election 2018

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Saugeen Shores Hub reached out to readers and came up with the following questions for your English Trustee candidates for the Bluewater District School Board, Saugeen Shores and Arran-Elderslie area.

1) What can be done to implement curriculum in support of the teaching Canada's history with First Nations.

We recently celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary, yet the provincial government just cancelled important curriculum revision work. The plan was to add improved Indigenous history and perspectives for all. Once again we are breaking another promise to our First Nations people. As trustee I would work with the other trustees to advocate to get this initiative back on track.

2) Where do you stand on the sex ed classes using the 1998 curriculum?

As trustees, we are part of the checks and balances that exist. We need to ensure that the province consults and uses evidence-based decision making in revising all curricula. For the previously approved Health and Physical Education curriculum, this was done. When the Ford government made the announcement to revert back to the 1998 document, the Minister of Education was absent from the legislature for three straight days then refused to field questions outside of the legislature. That was disappointing. But the government did bow to huge pressure from the public. The government has reinstated the 2015 curriculum for secondary students. For elementary students, they have approved the use of an older interim curriculum that continues to have huge shortfalls. We need to get that fixed and I will be part of trustee pressure to get this fixed.

3) What can be done to support the mental health and well-being of students and teachers?

The health and well-being of students are my #1 priority. Everything else pales in comparison.

So how does a trustee get this implemented? Trustees set the strategic direction. We approve the priorities and then ensure policies capture this. Then we hold the Director of Education to account to ensure the policies and their associated procedures are implemented.

I would suggest everyone look at two policies:
The Safe and Accepting Schools policy, BP 6820-D, and
Human Rights, BP 7520-D, and Equity and Inclusive Education, BP 6303-D

In the second policy, this is stated:

1. Bluewater District School Board is committed to providing safe schools and workplaces that not only respect the rights, but also recognize the worth of every individual. Everyone has the right to a workplace and educational environment free of discrimination and harassment.

4) What can be done to help teachers support learning differences?

First of all, our education workers are top shelf. During my previous term we didn’t get a large number of complaints on teaching or teachers, in fact the opposite. When I earned my adult education degree, I learned that peer-to-peer professional development was the best method to improve teaching effectiveness. What boards do for professional development is driven much by the province, but I would further explore steps to take advantage of peer-to-peer professional development.

For activities in the classroom, again, our educators frequently demonstrate the importance of teaching and evaluation using a variety of approaches. I would suggest readers Google Howard Gardner’s work on “multiple intelligences.” I am also concerned about EQAO testing; this needs to be re-examined.

5) What support can be given to schools to support increasing anxiety and depression rates amount our children and youth?

The Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) has a mental health lead in the board who supports educators in the classroom. The board has partnerships with mental health agencies located in our communities. And school wellness is supported - often by student-led initiatives.

This being said - one of my worries has been the reduction in the number of Education Assistants (EA) right across the board. The EAs are invaluable at helping the students who need the help, and in turn, helping the classroom teacher. If elected, I will follow up on staffing of EAs.

6) What accommodations can be made for students who can't attend school for extended periods of time or have their productivity at school adversely affected due to mental health concerns?

This is best provided through documented special education support. Initially, that may be an individual education plan, an IEP, up to and including the use of the identification, placement and review committee (IPRC) process. If you want information on this, please email me. You have some legal rights in this issue.

7) Can more be done to add to the anti bullying climate in schools and what can be done to find and support kids who are being isolated due to bullying?

I commend our staff. They continue to work on creating an anti-bullying climate right now and have been working on that for years. Many years ago, the province set up a safe schools legislative framework with expectations of boards. Boards have captured this in policies and procedures. But the safety of students is a legal responsibility of the board, so this is important to us. Do parents know their rights? If you don’t or if you want more information on this, please email me.

8) Do you support teaching children about LGBTQ2+ issues and identities in an age appropriate manner and putting additional systems in place to support LGBTQ2+ students?

Yes. Absolutely. Please see my answer to question #2. In fact, over a decade ago, the BWDSB was a leader in establishing policies and practices to respect and celebrate diversity. Senior staff persevered; our classroom staff showed the leadership, and the culture shift happened. But this can never be overlooked as the important priority that it is. Please email if you want more history on this.

9) What is your position on merging the Public and Catholic school boards to form one system?

I am definitely in favour of this. The public has elected a cost cutting provincial government. Let’s hold them to it. Collapsing the four publicly funded school systems into one would reduced huge duplication and overlap in services. It has been estimated that it would save $1 to $2 billion dollars per year! Those are billions of dollars! And fundamentally, one publicly funded system so our children all learn together, and learn from their friends about the wonderful diversity in our province. That’s the system I will be fighting for.

See also: Katie Lutz; Ask a Candidate