CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Kyle Reaburn for Ward 2/3/4 Upper Grand District School Board Trustee

“I saw the pandemic’s effects on student mental health and achievement and knew that I had to step up to help students. As the husband of a teacher, and a concerned citizen, I need to help move the school board towards better supports for our students in the UGDSB. There were many issues that had to take the backseat during the pandemic; some of these grew worse and now we have to address bigger challenges to student and school life.”

Why are you running to become a trustee?

I saw the pandemic’s effects on student mental health and achievement and knew that I had to step up to help students. As the husband of a teacher, and a concerned citizen, I need to help move the school board towards better supports for our students in the UGDSB. There were many issues that had to take the backseat during the pandemic; some of these grew worse and now we have to address bigger challenges to student and school life.

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

The trustee is a critical conduit between the community and the school. Our students, teachers, and parents invest their lives in these schools. A school trustee listens, implements, and steers the school board to provide support to our students and set them up for achievement beyond Grade 12.

Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as a trustee?

I was raised in a house that prided itself on education. My mom was a teacher for Upper Grand for thirty years, and I am married to an Upper Grand French teacher. As someone who attended UGDSB schools, I also have first-hand experience with mental health support in our schools. Although my teenage experience was twenty years ago, mental health support remains an important issue. My professional background as someone who works in healthcare will be a beneficial addition to the board as I can provide an informed voice on student, parent, and teacher concerns about the safety of our schools.

What do you think was the most consequential decision made by the board during the 2018-2022 term?

It is without a doubt that the trustees made many consequential decisions about Covid-19. The board did many things that have positively impacted how we navigated this pandemic and I would also like to thank them for their tremendous work during this period. I can point to their advocacy in infection control measures from last year into this year, including the call for more rapid antigen tests and also ensuring our students and parents felt safe during that period of the pandemic.

Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on schools, students, staff and educators, but it’s not over. How will you help to ensure that schools throughout the board can weather any potential future phases of the pandemic?

My background in healthcare can help me navigate the uncertainties around Covid-19 in the future. It’s critical that air circulation in classrooms is a priority for the board and government. There remain classrooms with limited airflow, and while windows can open this time of the year, we know that most of the year they have to stay shut due to the weather outside. I’ll make sure that classroom airflow remains a priority so that we can enhance each school’s infection prevention and control.

The Government of Ontario has announced direction to address education gaps caused by students’ experiences throughout the pandemic, how will you ensure that no student falls through any of those gaps?

It is often said, but it is very true, that it takes a village to raise a child. As trustee, I will do my utmost to stay up to date on any gaps and challenges in our schools. I also will also look to parent-teacher councils, student councils, and the community to highlight gaps that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

The mental health of students was an issue before the pandemic, and the pandemic has generated even more desperate need in many cases. What can be done to get more resources and assistance for students of all ages?

Helping students secure more support for mental health is one of the critical issues which I am highlighting in my campaign. I think that it is up to the board to work with the province to secure more specialized funding that can be put towards assistance and supports for students with mental health concerns. These supports could be very different for each student, as each student’s experience is different, but we would be looking at more full-time councillors, more early childhood educators, and other supports in our schools for our children.

What are the infrastructure needs of the board, whether that’s repairs on current school buildings or the construction of new ones? What should the priorities be?

Our school board infrastructure is certainly in better shape than other boards, such as the Toronto District School Board, but that does not mean that we should not continue to repair or build where it is necessary, in order to provide our students with the best learning environment. We have to ensure that we keep our schools in a state of good repair and to be ready to build new schools when schools enter their expected end-of-use lifespan. The board should take a long-term view on school infrastructure but have the nimbleness to respond to immediate and or changing state of repair of schools.

School safety is a top of mind for students, parents and educators alike, so keeping in mind the mixed feelings around policing provoked by the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, what are the best ways to make our schools a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment?

With that in mind, some barriers remain, and some of these barriers may be unconscious bias. I believe that others who have lived experiences are better equipped to inform myself and the board on what barriers still need to be removed. The local trustee should look to local organizations and groups to hear about their concerns and bring them to the board.

Many school boards have been evaluating education materials, including those available through the school libraries, through lenses of inclusivity and appropriateness. Do you support these efforts? Why or why not?

I support these efforts! I believe that school boards reviewing materials with this lens are building stronger school communities. While I was on the University of Guelph Alumni Board, I was part of the committee that reviewed the board’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. This two-year-long process was substantial and helped our alumni board move towards a board that is for all alumni. I believe that school boards reviewing materials with this lens are building stronger school communities.

Philosophy corner! What is the point of schools? Is the goal to give every student the same baseline of knowledge, or are we supposed to be training young people for the jobs of tomorrow? Can we balance giving students both a well-rounded education and job training, and how?

The purpose of the Ontario public school system has always been to provide an education necessary to young people as both future citizens and workers. We expect our schools to equip children with the basic education necessary to take part in the democratic system. We expect our schools to offer the opportunity to children to make discoveries in the world around them, by expanding their knowledge. Yet we also expect our schools to prepare children for their future careers. We must of course recognize that not all students will follow the same career paths and thus require a wide array of options in their educational experiences. But I do not think we need to view these as contradictory choices: this is what Ontario’s public schools have done for generations.

Teachers and education workers will be starting negotiations with the Ministry of Education for a new contract. What’s your advice to the Minister of Education, and what’s your advice to the representatives from the teachers’ unions?

These students, parents, and teachers need a nice clear start to the school year. I would say all parties should negotiate in good faith and not through the media. The school year shouldn’t start off with hot takes in the media and negotiation talk hanging over our school communities.

Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?

Period equity. I’m proud that the board introduced a period equity program last year whereby menstrual products are provided to students free of charge in schools with grades 7-12. We have not had an update since and it’s in the interest of the public to hear about the status of the program and how we can improve access to period products for our students.

Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?

I encourage everyone to go to www.kylereaburn.ca, email me at kyle@kylereaburn.ca. You find me on Facebook at Kyle Reaburn – UGDSB Trustee Candidate Ward 2,3,4 and follow me on Twitter @notkayray.

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