October 9 debate - public and catholic board candidates

Notes from the school board trustee candidate debate

English candidates running for school board trustee in the Public and Catholic board appeared at a public debate last night, answering questions from residents.

The hour-long debate was organized by the Stittsville Village Association, and preceded the city council candidate debate.  About 150 residents attended.

Public board candidates were Sue Grant, Andrea Ingham, Todd Johnson, and Lynn Scott.

Catholic board candidates were John CurryChristine Pastien and Martin TateKen Gordon was absent.

(Gordon told me via email: “I would have liked to attend however I had to work. As much as I wanted to be there I could not get the time away from work.”)

 

About 150 people were at Johnny Leroux Arena for the debate.
About 150 people were at Johnny Leroux Arena for the debate.

 

Rather than a full recap of their answers, here are the comments and quotes that stood out for me during the debate.

Most of the debate was dominated by two topics: building a public high school for Stittsville, and merging the Public and Catholic boards. Not surprisingly, all of the Public board candidates supported a public high school for Stittsville. Not surprisingly, all of the Catholic board candidates opposed a merger between the two boards.  The public board candidates were all in favour of a merger.


On the public high school issue:

Grant criticized incumbent Scott: “She’s lost sight of the people.  Lynn talks about policy. Policy should be to get things done, not used to do nothing.  Twenty years is too long. We need to see an evolution in leadership.”

Scott defended her record. “Knowledge and experience is important when at least half the trustees will be new to the job. It is a top OCDSB priority but we need the province to give funding.  The province’s priority is seeing that existing schools are full.  When kids switch to Catholic schools, it hurts.  We need to work with the city councillor and MPPs to put pressure on the province.  I know how to call and I know when to push.”


 

On the Public-Catholic merger issue:

Pastien: “I call it a acquisition instead of a merger.  It would squash what we have now… I’m concerned with school buses and schools merging.  One (merger) is a step to the other… The public system is trying to take our boat and burn the rudder.”

Tate: “If you think the provincial authorities are amenable to Catholic education, think again… To keep high quality education you need to keep the board Catholic.” (He later referred to the Public board as the “Protestant Board”)

Curry: “There are virtually no savings.  Funding is on a per-pupil basis. Separate boards give people choice.” He called sharing space between the two boards “like living with your in-laws”.

Ingham: “Are people attending Catholic schools really Catholic?  I still go to Catholic church, but I was raised in a public school.,. I have friends in Toronto who have a Muslim prayer room in their Catholic high school.”

Scott: “I support one publicly funded school system for each official language. I do not want to see ‘megaboards’. Districts need to be small enough that people can have a voice.”

Scott also pointed out that not only are public high school students bused from Stittsville to South Carleton High School in Richmond, but vice versa: Catholic board high schoolers are bussed from Richmond (and further south) to Sacred Heart in Stittsville.  “It does not make sense.”

Grant: “We should have spirituality as part of the mental health curriculum.  Not learning about a god per se, but listening to your inner self.”

Johnson: “Why can’t we just all get along?”


Curry said one of his priorities is participating in an upcoming Special Education review that the Catholic board will be undertaking.  “Are we delivering them effectively?  There is a need for more money, not less money (from the province).  For example, autism – there are more needs in the system.”


Tate criticized the Catholic board for a lack of transparency, saying he could only find one recorded trustee vote since January.


In an exchange between Grant and Scott, Grant claimed that Scott was the only trustee to spend her entire “$10,000 expense stipend”.   I checked the board expense records. The latest info that I could find was from 2012-2013, when Scott spent $8,145 of a $9,500 maximum expense allowance. Two trustees spent more than Scott.  You can see the report here.

(UPDATE: Grant emailed StittsvilleCentral.ca and said that she was mis-quoted in the paragraph above.  While I stand by my notes from the event, here is a copy of Grant’s speaking notes that she provided to us on October 11.)


One audience member asked Grant about an incident at Huntley Centennial. “Is this how you would ‘go over heads’,” he asked.  Grant responded: “It was a very good example of me taking action to protect the most vulnerable in society.”  In the midst of shouts and confusion, the moderator cut off the questioner.  I believe the questioner was referring to this incident from 2012.


On cutting costs, Pastien, who is in IT project management, said she was concerned about the selection of technology deployed by the board. “Instead of Smart Boards (computerized black boards), how about white boards?”


Tate said that graduates “can’t write more than three lines in a row” and blamed texting: “LOL and smiley faces.”


Grant proposed using more volunteers in the schools. “We should take advantage of the volunteer workforce who feel disconnected from the school system.”


Curry defended a $50,000 project to re-brand the Ottawa Catholic Board, including a new logo and signage.  “There is great competition among boards these days for students.  We need a logo that translates well to web sites and it’s important to have a modern look.”


Ingham said she often speaks on sports radio shows in the U.S. and Canada.  She’s planning on taking a Masters of Journalism degree and if elected, would put her trustee salary towards her education.


Johnson told a few jokes, including: “There are three types of people in the world. Those who understand math and those who don’t.”

After the debate Johnson was surrounded by about a dozen students for a photo.


Scott brought up an upcoming collective bargaining process with teachers: “I want to keep students at the centre of bargaining.”


Grant mentioned the Munster Public School french immersion program and said communication with parents on the issue was not adequate.


Tate: “I’m the guy with the yellow signs.  I have two of them.  I move them around the city, day in and day out. I have 4 children, that’s 41 student years in the Catholic system. I have seen a positive decline from oldest son to youngest daughter.”

(Tate also made reference to a school trip to South America that “tainted the students’ view of the Catholic world”. He did not elaborate on this point.)


Read our Q&A with all of the candidates:

 


Were you at the debate on Thursday night?  What did you think of the candidates and their answers? Add your comment below or email feedback@stittsvillecentral.ca

Catholic trustee candidates (left to right): Tate, Curry, Pastien
Catholic trustee candidates (left to right): Tate, Curry, Pastien
Public trustee candidates (left to right): Scott, Johnson, Ingham, Grant
Public trustee candidates (left to right): Scott, Johnson, Ingham, Grant

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