YCEC’s summer institute focuses on the power of collaboration in education

Professor Carl James

With the end of summer fast approaching and the school year starting in September, the sixth annual York Centre for Education and Community (YCEC) Summer Institute is set to take place Aug. 21 and 22 at the Keele campus.

“Communities and their Schools: Transformative Practices and Possibilities,” the title of this year’s summer institute, highlights the important dialogue on how communities and schools might collaborate to identify practices and possibilities for more inclusive partnerships leading to equitable and inclusive schooling and educational outcomes for students.

Carl James
Carl James

“The annual summer institute is an occasion to have conversations about critical issues in education,” says Carl James, founding director of YCEC and a professor in York University’s Faculty of Education. “It is an opportunity for educators, researchers, community leaders, parents and young people to hear from each other, exchange ideas and assess the extent to which current educational policies, programs and practices are working to meet the needs of all students.”

The 2014 summer institute’s comprehensive program offers workshops, panels and a keynote address, and has been planned for the more than 200 participants from schools, school boards, faculties of education, community organizations, health centres, government and youth groups expected to attend. Participants will draw on their experiences in their respective roles to share concerns, understandings and strategies that will help to build and sustain effective school and community collaborations to enhance students’ learning, school participation and academic outcomes.

“I am particularly interested in the session with the two education reporters from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Indeed, they play a significant role in informing us about educational issues and at the same time they help to influence how we come to understand and act upon these issues,” says James. “Furthermore, this session is an example of the institute’s attempt to engage widely with the people who influence our schooling and educational processes.”

This year’s planning committee – co-chaired by Salima Kassam, a Faculty of Education course director, and James – brought together representatives from the Toronto District School Board, York Region District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Black Creek Community Health Centre, Success Beyond Limits, Transformative Community Education Network, the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. The group put together a program that will engage presenters and participants in sharing information about their respective policies, programs and practices by which they have built school community partnerships for more equitable educational outcomes.

To this end, a panel of superintendents from five school boards in the Greater Toronto Area will present their thoughts on the topic “Operational practices, challenges and possibilities of transformative work within school boards.” The purpose of the panel is to share the rich diversity and continuum of insights and experiences among communities and their schools while noting the differences that are to be found within respective jurisdictions. The superintendents will speak to key questions such as: How are families and communities part of the boards’ plan to link communities and their schools? How is equity work operationalized at all levels of the school board? How can educators both inside and outside the system create learning spaces where all children have a chance to be successful?

Reggie Moore, YCEC keynote speaker
Reggie Moore

The superintendents will build on the opening keynote delivered by Reggie Moore, founder and executive director of the Center for Youth Engagement in Milwaukee, Wis. He will speak on the topic: “From Outcasts to Assets – Engaging Schools, Families and Youth in the Transformation of Communities.” In his presentation, Moore will speak about asset-based community development that identifies community needs and opportunities, and provide insights on effective community partnerships that promote youth engagement which moves youth from subjects to agents of change.

This year for the first time, organizers arranged for a pre-conference community workshop with youth leaders and others engaged in organizations working with youth. The session was held at Black Creek Community Health Centre on Aug. 20 and it was led by Moore. Participants explored what it takes to successfully “engage” today’s youth.

“This year’s summer institute is a place where activists for inclusive education and schooling at all levels can come together to share experiences,” says Kassam. “Grassroots community workers, teachers, administrators and school board leaders, as well as youth, media reporters and representatives from the Ministry of Education will all converge to push thinking around what transformative education for communities and schools looks like, and what it can look like. The institute is a powerful event where we can not only reflect on but also mobilize action to focus on the strengths and needs of all students.”

Continuing with the theme of sharing across boundaries, communities and differences, the Friday morning plenary session will feature a panel of youth from different high schools and communities across the GTA. They will present on the topic of how more effective school-community partnerships could serve to enhance their school engagement, educational performance and academic outcomes.

For information on the full range of workshops, including presenter biographies, visit the YCEC 2014 Summer Institute website.