Joe Tersigni is one of the four incumbent trustees running for the Wellington Catholic District School Board. Can he convince voters to give him another term?
1) What is your main reason to run for school Trustee?
I am running for Trustee to promote and protect Catholic Education and to continue working towards maintaining excellence in student achievement. Efforts are continually afoot to convince the government to eliminate all public support for Catholic schools. Our Catholic school system is an enduring gift that has been handed down to us since 1841. I am fully committed to maintaining this excellent Catholic Education System in Ontario.
2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
The Role of a trustee is to be the community’s voice for public education. Under the Education Act, a trustee must focus on student achievement, well being and equity, establish policy direction, and are accountable to their electorate and to the province. Trustees also play an important oversight role in the operation of our schools and are important communication links for parents.
3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?
The relationship between Ontario Provincial Governments and our Catholic School boards dating back to Premier Bill Davis has always been a positive, healthy, and constructive one. As a Board, we must continue to keep a constructive dialogue open on current curriculum issues like sex-education and indigenous studies. We must also emphasize the importance of the need for fair provincial funding to help maintain quality education in all our schools in this province. Students are our most important resource!
4) The mental health of young people is a growing priority; how ill you help insure that schools get the resources they need to address this important issue?
The Mental Heath, well-being, and awareness of it among our young people is one of the most important issues facing all schools today. Our Biennial Board-wide survey of school climate and mental health was completed in all our schools in March of 2017. Over 91% of students and parents said Wellington Catholic continues to create safe, welcoming school environments. There was also a significant increase from studies in 2015 that showed a significant increase in the percentage of staff and students who said they “very much know” where to find help if needed. As for our funding in this regard, our Board has received funding to hire a multi-disciplinary team to assist with special education needs, additional support for preparing for success in high school, and mental health workers. Our Board plans also include adding additional personnel to help support our board’s mental health strategy.
5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years. Where and when should the priority be for new school construction?
We opened the doors to our new Elementary school in Rockwood in September of 2016, welcoming students in JK to Grade 8. New school board construction will be based partly on Ministry funding and by need and future trends in population growth areas. Our Board administration is always monitoring that growth potential very carefully.
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 there enough resources to address repairs? Et cetera.
Our schools came under a Ministry of Labour internal audit in March of this year. Any issues will be addressed to keep our schools safe for students and all employees. Our Board is committed to providing and maintaining a safe and healthful environment as required in compliance with the Ministry. In this regard, we learned recently that the Ford government has cancelled a $100-million fund earmarked for school repairs. This will be a major budget concern to all school boards in the province.
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?
Our Board is doing many things to support our teachers in Math. We need to continue participation in the K-12 Renewed Math Strategy, offer Math Additional Qualification courses to support teacher PD, allow teacher attendance at the OAME (Ontario Association of Math Educators) annual conference and to continue the Math Instructional Coaching program to support schools across our district. In Science and Technology, we must continue to support funding and mentorship for teacher in the use of digital learning, iPad tools, D2L, Google Apps for Education, Microsoft tools and other new and upcoming technologies to support creative learning experiences for teachers and students. Also, our new Board budget for 2018-2019 represents additional investment into innovative classroom technology.
8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?
Wellington Catholic does so many things well. In collaboration with the Wellington Dufferin Student Transportation Services our board launched a pilot for Wi Fi on buses travelling from Arthur, Elora, and Mount Forest to St. James Catholic High School. Through a secure network, students have access to a virtual environment including Ministry of Education approved digital tools. This project is the first of its kind in Ontario and St. James students in the graphic design course created the logo and name for the program – We Connect.
In June, four more schools in Wellington Catholic got certified as “eco-schools.” The program is an award-winning environmental education and certification program from Kindergarten to grade 12 that aims to create environmental leaders and reduce the ecological impact of schools.
We host a unique “Raise the Bar Intramural Student Leadership Conference” for elementary intramurals. 550 participants, 55 schools and 30,000 students from across Ontario have been impacted by this outstanding student leadership conference.
In September of 2017 we began the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Guelph. The PYP prepares students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others. It focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer and allows for learning across subject areas. Overall, our Board continues to invest in these innovative and specialized programs such as the Primary Years International Baccalaureate, Specialist High Skills Major Programs at Secondary, and English Language Learners, Full Day Kindergarten and Special Education. Lots of great things are happening in Wellington Catholic.
9) 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?
For the present time, Wellington Catholic is committed to Ontario’s vision for French as a Second Language. Second language learning is integral to the IB philosophy and as such, Core French is offered from Kindergarten to Grade 3 followed by the provincially mandated FSL programs in Grade 4 to 8. Our board believes in inclusive education and all students are included in the Core French program. Implementation of a French Immersion program with our board is something that needs significant analysis and current study (eg. requests from parents/finding qualified French Immersion teachers/Ministry funding).
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?
There are several myths out there about amalgamation and financial savings in education. Special interest groups opposed to Catholic schools argue that the elimination of Catholic schools through amalgamation would save $1 billion. In fact, there would be minimal, if any savings. The reality is that education funding in Ontario is per-pupil based. Merging the two systems would leave the same number of students who, due to mandated student-teacher ratios, would require at least the same number of teachers. Like-wise for custodians, administrative assistants, superintendents, and even bus drivers. If schools were amalgamated and hundreds of schools closed, all students (across all systems) would be displaced. There would be disruption and chaos in every community in the province. Catholic parents, teachers, clergy, students and all stakeholders in the Catholic community should never be complacent.
11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?
The costs of Education in Ontario are continually growing and both school boards cannot keep up. As previously mentioned, the new Ford government just cancelled about $100 million worth of spending on school repairs. This is an issue that must be addressed. John Kostoff, Executive Director of the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association explains that the solution to the problem of paying for education is to “fix a funding formula more than 30 years old that, if not broken, is damaged badly. A new formula must be developed based on a set of agreed criteria that meets the needs of all who access our schools.” Our kids are our future. We must put more funding into our education system.
12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for the school board?
There is no democracy like hometown democracy. Every citizen should care about school board elections because “education,” as stated by 19th century Ontario educator Egerton Ryerson, “…is as necessary as the light – it should be as common as water and free as air.” Even if you don’t have kids in school, you pay taxes to support education and therefore should have a say on what is going on in your schools in Ontario. Pope Francis said recently involvement in politics is an obligation for a Christian. “We Christians cannot play the role of Pontius Pilate, washing our hands of it; we cannot. We must be involved in politics because politics is one of the highest forms of charity for it seeks the common good…it is a duty.” Regardless of whether we have children in our Education system or not, we have a Civic duty and responsibility to care about who is running for the Wellington Catholic District School Board.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
My contact information: