Do you have a question about something going on in your school? Your school board? Wondering how to choose a college or university program, or about living in residence?The Star has gone to the experts to get answers to your questions.
Q: Many school boards in Ontario are still saying people applying for in-land immigration must be assessed and high fees paid.
The Ontario Ministry of Education changed this policy last year yet almost all the major school boards websites still are giving out incorrect information.
The fees now do not have to paid under the right circumstances even up to the age of 21, for special education students. The Catholic school boards are also giving out incorrect information.
As a result, many kids are not being allowed in school despite the law.
Answer from the Star's education editor ... This is what the experts at the school board say:
First, in response to the question, I need to assume first that ‘in-land immigration’ means that the learners are here and are applying for landed immigrant status.
Bill 194, which was passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, effective September 1, 2005 has made some changes to student eligibility for admission without fees. In many cases, school boards across Ontario work with their admissions officer to determine student eligibility and require documents to be provided. With the provision of these documents, students have access without fees to public education for one year at a time. (If students are not eligible, then they would be required to pay VISA student fees.)
Bill 194 broadens the conditions for admission without fees to now include the following:
a) a student whose biological/adoptive parent is in Canada,
i) under a temporary resident permit issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
ii) awaiting determination of an application for permanent residence in Canada
iii) awaiting determination of an application for a work permit
iv) is authorized to study in Canada as a full-time student at an accredited university, college or institution in Ontario
v) is a Canadian citizen resident in Ontario and who has applied for permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship for the student
vi) teaches at an accredited institution in Ontario in accordance with an agreement with a university outside Ontario.
vii) as a religious worker authorized to work in Canada under clause 186(1) of the Regulations made under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada).
The Admissions Officer will require the following documents to determine eligibility:
1. Applicants for permanent resident status:
a) official letter from CIC with file number
b) copy of the application for permanent resident status in a province in Canada other than Quebec, P.E.I. and Alberta with names of all family members
c) copy of the receipt which was submitted with the application
d) proof of relationship of student to parent
e) proof of residency of the family in York Region
f) passport showing date of entry into Canada
2. Dependents of an applicant for a work permit:
a) passport of applicant
b) copy of application for work permit
c) proof of relationship of student to parent
3. Dependents of the holder of a study permit:
a) letter from accredited college or university confirming registration as full-time student
b) passport of parent with valid study permit
c) proof of relationship of student to parent
All persons who qualify for an exemption of the payment of fees under Bill 194 will be issued a letter of acceptance for one year only. Students will be tracked through the office of the admissions officer.
Q: I am going into my final year of high school and would eventually apply to Toronto-area colleges for aviation technology. Are there any colleges that offer a program in this field worth recognizing more than others?
Answer from the Star's education editor ... Two great colleges in the Toronto area offer aviation programs:
*Seneca College's School of Aviation and Flight Technology
*Centennial College's School of Transportation
Since you still have some time before you have to make a decision, I'd recommend contacting the colleges you are interested in, visiting them and talking to students. You could also contact potential employers and ask them if there's a particular course or college program they prefer.
If you are willing to look outside the Toronto area, I highly recommend you visit the Ontario College Application Services website, which lists -- and provides links to -- all the aviation programs in the province.
Q: My daughter's school only goes to Grade 5. I live in Mississauga and am looking for a good school that offers Grade 6 and up in the Peel District School Board. I would like to know about school ratings, not just EQAO results.
Answer from the Star's education editor ... Boards themselves do not rank or rate schools; instead, they post profiles of all their schools on their website with information about each one's student body, available programs, as well as results from provincial standardized tests (EQAO).
Q: My son's third grade teacher feels he should be assessed for a learning disability. Neither of us are sure as to whether we are dealing with a learning disability as it appears to be borderline. My son's last report card showed a C average in reading and writing (B in the previous term) and a D in math (C in the previous term).
The teacher also said that if assessment shows a disability, he will be "labelled" within the Ontario education system. She has left me with the impression that this would have more of a negative impact on him in the future than a positive. Could you please explain how this "label" would be applied to my son, and what effect it would have on his future education within the system.
Answer from Christopher Carew of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario ... A psychological assessment can be very useful to look at a student’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses in relation to learning, and to suggest ways of teaching that may be more successful, whether or not a learning disability is diagnosed. Such information can be used to create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the student who needs to be taught in different ways. If it turns out that there are some weaknesses in the psychological processes underlying learning, early intervention is very important to success, and can help prevent frustration and damage to self-esteem.
When your teacher mentioned “labelling,” she was probably referring to the identification process in the school system called the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC). This is the process that entitles a student to special education support, and ensures that there will be an IEP developed. You as a parent are involved with all the decisions that are made, and there is a mandated yearly review. If your son does need an individualized program, this process can make his academic progress easier, and does not need to limit his options. There are many students with learning disabilities who have gone on to college and university, when they received the right supports.
You can find more information, including online workshops for parents, on the website for the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario.
Q: How can a principal and other officials in the Toronto District School Board ignore the Ontario Education Act with regards to school councils by attempting to limit the number of parents participating on the school council and then choose, by non-democratic means, the chairperson for the limited council?
The Ontario Education Act has a clear mandate on how school councils should work and what the roles of all participants are. And yet, with all this legislation, these rules are largely ignored by a high percentage of Toronto District Board employees.
Answer from the Toronto District School Board ... Per the Ministry of Education School Councils Guide Council, membership is determined by an annual election process. The regulation sets no maximum number of parents on a council. However, the number of parent members on the council should be stipulated by a school council bylaw or by the board if no bylaw exists.
A principal's involvement and interaction with the school council are key to the council's success. As a member of the school council and leader of the school community, the principal can provide the guidance and support necessary to help the council achieve its goals and be an effective voice for parents. Ontario Regulation 613/00 clearly outlines the principal's role and responsibility in terms of the school council. This role ranges from providing information, developing a school profile, receiving and responding to school council recommendations, attending school council meetings, to ensuring that school councils are put in place.
The chair and co-chair of the council are elected by the council members and must be a parent, or parents, who are not employed by the school board.
The success of school councils require the full participation and collaboration of parents, principals, community representatives, students and other members of the school board. However, it does not always work this way in every school, therefore if there is a concern about a specific school council, the TDSB encourages parents to contact their community school's principal, superintendent of education and/or trustee.
We are continually evaluating the effectiveness of our school councils and welcome any feedback to help facilitate this.
Q: I will be moving to Toronto next year. For my children's education, can you please provide a listing of private schools in the Greater Toronto area? Any resource material that can also help with selection between the private schools would be most helpful. Thank you.
Answer from the Star's education editor ... There are lots of great websites with information about private schools. Try the Conference of Independent Schools or the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools of Ontario. Also, Our Kids magazine writes alot about private schools and schooling issues, and covers alot of those in the Greater Toronto area.
You can also check out the private school listings on the Ontario Ministry of Education's website, just type in "Toronto" as your search term.
Q: I need to know the statistics on what accidents are common among preschoolers. Thank you.
Answer from the Hospital for Sick Children ... According to Safe Kids Canada, the most common cause of injury among preschoolers are motor vehicle crashes, falls and drownings. Parents can also find out more information on safety tips according to age and stage.
Q: Can the Peterborough Bishop demand that Catholic teachers who work for the Peterborough Catholic board be fired if they attend the breakaway church started by Fr. Ed Cacchia, the priest ex-communicated for his support of women's ordination?
Answer from Donna Marie Kennedy, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association ... An employment relationship exists between the Catholic teachers and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board. The rights afforded to separate schools and their teachers under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982 and the Constitution Act, 1867, affect this relationship. In particular, "denominational rights issues" could affect the employment of Catholic teachers by any separate school board.
Whether the PVNC Catholic District School Board decides to discipline a teacher for denominational reasons is a matter for the board. How this would be determined is a question best posed to the the PVNC Catholic District School Board. Needless to say OECTA would defend its members disciplined under such circumstances.
From the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic board ... Recently Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis advised the Catholic community that Father Ed Cachia had decided to start a new place of worship and had, in so doing, placed himself outside the Roman Catholic tradition.
This event has created some confusion in the Catholic educational community and has attracted media attention. The school board has been asked whether Catholic teachers who attend Father Ed Cachia's services will be disciplined by the board.
The appetite for controversy is not something that the board will indulge. For our Catholic educational community, this is instead a teaching moment about the nature of Catholic education, the opportunities and challenges it presents to Catholic teachers, parents and students, and what it means to be a Catholic teacher.
From a Catholic perspective, education is neither merely the transmission of knowledge to students nor the development of their cognitive skills. It is the integral formation of the whole person according to the Christian vision of life. As the Vatican has said: "The Catholic school has as its specific duty the complete Christian formation of its pupils …. this integration of faith and life is a part of a life-long process of conversion until the pupil becomes what God wants him/her to be."
The role of the teacher in a Catholic school is of critical importance. Teachers lie at the heart of the educational process. Teaching must be more than a profession; in Catholic terms it ought to be a vocation. Catholic teachers are expected therefore not only to know and teach the Catholic faith, but also to be witnesses to that faith at school and in their personal lives.
This is not to suggest that Catholic teachers can be perfect in their witness. The traditional teachings of the Catholic Church have always recognized that Christians live out their lives in the tension between Christian idealism and human weakness.
The Catholic Bishops of Ontario once wrote that: "All members of the Catholic school community are held to similar standards of faith and morals, but there is obviously a special focus on the teacher. In every case the ideal includes a buffer zone of compassion and patience, to take shortcomings into account, to respect conscience and avoid pharasaism." On another occasion they said of Catholic teachers that: "It is not necessary to be free of fault and failures to be faithful to the integrity of the process of Catholic education. Otherwise, none of us would dare to be involved."
Recognizing that authentic Catholic education requires committed Catholic teachers, the board has always sought teachers who are committed to their Catholic faith, to developing that faith throughout their professional personal lives, to authentically modelling that faith for their students, and to the transmission of that faith to their students. Our teachers carry out this vocation in a secular world that is less and less hospitable to Catholicism. The board recognizes and celebrates the authentic witness to the faith provided by our teachers.
We need to make it clear that we do not seek to force anyone to do anything that is contrary to his or her own conscience, properly informed after deep reflection. Catholic teachers who choose to attend Father Ed Cachia's services need to consider, in conscience, whether it is both honest to their vocation and appropriate for them to continue to teach in a Catholic school. As a Catholic education community, it is important that we trust that the grace of God will guide us and always be with us.
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