Welcome

West Hill is a people, a place, and an idea. We are a community living out a progressive faith, striving to make a positive difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and the world.

Our mission:

Moved by a reverence for life to pursue justice for all, we inspire one another to seek truth, live fully, care deeply and make a difference.

Over the past many months, we've been challenged to engage broadly about who we are and what we see the future of church can be. We'd be delighted to talk with you about it and have extended an invitation to congregations across the country to reach out if they are interested in having a conversation with us. It can be about what this "theologically non-exclusive" church is really like. It might be about the rise of the "Nones" and how we are engaging them. You might want to just talk about the review of our minister. Whatever your interest, we will find a way to engage. So be in touch and let's set a date. 

Support West Hill!  Learn more or donate now through CanadaHelps.


The latest news, videos and perspectives from our community:

Want to contribute?  Email the webmaster.

Thursday
Mar172011

EARTH HOUR

“Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change.”

“On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.”

“Earth Hour is organized by WWF. With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries/territories, it’s one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.”

from the Earth Hour website

Wednesday
Mar162011

WORLD WATER DAY - MARCH 22

Water is a basic requirement for all life, yet water resources are facing increasing demands from, and competition among, users. In 1992, the UN General Assembly designated 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water.

This year’s theme is “Water Quality” reflecting its importance alongside quantity of the resource in water management.

 Each year more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice but to resort to using potentially harmful sources of water. This perpetuates a silent humanitarian crisis that kills some 3900 children every day and thwarts progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The consequences of our collective failure to tackle this problem are the dimmed prospects for the billions of people locked in a cycle of poverty and disease.

from World Health Organization brochure “Celebrating Water for Life”, 2005

Please go to the following websites for more information:

World Water Day

UN World Water Day

Wednesday
Mar162011

ITALIAN NIGHT SPAGHETTI DINNER

An evening of fun, fine Italian dining and plenty of laughs on Saturday, March 26 at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are only $12.00 for adults and $5.00 for children under 12. Tickets must be purchased in advance. There will be vegan and gluten free options available. Contact the office for tickets or for more information.

Monday
Feb282011

Toronto Star explores in-school fundraising

Check out this Toronto Star article from the reporter who interviewed me a couple weeks back. I left comments at the end of the article under the moniker Citizen_N. I am expecting another article by this reporter to come out tomorrow.
www.parentcentral.ca
Two public and two Catholic high schools in Greater Toronto are bringing in more than a million dollars a year through student fees, private revenue...



Thursday
Feb242011

Deputation offered to the PSSC of the TDSB: Why I am concerned about fundraising in the schools

Deputation offered to the PSSC of the TDSB
February 23, 2011
Nadia Heyd,

 

Why I am concerned about fundraising in the schools

First Reason

Fundraising in the schools contributes to the creation of “Have” and “Have-not” schools
Some schools raise $200k. Others raise $0 I wonder what a tour of schools at either extreme would reveal in terms of what differences you would find in the classrooms, library, gym, art supply cabinets, yard and playground. What about the before and after school activities and programs?  What about lunchtime extracurriculars? What about field trips - how many, where? What about the participation rate in school council meetings? What topic consumes the most time at council meetings (at my school it is fundraising - which is why many parents don’t bother coming to council meetings - they don’t want to talk about fundraising) Find out if the children at school have a nutritious breakfast and lunch. Look at the EQAO scores. Find out what staff/teacher turnover is like in the 2 environments.

Are there differences?  What are the differences? Are they significant?  Do they impact student success?   Can we live with them?

I would challenge school boards and the Ministry of Education to take these tours - or be scientific about it and do a study.

 

The goal of the study would be to find out the answers to these key questions:

  • Do all classrooms and schools have all of the resources (equipment, supplies) that the Ministry of Education considers necessary to have available for all children?

           o    Are these supplies and resources in satisfactory condition and good working order?

  • Are the resources and supplies that the Ministry names as necessary actually sufficient to ensure that teachers are able to deliver the curriculum and help students achieve success?
  • If there is a significant difference, does the difference in availability of resources have an impact on rates of student success?

 

Then, for the most important part:  After the study has been done, I would ask the board to be very frank, open and honest about the study’s results with all stakeholders - students, teachers, administrators, parents and the public - and make efforts to raise awareness about what they find out, and especially if we find out that there is a real disparity. We, as a society, will never be able to address a problem we aren’t aware that we have.


Second Reason

Fundraising lets governments off the hook for funding schools adequately
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - says that

  • Ontario’s schools are funded at something like $10,000 per student.  Schools in New York are funded at nearly double that
  • Ontario ranks 46th out of all the US states and Canadian provinces and 9th out of 13 Canadian provinces/territories for spending per student

Link to press release (study summary):  http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/ontarios-school-funding-falling-behind-study

Link to the study itself:  http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/reports/docs/Education%20Funding%20Formula%20Review_0.pdf

If parents step in and fill the gaps that are left by insufficient funding, we are telling the government that we are totally OK with the level of funding, that we are happy to take care of the cost of some things out of our pockets (despite the inequities it creates).

Some examples of items recently funded at my children’s school that perhaps should have been funded through ministry dollars rather than school fundraising dollars:

  • Basketball hoops on out in the school’s play-yard (the poles and backboards had stood there for a long time with no hoops, so we used fundraised dollars to purchase hoops)
  • Classroom reading materials
  • Dictionaries
  • Shelves for our school’s library
  • A rug for a grade 1 classroom so that children could comfortably assemble on the floor for a reading circle (rather than sit on the linoleum tiles)

 

Here is another question I would ask the board to think about:  If parents and other volunteers are freed from the burden of fundraising, what other ways could we put time and talents to use to support public education?

Perhaps parents could be mobilized to use their time and talents towards asking the government and/or other funders to bring Ontario’s per-student funding up to a level where it would better serve students, families, and ultimately communities and society. 

Third Reason

Fundraising employs (dare I say exploits) children and families as a sales force.  The most recent Financial Statements available for the TDSB (see page 6/24 of the pdf document, would show as page 4 if the document were printed) show $44 Million as revenue categorized as “School Fundrasing”.  The most recent CRA Charity tax return for the TDSB (scroll to line 4500) shows that about $1.4M was the “total eligible amount of all gifts for which the charity issued tax receipts”   Does that mean that the remaining 42M+ were not receiptable?  

I think it is important to ask the TDSB to show us specifically how that $44 million was raised, and also (perhaps more importantly), what it was spent on


SOLUTIONS I don’t know the answers, but I have a couple of ideas

I would ask the TDSB to revisit its mission statement.  Right there, in black and white, it says that the TDSB values equity.  If school boards truly want to achieve equity, it seems critical to me that we begin with this basic question:

What do we want every child to have access to in every school, no matter what kind of community they are in?   

I think that we need to engage ALL constituents – school board trustees and staff, teachers, parents, students, the community at large – in finding the answer to that question.  This will greatly help boards develop and articulate a vision for what is needed in the schools.  Then we can go about the work of assessing what supports and supplies are in place and what is missing, and figure out ways to fill in the gaps so that every student gets access to what they need to learn.

We should not live forever with problems we can solve.  Fundraising is only part of the solution.  My concerns about fundraising in the TDSB would be greatly allayed if I could be assured that the board and individual schools and individual volunteer fundraisers in schools carried out fundraising activities in ways that align with the board’s values and mission statement, particularly the value of equity.

As it currently stands, fundraising happens in some 600 silos all over the city, and the result is that some schools have fat budgets and loads of advantages, and other schools have slim budgets and few advantages.  I can’t help but think that this is not equitable, and it has GOT to be impacting student success. I call on the TDSB, among others, to take notice and do something about it.

Thank you,

Nadia Heyd

Concerned Citizen



Friday
Jan212011

2011 Academy Award Series

Original post by gretta vosper

Friday
Jan212011

Whatever happened to little girls?

I came across this article while cruising the web during a sermon prep and felt that it is a significant concern and one that many of the families in West Hill will find interesting.

Whatever happened to little girls?

Original post by gretta vosper

Friday
Jan212011

Fairness in School Fundraising?

West Hill United inspires me to speak out when something just doesn't sit well with me.  (Thank you, West Hill!)  As a parent with elementary school aged children, and also as someone pursuing knowledge through courses in Fundraising management, I've been giving a lot of thought to fundraising in the public school system.  I'm concerned that the way fundraising is being carried out in our public schools is a source of inequity and it needs to be questioned.  

Please read my blog about this, and if you share my concerns and are motivated to do something about it, please let me know.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet, but I just know I am going to do something.

http://nadiaheyd.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/school-fundraising-needs-to-be-more-fair/

Thank you,

Nadia.

Original post by Nadia Heyd

Thursday
Jan202011

THE "CLUB" MEETING DATES 2011

January 23rd Pyjama Day!

February 6th

February 13th Performance Day! - "Count On Me"
(Gretta talks about "Toy Story 3")

March 6th

March 27th

April 3rd

April 17th - Palm Sunday

May 1st - Mother's Day craft

May 15th

June 12th - Father's Day craft

June 26th - Party!!

Original post by Donna Lockhart

Tuesday
Jan112011

It's all about systemic realities

This morning on The Culture War segment of the John Oakley show we discussed the accusation by the left that the tragic shooting in Arizona was deeply rooted in the vitriolic rhetoric of the conservative right and the swift reaction to that accusation.  I posted the following on my Facebook page.

The voices of the right have been swift to claim that the horrific Arizona shooting that has left 6 people dead and 14 wounded, including Democratic Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, is the work of a lunatic, lone gunman. Their rhetoric castigates those on the left, like Keith Olbermann, for using the “tragic deaths” as an opportunity to make political gains by identifying vitriolic references and inappropriate statements made by right-wing politicians and broadcasters as a major factor influencing the behaviour of gunman Jared Lee Loughner. It’s a popular argument used by the right in the face of tragedy and violence.

The truth is that no individual who goes on such a rampage, mentally ill or otherwise, does so in a vacuum. And no individual who beats his or her partner, who commits suicide, who grabs a gun to settle a drug dispute or carve out a gang’s territory, no individual whose alcoholism destroys a family, functions in a vacuum apart from the norms accepted within their cultural milieu. We live and function within systems that influence our behaviour whether or not we wish to acknowledge them.

Immediately prior to the Culture Wars segment during which Charles McVety and I debated this issue (January 11, 2011), John Oakley engaged his listeners in conversation about the Halton Catholic School Board Chair’s remarks that likened Gay Straight Alliances to Nazi groups. Rather than remove Alice Anne LeMay from her position, the Board instead issued a statement emphasizing their desire to create supportive environments within which LGBTQ students would feel safe and supported. It will be a difficult thing for them to accomplish within the Catholic Church which regularly identifies homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle choice.

McVety is often quick to point out the hazards of a gay lifestyle, quoting statistics to reinforce the “lifestyle’s” high incidence of suicide, the dramatically shortened lifespan of LGBTQ persons and other disproportionately high risks the group experiences. What McVety is trying to do with his rhetoric is dissuade individuals from “taking up” a gay lifestyle but he refuses to accept the reality that sexuality is not a “lifestyle choice”. It’s a predisposition that leaves individuals vulnerable to the vitriolic language employed by the Christian right and the Catholic Church to describe them. Hearing that one is “an abomination”, “evil”, “aberrant”, and “sinful” is enormously stressful. Add to that stress the bullying undertaken by youths who have not been offered a worldview that accepts difference but that thrives on domination, and the recipe for disaster is set. Yes, it takes an individual’s own determination to take their own life but the milieu in which they live either supports their right to life or denies it. No LGBTQ teenager will feel safe in a school board with leaders like LeMay who, regardless of their subsequent retractions, clearly deny them rights. It is a systemic problem that needs a systemic answer.

Similarly, the shooting in Arizona did not happen in a vacuum. Comments made by Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle that people might need to undertake “second amendment” answers spoke directly to individuals eager to take up arms to “defend” their idea of democracy. Sarah Palin’s map of the United States with the crosshairs of a gun sight over top of states where  democrats had voted in favour of healthcare reform contributed to the poisoned atmosphere that was created in the wake of that vote. Those states included Arizona and Giffords had referred to the inappropriate use of gun sights in an interview last March. (A similar Democrat map used archery targets to identify those states where then-President Bush won by narrow margins as “behind enemy lines”. Both maps have been removed from official websites.)

McVety’s argument that demanding a reduction in the use of such “metaphors” is a dumbing down of public discourse is ridiculous. There are innumerable ways for us to have meaningful debate without resorting to images that can and will be understood by many in our society who are vulnerable to such language - those struggling with mental illness - as an incitement to violence. The truth is that, as we explore less violent imagery, we will raise the level of public discourse rather than diminish it.

What happened in Arizona is a tragedy but Jared Lee Loughner was no an island unto himself. He was part of a system that influenced and created him and those who shore up that system, who use it for their own personal gain, who prefer to keep it in place because they benefit from it, who refuse to acknowledge their part in it must be addressed in a way that both exposes their complicity and calls them to accept some of the responsibility. Whether either side will be able to engage the other in such a conversation remains to be seen. The early indicators aren't encouraging.

Original post by gretta vosper