CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Aisha Jahangir for Ward 6/Puslinch Upper Grand District School Board Trustee

Aisha Jahangir is one of eight people vying for the singular seat for Ward 6 and Puslinch on the Upper rand District School Board.

1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for school trustee?

Our children are suffering from decades of cuts to education. More crowded classrooms mean less individual attention. Standardized curricula fail the needs of children who think or process information differently. Instead of acknowledging these structural problems, children are blamed for being distressed, distracted, acting out, or not fitting in. The system is broken, and our kids are telling us this with their suffering. We need to listen to them, not silence them with psychiatric labels and brain-changing drugs. We need to change what we’re doing in our schools, because our kids deserve better.

2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?

“A trustee’s role is to maintain a focus on student achievement and well-being and to participate in making decisions that benefit the entire board district, while representing the interests of their constituents.

Trustees work as part of a team (the Board) and only the team has the authority to make decisions or take action. A school board must place all students first when making decisions.”

3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?

While having no say over the amount of funds required, the Board is expected to deliver “continuous improvement in the level of student achievement in their schools.” This is a formula for increasing standardization. Children are not widgets, and their learning cannot be standardized. We need a school board that puts demands on the province for sufficient funding to provide all children with the opportunity to develop their potential.

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?

Lack of material resources and lack of social support are the primary drivers of psychological distress in adults and in children. We harm our children when we burden them with psychiatric labels and give them mind-numbing drugs that do not address the social sources of their difficulties: overwhelmed families, poverty, trauma, and social discrimination.

5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years, where and when should the priority be for new school construction?

We need schools with smaller classrooms, more teachers, more support staff, and cost-free arts and sports programs. Where schools are located should be decided in consultation with the relevant communities.

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 schools have been starved of funds for decades. This shows in the infrastructure of the buildings, in the lack of human and physical resources (like access ramps and air conditioning), and in the lack of attention to student needs in the classroom. The number of children experiencing emotional distress is another symptom of this neglect. Children cannot feel valued when they are denied the means to thrive.

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 need small classrooms that allow teachers to give every child individual attention. Children are engaged and eager to learn when learning is made relevant to their lives.

8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?

Regardless of where they are located, schools that “do well” are schools with more human and physical resources. We cannot drain schools of these resources and then expect children to perform well.

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?

French Immersion programs should be available to all students in the province.

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?

I believe in the separation of Church and State, so I support secular schools. At the same time, I believe that such decisions should be made by the people who will be most affected by them.

11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?

Lack of funding is the major issue. It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to address. If our children are truly a priority, then no expense should be spared to give every one of them the education they deserve. It’s terribly unfair to fail to meet our children’s needs, and then label them ‘mentally ill’ and blame them for failing.

12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for school board?

Investing in children is an investment in the future of society. Do we want to raise children who are resentful and angry, discouraged and hopeless? Or do we want to raise children who are enthusiastic and creative contributors to society?

13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?

People can visit my website: www.aishaJahangir.ca or email me at aisha4ward6andpuslich@gmail.com.

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