More than 60 Durham District School Board schools joined in a social action project aimed at raising awareness about and warm winter clothing donations for people living in Northern First Nations communities.

The drive resulted in collection of about 460 boxes of new and gently-used winter outerwear and fleece blankets.

Living conditions in one of the communities, Attawapiskat, garnered a great deal of media attention in recent months, helping raise awareness of the situation faced by that community. This initiative allowed the DDSB community to both provide practical help and raise awareness of the situation faced by people living in such communities.

The project is part of the goal of “building a culture of caring communities in our schools,” says DDSB Aboriginal Education Officer Sue Lunn. “When we ‘Feel Deeply, Think Critically, See Clearly and Act Wisely,’ we can be the change we want to see in the world.”

Students gained greater understanding and empathy by learning about the vast needs of other children, just like them, in Ontario, said Carruthers Creek Grade 3 Teacher Debbie Kravis. She used the true story of Shannen Koostachin, a First Nations girl who, along with other children from Attiwapiskat, lobbied for a new school to replace the crumbling facility in which they are being educated, to help drive the point home.

“We talked about it being in our own backyard,” Kravis said. “We talked about how it was really important that we help out people who need things in our own province.”

For Rand Al-Badri, a Grade 3 student, the drive provided an opportunity to share what she has learned about Canada’s First Nations communities, and especially those in Northern Ontario, with the rest of her family.

“I told them about it, and that it’s really important to donate,” she said.

The project was taken on by DDSB’s Aboriginal Education department, in partnership with Safe Schools and Equity, Diversity and Race Relations. The Board worked in conjunction with the Training Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police Aboriginal Policing Unit, which will distribute the items in the communities where they are needed.

A special thanks to everyone in the school communities across the Durham District School Board for their generosity.


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DDSB Teacher Flora Fung Awarded Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching

Helping students make connections between events of the past and present-day situations has resulted in Oshawa Central Collegiate Teacher Flora Fung being awarded the 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The award was presented in December in Ottawa by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston,Governor General of Canada.
Fung was nominated by fellow history teacher Nancy Hamer Strahl, the 2008 recipient of the award.

 “I try to make as many external connections as possible to what they’re doing in the classroom,” Fung said.

One example is her involvement with the Hong Kong Veterans’ Commemorative Association. Hearing about nine Oshawa veterans of the Second World War’s Battle of Hong Kong who had not been previously recognized locally, Fung’s effort resulted in the veterans being “adopted” by her school. A plaque, honoured each Remembrance Day, commemorating their involvement now hangs at Oshawa Central Collegiate.

A project Fung initiated with her class using a paper First World War battle simulation was also a reason for her nomination. During the project, students design their own trenches and work together to develop battle strategies.

The “Highlights of History” conference is another of Fung’s accomplishments. The event, in which area museums and community groups are brought together to show students their wares at the Durham District School Board office, was a result of a roadblock Fung ran into.

“It was born because I was frustrated because I couldn’t get my students to the Royal Ontario Museum” due to cost, she said. Instead, she brought area museums to her students.

“The kids got to see what was happening in their community” in terms of history, Fung said. The event provides the crucial link between local museums and the youth of today.

Operation Thank You was also Fung’s brainchild. The project was aimed at providing students with contemporary connections by having them write letters to those actively serving on Canada’s military in Afghanistan. Other schools, using Fung’s curriculum guide, also took on the project, which Fung is revamping now that Canada’s military commitment to Afghanistan has ended.

Projects like these help bring history alive for students, Fung said.

“Most of the time, students see history as a dead thing, something they can’t connect to. This allows then to make connections,” she said. “By making connections, it makes it real, it makes it present-day.”

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Terry Fox Foundation Honours DDSB’s
Lincoln Alexander Public School

Lincoln Alexander Public School principal Marilyn Sinclair was a teacher at the then-newly built school when its students began participating in the Terry Fox Foundation’s annual school run.

“We wanted to help celebrate a great Canadian who, like Lincoln Alexander, put Canada on the map,” Sinclair said.

And since then, the school has celebrated that great Canadian each year, raising $124,626.05 since the Foundation’s records show the school began participating, in 1994.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Terry Fox Foundation, which honoured the school with banners celebrating more than 15 years of participation during January’s Character Assembly. The banners were presented to students as well as the school’s Terry Fox Run organizers, Teachers Dawn Huckson and Nicole Aldcroft.

Fittingly, the assembly celebrated the character trait of optimism, Sinclair said.

The Terry Fox Foundation is a charity the community has rallied behind.
“Cancer has touched the lives of everybody – whether it’s their own family members, friends, or themselves,” Sinclair said

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Uxbridge Students Drive Home Message
about Safety on the Roads

A partially-completed text message across the cracked screen of a decimated cell phone reads,

“Almost there.”

It’s one the posters created by Ian Bain, as part of the youth-created, Uxbridge-based campaign on safe driving which kicked off Friday, December 9, 2011 at Uxbridge Secondary School.

The message, said Grade 12 student and USS student council co-president Bridget Rusk, is “really powerful” in reminding students not to text and drive.

As well as the posters, the campaign includes a short film, created by recent Uxbridge Secondary School graduate Sabrina Adams. It is to be circulated just in time for the winter and holiday driving season.

The campaign grew out of a committee formed last spring in response to a number of tragic traffic fatalities among young people in the community.

It’s a tragedy area youth are well acquainted with, said Bridget. There has been at least one traffic fatality involving a young person from the area in each of her years of high school.

Committee members include Durham District School Board, members of police and fire services, The Uxbridge Youth Centre, The School Community Council, Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor and a representative of the local Ministries.

That it’s a youth-created campaign, aimed at promoting mindful driving as well as the responsibilities of passengers, makes it all the more powerful, Bridget said.

“Really, by having it come from students, for the students, with a student presentation and home-written songs and a video and posters, makes it come across that it’s students caring, not just adults preaching,” she said.

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DDSB Manager Recognized for Contributions to Community Safety

Contributions to community safety have landed a Durham District School Board (DDSB) manager a prestigious award.

Gary Gibson, DDSB’s Manager of Health and Safety, was recently recognized by Safe Communities Canada after being nominated by the group’s local arm, the Safe Communities of Pickering Ajax (SCOPA) to receive the group’s Ambassador for Safety award.

The Ambassador for Safety Award was established in 2007 to allow for recognition of key contributors to community safety.
But while it’s an individual award, Gibson is quick to credit his team with working on initiatives that support the ideals put forward by SCOPA.

“There’s a really great team here that supports of ton of initiatives relating to staff safety and student safety,” Gibson says. He was presented with the award plaque at a recent Health and Safety Ontario conference.

Nomination for the award was largely based on two initiatives. First was the Passport to Safety Program, a program aimed at teaching youth about workplace safety.

“I was part of the team that brought that program to Durham a number of years ago,” Gibson says, noting that as of this year, 15,000 DDSB students have been through the program.

The second initiative was the Steps for Life walk, which was initiated in DDSB last year. The walk raises money for Threads for Life, a family support program for people who have lost a family member to a workplace incident. Gibson’s team “brought it to Durham last May and we had a really successful walk,” he says.

The walk will be held again next year, and is set for May 6, 2012.

The award to Gibson and his team was well-earned, says Ed Hodgins, DDSB’s Superintendent of Business and Treasurer.

“The recognition is a well-deserved honour reflecting his and his teams' innovative approach to health and safety education, which extends well beyond the traditional training model, and sees it as an embedded life skill which is important to encourage in the entire community we serve,” Hodgins says.

Beyond the DDSB team, Gibson also credits an array of community partners for supporting the Board in initiatives it might not be able to undertake on its own.

“By tapping into the community, we can leverage that and create all sorts of great synergies,” he says.

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DDSB Raises $75,000 for the United Way

Thank you for your efforts in leading your school campaign for the United Way of Durham.

This year, we raised over $75,000 and that represents a 15% increase over last year.....way to go, DDSB!

From Lynn Martin, Campaign Manager, United Way of Durham:

"On behalf of the United Way of Durham Region, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the staff & students at the Durham District School Board for running such a successful campaign this year. Through your efforts & generosity, the United Way is able to reach out & touch the lives of many individuals and families in our community. We are truly grateful for everything that you do on our behalf! Congratulations to Martyn Beckett, Rick White, Dawn Ford & the whole of Durham District School Board on a job well done!"

A special thanks the following people for their support of our 2011 DDSB campaign:

Martyn Beckett, Director of Education
Larry Jacula, Trustee
David Barrowclough, OSSTF District 13 President
Don Bryans, CUPE Local 218 President
Gerard O'Neill, ETFO Durham President

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Getting Students to School Safely Trumps All

When it comes to getting kids to school on snowy days, “safety trumps all,” says Mark Joel, Durham District School Board’s Superintendent of Education/Operations and Transportation.

Joel is one of the decision-makers charged with determining whether buses will run on snowy, icy days. But he doesn’t make the decision on his own. Information is compiled from an array of sources, ranging from Environment Canada to the Weather Network to area police services and Municipalities to the local snow plow driver before the final call is made. He works together with his team at Durham Student Transportation Services and Durham’s Catholic school board. The three organizations are often in contact in the wee hours of the morning, making the final call together. And the decision is not made in haste: often those who are charged with making the decisions are up much of the night before a forecasted winter weather event, watching, waiting and gathering as much information as they can before making the final call – a decision that must be made before 7 a.m. – as to whether to run, cancel or delay buses.

The only issue that is considered is whether they feel they can get students to school and home again safely.

“Safety trumps all,” Joel says, noting bus cancellation has no impact on funding.

Durham District School Board’s distinctly different geographic zones complicate the job of deciding whether to run buses, notes Kelly Mechoulan, CAO of Durham Student Transportation Services, which provides busing for the Board’s students.

“The ridges, in the north, and Lake Ontario, in the south, sort of complicate our weather,” she says. “Over the ridges can sometimes be a whole different scene, and vice versa. Down by the lake, when we get lake-effect snow, it’s a whole different scenario.”

Brock Township, located in the north, can also face completely different weather conditions from the rest of the Board, notes Joel.

Because of the different geography of the north end of the board, north of the Oakridges Moraine, weather conditions are sometimes more severe in that area. Added to that is the generally more rural nature of the area, which can mean longer bus routes in areas with higher posted speed limits on often more treacherous roads that are sometimes not salted, sanded or plowed until later in the day.

That means, after all the information on weather and road conditions is gathered, there is likely to be one of three outcomes: school buses will operate; school bus service will be cancelled; or, service to schools located north of Hwy. 7, including Brock, Uxbridge, Scugog and Brooklin schools, will be cancelled. Occasionally, there will be spot cancellations, says Mechoulan.

It can be a hard call that can sometimes look incorrect to some in hindsight, Joel notes.

“Basically, we have to make the decision by 6:30 a.m., so parents have access to the information and can start making their plans,” he says, noting weather and road conditions can change dramatically between then and when students usually leave for school. But once the decision is made, it’s not reversible.

“Sometimes, we cancel buses and by 9:15 a.m., the roads are completely fine,” he notes.

Only on extremely rare occasion – Joel can count less than a handful in his three-plus decades with DDSB, and only in “storm of the century”- like conditions – do schools close due to weather. So, while the buses may not run, parents are still able to take their children to school if they wish most days, though they must also make arrangements to pick them up.

Conversely, parental decisions on keeping students home on days they are uncomfortable with weather conditions are respected. “If parents don’t feel it’s safe for their children to go to school that day, they are able to keep them home,” Joel says.

How do you know?
Here’s how you find out if your child’s bus is running or delayed on bad weather days:

  • Visit the Durham Student Transportation Services website at
  • Listen to the following local radio or television stations listed below.
The Rock - FM








107.7 - FM 1580 - AM





Global TV



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DDSB Staff and Students Don Moustaches
for Men’s Health

Things got a little hairy around Sunset Heights Public School in Oshawa in November, but it was for a good cause.

Following the lead of five teachers who joined the Movember movement, growing moustaches to help raise money and awareness for men’s health, students also donned moustaches, drawn on by members of student council for a coin donation.

When all was said and done, the approximately 300 students in attendance raised over $150,
says teacher-vice principal Tim Fyshe.

“Half our students that were there that day were sporting moustaches,” he said.

Money raised went to Lakeridge Health, as organizers wanted the funds to remain local.

It’s the second year teachers from the school have been involved in Movember, with Mr. Fyshe joining teachers James Steele, Matt Parkins, Ross McGurrin and Jamie Hosier in the month-long moustache growing.

“Our moustaches have generated questions and thoughtful discussions with hundreds of school children in those months, increasing understanding and appreciation of men’s health issues,” Mr. Fyshe said.

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DDSB Students "Step into Action"
With Special Olympics Ontario

OSHAWA – Students from across Durham District School Board (DDSB) got a chance to be among the first in Canada to participate in Special Olympics Ontario’s brand new “Step into Action” program, which launched at Maxwell Heights Secondary School Wednesday, November 23, 2011.

Students from secondary schools across the DDSB were brought to the event, which featured dancing, music, and a visit from Hamilton Tiger Cats defensive back Jonathan Hood.

The new program is part of Special Olympics Ontario’s Physical Activity and Healthy Living (PAHL) focus, which was created to help students with an intellectual disability to take action to become healthier and stay more physically fit.

DDSB is proud partner in piloting the program for students with intellectual disabilities, said Doug Crichton, DDSB’s Superintendent of  Education / Special Education.

“Step into Action provides our high school students with intellectual disabilities with the opportunity to improve their fitness and increase their understanding of how to stay active and healthy,” Mr. Crichton said.  “The program allows them to track their efforts, learn and have fun at the same time.”

The new program is an interactive web-based program designed to enhance physical activity levels by having participants take a “Step” challenge, which can include any activity that can be measured on a pedometer. It encourages participants to “step” 30 minutes a day, increasing their duration and intensity on a weekly basis, while also including, on the website, information on goal-setting, nutrition and physical fitness.

Program leaders, including school staff, who register for the program are provided with pedometers and other resources through Special Olympics Ontario.

It’s a good way to encourage students to make healthy habits, said Board Chairman Larry Jacula, who was on hand for the event.

“This will encourage students not only to start along the path of a healthier lifestyle, but also fosters development in terms of goal achievement and computer literacy,” Mr. Jacula said.

Daily fitness is an important part of Maxwell Heights student Kalin Matheson’s routine. The 17-year-old was both a leader during the kick-off event, and is a participant in the program. Good music and energetic exercise make this program something she enjoys, she said.

“Dancing really gets you moving around,” she said.

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Parents As Partners Conference 2011
Features Inspiring Address from Craig Kielburger

It’s never too soon to start reinforcing the idea that people shouldn’t just be passive bystanders to injustice, says Craig Kielburger.

The Free the Children founder knows of which he speaks. He was only 12 years old in 1995 when he founded his organization, borne of Mr. Kielburger’s distress when he read a news story about a murdered South Asian child labour activist just Mr. Kielburger’s age. So concerned was he that he went to school and told his class the story of the boy, hoping it would spur some sort of action. He asked his classmates, “Will you join me?” Then, he waited to see if anyone would.

“The greatest change-maker isn’t the first person” who commits to a cause, he said, as he spoke to parents, teachers and students at the Durham District School Board’s Parents as Partners conference November 12 at Sinclair Secondary School. The greatest change-maker, he said, “is the second, who has the first person’s back.

“That’s how we started, with that question – could we take action?”

The importance of helping children harness their potential to become agents of change was Mr. Kielburger’s main message to those gathered for the twentieth annual conference. It’s never too soon to start encouraging children in that direction, he said.

“I don’t believe kids turn 18 and suddenly develop a social conscience,” he said.

Parents as Partners Conference Committee members from left:
Jacqueline Dunn Gabrielle, Shareen Row, Kelly Boehm, Kendra Godin-Svboda
and Cheryl Rock.
Craig Kielburger (left) takes a minute talk with DDSB Trustees Kimberly Zeppieri (Whitby), Yvonne Forbes (Ajax) and Board Chairperson Larry Jacula.

That’s why education needs to be comprised not only of the traditional “Three Rs”, but also of the “Three Cs”: compassion, courage and community, he said, noting it’s a matter of aiming to create “shameless idealists.”

Mr. Kielburger spoke of a conference he had been invited to attend, at only 14 years of age, by the Dalai Lama, the high lama of Tibetan Buddhism. He was among a group of 30 people from around the world brought together in Sweden to study what represented the greatest challenge representing modern civilization.

After days of consideration, a media conference was held.

“The Dalai Lama said the greatest challenge facing our time is that we’re raising a generation of passive bystanders,” Mr. Kielburger said.

It’s up to parents and educators to ensure that doesn’t happen, he added, noting he recognizes the great challenge of determining how much children ought be exposed to.

Mr. Kielburger spoke of his university days, when he got so overwhelmed by all the bad news in the world that, for a time, he quit reading newspapers. He told Archbishop Desmond Tutu of his decision. Archbishop Tutu, Mr. Kielburger recalled, shook his head.

“College boy,” Mr. Kielburger recalled the South African activist and Nobel Prize winner saying to him, “What do they teach you kids in school today? The newspaper is God’s to-do list, delivered right to your front door, just for you, every morning.

The Archbishop’s comment made it clear even the worst bad news story can be one way of starting the conversation to help children want to get involved, Mr. Kielburger said.

“For parents who strive to know, how do you start the conversation (on how to make change), there are these opportunities that present themselves every day,” he said.

He also relayed the story of his mother’s inability to just walk by a panhandler. In each case, she not only gave some money, but would ask a question. Years later, he commented to her about it.

“I told my mom how much I’d admired that, how she was nice to these people,” Mr. Kielburger said. She told him that half the reason she behaved as she did was simply out of human kindness. But the other part, she told him, was for the sake of Mr. Kielburger and his brother, “so that we would acknowledge their humanity.”

There’s no question that children and young adults have compassion, Mr. Kielburger said. Parents and educators can help provide the environment necessary for kids to put that compassion into action, he said.

The role for parents and educators is in “helping students nurture that compassion, giving them the courage to act on it, and the community to support it,” he said.

This was the first year the Parents as Partners conference invited parents to bring their children along, said Durham District School Board Superintendent Janet Edwards. “The idea behind that was to engage parents and their children in an experience that would generate dialogue, create understanding and maybe inspire some action.”  Young people do want to help, sometimes the just don’t know where to start.

It’s an important message for parents and educators, she noted.

“Ensuring young people have compassion and empathy, and know how to put those traits into action, is a shared responsibility of parents and the education system,” Ms. Edwards said. “Craig’s comments and achievements show just how important that role is.”

The message ties in with many of Durham District School Board’s Character Education initiatives, noted board chairman Larry Jacula.
“Craig has shown us ways to empower students to bring the important tenets of the Character Education taught in our schools to life,” he said.

That was the reason Carleen Blissett decided to bring along son Alex, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student. It’s important to ensure people are engaged in ensuring positive change, Ms. Blissett said.

“Around the world, people are disengaging themselves from what’s going on,” she said, noting one way her son is ensuring that doesn’t happen to him is by taking part in a YMCA leadership program.

“It’s teaching them how to be active and to implement things, and go forth and make a change, be a leader in the community,” she said.

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Julie Payette Public School Students
Get Fun Lesson in Digital Citizenship

2011-2012 The Year of Digital Citzenship at the Durham District School Board

WHITBY – Students got a chance to bring their knowledge of digital citizenship to life during a hands-on full-day workshop in stop motion film making at Julie Payette Public School in Whitby.

The event, held Wednesday, November 9 at the brand new school, saw Grade 7 students creating both the narrative and the clay characters before having an opportunity to work with The Director’s Cut, a mobile film company that brings in up-and-coming film-makers as well as the latest in digital media hardware, software and equipment to schools, to shoot stop-motion films.

Students were to create storylines that fit in with the fact the 2011-2012 school year is the Year of Digital Citizenship at Durham District School Board. The goal is to help students become responsible digital citizens.

Stories were to portray a proactive approach to bullying avoidance, said Marianne Rogers, one of the Grade 7 teachers whose students took part.

One group’s story showed a group of hockey players in a clutch end-of-game situation, explained student Liam Swann. The coach decides to put the player perceived to be the weakest member of the team on the ice, but through teamwork, players are able to get the puck to him, allowing him to score.

Not only did the event help students reinforce the importance of teamwork through their story, but it also tested their patience, as they worked to create the stop motion film, which involved shooting an array of photos for every tiny move the characters made.

“We’ve worked for two hours for 20 seconds” worth of film, Liam said.

Another group’s film showed how a theft and bullying situation was turned around.

“We’re just trying to show how you can do the right thing,” said Shawn Gocool. The event provided a “good way to influence people to do the right thing, in a fun way,” added Tyler Henry.

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Anderson CVI Student Aids
in Saving Man's Life

Michelle_MokedanzNovember 9, 2011

Michelle Mokedanz lived Scouting’s “Be Prepared” motto last weekend, and now, the 16-year-old Anderson Collegiate student is being credited with helping save a man’s life.

The Grade 11 student was on her way home from Trail Camp, part of the Medical Venturers arm of Scouts Canada she is involved in at about 11:10 a.m. Saturday, November 5. She was traveling down Manning Road, near Rossland Road in Whitby with her father and two sisters when she saw a man lying on the ground.

“He was lying on the opposite crosswalk and not getting up,” she said.

Michelle immediately grabbed her first aid kit, and ran over to him. At the same time, an off-duty firefighter arrived, along with another man and a woman. A quick check revealed the victim was not breathing and had no pulse. While the woman called 911, Michelle, the firefighter and the other man began performing CPR. The firefighter handled the breathing, while the other man did compressions, and Michelle held the 46-year-old victim’s head, counted compressions and checked his pulse.

She later learned the man had been jogging in the area when he collapsed.

The opportunity to put the training she’s received through Medical Venturers, which is held at Whitby EMS headquarters, was “kind of” what Michelle expected the real life application to be like.

“I was running through (in her head) what I was supposed to do, and hoping the ambulance would arrive fast,” said Michelle. “We go over it many, many times. It’s really good training.”

After three or four rounds of compressions, the man resumed breathing, but Michelle believes he may have crashed again as the ambulance arrived. Michelle has since learned that, by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the man was not only breathing, but talking.

“I talked to a paramedic last night who said he was all good,” Michelle said Wednesday.

Officers at the scene, according to a Durham Regional Police media release, were impressed by Michelle’s “modesty, poise and courage,” which was again evident during an interview at her high school.

“It was really a group effort,” she was quick to point out, noting she hopes others her age will seek similar training.

“Training is a good thing,” she said. “Even if you think you might not use it, you might.”

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Durham District School Board and Durham Regional Police Service
Renew Commitment to Safe Schools


Safe school environments for students, staff and the community were the focus of the Police/School Protocol training sessions recently held at the Durham District School Board Education Centre.

The training sessions are based on the Police-School Protocol, an extensive agreement which guides the investigation of school-related occurrences. Locally, the protocol agreement exists between eight police services and seven school boards.

Director of Education, Martyn Beckett said, “The training is a key component to the continued success of the police–school protocol as it assists in maintaining important partnerships and working relationships between the Durham District School Board and Durham Regional Police Service. The protocol and the training ultimately mean greater safety of students, staff, principals, and volunteers in our schools each and every day.”

Locally, training sessions were held for school administrators and teachers from the Durham District School Board, Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud and officers from the Durham Regional Police Service. Participants reviewed the protocol, had opportunity for discussion and left with a renewed commitment to a coordinated effort to the greater safety and protection of students, teachers, principals, staff and volunteers in our schools.

“Keeping our schools safe is a top priority for everyone and this renewed and updated safety protocol is an important document for both organizations,” says DRPS Chief Mike Ewles, “It identifies clear definitions for offences and outlines the various response options for both school officials and police officers.”

The Police-School Board Protocol 2011 is an agreement between: Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud; Conseil scolaire Viamonde; Durham Catholic District School Board; Durham District School Board; Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board; Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board; Trillium Lakelands District School Board; Anishinabek Police Service – Curve Lake Detachment; City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service; Cobourg Police Service; Durham Regional Police Service; Hiawatha Police Service; Ontario Provincial Police; Peterborough Lakefield CommunityPolice Service; and Port Hope Police Service. The first protocol was signed in 2002.

The protocol outlines how police service and the school boards will co-operate and co-ordinate their efforts to ensure that the legal rights of all students and staff will be respected at all times. The training also covers topics such as online luring and sexting, threats and emergency planning among others. The protocol is the policy direction of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

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Table of Contents:

At the DDSB, School's in for summer

Port Perry High School students take top prizes in writing contest

Challenge Track and Field Meet brings more than 500 DDSB athletes to Oshawa

DDSB Staff Development Officer Recognized by local PFLAG Group

DDSB Researcher Awarded for Leadership and Achievement

Port Perry High School teacher honoured with Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

Oshawa Central Collegiate teacher receives Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

Toronto Blue Jay pitcher brings healthy choices message to Fallingbrook Public School

Focus is on fun at ADAPTS Track and Field event

DDSB Outdoor Environmental Education staff honoured by Region of Durham

Sinclair SS helping other young women break the cycle of "Miss Representation"

Dunbarton High School student wins prestigious scholarship

DDSB Competes - Destination ImagiNation Finals

Waverly PS student medals at Canada-wide Science Fair

Durham students Race Against Drugs

Durham students gather to celebrate Canadian books

DDSB Education Centre staff fundrais for MADD

Canadian astronaut Julie Payette on hand to launch Whitby school named for her

Claremont Public School celebrates with the community

Whitby students gather to show how they're better together

Pickering DDSB Students Show Their Character

New DDSB classrooms provide state-of-the-art facilities filled with natural light

Grade 8 students at Dr. Roberta Bondar Public School learn charity can start in the classroom

Canoe finds home at Whitby Shores Public School

Robotics event challenges DDSB students to use creativity, technology and teamwork

DDSB students bring history to life at Heritage Fair

Education Minister Laurel Broten visits DDSB Schools

DDSB takes Steps for Life

Waverly PS student to represent the DDSB at Canada-wide science fair

Gay Straight Alliance members gather for annual conference

Ensuring Inclusive Schools at the DDSB

TSN Host Shares His Stuggle with Depression with DDSB Students

Helping DDSB Kids Keep 'Cool' - Group Program Helps Students with Anxiety

DDSB students elect three new student trustees to represent them in the 2012-2013 school year

DDSB Students hear about the importance of good mental health, from someone who knows

Durham Black Educators Network Seeks to Support Staff, Students and Parents of African or Caribbean Descent

Athabasca Street PS Students Getting Hands-On Lessons in Digital Citizenship

DDSB Students Celebrate Literacy Day with Authors

DDSB Gay-Straight Alliances Offer a Place Where Students Can Be Themselves

'Two DDSB Whitby schools compete for Mayor's Cup

'DDSB Arts Camp Help Boost Students' Confidence, Reach Their Potential

And Still We Rise' gives students a chance to shine

DDSB Students I Am Who I Am Campaign Raises More Than $19,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Association

Scientist in the School Celebrates Milestone in DDSB School Where it all began

DDSB Supports Pink Shirt Day

Female DDSB Students in Ajax Challenged to Start "Finding Kind"

New Group Gives LBGQT Teachers a Place to Share Experiences, Seek Support

Pickering High School Student Works to Empower Other Young Women

Character Education Applies in Both On-Line and Off-Line Worlds

Village Union Public School Receives National Award

DDSB Schools Collect 460 Boxes of Clothing for Northern Ontario First Nations Communities

DDSB Teacher Flora Fung Awarded Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching

Terry Fox Foundation Honours DDSB's Lincoln Alexander Public School

Uxbridge Students Drive Home Message about Safety on the Roads

DDSB Manager Recognized for Contributions to Community Safety

DDSB Raises $75,000 for the United Way

Getting Students to School Safely Trumps All

DDSB Staff and Students Don Moustaches for Men's Health

DDSB Students "Step Into Action" with Special Olympics Ontario

Parents As Partners Conference 2011:
Features Inspiring Address from
Craig Kielburger

Julie Payette Public School Students Get Fun Lesson in Digital Citizenship

Anderson CVI Student Aids in Saving Man's Life

DDSB and DRPS Renew Commitment to Safe Schools