Learning Partners Advisory Council Meeting - April 10, 2017

Location: Montague Regional High School, Prince Edward Island

4:30 pm to 8:30 pm


  1. Welcome and agenda review
  2. Approval of Draft Summary Notes of Meeting Five, December 5, 2016
  3. Review of Public and Principals’ Feedback to Learning Partners Advisory Council (LPAC) Discussion Paper
  4. School Supports Project (Presentation by Pam Trainor)
  5. Discussion: On Defining a Vision for Learning in PEI
  6. Give and Get
  7. Next Steps / Next Meeting

In Attendance:

Co-Chairs H. Wade MacLauchlan and Bill Whelan

Members: Amanda Brazil, Amber Jadis, Angela Arsenault, Anna MacKenzie, Blaine Bernard (for Bethany MacLeod), Bonnie Stewart, Donald DesRoches, Jeff Brant, Kathleen Flanagan, Lori Johnston, Moira McGuire, Natalie Mitton, Peter Rukavina, Rocio MacCallum, Ron MacDonald

Ex officio members: Sharon Cameron, Teresa Hennebery, Neil Stewart, Susan Willis

Resource: Wendy MacDonald, Secretary and Pat Campbell, District Advisory Council Engagement Officer

Regrets: Anne Bernard-Bourgeois, Jackie Charchuk, Michele MacCallum, Tracy Michael

Discussion Summary - Meeting 6

1. Welcome and Agenda Review
Co-chair MacLauchlan called the meeting to order at 4:30 pm, welcomed members and conveyed regrets from those unable to attend. He reviewed the agenda which was approved as presented.

2. Approval of Draft Summary Notes of Meeting Five, December 5, 2016
Co-chair MacLauchlan briefly reviewed the discussion summary of the Council’s fifth meeting, on December 5, 2016.
A query was raised with regard to the use of the Chatham House Rules, i.e. it was suggested that not using any names in the record of discussion gave the notes an impersonal tone, and that including names would make the notes more transparent and accountable. On the other hand, it was noted, the use of the Chatham House Rules encourages free-flowing discussion. It was agreed that this could be noted as an agenda item for future discussion. The discussion notes were approved as drafted.

3. Review of Public and Principals’ Feedback to LPAC Discussion Paper
Co-chair MacLauchlan invited comment on the compilation of public feedback to the discussion paper, Ambition, Excellence and Prosperity: Priorities and Directions for Learning, and the summary of input from the Principals Council

With regard to the suggestion in the public input that retired people be hired to assist in dealing with the backlog of assessments, it was noted that these will need to be qualified people. Several Council members noted the call to act, expressed in some of the comments and in the Principals’ feedback. Members acknowledged this view, but affirmed that the role of the Council is in fact advisory in nature and that it focuses on the entire picture and the long view; hence the Council’s work may seem abstract to people. They further noted that this is a complex task, and involves a variety of sensitive processes of talking with and connecting people.

The questions from the Principals’ Council, regarding the role of LPAC and the relationship of the two bodies, were also acknowledged. It was noted that the Principals’ Council has not met as often as LPAC – once so far this year in January, itself in lieu of a meeting in late 2016 that was a storm day. Another Principals Council meeting is being planned before the end of the school year.

The Principals’ input on partnership was discussed. It was noted that the focus is mostly on partnering with non-education agencies to better address the socio-emotional and health needs of students, and that current approaches to accessing supports for students are often ad hoc, informal, and relationship-based. There is a need for more formal and consistent approaches. This issue was further developed in the next agenda item, following.

4. School Supports Project (Presentation by Pam Trainor, Executive Council Office)

The School Supports Project work began in June 2016, and arose from the input from District Advisory Councils and the Principals’ Council on the need for expanded supports, and more consistency and equity. In response, the project involved a review of school supports in three families of schools – Westisle, Colonel Gray, and Montague. Various methodologies were used to gather input, including the views expressed in the Better Learning for All process. The work led to a new model of school-based supports, which will be implemented in the English system over a three year period. In Fall 2017, the approach will be implemented in the Westisle and Montague school families. In Fall 2018, it will be extended to the Colonel Gray and Bluefield school families, and in the final year, Fall 2019, it will be extended to the remaining school families. Pam noted that more work is needed to consult with the French language system on their needs and the appropriate model.

A question was raised about the phased approach given the urgency of the needs. Pam indicated that the model is complex and will require much design work with regard to teams, staffing, protocols, etc. The phasing will make this more manageable and allow refinements going into the final two years. Concern was expressed that students in need may not be helped in the meantime. Offsetting this, it was noted that some school families already have their own approaches in place, such as the MAST teams in the Souris family. As well, some elements of the model will be implemented province wide in year one, including the Paths system, and the new school health curriculum for the intermediate level. Montague and Westisle were chosen to begin as their need is greatest; the project will help them gain ground.

Praise was expressed for the Strongest Families element of the model, as very effective and supportive of families.

It was noted that the parent survey done in 2010 in support of the new early childhood model, identified views, concerns and needs very similar to those found by Pam in her work. Further to the early childhood sector, it was noted that thousands of children participate in before school and after school programs, which also involve care on PD days, storm days and school breaks. It was asked whether these programs would also have access to these new supports. Pam indicated this had not been considered yet, but was consistent with the philosophy of the initiative.

It was asked whether consideration had been given to the needs of children not speaking English. For complex social and mental health needs, phone translation may not be adequate. It was also noted for newcomer children with special needs, the issue may be seen as a language issue and the need may be masked or misidentified. It was suggested that this issue may also exist in the French immersion system.

Co-Chair MacLauchlan thanked Pam for her presentation and her work, and commended the discussion, which had highlighted the diverse expertise and foci of Council members.

Following a light supper, the Council reconvened at 6:50.

5. Discussion: On Defining a Vision for Learning in PEI
Co-chair Whelan noted the readings which had been previously circulated to the Council, which outline a process for transformation of education systems developed by Microsoft. While the specific approaches in those documents may not apply to PEI, the overall approach may be useful, and has some similarities to the Social Innovation Lab approach considered by the Committee in its second meeting, April 2016.

Co-chair Whelan then presented a draft process for collaboration for the Council’s consideration. The task was framed as, “How do we, as a Council, lead a collaborative process to define a vision for learning in the province?” We have heard, from the onset, the question as to where we are going, and to address this, we have asked, “What is learning for?” on the premise that form should follow function.

The desire for an overall direction continues to arise, most recently at the PEI Home and School AGM, where the comment was made that it was “difficult to comment on the specific directions and priorities set out in the Council’s paper when we don’t know where we are going.” LPAC is uniquely positioned, indeed mandated, to provide leadership in addressing this question – not to answer it, but to advance the discussion.

Co-chair Whelan suggested that the processes proposed in the transformation documents could be adapted, for PEI’s purpose, to three steps:

  1. Link with and initiate discussions with our Learning Partners – the District Advisory Councils and the Principals’ Council – and with stakeholders. These discussions should be guided by questions to be determined, and supported by data and evidence. The aim should be to capture ideas and perspectives from all partner organizations. Noted, the DACs and Principals’ Council will have one more round of meetings before the end of the school year.
  2. Collectively meet in an open and inclusive gathering led by community leaders and bringing together diverse participants to consider learning in the broad sense. This event should not be like a traditional conference, but rather should use the participative, interactive approach taken at events such as the Georgetown Conference, or YDay. At the end of this event, we should be close to defining a vision for learning for the province.
  3. Define a path forward, and identify strategies and pilot projects that will move us toward the desired future state. Launch a document in November or December.

Members discussed the approach, raised some questions, and suggested some considerations and refinements.
With regard to the overall approach:

  • Some members raised the question of whether this high-level ‘vision’ work should continue to be the Council’s focus at this time, expressing an urgency to move to more practical, action-oriented activities. Examples were noted of vision processes that had little day to day impact following their completion.
  • Others noted, however, that the process of creating a vision, if well designed, has value in and of itself – allowing people to share priorities and views, broaden their understanding, and reach agreement, and giving a voice to those who may have been excluded from creating the education systems we have today. The exact wording of the vision is less important than the alignment and purposefulness that the process brings. It was felt that it is important to PEI to achieve these benefits at this time. LPAC was viewed as the body most suited to do this, with regard to its comprehensive mandate and its ability to bring together all sectors and communities, and include their views in the vision.
  • Some members felt that for the process to have these beneficial impacts, it also needed to include enacting the vision, bringing people together to plan out what we are doing in communities.
  • Some doubt was expressed about engaging the broad public early in the process. On the other hand, it was noted, if we want broad societal change we must engage society. There are always sensitivities – so the challenge is to define a process that lets people get excited and involved.
  • It was noted that language is critical. The right language is not prescriptive, but rather empowering and inclusive. It needs to convey an “any time, any place, any age” message. The term ‘vision’ might not be the right one ... perhaps a Mi’kmaq term might be identified.
  • The importance of a collaborative approach, with LPAC not being “in control” was emphasized. On the other hand, it was noted, we have a much broader mandate then the other two bodies. Their inputs to the vision/future state are likely to focus on the K-12 system, while LPAC is responsible for learning outside K-12 as well. Therefore, LPAC will need to bring this aspect to the work, based on its collaboration with other partners and stakeholders.

With regard to supporting content:

  • It was noted that the paper, Ambition, Excellence and Prosperity has value as a support to the vision and should continue to play a role in the work. It was suggested we should continue to seek comment on the paper. The responses to date, while few in number, were seen as offering much useful advice.
  • The data and evidence aspect was seen as important, and members noted they were still seeking information on various matters, arising from the trends discussion at Meeting three, June 2016. Further to this, it was felt that a huge volume of data had been generated from the school review process, and that the insights from this should be captured. The findings from this need to be properly presented, in a mix of longer more detailed documents for some audiences and processes, and brief key findings and highlights for others.
  • As in earlier meetings, the question was posed: are we willing to do completely new things, to look at transformative approaches? E.g. Finland no longer has subjects; some schools have a recess every half hour – “body breaks;” evidence suggests a 10:00 a.m. start works better for adolescents. Or are we working within current structures?
  • It was suggested that the work address not only what should or could be done, but also what might be dropped or changed from what we are doing now – to enable the things that we do want.

With regard to process:

  • Support was expressed for the approach of bringing the DACs and other partners together. It was noted that the DACs have been identifying priorities within their families of schools, and talking about what is needed to have a culture of excellence.
  • In addition to the process steps with the DACs and Principals in Step One, it was felt that we still need an overall structural model of how we work together and connect.
  • Several members raised questions about how to engage various populations and groups – including those who had not been involved in the school review process, children and youth, and vulnerable populations, such as people who had struggled in formal education systems, and who had challenges with literacy and skills, offenders, patients in institutions, etc.
  • It was agreed that it was critically important to define who should be “in the room” for the discussion. In order to reach beyond the DACs and Principals’ Council, and gain input from other learning and community partners, LPAC members can individually engage their own organizations and their various networks. Work should extend beyond this to engage partners not directly represented on the Council.
  • It was noted that the process will be shaped by how broad or narrow the questions are. Limits if any should be acknowledged.
  • Re breadth of inclusion, one perspective suggested that the broader the process, the more likely that it will end with commitment to the status quo. People work from their experience, so the results are replicative: you end up with what you’ve got.

To build on these insights, after further discussion it was agreed to split into Working Groups to develop the content and the process for the proposed conversation:

A Working Group was tasked to develop a short list of broad aspirational questions that can be asked to any person or group, and that serve as a means to engage with the other partner Councils. The aim is to develop a credo, something that gets Islanders going. This work is to return to the full Council for consideration before the end of June.

Another Working Group is responsible to organize an event in the fall, a Learning Day, or L-Day, to bring together LPAC, the Principals Council, the District Advisory Councils, and other partners and stakeholders to consider learning in the broad sense.

It was further suggested that it would be worthwhile to hold a less formal event between these two processes, in July or August – a summer social, or a barbecue, to bring together the members of the three Council structures and provide an opportunity to get acquainted before L-Day. A further group was struck to organize this.

Through a mix of nominations and offers, the following initial memberships were identified for the groups, with remaining members welcome to join:
Working Group 1: Define key questions and positioning; get input from DACs and Principals’ Council

  • Lead: Teresa Hennebery
  • Jeff Brant
  • Kathleen Flanagan
  • Moira McGuire
  • Ron MacDonald

Working Group 2: Organize the BBQ

  • Lead: Peter Rukavina
  • Lori Johnston
  • Others as interested

Working Group 3: Design and organize L-Day

  • Co-lead: Bonnie Stewart
  • Co-lead: Sharon Cameron
  • Others as interested

6. Give and Get
In a brief roundtable, members noted:

  • Very positive experiences by one member of several special supports and services for learners and their families;
  • Progress in post-secondary French language education through partnerships;
  • Major federal investments in early learning, with strong PEI leadership in the development of the national framework, and bright prospects for new and expanded services;
  • A very successful initiative by La Federation des parents to engage parents, featuring events with a supper, guest speaker, and activities for children;
  • Expansion of learning camps for children and youth focusing on STEAM, through partnerships between business and the new School of Sustainable Design Engineering, and the PEI Businesswomen’s Association;
  • A media literacy project partnering UPEI and St. Francis Xavier University, using a train the trainer approach to support people to critically assess the information they are receiving via their Facebook feed and other channels;
  • Strong growth in participation and the number of projects at the PEI Science Fair the previous week.
  • Graduation of another cohort from the Community Leadership Program in Labrador, and federal support to design five additional learning modules for the course.

7. Next Meeting: TBD


Published date: 
August 7, 2017
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