CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Tina Danese for Ward 2/3/4 Upper Grand District School Board Trustee

Tina Danese is aiming for an upset in the race for Ward 2, 3, and 4 Trustee for the Upper Grand District School Board running against one other challenger and the two incumbents.

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

Simply, I want to make a difference in the lives of students. I want to ensure that students have an academic experience in a learning milieu that fosters social health and wellbeing now and in the future. I have spent a career working with and advocating for youth nationally, and regionally. Now I want to bring that advocacy home, locally to Guelph.

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

I believe at the core of the role of being a board Trustee is about advocacy for students and parents voicing their needs and concerns and bring those forward to the wider board. Along with incorporating their priorities, values into the board’s multi-year plan and education policy.

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

Well, I think that it is too early to tell how the relationship will be with the new government. However, since the government has decided to rescind a progressive and socially relevant sex ed curriculum it is now sowing seeds of confusion for teachers and doing a disservice to our students. And cutting the school repair fund seems like it could be off to a rocky start. I imagine there is a lot of stress and anxiety right now for school administrators, since the new government is committed to cutting 6 billion dollars in education and waiting around for the government to come up with a plan on the where and when the impacts will take place and how it will affect students, families, and staff.  I just hope the new government does not go back on the previous government’s commitment to build a new high school in Guelph’s south end.

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?

As a social worker who has worked in the vulnerable youth sector, I bring a dedicated lifetime of experience, knowledge, and awareness of the kind of supports students need to be resilient the resources available and accessible for them. I will be a strong voice for students and make this a priority.

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

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.

I guess before I consider an opinion on where and when the priority for new school construction should be, let’s address the school repair back log and our current’ government walking away from the $100 million dollar school repair fund. Parents shouldn’t have to rely on fundraisers to help bring their existing schools up to dignified standard. I am happy that there is to be a new school built in the South End, an area that is growing and that people have been wanting. Let’s hope the province doesn’t renege on it.

I know that the UGDSB has been doing a lot of considerable planning and work on making its schools more accessible, but now that the school repair funding has been axed, I am sure school administrators are looking at this closely. The priority is to ensure all students are able to have a school that is accessible and where they are included, with the resources available to achieve their academic goals.

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?

Arming teachers with resources and training opportunities so that students develop core STEM competencies should be a priority. I think one way we could do this to develop closer partnerships with existing community groups and or develop new ones that reflect the growing diversity within STEM sectors. Guelph has a tremendous potential for extending/expanding collaboration opportunities between community groups such as Diyode Makerspace and the University of Guelph’s Community Engaged Scholarship Initiatve to develop STEM (projects, curricula) for teaching staff and learning in the classroom. If we could design program for STEM in the way they have designed the OntarioEco Schools program that would be a step in the right direction.

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

I definitely think the participation in the OntarioEco Schools Program last year, a program that includes grades kindergarten all the way to grade 12. It fosters environmental leadership, creates and encourages environmentally sustainable and responsible school communities that includes staff, students, and families. It definitely demonstrates leadership in this area.

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?

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?

In my opinion, I don’t believe taxpayers should be paying for a denominational school board. If you are going to fund one outside of the public sphere, than other religious groups should be able to have that option. Plus, it is too costly to maintain and it’s too bad that I/we pay a significant amount in property taxes to maintain this system. I’d rather that money be spent to providing more resources for parents and students, building better municipal biking infrastructure or back in my/your pocket.

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

I believe some of the issues still outstanding is the level of resources that is dedicated to special needs parents and students. It’s important that families that have a special needs child or youth get the support they need.

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

Corny as it sounds, they are our future. I want a smart society of competent, industrious, creative, curious, and critical people trying to solve our pressing problems, lead our communities, and be resilient to whatever challenges await.

13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?, and I also have a political Facebook page.

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