A River East Transcona School Division pilot project caught the provincial government’s eye recently, much to the program’s distinction.
The RETSD’s student services department was honoured by the province’s Disability Issues Office for its new Profiling Inclusive School Cultures (PICS) initiative during Manitoba Access Awareness Week (June 2 to 8).
RETSD assistant superintendent Joan Trubyk, student services manager Tammy Mitchell, and divisional inclusion specialists Sherri Black, Susan Miller, and Michael Bennett received the award from Persons With Disabilities Minister Jennifer Howard at the Legislative Building on June 7.
The division, along with Community Living Manitoba, began planning the PICS project in December 2011. The project consisted of sending questionnaires to three schools within the division — one early-years, one middle-years, and one senior-years school — asking staff, students, and parents approximately 150 questions in eight categories.
The categories were: diversity embraced, universal sense of belonging, proactive school leadership, collaborative approach, student-centred educational planning, responsive structures, positive behaviour approach, and meaningful, relevant, and inclusive learning experiences for all students.
Mitchell explained the questionnaire was designed to get schools thinking about the ways in which they are inclusive, as well as areas in which they could use improvement.
"The staff needed to rank each of the statements from ‘not at all evident’ to ‘very evident’, and then they had to provide evidence in the school where they saw that," Mitchell said. "It was not only quantitative, but also qualitative."
Mitchell said data from each of the three schools was separately compiled and analyzed. The numerical data was graphed, and the evidence was scanned for "themes and trends", and the information was presented to staff.
"They were able to decide priorities so they could move ahead," Mitchell said, noting specific changes planned as a result of the findings hasn’t yet been set in stone.
Trubyk feels the division has worked hard to be an inclusive one for years, and the PICS project is just an extension of the work it’s been doing.
"We use the data to plan and program in our schools and for our students," she said. "In the area of inclusion, one of the things we found was there wasn’t a whole lot around in terms of data to assess where we’re at."
Mitchell noted other local school divisions are looking at getting the PICS program into their schools beginning next year, and noted there has been national and even international interest. As well, the project will continue in RETSD schools next year.