Meet the candidates running for school board trustee in Zone 1

When you go to the ballot box on October 24, along with your vote for Mayor and Councillor, another important vote will be made – your local school board Trustee. In Zone 1 – all electors have a vote for one school board Trustee from either the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board or the Ottawa Catholic School Board. There are three candidates running for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and three candidates running for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. There are no candidates running for the Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est or the Conseil des ecoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario in Zone 1.

To assist you in learning more about each candidate, we posed the same five questions to all six candidates to bring more awareness to the issues and concerns of residents. Should you have further questions for the Trustee candidates in Zone 1, below is their contact information (just click on the link):

Candidates for the Ottawa Catholic School Board – Zone 1

Candidates for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board – Zone 1

We will begin with the responses from the Ottawa Catholic School Board candidates in alphabetical order.

Question 1 – Tell residents about yourself and why you would be the best representative for a Zone 1 School Board Trustee in 2022?

Jeff Darwin: I am a second generation graduate of the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) system myself, and all three of my children have benefited from a faith-grounded education here in Ottawa, so now it is time for me to ensure that my grandchildren have the same quality of education and opportunities. I have the required local educational and board experience. (see also response #5)

Mardi de Kemp: I’m an experienced trustee and a person who listens to, and is responsive to, others.  I’ve been involved with the Ottawa Catholic School Board for 30 years as a parent, as an advocate, as an employee, and most recently, as your trustee.

In these roles I have watched the Board evolve as an innovative organization with  85 faith-filled schools that teach the Gospel values and are guided by Catholic social teachings.

By listening to the concerns of ratepayers and parents, my experience and relationships built over the years, help me guide parents to productive solutions to ensure that their child is safe and happy at school.

Scott Phelan: A proud graduate of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, I have spent the last 20 years
living here in Stittsville (Zone 1) where my wife and I have had the pleasure raising our family of four children through Guardian Angels & Sacred Heart Catholic Schools. My true passion lies in serving my community. For the past 15 years, I have been an active volunteer within the Ottawa Catholic School Board & this amazing community we call home. Most recently serving as President of the Stittsville Minor Hockey Association. An organization that I am truly proud of as we serve over one thousand families in our community, many of whom attend OSCB schools in Zone 1.
As a parent of attending children within the Board, I have been able to view education from a different lens. I have witnessed both the opportunities and challenges of where we are today in supporting our children and the impact our school board has on our children’s experience. When Covid hit, I wanted to get involved in the classroom. As such, I had the pleasure of working with the OCSB as a supply teacher/classroom supervisor. A truly amazing experience to immerse myself in the daily practice of our
education system and realize the need to advocate on behalf of families in our community and educators across the board.
If elected as Trustee, I bring energy, a positive attitude, commitment and a love for working with people in my community to the OCSB Board.

Question 2 – The past two years have been extremely difficult ones for our children. How would you ensure that children who experience any of the following – learning disabilities, are gifted, have ADHD or mental health issues – will have their needs met with support, psychological educational assessments and would you work with the Board to ensure that these assessments are paid for by the Board?

Jeff Darwin: As OCSB parents, we fought very hard to get all three of our own children Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Today, I am very proud of how our kids are thriving as an Aeronautical Engineer, a Registered Nurse and a Public Relations Specialist. For ourselves along with our teachers, principals and educational specialists, the process was onerous but ultimately well worth it. Yes, educational assessments and IEPs must be free and easier to get.

Mardi de Kemp: The Board has a history of ensuring that special education needs are top-of-mind and dips into other discretionary spending envelopes to apply more resources to students with special education needs (eg. 90 new educational assistant hires). Clearing the wait list for assessments for students with special needs continues to be a priority for me, the entire Board of Trustees, and the statutory Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). 

The Board has added full-time wellness supports including new specialized hires to address the increased need for post pandemic mental health issues.

I will continue to support all wellness and mental health initiatives related to children with special needs, and for all our students, as we move away from the intense days of the pandemic.

We have to continue with innovative training for staff and bring new initiatives to address academic gaps and mental health challenges that have intensified in the post pandemic environment.

Scott Phelan: If elected as Trustee, I will work with the Board to lobby the Ontario Government for additional funding to ensure that all students, staff and community continue to invest in wellness programs that ensure student achievement. Our school environment plays an important role in the development of Children’s social, psychological & emotional skills. While the OCSB builds a “program for all”, each student learns uniquely. As such, we must also EDUCATE uniquely in order for each and every one to succeed. I will work to ensure that resources for students (Educational Assistants, Counsellors, Social workers, Speech & Language assistance & Psychological assessments) are provided. With respect to psychological assessments, the OCSB today do offer assessments, however because of the increasing demand, many families are forced to move to the private system to have these assessments completed. If elected, I will work with the Board & Government in an effort to speed up the internal process so our families do not carry the financial burden of waiting and moving outside the school board.

Question 3 – The population of Stittsville is increasing rapidly. Looking at an expected population increase over the next 10 years; more children arriving in Stittsville and attending school; and, at a cost of approximately $95,000 for each portable classroom, how would you ensure when working with the Board and Province to obtain funding for new schools, that future schools being constructed in our growing community will accommodate the appropriate number of classrooms and lessen the number of portables being used at new school sites?

Jeff Darwin: The Province of Ontario has not done a good job of forecasting the global changes and movements of human populations, and our facilities planning process is too slow. Our latest schools to open meet about 40% of the current demand and then immediately resort to inferior, temporary solutions such as desk sharing and portables. IF the province or the OCSB are using PROFESSIONAL DEMOGRAPHERS, they simply need to contract with better ones, such as the professional Demographers used in residential development, grocery and financial services.

Mardi de Kemp: The Board has been successful getting the funding for the new elementary school with 507 pupil places near Fernbank to open in September of 2023.  We also have a site set aside near Fernbank for a new Catholic High School. The Ministry has approved the school going forward as a priority project, and we are still working with them to secure the funding.

The reality of the portable situation in Stittsville and other high population areas is partly due to the fact that the Ministry of Education will not approve a new school build unless all the schools nearby are overcrowded and, therefore, have portables. Usually they have to have a guarantee that the new school will open at least 80% full. And to get to that threshold it means all the schools around it will be overcrowded and/or have portables for a period of years.

Scott Phelan: Planning for future growth and development is an important topic not only with the OCSB but for the Education sector in general. Stittsville is an exciting, vibrant and amazing place to raise a family and as such, we have seen development occur at a more rapid rate than other communities within Ottawa. It’s safe to say that most families are not happy when students are assigned to portables. It’s an indication that portables are not optimum learning environments as they pose challenges when accessing the learning commons, washrooms, gymnasiums along with other resources not available in the portable.

As our community continues to increase in size, our Board will have to forecast accurately to meet the demands of our families attending schools within our region. Portables will still have their place in education and discussions around the board table, however I do see a shift in the roles portables will play as we build for a future of hybrid learning. As we have seen over the past few years, many boards have shifted to a hybrid model of both “in class and online learning”. This trend will continue in an attempt to move more students back into physical classrooms. If elected, I will work with fellow Trustees and families in our community to lobby both the federal and provincial governments to ensure new schools are built with a “student lens” that meets the specific needs of every child and faculty member.

Question 4 – Public consultation is important. Are you planning to meet with residents and our local school/parent associations regularly to gain important feedback on various issues relevant to a school prior to voting at Board meetings?

Jeff Darwin: Yes, I will be accessible to, and consult with, families prior to board votes. I will push for Trustee access to some senior Board managers beyond just the Director of Education.

Mardi de Kemp: As a sitting trustee, I have attended school council meetings (CSC). I continue to support/ attend the board-wide Catholic School Parent Association (CSPA), and the special education advisory committee (SEAC).  

As a former chair of two School Councils, the former chair for 7 years of CSPA, and a 10-year parent member of SEAC, I am proud of how those organizations have evolved and become an effective voice for parents.

I am currently one of the two trustees representatives on SEAC and if I’m re-elected I would hope to remain so. SEAC is an important voice for the parents of students with special needs to interact directly with other parents and senior board administration.

I would be happy to attend meetings of local community associations.

Scott Phelan: The role of trustee is to act as an advocate and ambassador on behalf of our community. The best way to achieve this is to establish a regular occurring relationship with our families and school officials to understand their needs and address their concerns in advance of meeting with the board. As an active member in my community, I have had the good fortune of meeting on a regular basis with families through my volunteer work in Minor Hockey at local rinks, or in an educational capacity within the schools I support today. As Trustee, I will continue to do this by meeting with constituents, schools and parent council committees on a regular basis to gain their feedback and share their stories with the OCSB Board.

Question 5 – Feel free to share any further ideas or thoughts you may have with the residents of Stittsville.

Jeff Darwin: I am exceptionally qualified and experienced in providing local INSIGHT, FORESIGHT and OVERSIGHT to diverse sets of stakeholders through my volunteer board service to Algonquin College & Algonquin College Foundation, Ottawa Markets, the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation, the Ottawa Sports Council and the Ottawa Sports Awards.

Mardi de Kemp: I fully support the Province’s and Board’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Framework which demonstrates our continued commitment to addressing systemic barriers and bias. 

I 100% support the ongoing efforts of the Board to bring all needed resources to bear to support children with special needs or at risk.

I want to continue to work diligently to ensure that there is a place for everyone at an Ottawa Catholic School Board School and that equity at the OCSB continues to be guided by Catholic social teachings.

We must now go forward recognizing the unique challenges of the post-pandemic period ensuring the Board continues addressing mental health challenges and academic gaps facing students. 

We need perseverance, innovative solutions, and kindness.

Scott Phelan: We have lived through some challenging times with the coronavirus. It’s clear that many students have and continue to struggle physically, socially and psychologically. Mental health is a serious concern we continue to face – not only for our students, but for our teachers, administrators and ourselves as parents. This needs to be a top priority and something for us to not lose sight of as the world returns to “normal”.

We also need to support one another and provide the same experiences, availability and accessibility to resources so each student has an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. If elected Trustee, my commitment to you is to act as a bridge between our community and the OCSB. Investing in education is one of the best things we can do for our children, family and community.

I`m proud of the community in which I live and the many wonderful families that I get the privilege of surrounding myself with each and every today. I am running for Trustee so that I can continue to serve my community in another capacity and continue to build a future for students & staff today & in the future within our education system.

I look forward to working hard to earn your trust in doing so. On October 24th, I hope that I can count on your support to become your next OCSB Trustee for Zone 1.


Now we move to the responses from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board candidates in alphabetical order.

Question 1 – Tell residents about yourself and why you would be the best representative for a Zone 1 School Board Trustee in 2022?

Jonathon Salinas: First, I am a parent to two children in OCDSB schools. I believe the next Trustee in our Zone should emphasize three things in the next session: increased constituent consultation, a renewed focus on literacy scores, and maintaining in-person learning in concert with public health advice. Our zone is the largest in the city and with recent reductions in services (see closure of Munster Elementary School, teacher shortages, etc), higher costs of living, and transportation inconsistencies our parents are finding it more difficult than ever to access the education system. The Board needs to meet pupils and parents halfway because the right to education is at risk for many in our rural communities. Reliable transportation, transparent communication on how the Board will navigate public health emergencies, and a sensible approach to investments in infrastructure in our zone is a must-have to ensure equal access for all.

Lynn Scott: Providing our children with the best possible education is my top priority.  They deserve a solid foundation in core subjects, full engagement in their learning, opportunities to follow their interests, and strong support to meet individual learning needs.  I will ensure the recommendations of the Right to Read inquiry are implemented.  I will use my experience and knowledge to champion excellence and equity, having a thorough knowledge of Zone 1 schools and communities, a deep understanding of the OCDSB and how it works, and good working relationships with other trustees and key staff leaders to improve student achievement and wellbeing, including mental health.  I have a long track record of helping families navigate the school system to access the support their children need.  With a majority of brand-new trustees guaranteed to be elected to the OCDSB this year, experience will matter.

Gananatha Subrahmanyam: I have been an educator my whole life; I am passionate about learning and teaching. I currently lecture at the university level, provide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training for government organizations, and offer academic coaching and mentoring to elementary and high school students in the Ottawa area and beyond. Many parents and students are not able to get the support they need in the classroom — this is often the case because there is a lack of educational Assistants, class sizes are too large, and teachers are overworked. I also have the unique opportunity to see what students are learning at a variety of different schools across the city at the same time. I know we can do better: kids need more support. I am prepared to work hard together with my trustee colleagues to advocate for students’ rights. I am concerned about our collective future.

Question 2 – The past two years have been extremely difficult ones for our children. How would you ensure that children who experience any of the following – learning disabilities, are gifted, have ADHD or mental health issues – will have their needs met with support, psychological educational assessments and would you work with the Board to ensure that these assessments are paid for by the Board?

Jonathon Salinas: I will work to ensure that psychological educational assessments are paid for by the Board because the research was established a long time ago that demonstrates the mental, emotional, and physical health risks associated with what is known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (see 1998 CDC-Kaiser Permanente study). The research shows that a majority of adults have experienced some form of mild to severe trauma in their lives and so this is something that the province and the Board need to work together on supporting. Those living with neuro-divergence, are gifted, or have a learning disability were some of the most affected student groups during the pandemic. The challenge now is the labour shortage affecting the recruitment of special needs teachers. I am in favour of borrowing creative solutions from other jurisdictions, including incentivizing this teaching stream, hiring temporary professionals from other sectors, and fast-tracking emergency certification.

Lynn Scott: The OCDSB must help students and staff recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We must identify the gaps in learning and social development for students of all ages and address them in evidence-based and targeted ways.  I will advocate for increased support for special education and mental health in the OCDSB budget and at the provincial level.  Wait lists for psycho-educational and other assessments are too long, and I will work to increase OCDSB capacity to do these assessments in a timely way, so that parents do not have to seek out and pay for private assessments.  I will also continue to advocate for increased Educational Assistant support, including specialized itinerant staff who can be deployed provide short-term support in temporary crisis situations.

Gananatha Subrahmanyam: As a specialist working in diversity, equity and inclusion, an academic coach working with students and parents, and having spoken with many parents about children living with disabilities, I see ample evidence that students have been struggling prior to and during the pandemic. Many students with disabilities and mental health issues are not having their needs met. OCDSB policies exist to support students with disabilities, address mental health issues and offer supportive programs. I believe we need to work together as trustees to revise and improve these policies and practices, including the Special Education Program. Accessibility to appropriate resources and specialized staff must be prioritized. I will work with my colleague trustees to ensure that more specialized educational assistants are working in more classrooms assisting more students. I will advocate with trustee colleagues on behalf of students and parents to have educational assessments paid for by the Board.

Question 3 – The population of Stittsville is increasing rapidly. Looking at an expected population increase over the next 10 years; more children arriving in Stittsville and attending school; and, at a cost of approximately $95,000 for each portable classroom, how would you ensure when working with the Board and Province to obtain funding for new schools, that future schools being constructed in our growing community will accommodate the appropriate number of classrooms and lessen the number of portables being used at new school sites?

Jonathon Salinas: Our multi-year plan, which the public is obliged to be consulted on, needs to contain an environmental scan that marries the municipal migration of people into our zone with planned infrastructure (roads, mass transit, etc), zoning considerations, and residential intensification. I think that the current campus corridor being built along Robert Grant demonstrates good forward planning, however, the reality is that when those schools are built, they still require portables. We need to change the way we plan and build to consider fewer schools with a bigger footprint. Bigger schools can still have class size caps but pooling more students under the same roof would come with more resources. Imagine your child’s school had a swimming pool, field house, state of the art chemistry lab, a fully equipped nurse’s station or a library with tens of thousands of publications? Currently we are splitting our funding dollar into four separate Boards with small, underequipped schools on every block.

Lynn Scott: The process for funding and implementing school construction projects is broken.  At the provincial level, funding approvals take too long, and the amount of capital grants does not recognize the impact of inflation on construction costs.  Municipal approvals for such things as site plans also take too long, and school board construction projects should be given higher priority.  The OCDSB also needs to keep its District Needs Analysis up to date and begin the process of requesting capital grants further in advance of the predicted need.  I will continue to push for improvements to speed up the processes for planning, funding, building and renovating schools in a timely way to meet the needs of growing communities and communities with schools in need of renovation or replacement.  We need to take an agile approach to the management of construction projects.

Gananatha Subrahmanyam: School board trustees do not work alone and do not make any decisions that affect the learning spaces, safety and wellbeing of OCDSC students alone. OCDSB trustees work as a team. I will work hard to develop a culture of open communications, trust, respect and transparency trustee colleagues. We will not be able to make meaningful change and ensure a better future for students if trustees are not guided by these principles. To accommodate the appropriate number of classrooms and reduce the number of portables being used, our team of trustees will need to work in harmony with city council and other city officials to ensure we have the best forecasts for growth to work with as we conduct school planning and classroom allocation exercises across the city. As a united and strong board of trustees, we can also advocate more strongly for increased funds for safe and healthy classrooms.

Question 4 – Public consultation is important. Are you planning to meet with residents and our local school/parent associations regularly to gain important feedback on various issues relevant to a school prior to voting at Board meetings?

Jonathon Salinas: One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was the proliferation of virtual meeting technologies and how this served to shrink distances and permit more people to collaborate. I think we are ready for more direct democracy on a continuous basis. I do not want the vote we cast at this election to be the last occasion our constituents have to influence the decision-making process. As trustees, we are elected to serve in the best interests of the public and I intend to hold regular checkpoints with constituents around the important issues. This Board did not hold a summer meeting to discuss how to implement public health guidance ahead of the September re-entry and robbed constituents of an opportunity to provide input. This should not happen again.

Lynn Scott: Families need more transparency about their children’s education experiences.  I will work to ensure that the Board hears and respects the voices of students and families.  I will strengthen our relationships with advisory committees and community partners and clarify roles and responsibilities to support constructive collaboration.  I will meet with school councils as often as possible, and I will ensure that they have opportunities to provide input on key issues through a variety of consultation mechanisms.  The OCDSB and individual schools are now providing weekly updates directly to parents, and I will seek to ensure that information is easy to access and understand so that parents can provide informed input on matters important to them.  I will hold public community meetings on significant local issues as needed.

Gananatha Subrahmanyam: I have been knocking on thousands of doors across the region during the campaign to speak with and listen to electors. I am also easily accessible online. One of the recurring issues that I have noted in my consultations thus far is that a significant number of people I meet are not aware of the school board trustees and what their important functions are. Education impacts us all and it has serious consequences for our future. As an OCDSB trustee, I will commit to enhanced communications to consult with residents and school/parent associations through meetings, online discussions, and though web-based consultations. It is important to note that depending on the issue, consultations must take place with others as well, including other trustees, city officials, specialists and researchers. It will always be important to do so regularly. I will also consult on specific points as needed prior to voting at Board meetings. And I will always vote, I will not abstain.

Question 5 – Feel free to share any further ideas or thoughts you may have with the residents of Stittsville.

Jonathon Salinas: I am not a politician. I am not seeking the confidence of my constituents in order to attain a higher public office someday. I am a parent. I worry about my children being bullied at school, if their learning will suffer if we lockdown again, or whether they will finish the year with the same teacher they started with. As Trustee I want to be the conduit with which the people of Stittsville can articulate their agency over their public education system. While we applaud the dedication of those who held the position of Trustee for some time before now, we recognize that the system needs to be re-invigorated with new ideas—that in a healthy system, the gatekeepers to our institutions transfer responsibility with regularity to avoid stagnation. I think it is time for change, and to seize the opportunity to return greater authority to the people of Stittsville.

Lynn Scott: Our schools must be safe and caring places for ALL students to learn, and for all staff to work, free from bullying, discrimination, hate-motivated behaviour, and violence.  I will seek improvements to our anti-bullying programs and use data to assess where additional action is required to ensure students are safe at school.  I will also continue to follow current education research for evidence-based ways to improve student engagement and academic success, supporting innovative programming in science, technology and the trades.  Every student needs a pathway to success, with all necessary support for their learning, with rich opportunities to pursue their individual interests and develop their talents and skills – that will always be the central focus of my work as an OCDSB trustee.

Gananatha Subrahmanyam: Many parents I speak with worry about student literacy levels. I share their concerns. I see declining literacy levels at university as first-year students arrive underprepared for the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills they need to succeed. Education Quality Accountability Office data shows that about a third of Grade 3 students failed to meet Ontario writing standards in 2018-2019. While numbers for Grade 6 are somewhat better, the data for students with disabilities is unacceptable: half of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students with special education needs do not meet provincial standards. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) February 2022 report, Right to Read, states: “Ontario is systematically failing students with reading disabilities and many other students” (p. 2). Parents, students, and concerned citizens are demanding change. As an OCDSB trustee, I will work hard with my colleagues to advocate for students’ rights and deliver much needed change.

Some background information for the position of school board Trustee: Trustees from each board are elected to serve a four-year term and report to the Director of Education. Trustees are responsible for voting on all issues affecting the school board – including multi-million dollar budgets – strategic planning and following the provincial legislation education policies. The Ottawa Carleton District School Board indicated that effective December 1, 2021, the trustee honoraria is as follows: $16,743 for trustees, $21,102 for the vice chair and $25,461 for the board chair. The Ottawa Catholic School Board indicated that the honoraria received is as follows: $13,721 for trustees, $17,338 for the vice chair and $20,955 for the board chair. Each trustee also receives mileage and a small stipend to cover office expenses.


3 thoughts on “Meet the candidates running for school board trustee in Zone 1”

  1. This is very helpful, thank you. Is Matt Douchesne not running for school trustee? His signs talk about doing away with portables.

  2. As a grandmother of two children in the Munster area, I found trying to be heard by Lynn Scott in the discussion of Munster school was an exercise in futility and frustration. 🙁

Leave a Reply