Here’s the second in our series of articles about the candidates in the upcoming city council and school board elections. We sent every Stittsville candidate a questionnaire and will be publishing their answers throughout the next week. (Click here for all of our election coverage.)
Public elementary schools include Stittsville Public, A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary and Westwind Public. Other elementary schools nearby include Munster Elementary, Huntley Centennial Public, and Richmond Public. Stittsville is home to Goulbourn Middle School and the Frederick Banting Secondary Alternate Program. The main public high school is South Carleton High School, located in Richmond.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING TO BECOME A SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE?
Sue Grant: I am running for trustee because I am passionate about our right, and our responsibility, to provide quality public education for all of our children. It is time for change, and I believe that the only way to affect real change is from the inside. I believe that increased communication is the key. I want to bring parents and the community back into the conversation. I believe your trustee should be involved, engaged and accessible. I believe that kids must always come first. I want to see greater co-operation between the school boards, the city and community groups in order to find innovative solutions.
Andrea Ingham: In a digital age, we need to try to try to get students off their phones and into the community as much as possible. Independent projects that emphasize this as well as well as working alongside the federal and provincial governments in order to get funding for coop and apprenticeships in order to offset post-secondary costs or young adult pursuits. A stronger framework of teaching students the basics of life (biology) at a younger age would go a long way in helping them realize their pathway to self-sufficiency. These are ambitious objectives, but they are why I put my name in for nomination.
Todd Johnson: I was hesitant to run for the school board but, in the end, felt I had to. I realized that it is a big responsibility and time commitment, but the nomination deadline was looming, and it became time to put up or shut up and so, I stepped up. Having stepped up I am feeling energized by talking to constituents, by the democratic process, and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to serve the public, to give back to the community, and to see that all of our children get the best education possible.
Lynn Scott: I believe a first-class public education is vital to the future success of our children and the health of our communities. I want to ensure our suburban and rural communities have a strong, respected voice in the boardroom: advocating for diverse but equitable solutions to the challenges of improving student achievement; ensuring student well-being; preparing students for success in an evolving digital world; providing good, sufficient, accessible school space within communities wherever possible; and making decisions with a solid evidence-based understanding of student and community needs.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, AND HOW IT’S PREPARED YOU FOR THIS ROLE.
Sue Grant: My background is business communications; building solid relationships to facilitate communication and collaboration. As a founding member of the Canadian Military Family Resource Centre in the U.K,, I understand the importance of listening with compassion and showing a willingness to act at a time of crisis. After years in sales, I am not intimidated by titles or deterred by “no”. I know negotiation. I have experience with managing multi-million dollar budgets. I taught at St. Lawrence College so I have a basic understanding of classroom dynamics and prep time for teachers. I have spent over two years preparing to take on this role.
Andrea Ingham: Although I grew up in a suburb of Toronto (Aurora), I have recently become a passionate advocate for rural rights. As you probably know, when West Carleton was absorbed into the City of Ottawa, it’s budget surplus was taken to offset the City’s deficit. I worked at the YMCA Bonnefant Outdoor Education Centre (on City of Ottawa property), and saw the director struggle to meet the operations costs. Like the Bill Mason Centre, it is an incredible resource, and along with Ottawa’s parks, historic sites and geographic anomalies, have the capacity to offer students of a Ottawa an outdoor education comparable to such schoolboards as York Region or North Vancouver.
Todd Johnson: As an MBA with years of experience in educational administration, and social and educational policy, I have the skills and competencies needed to make a meaningful contribution as trustee. Soccer coach, Scout leader, member of the horticultural and historical societies, workplace United Way canvasser, captain, and member of the executive, I actively contribute to the improvement and development of our children and community. Father of two children working their way through the public system, I have a personal stake in seeing that our children have the skills and competencies needed to succeeded in a 21st century knowledge-based economy.
Lynn Scott: Before being elected, I was an active leader in four school councils, president of the Carleton Council of Parent/School Associations, and chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee. As a trustee, I’ve served as chair and vice-chair of the board and on many board committees, acquiring a thorough knowledge of how the system works and how to get things done to benefit school communities and individual students in Zone 1 and across the district, with good working relationships with many staff and Zone 1 parents. I prepared myself before becoming a trustee and I continue to learn.
WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE PUBLIC SCHOOL-RELATED ISSUES FACING STITTSVILLE, AND HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THEM?
1. Public High School – this is by far the top education concern in Stittsville. It is detrimental to students, families, the community and the environment to bus over 500 teenagers to Richmond each day. This number would be significantly higher if so many families had not already switched to the Catholic Board. More are switching all the time. Some are starting their kids in JK at the Catholic Board rather than switch later. If the OCDSB had been conducting exit interviews with the families who left, we would have a much better position with the Province in terms of funding. The situation is causing over-crowding in the Catholic system, so everyone’s education is suffering. First, we must build consensus among the Board of Trustees that Stittsville must be top priority, even after the new Capital Projects Framework has been adopted. Establish a plan through conversations with all levels of government as to the best way to influence funding for a new secondary school. Take action and make lots of noise. The time for patiently waiting is over.
2. OSTA hazardous walk zones changes – these changes, along with the lack of co-operation between OSTA, the Board and the city regarding crossing guards are putting students at risk. The loss of bus transportation is causing turmoil in many families. I would insist that OSTA physically walk these routes before making a decision. I would work closely with the city Safe Schools Department to make ensure that students in Stittsville are safe.
3. Traffic concerns at drop off and pick up – this is a Board wide problem. I would like to set up a working group including city staff from Safe Schools and principals to develop a plan, perhaps including student monitors to take JK/SK kids to their classrooms.
3. Work with the school board to increase students understanding of opportunities other than work or post-secondary after graduation. Decrease pressure for students to stay in school if that environment is pressuring them into severe mental illness or criminal behaviour. Create opportunities for youth to start to make good money in their teenage years in order to alleviate the stress of completing courses that have little relevancy or career advantages after school ends. We can Google or Youtube almost anything required to know by 80% of the jobs in the work force and yet we are pushing 100% of people to learn things they don’t need to during the years of their life they should be focussed on developing strong relationships, learning how to budget, do their own laundry, explore the world independently, and sexually mature.
Ottawa is unique in that is the home of the federal government. There are thousands of professionals who could mentor students in foreign affairs, tax law, international development, the political machine, journalism and are enthusiastic and ready to make guest appearances in classrooms or invite students into their workplace for the day. We have an incredible set of resources in our working class in Ottawa, and the capacity to hear the concerns and interests of the youth in order to shape a future that better reflects the kind of world they see themselves raising children in. Fostering those relationships should be a top priority.
The top school related issues facing Stittsville are the need for a new public high school, that continuous improvement and innovation is relentlessly pursued, and ensuring that all our children have the opportunity to be all that they can be.
Getting the new high school will require relationship building, looking for occasions to align our interests with those of the key decision makers, finding win-win opportunities and enlightening and persuading deciders about the business and human case for a new high school. I believe in collaborative bottom up leadership.
I believe that teachers and parents know the diverse and changing needs of their children better than the “experts” in Queens Park. I believe that while we need to get value for our money we must also keep an eye on whether we are achieving our goal – graduating educated productive citizens. Less focus on fiscal restraint and more attention to results. Closer collaboration between businesses and schools to match skills taught to emerging labour market needs and to help foster innovation. Everyone involved in the education system must work on continuous improvement of processes and services. No matter how good an organization is it can always be improved. Lean and green go hand in hand. Finding efficiencies saves money and reduces waste.
Finally we need to provide teachers and students with the collaborative and digital competencies required to be participants in the global knowledge-based digital economy.
1. Stittsville needs its own public high school. The OCDSB has recognized this need as a top priority, but the provincial government has not yet provided the capital funding required. If re-elected I will work to maintain this project as a top priority in the OCDSB, and continue to collaborate with Stittsville parents to get their voices heard in the places that count at the times when their voices will matter the most. I will work cooperatively with our city councillor and our MPP to coordinate our efforts to get a Stittsville high school, and I will use my personal contacts with MPPs of all three political parties to highlight Stittsville’s need. I will also continue to support South Carleton High School as a strong school with good programs for its Stittsville students, as enrolment growth in existing public schools is a significant factor in the province’s capital funding decisions, and loss of students to other systems works against getting the funding we need.
2. Stittsville’s elementary schools have done well in student achievement testing, with over 75% of their students meeting provincial standards in many of the EQAO test categories, but there’s still work to be done, especially in mathematics. I will continue to push for targeted investments in improving instruction across the board, and supporting the learning of all students with special needs in terms of program delivery and staffing models.
3. Stittsville is a high-growth community, and we need to plan now for ensuring that we can meet the school needs of future growth with continuing development in Fairwinds and in the Fernbank lands. I will make any planning decisions carefully, with an eye on the future as well as the present, in terms of enrolment growth, parents’ choices of programs, and changing demographics in the area.
OVER TO YOU READERS: If you’re a public school supporter, what issues are important to you in this election? Add your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org