York Region District School Board: Advancing student achievement and well-being through public education

|May 19|magazine11 min read

York Region District School Board has been part of a nearly 200-year evolution of education in Ontario, Canada. From the separation of elementary and secondary schools in 1867 to the incorporation of new trustees and staff in 1969, the board has surpassed challenges with innovation, determination and optimism.

Starting the 2014-2015 school year, the board will have 206 schools within its jurisdiction – 174 of those being elementary schools and 32 of them secondary schools. Four are new to the district this year: Beckett Farm Public School, Anne Frank Public School, Robert Munsch Public School and Tommy Douglas Secondary School, the newest high school in the region.


This has been an exciting year for York Region District School Board. They launched a new Mission, Vision and Values statement earlier this year, and the Board’s first slogan – Inspire Learning! The Board’s mission is to advance student achievement and well-being through public education, which motivates learners, fosters inclusion and builds community.


Focus on health, social equality

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Mental and physical well-being is a primary focus at York Region District School Board.

“Healthy schools are really essential for students to reach their full potential,” said J. Philip Parappally, Director of the board. “It’s an important focus in our board.”

Action plans that outline their commitment to both mental and physical well-being are submitted by individual schools and, upon approval, are designated as “comprehensive healthy schools.” The board’s mental health and well-being leads assist schools with coordinating such plans to become a part of a larger board plan.


The board has in place a Performance Plus Program that provides additional resources and supports to schools that may be experiencing social or economic challenges. These resources could include additional staff, programming support or after school programs.


Going green

Approximately five years ago, the board decided to take a look at their schools and determine how they could reduce their environmental footprint.

“We’re really focused on the environment and looking at ways that we can be more sustainable and be better environmental stewards,” said Parappally.

“We have a number of green initiatives that we work on in the schools and in the workplace,” added Parappally. “We are a part of the EcoSchool Certification Program which is an Ontario-wide program. So in the past three years, we’ve had over 180 schools and workplaces receive various levels of Ontario EcoSchool Certification for their commitment to reducing their ecological footprint and for being environmentally responsible.”

The board has a designated team that oversees various activities related to the environmental sustainability work aimed to reduce waste, conserve energy and educate others on “being green.”


New leadership

On August 1, J. Philip Parappally began his new position as Director of Education. The appointment followed the retirement of Ken Thurston.

Beginning his education career more than 20 years ago, Parappally joined the board in 2000 as a vice principal. He quickly moved up the ranks and later served as Superintendent of Schools, prior to his promotion.

“Mr. Parappally brings a strong knowledge of our board, having worked in it since 2000. He has a solid understanding of our goals and our priorities, but he also brings a fresh perspective , along with his own ideas and his own leadership skills,” said Anna DeBartolo, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “I’m confident he will provide the leadership, guidance and vision to ensure our board continues to build on our success and improve student achievement and well-being.”


Upcoming developments

Board staff are excited to introduce the York Region District School Board mobile app later this year.

The app, currently in production, will provide information about the school board and a wealth of information from contact information and addresses to breaking news and updates.

“We have a website and we use various social media tools but the app will really make it easy for us to provide information about bus cancellations, news we want to share with our community, and information about our schools,” said Parappally. “It is one more way we can communicate with our students, parents and staff members.”

York Region District School Board is a leader in public education, empowering students to become engaged and caring citizens of the world. 

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