This is the first in a series of articles about the candidates in the upcoming city council and school board elections. We sent each candidate a questionnaire and will be publishing their answers. (Click here for all of our election coverage.)
We start today with the four people running for trustee in Zone 1 of the English Ottawa Catholic School Board. It’s the Catholic Board’s largest geographic district, covering the entire western rural part of Ottawa and encompassing four municipal wards. (Here’s a map.)
Catholic schools in Stittsville include Sacred Heart High School, Guardian Angels, Holy Spirit and St. Stephen elementary schools. Some students who live in Stittsville also go to Holy Trinity High School in nearby Kanata.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING TO BECOME A SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE?
I am running for re-election as the Catholic school trustee for this area because I want to try to ensure that good governance continues at the Board table, allowing the board’s focus to remain on the three pillars of student success, staff development and stewardship of resources. I am also running to continue to try to be an advocate for parents and ratepayers who have concerns or are experiencing a problem with the school system. I want to continue working to have a Catholic school system that provides every student with the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Unlike 50 years ago, our children are going to be competing with children from all over the world for the jobs of tomorrow. It is important that our children learn to use today’s technologies and utilize them to their benefit. As OCSB Trustee I would push to have the school board implement a program to see the latest tools in the classroom and provide our teachers with the training and resources they require to leverage this form of learning. I want to ensure that our kids have every opportunity to succeed in the challenges that lay ahead.
Among the heavy issues, I want to work to address growing concerns regarding looming mergers, school safety and to keep Catholic faith-based schools. I would like to work to keep our bus and school systems from merging. A merger of bus systems could minimize rural transportation needs, cost more in fuel, and could be a harbinger of a school board merger. In the risk of school board amalgamation we can see an increase in overhead costs while pushing aside important needs in transportation, education, faith and more. We have above average results and yet we need to determine why some of the schools are struggling. I also want to find ways to encourage creative teaching to attract and retain excellent teachers.
My children have been in the Catholic School System of Ottawa for the past twenty-two years. During that period I have noticed a decline in the level and standards of the education system and a simultaneous decrease in the desire of the OCSB at all levels to open and frank with the ratepayers. It is my desire to improve this situation.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, AND HOW IT’S PREPARED YOU FOR THIS ROLE.
- 14 years as a trustee.
- A community journalist, I have written many school-related articles, giving me a unique perspective on education.
- A journalist knows how to research, how to ask the right questions, how to prepare a logical argument – useful tools for a trustee.
- I owned the Stittsville News for 26 years – I understand business principles.
- I worked on community groups lobbying for Holy Spirit School and Sacred Heart High School – I understand the importance of Catholic community schools.
- I have been involved with Holy Spirit Parish since its inception, so I understand the Catholic community of Stittsville.
I grew up in the Ottawa Catholic Board having attended school from JK right through to O.A.C., before attending post-secondary. I have three children currently in the Catholic Board just beginning their journey in life. I am a devout Catholic and believe that Jesus’ teachings play an important role in education. I have extensive knowledge on budgeting, staffing and managing large workforces. I also have a background in transportation which would serve beneficial in working with the O.S.T.A. on the second largest line item on the OCSB budget.
As a graduate of Catholic schools, as a Catholic Christian and as a parent, I want to keep our faith based foundation in our education. My mother and grandfather taught in Catholic Schools and inspired a deep appreciation for education. I have learned that with faith and experience as a strong foundation, we can build a high quality education and gain from any challenge. In IT Project Management, I am experienced and trained to deploy and monitor projects and compare the objectives to the results with project teams. The offers which promise to cut costs and implement improvements can actually result in higher maintenance costs elsewhere. Enticements are similar to the lure of a low-priced product with an expensive service agreement. For over 15 years I have specialized in system integration and not all systems are suitable to merge, for reasons of security, compatibility, flexibility, even cost to restructure.
Theresia my wife of 37 years and I share in the joy of our four children and one grandchild. Our children’s education process has given us 41 student-years of experience with the Catholic School system in Ottawa. I have enjoyed 28 years with the Royal Canadian Air force as a fast-jet pilot, and thirteen years with NAV CANADA. I have always been assigned to critical leading edge projects both in the international and domestic communities. I have employed my enthusiasm and determination in these projects to foster build camaraderie in order to assure their success. I will do the same if elected as Trustee to the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB).
WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE CATHOLIC SCHOOL-RELATED ISSUES FACING STITTSVILLE, AND HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THEM?
I think issues facing Catholic schools in Stittsville are similar to those facing schools across the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s jurisdiction.
1. A main concern is the math scores being achieved by students in the provincial testing. While better than the provincial results, these scores have been falling in recent years. This trend has to be reversed. The Board must develop and implement a focused plan that will foster improvement in these math scores.
2. A second concern that pertains to Stittsville as well as across the whole Board is mental health and the well-being of both students and staff. Board initiatives with respect to mental health must be effective for all. There have been improvements in the past couple of years but so much more needs to be done to remove the stigma associated with mental health. This will require not only support but vigilance from trustees to ensure that these initiatives are effective.
3. Possible changes related to school bussing that have been proposed but not yet decided upon are creating some concerns regarding student safety. These changes are emanating from a comprehensive review of hazards that affect walking to school. It has always been the policy that if there is an acknowledged hazard such as a busy road, then students even within the walking distance are bussed to school. The review has eliminated some hazards. This means that students who were bussed because of a hazard will now be walking to school. One area of concern is Fernbank Road east of Stittsville Main Street which is proposed to be changed to a non-hazardous situation. Students will then be expected to walk across this road. I will want assurances that there will be a crossing guard in place at Fernbank Road and also that there be appropriate sidewalks along Fernbank Road.
1. High cost of transit: As school board Trustee I will work with the OSTA and other Ottawa boards to find cost savings in transporting our children. Cost savings should not come at the expense of quality of service. I believe that by working together, we can come up with a standardized level of training for all transit providers and come up with some new and innovative ways to cut costs.
2. Technology and Resources: Our children will be using the tools of today to create the technology of tomorrow. Equally as important as the curriculum taught in the schools is the need to know how to use technology and be comfortable with it. A sound understanding of how to leverage all the tools at their disposal is the key to their success. The OCSB has to do a better job at providing teachers and students with the latest technology. The school board also needs to provide all children with the proper resources to learn. This includes children with special needs or learning disabilities. Teachers should receive yearly training on various forms of instruction that covers topics such as teaching children with physical disabilities or cognitive impairments.
3. Planning: Many suburban areas are seeing unprecedented growth and the school board has to have a long term plan to ensure it keeps up with the demands. All too often are new schools being built only to see students put in portables a few years later. Stittsville, Manotick, Kanata, Barrhaven and Orleans are just some of the regions in Ottawa that have ballooned over the last decade. The processes in place to expand or move the schools need to re-examined so that there is plan for growth rather than reacting to growth.
1. Overcapacity: One of the outcomes of a thriving and growing community is a vibrant and expanding population. Stittsville’s Sacred Heart Catholic High school is in a large, new building and already operating over capacity. Many parents are adapting to public school overcrowding and aging of the public high school by enrolling their children in Catholic schools. I would like to work with the community to respond to the community’s unforeseen requirements, the introduction of full day kindergarten and French Immersion and address the population growth. Meanwhile it is important to remember that as we host students from another board, we continue to operate in our mandate and in our faith. We would not want to stop teaching and sharing in and about God, in prayers, for example.
2. Mergers: I anticipate that a merger of bus systems between Catholic and Public schools may be an intended stepping stone to merging school boards. I would verify if the merger would bring higher overhead or fuel costs or overlook communities in outlying areas. I would also verify what special, advanced or unique education needs could suffer. These needs could also fall off if a bus merger becomes a school board merger. As for merging school boards, some are seeking to terminate funding of Catholic faith based schools, which would leave us vulnerable to something detrimental in its place. I want to keep God in our schools, to keep this opportunity affordable and safe and keep the peace of our smaller school boards.
3. Hazards to Safety: West end schools have sought to install wifi, when we are advised that developing children need a prudent avoidance. Energy boards have also partnered with schools to generate power on school premises (at an actual loss to tax payers) and I feel that energy generation should be kept away from developing children. I want to keep our schools healthy and safe in every way.
1. The Ottawa Catholic School Board needs to be more accountable to the ratepayers both at the Board level and at the local school level. At the Board level I will endeavour to have important issues conducted by a registered vote. During my research I was unable to determine the voting record of my trustee because there were so few recorded votes. In fact there has only been one recorded vote since January of 2014 even though a recorded vote can be called for. In addition I remain unsatisfied with the lack of participation by the Board in the press. The typical response I have noticed is, the OCSB did not respond to our inquiry. I will work tirelessly to ensure the ratepayers are informed on critical issues and encourage them to come to the Board meetings.
2. I believe the Catholic Schools must remain uniquely Catholic, that is to say to avoid any and all attempts to merge with the Public Board. To achieve this I believe it is necessary to improve the Catholic Religious education the students currently receive. In the past two Provincial elections, mention has been made about Faith-Based schooling questioning the need for multiple boards. I believe if we do not remain uniquely Catholic we will be forced to amalgamate with the Public Board. I will work tirelessly to hold the Catholic School Board to Catholic Values and I plan to meet with the Catholic Priests assigned to the twelve schools in Zone One, to better understand their concerns and assessment of the Religious education currently given to our children. Subsequently I plan to meet with the parents and report my findings and discuss potential solutions.
3. I will be responsive to ratepayer inquiries and endeavour to respond within one week of received correspondence. I pledge to investigate and report on the moral / religious teachings currently in the school curriculum and to make presentations to the parents in each of the four wards of Zone One (Municipal Wards 5, 6, 20, and 21).
OVER TO YOU READERS: If you’re a Catholic school supporter, what issues are important to you in this election? Add your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org