CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Marino Gazzola for Wellington Catholic District School Board Trustee

“I have always had a passion for education and an even stronger passion for Catholic education, and I want to continue to ensure the viability and strength of Catholic education.”

Why are you running to become a trustee?

I have always had a passion for education and an even stronger passion for Catholic education, and I want to continue to ensure the viability and strength of Catholic education.

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

The role of a trustee changed dramatically in 1997, with the introduction in Ontario of Bill 177. A trustee’s role now focuses on the budget, its creation and approval, as well as creating policies and ensuring that they are upheld. Operational matters are the responsibility of administration.

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

I have been a trustee with Wellington Catholic since 1990. I have also sat on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Catholic School’s Trustees Association, since 2007, including a two year term as provincial President. As well I was a member of The Board of Directors of The Canadian Catholic Schools Trustees Association between 2010 and 2021, including a three year term as national President.

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

Formulating and passing budgets, during very difficult financial times, and being able to work through the pandemic, to ensure that our students were still able to receive the assistance needed to continue receiving their needed education.

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?

Making every attempt possible to ensure that administration has the tools and resources they need to allow staff and students continue their educational journey. Decisions on how that is done are administrative functions. Trustees roles will be to see that administration has what they need to accomplish their goals.

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?

See above answer. The majority of those decisions are administrative functions. The Board of Trustees need to see that administration has the ability to do what the need to do. Trustees do not get involved in operational matters.

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?

Prioritizing budgets to see that mental health is a major focus. Putting an emphasis on matters of mental health that will meet the needs of students and staff. It is not just the mental health of students that we need to be concerned about. The mental health of staff is just as important.

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?

Most of our buildings are in very good shape, as indicated by our Facility Condition Index which is a measurement of the condition of a school building. As with any board we are constantly reviewing our enrolment and growth projections to see where, if any, changes need to be made or if a new school is required. Sometimes boundaries need to be adjusted, or adjustments are made, and may not be popular, but if they are in the best interest of the system, they need to go forward. This would involve a school boundary and accommodation review. the priorities should always be to ensure the most efficient use of our facilities.

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?

First of all, our schools need to be a welcoming place for all students. Students and staff have the right to feel safe in their schools, and must believe that schools are first and foremost a place where education takes place. I am a strong proponent of ensuring that schools are as safe as possible, and of utilizing any and all resources available to see that schools are as safe as possible.

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 do support this. Again it is important to evaluate and utilize every resource available to our staff and students to assist them in delivering and receiving the bast education possible.

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?

There are standard requirements and curriculum that need to be followed and taught, but many students need specialized delivery. Education is very diverse, and strategies need to be in place to allow students to learn in ways that are best for them. I agree that education of today also needs to prepare students for their chosen careers, but part of that is also ensuring that students receive proper guidance in choosing their courses, especially in secondary school. Courses that will allow them to continue on the path towards their chosen careers.

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?

Negotiations have started between the government and at least one of the unions representing educational workers. Hopefully an agreement can be reached without job action. There are no winners when job actions take place. I think all sides need to look at reaching a fair and equitable settlement that will not interfere with a student’s education.

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

Education!!!!!!!!!!. It is not a one size fits all. Students are diverse, and the model of delivery in education needs to be just as diverse.

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

My website is not yet set up. My email is marino.gazzola [at] sympatico.ca. I am on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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