Marty Fairburn is presently the one and only representative for Ward 6 and Puslinch on the Upper Grand District School Board, and he’s aiming to keep his job another term.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for school trustee?
Because I understand the funding mechanism for the education sector, the geographical distribution and the programs in schools in the UGDSB, I want to use this knowledge to maximize the availability of programs to meet the learning needs of all of our students. I believe in public education. Every student can succeed and it’s my job as a trustee to make sure everyone has an opportunity to shine.
2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
My role as one of ten trustees is a governance role: trustees set and ensure the implementation of board plans, the board Strategic Plan, and the board’s budget. It is also my role to represent the interests of my constituents as well as answer questions and address concerns to help ensure equity of access and opportunity to all programs for all students.
3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?
Our relationship with the Ontario government and through them the Ministry of Education has been positive and strong historically. We intend to ensure a positive relationship in order to maximize opportunities for our students.
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?
This has been and continues to be a major focus for me as a trustee. I am very proud of the advances our board has made in the last decade in mental health services for our kids. We now have hundreds of teachers and administrators trained in mental health assist as well as SafeTalk. My goal is to have several staff in each school trained in suicide prevention, and to continue to work side by side with our local social service agencies to provide mental health services wherever and whenever they’re required.
5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years, where and when should the priority be for new school construction?
We are on track to build a new high school in south Guelph, near Arkell Road and Victoria Road South, and we are looking into a new elementary school in the Maltby Road area.
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.
Unlike some other boards in the province our board has used all of its Renewal Dollars for the last 15 years on renewing our school buildings, with the result that our schools are in very good condition, and accessibility is steadily improving, including at school such as GCVI, which has posed significant challenges for accessibility.
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?
We have updated our tech labs, refreshed our IT infrastructure and hired both program leaders and coaches to assist teachers with Math instruction. And, the UGDSB leads the province in SHSM [specialist high skills major] programs, with 81 unique programs on offer and a record 40% of our students enrolled in at least one of these specialty programs.
8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?
Guelph schools are particularly good at training students in practical, hands-on skill development, as in our Specialist High Skills Major programs. Many of these students find their access to apprenticeships is enhanced by their ‘red certificate’, proof of completion of a specialist high skills major program.
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?
I am running in the upper Grand District School Board, so as I see it, we have handled FI well. We now have 6 FI centres open in Guelph, that is, schools that only teach French Immersion. This helps us concentrate resources and effective teaching practices. Our biggest challenge in this area lies in recruiting French language teachers, as we must compete for a small number of French qualified teachers Canada-wide. We also have a space issue which has necessitated enrolment caps in JK French Immersion, due to the popularity of the program and the Ministry’s hard cap on kindergarten class size.
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 would require a change in the constitution of the Province of Ontario, something that would be extremely difficult politically and nearly impossible legally. I am against bringing this to the fore as an issue when we have so much to do already. For me, it is a needless distraction.
11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?
I believe that critical thinking courses ought to be mandatory both in teachers’ colleges and in high schools.
12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for school board?
Everyone has a stake in public education, because that is where we turn out the citizens who will lead us all in the future.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
I can be reached at 519-824-1703 in Guelph and contacted on my email account at email@example.com.