All members of the present Wellington Catholic District School Board are running for re-election this year, including the present Chair, Marino Gazzola. So what’s his case for returning to the board?
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for school trustee?
I am a product of the Catholic school system. My children and now grandchildren are part of the system. I support the system. I believe in Catholic education.
2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
The role changed dramatically with the introduction of a governance act a number of years ago. We help create and approve policies. We approve and oversee the budget. We are a conduit for stakeholders to communicate with. We do not get involved in the day o day operations of the schools.
3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?
Wellington Catholic District School Board has an excellent relationship with The Government of Ontario. We are a small board but a very respected board across the province. We have been innovators and have partnered with the province on several recent initiatives especially in the area of technology.
4) The mental health of young people is a growing priority; how will you help insure that schools get the resources they need to address this important issue?
When setting the budget, we must look at all aspects of education, but we must also be prepared to prioritize certain things. A student’s mental well being is of great importance these days, likely more so than at any previous time. It is important to have the right people in the right places including mental health experts and then to make sure they have the resources, including financial resources needed to do their job.
5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years, where and when should the priority be for new school construction?
First of all, we must ensure that the current facilities are being utilized to their potential and capacity rating. When deciding on new facilities many aspects must be looked at with growth areas being priority one. There is a procedure in place by the provincial government that must be strictly adhered to when considering new facilities and that may include a review of current boundaries and accommodations.
6) While mayor and council candidates talk about city infrastructure, let’s talk about the infrastructure of our schools. How do our school buildings fare? Are they accessible enough? Are there enough resources to address repairs? Et cetera.
Our Wellington catholic facilities are in excellent condition. The government does a facility review, and our schools scored very high in their condition rating. All of our school are air conditioned. Accessibility has become a priority and has been attended to. We have several schools that are less than 20 years old, and most of our older schools have been updated and have undergone renovations in the past few years.
7) What can the school board do to give teachers the resources to improve how students learn in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses?
As with any program, budgetary considerations are always at the forefront. We need to ensure that our teachers are up to date in their own professional development, then we need to provide them with the resources to fully educate the students in the identified areas. The provincial government sets curriculum and priorities, and we consistently follow both of those. In the area of math, our board has annually scored above the provincial averages.
8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?
Again, I point out our boards scores in provincial testing, which is consistently higher than provincial averages. I also point to our student’s commitment and dedication to social justice. Our high schools annually raise over $70,000.00 in the relay for life. Our employees donate close thousands and thousands of dollars to the local United Way. Our secondary students annually make trips to Peru, Guatemala, Honduras and other under developed countries to build schools, and other facilities.
9) FRENCH IMMERSION: If you’re running in the Upper Grand District School Board, how do you think the board has handled the pressure of demand for French Immersion? If you’re running in the Wellington Catholic District School Board, should the board be looking at developing its own French Immersion programs to help relieve the pressure?
At Wellington Catholic we are not considering French Immersion currently. We have put our energies and commitment and resources into the IB, (International Baccalaureate) program at both the secondary and primary school level. Both levels of the IB program have been extremely successful.
10) There’s a political question about dissolving the Catholic and separate school board system and creating one school board, what’s your opinion on the issue?
Very very strongly oppose it. Contrary to public belief there are no savings to be had by doing that, and saving money is the primary argument from the groups that support it. Education in Ontario is funded on a per pupil basis. Approximately 1.8 million students funded at a rate of roughly $12,800 per student. Amalgamation would still have the same number of students funded at the same rate. It would require the same number of schools, teachers and administrators. You may have fewer Directors of education, but with amalgamation would come larger number of students in each board which would likely require more superintendents and associate directors, and again no savings. In 1997, Ontario amalgamated 125 school boards into the current 72 boards, because of projected savings which never materialized. The infrastructure to oversee the amalgamation cost taxpayers over 1.2 BILLION dollars. The other conversation piece that nobody talks about is the chaos that would occur at every school with amalgamation. Many students would be displaced from their current school. Students who currently attend Catholic schools but live near a public school would now attend the public school likely displacing a student from there, and the reverse would also be true, public school students would now attend Catholic facilities closer to their home.
11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?
There are two actually, and both have to do with adequate funding. First Special education is tremendously underfunded. More and more students are being identified with special needs but the monies to support them are not flowing to the boards. The special education funding formula is way outdated AND NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED. The second area is transportation, which is also severely underfunded. Costs borne by the operators are increasing at a rampant pace, but the government funding is not keeping up with it. It is another formula and area that needs a long past due review. A few years ago, the government did an efficiency review of the board’s transportation system, but then never followed up on the results. Boards that were playing by the rules were penalized while other boards who were not were rewarded with more funding.
12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for school board?
Simply put, school board elections are the absolute grass roots of our political system. Trustees are the first level of government that deals directly with the stakeholders, and has the responsibility for educating the province’s future, our children.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell phone is 226-979-2008.
I am always available to speak to anyone with questions. I am in the process of setting up a website.
Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.