Happy Thanksgiving!

It can be hard sometimes to remember and focus on the things we should be thankful for, things we need to be thankful for. Life gets busy and we get stressed and we often lose ourselves in complaints about work, society, school and everything else that affects our daily life.

These past few months I have tried to reframe my thinking, find daily things to be grateful for, and this Thanksgiving I am making a conscientious effort to really truly take time to think of all the things I am thankful for and blessed to have. I deal with my share of curveballs and set backs, and certain circumstances can make it so difficult to take a breath and look at the positives. For these reasons I started to make a list, and I plan to add to it often and look back at it when I need it.

A God who has my back and angels who watch over me

My Kids

My family

A home

A job I love

Friends who are like family and who are always there when I need them

A school team that has made parenting a child with special needs just a little bit easier

The dedication of our HCDSB staff for all they do to support our students and families

Being able to help where I can when I can

A cozy sweatshirt and mug collection that provide me comfort on days I need extra love

A nice glass of red wine

An ‘I love you’ from my grumpy teen when he jumps out of the car in the morning

These are just a few of the many things I am grateful for.

I have also been re-reading this message a lot lately:

“Focusing on one thing that you are grateful for increases the energy of gratitude and rises the joy inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

My wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you can make a list of what you are grateful for, what you are thankful for, the ways you feel blessed. Reminders of the good things in your life for those times when it seems like everything is going wrong.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Amanda BartucciHappy Thanksgiving!
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December 2020 Newsletter

As we come to the close of this strange, confusing and trying year, and one that I don’t think anyone will ever forget, I want to send my heartfelt applause to everyone for making it through and doing the best that you could.

It would be easy to fill a page of the all of the conversations that took place at the board table this past year and recap the initiatives that were implemented or planned, the budgets and back to school planning and constant need for adaptation, all of which are not to be minimized in their importance. But I think I would rather spend my time in this message showing appreciation and respect to all of you for all that you have done in 2020.

For the parents who helped to steer and navigate their children through an unknown path of school closures, lockdowns, relationship management, mental health struggles, cancelled activities, and all the while trying to keep focused on your jobs, paying bills, providing the essentials and the added strain of some unexpected spring homeschooling, just to name some of the challenges you have faced as parents this past year. Showing up for your kids and calming their fears, answering their questions and being there for them then and now as we still see our way through a pandemic. Parenting can be hard most days, but parenting through 2020 has tested many and your love and commitment to your children is to be celebrated.

For the students who showed resiliency and courage as they faced new challenges in learning, lost out on many social activities, cancelled team sports, struggled through uncertainty, and have continued to show up and be present and do their very best to the best of their ability each day. It cannot be easy being a kid right now in a lot of ways and yet our students have done amazingly. We should be so proud of all of them for how well they have handled all that has come at them.

For the teachers, EAs, ECEs, support staff, and admin for their continued dedication to our students, no matter what is thrown your way. You have pushed through worry and fear, changing learning environments, technology challenges, classroom configurations like never before, hybrid models and so much more. But you, like our students, show up every day, in every way, and do your very best to make sure our students feel safe and welcomed and set up for success. There are not enough words to show how much I value and appreciate all of you, and how lucky our students are to have you.

This Christmas season, as we celebrate our blessings and rejoice in the birth of Jesus, I hope we can all take a moment to acknowledge that we have so much to be grateful for. That despite many hardships that some have faced and with much uncertainty still surrounding us, we can find some peace and some joy and be kind to ourselves and our loved ones. We are all trying our best and that is all that we can do.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I wish you all of the seasons greetings and I wish you health, happiness, love and light for the New Year.

Brenda Agnew

Amanda BartucciDecember 2020 Newsletter
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Being a Caregiver During COVID-19

Written by Brenda Agnew.

Take a look outside, and you will see a different world than what we knew only two months ago. Everyone is doing their best to adapt to this new reality with many unexpected challenges. In this blog, I will share the experience of how my family and I have been coping with COVID-19, because our situation is a little different than most.

Self-isolation and social distancing aren’t new to us. 

When Maclain came home from the NICU, it was at the end of October and the beginning of cold and flu season. Health care professionals told us to be vigilant and to avoid taking him out anywhere there were crowds, or to a home where someone was sick. We had bottles of hand sanitizer throughout our house. We asked friends and family to stay away if they weren’t feeling well and to wash their hands thoroughly when they came to visit. Being born a preemie and coming home with weak lungs after being ventilated for many months left Maclain vulnerable. A simple cold for him could turn into something much worse. We spent his early years in and out of the hospital for repeated bouts of pneumonia. So it was not difficult for my family to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention guidelines, to wash hands frequently, to sanitize and to stay home; they were not new to us. We have lived in a world of continually preparing for the unknown, as have most of the caregivers I know.

I have been asked by friends often during this pandemic how we are holding up. More specifically, how is Maclain doing? By and large, we have been doing ok, figuring things out, taking the days as they come, but recognizing that our situation is unique to many of our friends. There are certain aspects of this current situation that become more troublesome for caregivers, regardless of who they are caring for. I know that every family is different, and their coping mechanisms are different. Here is my perspective on health, keeping my family engaged as best I can, and lessons learned so far living through COVID-19 as a caregiver.

Staying home so we don’t have to stay in the hospital

I don’t panic when it comes to Maclain and his health. We have been around the block so many times with pneumonia, intestinal and many other health-related issues. The difference with COVID-19 is that it is new, and there is no vaccine, or medications to treat it. If Maclain were to contract this virus, we have no way of knowing how his fragile lungs would handle it. Being a premature infant and using mechanical ventilation support for many months took a toll on his lungs. We have spent many fall, winter and spring months with hospital admissions for pneumonia, and they don’t get any less scary. As healthcare teams across the province respond to this pandemic, resources have become scarce, and are being maxed out. This new healthcare system requires new triage protocols to be designed and reviewed. It is uncertain what this may mean for a child like Maclain. But for now, we are feeling grateful that everyone is healthy and safe. And we are also not letting fear control too much of our day because it will just take over.

Keeping active, engaged and sane

In the first few weeks, we were able to find some different things to keep our minds active and busy like puzzles, crafts and family game nights. But being together all the time we also need a break from each other. I need my kids to connect with their friends or find something to do independently. It has been difficult balancing my need for “me time” and Maclain’s needs, without feeling guilty. 

I am sure that while so many kids his age miss their friends, “typical” kids are finding ways to keep busy and doing so independently. Building forts, playing games with their siblings, going on a solo bike ride, crafting, connecting online with friends, even doing schoolwork. It isn’t this simple for Maclain, who needs someone to facilitate everything for him. He can’t play a video game with his friends for a few hours or go outside and shoot hoops or ride his bike. He can’t sit at the kitchen table and do his schoolwork on his own. There is no Friday night rock band or movie or bowling outings. He can’t have friends over for hangouts, which is usually the easiest for us because of accessibility issues. As a mother, this makes my heart heavy and has been the hardest part of having to stay home and stay away from people. Being social isn’t hard for Maclain, but finding an avenue for socialization is. I haven’t had the guts yet to tell him that his summer camp has been cancelled, and so has his Challenger baseball. I am waiting until I have some good news to say to him before I give him more bad news. I worry what this looks like for him when we come out of this.

Lessons learned so far

Being the half glass empty kind of person, I am genuinely surprised at how I have handled this pandemic so far. I have never been shy talking about my issues with depression and anxiety and how they can become all-consuming when faced with a challenging situation. I was one of the last holdouts even to acknowledge this was going to be a global issue! But I have to admit that while I am tired of these four walls, and cooking so much. Not being able to go out and anxiously wondering if our summer travel plans will happen, it hasn’t been all bad. We are healthy (knock on wood) and we are safe. We have food in the cupboards, thanks to online shopping. We have been entertained with Zoom calls and Facetime check-ins. I am more grateful than ever for my special needs community. Sharing survival tips and keeping each other calm in situations that are so much different than other families. I need those connections just as much now if not more than ever. As a family, we are not sick of each other, and my baking game has picked up slightly. I have seen communities come together to support each other in ways I have not seen before. Porch drop-offs of flowers, sharing ingredients, wine deliveries. It has been another reminder that there is good in this world and that we can take care of each other and rely on each other when the moment of truth is before us. Even though there are bad days, I feel like I have proven yet again that “We have got this”. We are resilient, and it feels like our twelve years of special needs parenting training has given us what we need to deal with these unprecedented times. Our life so far with Maclain has been unprecedented and yet here we are thriving and surviving. And crossing fingers, we can all go back to whatever “normal” is sometime soon!

Amanda BartucciBeing a Caregiver During COVID-19
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April 2020 Newsletter

This update comes to you at a time of so much uncertainty, while we navigate the new landscape of a global pandemic. I send all of you my sincere wishes for strength and patience as you figure out how to deal with daily worries, having your children home from school, not being able to physically spend time with friends and family members, and trying to keep up hope that we will soon see things return to “normal” for whatever that means.

Our work at the Board table has had a few hiccups only in how we have had to move recently to a new way of conducting our Board business, and working through the technology challenges that come with having to do everything remotely. But we seem to have figured that all out and our last Board meeting went relatively well and we look forward to our next virtual meeting. We are trying as best as we can to keep things business as usual.

I want to thank all of our staff, parents and students for their patience while everyone has been working through the best way to deliver Distance Learning. There was little time to prepare and for many, this is a whole new way of teaching and learning, but together we will get there. The first few days seem to be going well, and my hope is that we continue to be able to support our students so they can be successful in their e-learning. Communication will be the key to keeping things running as smoothly as possible, and I encourage everyone to make sure they are in continuous contact with teachers and school administration to keep the flow of information going. I know this has been shared many times, but the link to information and resources for distance learning is available here.

As I mentioned, we have tried to keep things business as usual, with a big focus currently on the budgeting process for next year. We have been working through some of the initial stages of planning, which include reviewing expenses and anticipated funding allocations, and incorporating stakeholder feedback in our decision making.

We are also still in the process of policy changes with respect to our Uniform Policy, and have been going through an RFI process to engage with interested vendors. The proposed policy changes, with the changes noted in red, is available here.

In January we invited our community to provide feedback on the School Uniform Provider Consultation. Thank you to all the parents and guardians who took the time to attend a consultation session and/or share their thoughts in the online feedback form. The consultation has now ended and the results of the survey can be found here.

In February, Trustees voted unanimously in favour of expanding the French Immersion program for the 2020-2021 school year. The vote came after collecting stakeholder feedback and working with staff to create a feasible plan for expansion. We want to thank everyone who provided their input and suggestions on how to best expand this program. The details of the motion can be found here.

I encourage everyone to attend our board meetings, the dates of which are posted on website. For those who are unable to attend in person, our meetings are recorded and posted on our Board’s YouTube channel. The public is also invited to attend our virtual Board meetings and Policy meetings, which as I mentioned have been our current way of meeting.

I also want to remind people that I am always available to connect with you for any questions, concerns or ideas you may have. My email is agnewb@hcdsb.org and my phone number is 905-505-0303. I am happy to be of any assistance I can.

Lastly, I would like to wish you all a happy and blessed Easter. While we may not be able to attend church services or gather with family as we normally have done in years past, let’s be grateful that we can see each other virtually, participate in church services online, spend time with the loved ones in our homes with us, that spring is starting to show us a sign it is almost here, and be rejoiceful that Christ has Risen.

May you have the gladness of Easter which is Hope;

May you have the promise of Easter which is Peace;

May you have the spirit of Easter which is Love.

Amanda BartucciApril 2020 Newsletter
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October 2019 Newsletter

It is incredibly hard to believe we are now in October, with a full month of school already behind us! 

It was only a few months ago that I was attending Grade 8 and Grade 12 graduation ceremonies, and now those students are navigating new hallways, friends, classrooms and teachers as they embark on their first years at high school, college and university! Or maybe some of our incredible graduates have gone into an apprenticeship program, or maybe even taking some time to work and save money. Whatever new adventure those graduates are experiencing, I hope they are embracing everything to the fullest.  

Our facility team were hard at work over the summer in partnership with principals and school staff overseeing and completing many improvements, upgrades and renovations that were happening at a number of our schools including Notre Dame, St. Mark and Corpus Christi. Work is still continuing at Assumption, but we are hopeful to see an end to construction early in the new year. I want to thank parents and students for their patience through these projects.  

I continue to be excited and honoured to be invited to attend events at our local schools. Last year, some highlights were the ABA for All Bonanza, SEA Showcase, Salad Bar Wednesdays, speech competitions, end of year BBQ’s, and more. Every visit provides me with an opportunity to connect with staff, students and parents, and I take much away from every encounter. I am very much looking forward to cross country meets, Christmas concerts, school liturgies, track and field, council meetings and so much more. Please continue to send invites my way and I will make every attempt to attend! 

At the board table, we have jumped right back inOur focus, and my focus, remains a constant review of how our actions and planalign with our HCDSB Strategic Plan. We are working together to monitor progress and outcomes, with discussions about parent and student satisfaction, safe schools, mental health, equity and inclusion, transportation, special education programming, facility improvements. Last school year, new policies were created, including those around French programming and Stakeholder feedback processes.  

This year, we have a number of policies up for review including Uniforms, which we know is such an important item for families, along with the creation of new policies such as Student Use of Service Animals in our schools. My hope is to see more presentations at our meetings from students and staff, highlighting programs and initiatives that are taking place across our board. I also encourage our stakeholders to remember that there is an option to delegate to the Board of Trustees at our meetings if there is a matter that you would like to speak to or bring forwardWe also have an open questions portion of our meetings. A reminder that Board meetings are open to all stakeholders, and we encourage people to attend. The board packages, including the agenda and minutes of each meeting are listed on our website.   

I am excited for the start of a new school year and to see what lies before us. As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to wish everyone all the blessings of the season.  

“Oh God, You are so good. You are faithful and gracious and You have blessed me beyond measure. Thank you for everyday blessings to which I have become accustomed, but never want to take for granted: clean drinking water, electricity, food in my pantry, hot showers, a roof over my head, and a bed to sleep in. 

Thank you for legs that carry me where I need to go and hands that enable me to accomplish many things. Thank you for my hearing and my vision and for a sound, healthy mind. 

Thank you my family, my friends, my job, my neighbors. Thank you for freedom to attend my church, for my pastors, and for my small group(s) and my many relationships. 

Thank you for the things You are doing in my heart and in my life. I’m grateful that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, I am much different today than I was 10 years ago, or a year ago. I am even different that I was at the beginning of this year, and it’s because of Your power at work in me, continually transforming me into Your image. 

I love and adore You, Lord, and my heart overflows with gratitude for all these blessings. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.” 

excerpt from 3 Grateful Prayers to Prepare Your Heart for Thanksgiving by Julie K. Gillies 

Amanda BartucciOctober 2019 Newsletter
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April 2019 Newsletter

‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’  – St. Teresa of Calcutta

I want to start off my first message by saying how honoured and grateful I am to be a newly elected HCDSB Trustee At Large for the City of Burlington. I take my role very seriously and I am committed to making sure that I make the best decisions possible by considering the needs of ALL stakeholders, while balancing our fiscal responsibilities and practicing good governance. I owe so much to the voters who put their faith in me, and I will work so hard to prove to them that they made the right decision in choosing me. I feel so very fortunate to be sitting alongside my fellow trustees who are as equally committed and passionate as I am about the positions that we have been elected to.

My first few months have been a whirlwind of meetings and training sessions and throwing myself head first into learning many aspects of my new role. Becoming immersed in policies and procedures, budget reviews, staffing needs, capital projects, school programming and so much more.

I am still learning in so many ways, as every day brings new questions from myself, or from parents or members of our school community. As much as I knew about our board, the role of trustee, the responsibilities that I would have and the job that we had ahead of us coming into things, I still believe there is much value in learning more and acquiring as much information as possible.  As much as I have my own priorities for things I would like to see reviewed or discussed, those priorities sometimes shift or change depending on what feedback, questions or concerns I may receive from a stakeholder, or from an issue that comes forward from senior staff.  I am extremely thankful for the calls and emails that I get that provide opportunities for me to inquire about certain things or give me a reason to do research into an area that may not previously have been on my radar. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about staying close to our school communities and all stakeholders.

One of the things that I am very much looking forward to is participating on several committees as a Lead Trustee including SEAC and Discipline and as an alternate for EAP. My plan is also to attend as many other committee meetings as I can to learn more about their mandates, goals and priorities. These committee placements will provide increased opportunities to learn more about policies, and practices, student and staff needs.

It has been a pleasure getting to know my fellow trustees, our Director of Education, Pat Daly, our senior leadership team, and other key support staff who work with us day in and day out.  I look forward to fostering these relationships and learning more from one another. I am thoroughly enjoying meeting so many amazing staff and students across our Burlington schools, and also having the chance to visit other HCDSB schools throughout Halton.

My hope is that my future messages will be robust with updates on what I, along with my fellow trustees, have accomplished so far, goals we have set, specific items that I am working on and highlighting the many positive things that have transpired.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Amanda BartucciApril 2019 Newsletter
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