CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE – Katherine Hauser for Ward 6 and Puslinch Upper Grand District School Board Trustee

“After the uncertainty and stress of Covid, I want to be front and centre for the schools, education workers and our kids, helping to get the ship back upright so that every single student is supported and heard. I want all of our kids to feel included, represented and prepared for their brilliant futures.”

Why are you running to become a trustee?

After the uncertainty and stress of Covid, I want to be front and centre for the schools, education workers and our kids, helping to get the ship back upright so that every single student is supported and heard. I want all of our kids to feel included, represented and prepared for their brilliant futures.

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

I view the role of a Trustee as a liaison between administrators and school communities. It is their responsibility to ensure schools and staff have the ability and resources to provide the best education possible for our students. Trustees are accountable for spending public funds in the most cost effective and appropriate manner.

I look forward to engaging with the school communities to determine what priorities they would like me to focus on and pursue. I will use my voice to make a difference and make sure that everyone is heard. If there are policies that are not in our best interest I will stand up and speak out against them.

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

As the mother of four children from ages 15-28, I have had a front row seat to the changes in education for the last two decades. I’m immensely grateful for the experiences that my children have received in the education system, and I want to see Ontario thrive as one of the world leaders in education.

I’m concerned by what I’ve seen from this government in the last four years, though. I’ve seen the harmful effects of online learning, and I don’t want to see that continue to be mandatory. I’ve also seen the detrimental effects the pandemic and this government’s cuts have had on mental health and the overall system. I work in library facilities at the University of Guelph, and I see students struggling with the transition to University. I will work hard to make sure the gaps that have been left by Covid are given the proper attention and funding.

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

While the last term was predominantly overshadowed by the Covid Pandemic, I feel that one of the most proactive and preventative decisions the board made was putting Naloxone into each of the schools. Staff received training and the kits are now available alongside the Defibrillators for use, both during school hours, and after hours when the facilities are used by community groups. This, in a time of profound stress on mental health and the increasingly concerning Opioid epidemic, showed foresight and initiative by the board to get this accomplished. The consequences of this decision could, quite literally, be life saving.

5) 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?

We have to ensure mental health supports are in place and we have to encourage proactive measures and procedures to protect all of our students. We want our kids to stay in the classroom and not have to pivot to online learning. However, should students need to stay home to protect others when they are sick, they should be able to access the classroom material and be able to stay on track. Some work needs to be done here to make this more seamless and accepted.

We need to change our mentality and appreciate the kids who stay home when they are sick, and not penalize them for missing days. In order to do this, schools will have to become more flexible. They will require more staff, more support and greater funding to facilitate adding these extra measures. I will lobby the Government to ensure Education workers receive greater funding and support going forward.

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?

1) Advocate for proper funding for mental health.
2) Advocate against mandatory online learning and proper funding for in-class learning.
3) Advocate for proper funding for destreamed grade 9 classes.
4) Advocate for proper funding for student support through the public education system.

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?

1) Increase the number of guidance and child & youth workers in schools.
2) Encourage greater collaboration between schools and community partners in this field.
3) Provide resources to parents to help them support their children.
4) Provide time-released PD to educators about mental health.

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?

I want to encourage the Government to recognize that investing in our school system is a direct investment in our future. Funding to repair, and bring up to date, existing infrastructure is necessary.

And I am excited that our City Council has approved the construction of the New High School at Victoria and Arkell. This will allow us to shift the boundaries and relieve the stress of overcrowding on our older high schools. This will have a profound impact on Ward 6 & Puslinch and also relieve the strain on the overburdened transportation system, which is currently unable to keep up with the numbers of students who require bussing.

Ward 6 is the largest Ward, by population, having over 28,000 residents. It is well past time for a new Public High School to be built to support this growth.

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?

As a board, we need to stand up to hate and fully embrace inclusion and equity. Let’s educate our communities and support our marginalized students. As a trustee, I will make sure that our commitment to equity goes beyond the surface level and is more than a PR exercise. I encourage keeping police in the high schools. Having individual officers routinely visit the schools creates the opportunity for safe and positive encounters for our young people to interact with law enforcement.

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?

All students deserve to feel included and seen in their education. Many educators have been making great strides to increase diversity, inclusiveness and equity in their school communities, and as a board, we need to support these efforts.

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?

We don’t necessarily know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like, but we do know they will need skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, hard work, teamwork and the ability to communicate clearly. By doing this, we give students a well-rounded education and prepare them for the jobs of the future.

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?

We need to help kids succeed by supporting our staff and ensuring that they have a contract that is fair. The Minister of Education needs to stop his attacks on education workers, show up at the bargaining table and follow the rules of collective bargaining. We need to invest in our public education system.

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

How we can encourage Students to recognize their individual and collective impact on the environment. Encouraging green initiatives in each school to foster a Just Transition to more eco-friendly, equitable and sustainable practices and choices.

Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: @Hauser4trustee

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