Susan Carey believes she has the *tools* to be a good school board trustee for the Upper Grand District School Board.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for school trustee?
My professional and volunteer career experiences have made it clear that a healthy society is only possible with an informed citizenry, and that is dependent on our system of education. I’ve worked for decades trying to strengthen communities and improve quality of life from many different angles. Change for the better is always dependent on citizens who are independent thinkers, problem solvers and communicators, who can work with others and assess the world around them. These are the people our school systems hopes to develop, and I would like to help that process.
2) What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
Most people don’t realize the scope and budget of the UGDSB. Trustees sit on a board that is comparable to that of Guelph city council, in terms of budget, employees and residents served.
The board acts as a decision-making body of publicly chosen representatives, to manage the school system and its vast resources. Trustees are accountable to, and a point of contact for residents.
3) How do you think the relationship currently stands between the Ontario government and your school board?
The board historically appears to have a very positive and healthy relationship with the province. Recent changes and funding cuts may present problems, but a responsible and professional board can face these challenges.
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?
Sadly, stresses relating to school – fear of failure, social demands, etc – make it unpleasant for so many children. We need to look at lessening the ways schools might contribute to mental health concerns, as well as supporting those students experiencing them.
The UGDSB is sensitive to this and has many resources available to students. I do suspect, from anecdotes told me, there may be a gap in connecting those in need to the help needed.
5) Guelph will continue to grow in the next 20 years, where and when should the priority be for new school construction?
Children should be able to access elementary schools within their own neighbourhood. We should hold the ideal of community schools and the walkable catchment area as our goal.
On the other hand, secondary schools that are more centralized have the benefit of being able to offer a greater range of courses and activities. It is good for older students to meet people from all over the city, to make their way to school and learn about the various routes, and to be a part of a diverse community.
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.
In general, UGDSB schools are in good physical shape. More funds can always be put to good use. Accessibility is a concern still and universal design for newer buildings should be considered. We need also to address the issue of our reliance on portables.
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?
Teachers are the best advisors on the resources they need.
8) What’s an example of something that Guelph schools are doing well versus schools in other board jurisdictions?
The UGDSB supports a range of non-traditional schooling. The wildly successful French Immersion program is the most obvious example, but there is also programs like Ecostars and the secondary level interdisciplinary off-site semesters. Such experiences greatly enhance learning and make education a positive experience for children.
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?
The current response is effective but an unsatisfactory long term solution. The simple answer is we need to accommodate all students who wish to enter FI. This means more FI teachers and classrooms.
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 am strongly in favour of a single board. Estimates suggest a $1.5 billion savings annually from a merger. But aside from savings, there are other critical reasons to maintain a single school board. In 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada’s public funding of only Catholic religious schooling to be religious discrimination. Historically, access to Catholic -based education protected the religious rights of a minority. Now, in a far more diverse Canada, a separate system for a powerful group is unfair to other religious groups and ensconces one religion’s ability to promote, with public funds, social values contrary to the Human Rights Code of Ontario.
11) Is there an issue concerning education or public schools you feel needs more attention? What is it, and why?
Education has transitioned in recent decades from the historical view of it as a process of enrichment and growth, to job training. It’s very notable at the post secondary level, where it builds fear of failure and stress levels that are, at times, a direct route to leaving school or even deaths from suicide.
The goal of an education system is to create lifelong learners. School must be enjoyable. Too many students suffer from mental health concerns and there are obvious ties to the stresses of school. How can we lessen that and create more healthy environments for learning?
12) For someone that doesn’t have kids in school, why should they care about who’s running for school board?
An educated populace benefits everyone.
The UGDSB oversees a total budget of roughly $450 million, and almost 35,000 students attending 76 schools. This is a budget the size of a city like Guelph, with more full time employees than the city. The UGDSB is a tremendous, publicly owned resource that demands capable and responsible oversight.
Our school system ensures we have an educated society so your neighbours can lawfully contribute to society, earn enough to pay their expenses and contribute towards shared infrastructure and servicing costs.
Democracy is not a static state. We must work to maintain it as global trends and local problems impact society and create change. We must continuously supply Canada with an informed citizenry capable of identifying issues, assessing alternatives, and electing capable leadership.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?