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FOCUS: Should the public and Catholic boards be amalgamated? (City Election 2018)

October 17th, 2018 · 2 Comments

TDSB candidates weigh in

Only four of the 13 candidates running for trustee in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Ward 10 — which includes city wards 11 and 13 — replied to our questions. We did not receive answers from Mahbubul Alam, Ted Crysler, Kate Frischkorn, Baquie Ghaza, Jooheon Lee, Aaron Macgregor, Chris Moise, Alamgir Muhammad, and David Oliver. We reached out to the candidates by phone and email, and gave them a week to provide answers, asking them to keep each answer to 100 words or less.

The questions below were developed by the residents’ associations and BIAs in our coverage area. We’ve published all the answers we received, editing only for length, grammar, and style.

Compiled by Ellie Hayden

Do you support amalgamating the public and Catholic school boards? —Annex Residents’ Association

Fos Ashkir: Amalgamation of public and Catholic school boards should include engagement from families and community members. It should also include further conversation with higher levels of government, which would subsequently be responsible for making any decisions regarding amalgamation. I certainly support further dialogue and conversations regarding this.

Susan Gapka: Not at this time. This would be a decision that is a provincial responsibility. At the moment, due to provincial legislation impacting ward boundaries, mechanisms and procedures on managing the new ward system should be a careful and important priority consideration.

Olivia Labonté: I support amalgamating the public and Catholic boards in order to save $1.3 billion in estimated costs per year. We can put that money directly back into front line programming, reducing class sizes, and conducting school repairs. While I understand that Catholic programming is appreciated by a number of parents, I believe that this programming could be fulfilled in institutions outside of school, and that we could instead use this public funding to improve schools for all.

Arnella Tarantino: I would be interested in amalgamating the Catholic and public school boards on one hand and keeping them separate on the other hand. The only difference is public starts the day off with O Canada and separate schools start off with a prayer. Joining the two would increase the power, a broader spectrum having much more money to spend in the classrooms fixing the older schools, therefore making it easier to manage properties.

What background and experience do you have in educational and institutional financial management? —Harbord Street BIA

Gapka: My experience is from a wealth of academic and community boards including the York University Board of Governors and Senate.

I helped lead a campaign to persuade the Minister of Health to fund sex reassignment surgery for trans people in Ontario, helped change the Vital Statistics Act sex designation so that trans people’s legal documents more accurately reflect their lived identity, and amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression.

More recently I have been employed at the 519 in the education department as a training and education facilitator. I also have been elected to the CUPE Ontario Pink Triangle Committee in 2017 and appointed to CUPE National Pink Triangle in 2018.

Labonté: I have a Masters in Applied Economics from the University of Montreal and have significant experience overseeing budgets and sitting on various boards including the World Urban Campaign standing committee and being the North American representative on one of UN-Habitat’s advisory boards.

Combined with my professional background doing business process improvements in the public sector, I know I can bring financial and facilities related expertise to the table should I be elected to the TDSB.

Tarantino: I have extensive experience having worked in a financial institution since the 1980s then getting my real estate licence in 1987 and working extensively with bankers and citizens. I’m self-taught over the years; I bought and sold properties for myself, my family, friends, and clients. I understand the financial market really well. I know what to look for and I understand corrections and adjustments quite well. I would like to see kids learn ways to make money and save money for big rewards in the future. I’m all about the kids, helping them to succeed. Starting young is the key.

Ashkir: For over 14 years, I have been on TDSB school councils, running workshops for parents and, with the help of community members, worked to bring families, trustees, and the school administration together to tackle issues. I continue to strive for an education system that families deserve. I currently serve as the chair and president of the Jarvis Collegiate Institute Public School Parent Council and chair of the Lord Dufferin Daycare Board, which provides me with insight around the administrative management of the school, along with the quality of education our students are receiving.

How will you address violence in the classroom towards both children and teachers? —Palmerston Area Residents’ Association 

Labonté: I was shocked and saddened by the results of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario workplace survey on violence in schools released earlier this year. It revealed that 70 per cent of public elementary school teachers have personally experienced violence and witnessed violence against another school staff member. It is entirely unacceptable that any staff or student feels unsafe in their school and this trend must be reversed.

Schools need the resources to effectively deal with violence in all its forms — this includes educational assistants, social workers, counsellors, and children’s mental health supports for students. It is incumbent upon school administrators to address resource gaps by working with TDSB to ensure the most appropriate solution is applied to a given situation.

Tarantino: I grew up with the strap and the ruler. I don’t agree in going that far, though kids need to know more about respect. It’s a lost art from both sides. I have seen some pretty rude teachers whose jobs are very secure push both parents and their kids around. Not fair. Kids too need to be respectable though they need to know it’s earned and not given freely. A few tweaks at both sides. Kids only know what they’re taught and teaching them early is the key. Some pretty rude kids out there. Somewhere along the line kids weren’t being heard and I believe this caused the noise. We need to have respect for the rest of our lives for one another.

Ashkir: As someone who raised both of my children in Ward 10 — specifically, in the Regent Park area — I take the safety of our students very seriously. In fact, I have previously run workshops for parents to boost parent engagement, and have encouraged the use of mentorship programs as a method of strengthening the safety in our schools. I myself have been a strong advocate of the Sister 2 Sister mentorship program, which helps to turn young women into leaders. Afterschool programs are also a critical resource for the enhancement of school safety and, if elected, I will call for its expansion.

Gapka: Violence in the classroom impacts children and teachers negatively and requires a focused series of interventions to ensure safety and security so that children are able to gain an excellent education. Addressing social determinants of health such as accessibility, food security with nutritional programs, and having a well-rounded broad-based educational curriculum including consent and healthy relationships and cultural competency is just a beginning.

Students must be supported with appropriate social work counselling, nurse practitioners, and, when needed, community policing which operate as crisis intervention teams within the school systems. Finally, children require strong adult role models in schools as well as at home and in society.



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