Q&A with Superintendent of Mathematics

Longstanding Lakehead Public Schools leader and superintendent of education AJ Keene has recently moved into the new position of superintendent of education responsible for mathematics achievement. This position was created through the Board’s commitment to student success and through specialized funding from the Government of Ontario. This new role aims to support better outcomes for students and support educators in the delivery of the mathematics curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 10.

Having a mathematics lead is not new to school boards in Ontario. Having a mandatory mathematics lead at the superintendent level, however, is new. This emergent initiative will be funded year to year by the Ministry of Education, and under the leadership of AJ Keene will provide unprecedented contributions to improve student mathematics scores at Lakehead Public Schools.

Q: Was this government funding provided to help amend learning loss caused by the pandemic?

A: The pandemic had a strong impact on students. The funding was provided as part of the provincial government’s “getting back to the basics of education” initiative and is aimed at refocusing school boards on mathematics specifically. I am looking forward to leading the Board in supporting students to achieve better mathematics outcomes and I hope to see tangible improvements this year.

Q: How did Lakehead Public Schools students fare in recent math scores compared to the rest of Ontario?

A: The provincial statistics were based on the 2023 EQAO testing of Grade 3, 6, and 9 students. The results revealed that 11 of our schools were identified as priority schools which means they scored in the bottom 20% provincially. It was the first year that the EQAO assessments were conducted online, which may have impacted student performance. I am interested to see what this year’s results will be especially if the assessments return to being conducted non-electronically.

Q: What results do you hope to see in the coming years?

A: I believe our school Board will see an incremental increase in mathematics scores every year. Our Board has a strong mathematics team, exceptional administrators and educators, and I have a positive belief in what we can achieve together. Our Mathematics Improvement Plan is robust and is focused on building confident, competent, and skilled learners.

Q: What do you bring to this role that has prepared you for the challenges it presents?

A: Some Ontario school boards have reported difficulties in filling the mathematics lead position with a qualified superintendent. I have both mathematics and supervisory officer’s experience and qualifications, and so I feel strongly prepared to lead this initiative for Lakehead Public Schools.  In addition to my in-school experience as educator and principal, my previous positions as mathematics coordinator, education officer, and mathematics curriculum writer for the Ministry of Education will contribute to the overall knowledge required to successfully support students in reaching better mathematics scores.

Q: How did Northwestern Ontario as a whole fare in the 2023 EQAO assessments?

A: The results of the recent EQAO testing identified most of Ontario’s underperforming school boards to be in the northern regions of the province. One of our strategies to improve student mathematics scores is consistency. It is easier for a board our size to develop consistency in action compared to larger boards. Our plan is already in motion with our Mathematics Achievement Action Plan. We have hit the ground running because we had already been planning training, resources, and supports to improve teaching and learning in mathematics. In addition, my experience with Indigenous education gives me perspective for some of the challenges we face in the north.

AJ Keene began his new role of superintendent of education responsible for mathematics achievement this past summer and looks forward to supporting students in achieving better mathematics outcomes during their academic experience at Lakehead Public Schools.

In this short video, AJ Keene discusses Lakehead Public School’s focus for this year relating to mathematics: building community, social-emotional learning, home connections, and fluency.