For three terms, Mark Bailey has been a representative of the Upper Grand District School Board, and a past Chair of the Board. He’s now asking his constituents for a fourth.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for school trustee?
My father was a career teacher and vice-principal, and I grew up talking about public education around our kitchen table. Having been a trustee now for over a decade, I believe in the importance of public education now more than ever. Public education allows all of our children the opportunity to fulfill their potentials, and becoming caring, contributing members of our community and economy. My main reason for running again is to see that this continues to be accomplished in our board and province, focusing primarily on innovation and entrepreneurship, environmental education, and mental health and wellbeing.
2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
The primary role of the trustee is to ensure accountability of the local board to the public. Foundational to this responsibility includes hiring and working with the Director of Education and setting the annual budget. Trustees also liaise between the public and the board to ensure parent and public concerns are considered fairly. Ultimately, our success is measured in our ability to support and foster student success and wellbeing – that our students have the tools, support, and coping strategies in place to meet their potential.
3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?
The current Ontario government is still fairly new, and at this point I will reserve judging where our relationship stands. I will say that I find the recent decisions around sex-ed curriculum highly discouraging. If these types of regressive decisions continue, I do not anticipate a cordial relationship with the current Ontario government.
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?
While our province has made promising strides in this area over the past few years we have a long way to go. Our board now has the capacity to identify early on potential issues, and work with parents to refer students to the appropriate resources. Our next step is to move from this reactive model to a proactive model, where we develop resiliency and effective emotional coping strategies throughout our whole student body.
5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years, where and when should the priority be for new school construction?
The Upper Grand planning department pays careful attention to areas of new population growth in our city and in our board. Our funding is affected by how efficiently our schools are used. It is up to the trustees to balance efficiency of space with community needs, and here we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. I am confident in our boards current model of projecting growth, anticipating need, and working with communities towards a balance between efficient use of space and student need.
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 role is to balance student need with the limited budgets we are given for renewal. Where renewal is required, we examine the entire infrastructure of the school to find where we can create energy efficiencies with any retrofit. In terms of accessibility, the board has a committee dedicated to this task—the Accessibility Steering committee. This committee looks at both general accessibility issues, and also challenges specific to our students.
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?
Key here is teacher training. The new curriculum focuses on problem solving and critical thinking, rather than rote memorization. Our teaches are doing a fine job in this area, but our board remains vigilant in our quest to constant improve our learning models and deliver individualized (differentiated) instruction as resources permit.
8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?
Our board is a provincial leader in many ways, as evidenced by the significant number of consultation between the Ministry of Education and our senior administration. We build and retrofit on time and of budget. Our mental health services exceed those of other boards thanks to board specific initiatives. Perhaps most of all, we lead the province in environmental leadership. 100% of Upper Grand schools (all 76) are EcoSchool certified.
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?
Decisions around French Immersion capacity have been particularly difficult. At the heart of the issue, lies the lack of accommodation space and trained FI teachers. Our board has made the decision to limit the number of regular track community schools being closed to make space for French Immersion by imposing a lottery for new students. Our current approach does not please everyone, but was the best, least disruptive solution. I stand behind those decisions and approach.
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?
This question is dependent upon the geography you are addressing. Where two half-empty schools sit across the road from each other, at the very least a partnership should be explored, and incentives put in place to encourage boards to work together.
11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?
Canada lags behind several developed nations in entrepreneurship and personal finances. While a little work has been done, I’d like to see our board offer instruction and support in terms of developing personal finances as our students transition to adults, are where it is appropriate to take calculated risks with one’s income (such as starting a business, or purchasing an investment property). Such an approach might involve closer partnerships with businesses and investors in our community to share their real life successes with our students.
12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for school board?
Pasted from my website: “As a parent living in your community I naturally want the best for my children. I pledge to continue to improve on Guelph’s progressive education policies in a fiscally responsible manner. I passionately believe that fostering more involved partnerships between schools, families, and community resources is one key area we must work on. A better educated community helps everyone in Guelph, not just parents. Better educated students and lower high school drop-out rates result in healthier, more vibrant communities, and improve a region’s economic outlook. This is why education is an important concern for everyone.”
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?