Voices from the Waterloo Region District School Board's first town hall

Parents raised questions and voiced concerns at the Waterloo Region District School Board's first town hall session.
CBC Kitchener-Waterloo spoke with parents, students and teachers at Waterloo Region District School Boards first ever town hall on student achievement. (Adetayo Bero/CBC)

Tuesday night, Waterloo Region District School board hosted its first ever town hall in hopes of bringing parents, students and community members up to speed on the board's plan to improve student learning and achievement over the next three years.

The board plans to implement the strategy by focusing on three key areas: mathematics, graduation rates and well-being.

"We need to work closely with parents [and] our community partners in terms of providing all the opportunities for our students," said John Bryant, Director of Education at the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Here's what some attendees thought about the direction in which the board is headed:

"I'm hoping that the board [will] start them at grade 7 and 6 to prepare them for high school, so that they're not struggling and they get to grade 9 and they're not at the right level where they should be."

- Jennifer Brown, parent.

"High school is a very stressful time [and] no doubt students are under pressure and feeling stressed, so there was a big call for a greater focus on student wellness resources and mental well-being."

- Husayn Jamal, student trustee at the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Despite recent attention to EQAO scores, not all parents think it should be at the forefront of learning improvement strategy.

"Without reading, you can't do math," Emily Karunaratne told CBC News. "I think if they bring up the standards of reading, [the] math and everything else will soar because the comprehension is there." 

"I'm excited to hear that more parents are getting involved. What I'm noticing more is that the teachers are becoming their mentors, when the parents should be the mentors."

- Emily Karunaratne, parent of two young children.

"Students [want] a sense of community, a sense of belonging. It is their second home and they want to feel like they are welcomed and appreciated by staff and by other students."

- Don Oberle, principal, Vista Hills Public School, Waterloo.

"I think the strategic plan is a great way to provide direction for our schools and our staff and people here at the board office. It provides a way [for them] to act upon these issues and ensure that there are things in place for our students."

- Ryan Barnes, student trustee, Waterloo Region District School Board.