“We need local leaders who advocate for reducing systemic barriers and inequity with policy, programming, and process changes. Leaders who will work to increase opportunities for student success and well-being, connect with and amplify student and community voices, and bring further transparency, accountability, and environmental sustainability to our school board.”
Why are you running to become a trustee?
I am running to become a trustee because of my passion for community service and public service. I believe that community service is our best gift to humanity.
We need local leaders who advocate for reducing systemic barriers and inequity with policy, programming, and process changes. Leaders who will work to increase opportunities for student success and well-being, connect with and amplify student and community voices, and bring further transparency, accountability, and environmental sustainability to our school board.
After two years of upheaval, I feel that this is a critical time for Catholic education, our students, families, and schools. We cannot provide the highest quality education unless we adequately and properly fund our public education. Our children deserve to have the best quality education. I experienced cuts to education as a student in the late 1990s. No student should have to struggle without the support and resources needed to succeed. I will fight for a properly funded public education system.
It’s all this, and my Catholic faith with a call to serve, guided by the Common Good Principles, that motivates me to run for election and seek to be a trustee.
What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
A school board trustee’s main role is to be a leader of their school board and advocate for a strong education system.
According to the Education Act, trustees must set policy, mission and vision, approve budgets, and create a multi-year strategic plan. It also means for Catholic education to be publicly funded it must be publicly accountable.
A trustee must also make sure that the voices of parents, schools, and students are heard, especially those most vulnerable, since those are the voices that usually need to be amplified.
Increasingly, education decisions are being centralised at Queen’s Park with a one-size-fits-all approach too often. It is the role of the Board of Trustees to shine a light on where the system is failing our students and schools.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience, and how that will inform the way you work as a trustee?
I grew up in the Willow and Westwood areas of Guelph, where my family and I were parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. I am a proud Wellington Catholic graduate, having
attended St. Peter Catholic School and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School. In all I do, I try to live up to the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations.
I presently work as the Manager/Team Lead of Mail, Shipping, and Warehouse services at the One Stone Road Complex in Guelph.
As a community organizer, I know our community can do great things when we work together, listen to each other, and collaborate. As a past candidate for Guelph City Council, I talked to thousands of people about various community issues. I have sat on several city advisory committees, such as the Youth Council and Transit.
I am currently Chair of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph (TAAG), where I and other community members advocate for better transit. In my community advocacy work, I have met with various bureaucrats and politicians from all levels of government and had an impact on making things better.
I have an extensive background in project management, strategic planning, business processes, and policy development in both the public and private sectors, which I will utilize as a trustee.
What do you think was the most consequential decision made by the board during the 2018-2022 term?
There were many small and large decisions made by the board over the last 4 years, but the pandemic obviously stands out.
The Board’s decision to support and advocate for Covid-19 resources for students and faculty was the most significant decision made during the previous term. The board and administration regularly expressed concerns to the provincial government regarding the availability of sufficient resources and supplies to ensure the safety of everyone in our schools. Regular change necessitated constant pivoting and the making of extraordinarily difficult decisions. I believe the board, students, and teachers handled things well considering the challenges.
The review of policing in our schools; supporting LGBTQ2S+ students by flying the Pride Flag; and what trustees did – or did not do – in handling a Code of Conduct issue within their ranks also stand out.
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?
As a trustee, we should keep asking health experts, like the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health Unit, for advice and push for it with the school board and the Ministry of Education.
We need to keep putting money into infrastructure and doing regular maintenance on the HVAC systems to make sure that every classroom has good ventilation and clean air every day.
By having smaller class sizes, we can both improve the ability of teachers to carry out equitable learning and allow for safe distances in the classroom.
Installing additional hand sanitization stations in schools, not just for COVID but also for the cold and flu season, can help reduce the number of teacher and student sick days and learning time losses for our students.
All these changes would rely on ongoing maintenance and renewal funding and centrally bargained classroom sizes. Making them a reality will require the advocacy of trustees and school boards.
It has become very clear that we will continue to have to live with this virus. I am committed to using all the tools available to us to make sure that everyone’s health, well-being, and safety remain a top priority.
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?
The pandemic has had a significant impact on our schools since March 2020 due to the prolonged school closures. Fallout from these closures has created unique challenges for students of all ages. Parents of first graders have shared their concerns about the development of their kids, while other groups have highlighted the high rates of absenteeism during virtual learning as well. In the last few years, many of our students have struggled to reach their academic objectives and have reported deteriorating mental health.
Regaining the academic standing of our students will take a dedicated effort. Wellington Catholic has taken significant measures to address these challenges. We must continue these efforts and seek to enhance the available resources and support services.
Some students will find that academic success flows from other successes, such as success in the arts, sports, or school clubs, so those opportunities are essential and must be available to students who would otherwise be excluded.
While I appreciate the Ministry of Education’s Catch-Up Plan, I feel that with increased budget and resources, it could go far further. The current plan will assist students in catching up academically, support their emotional and physical health, and provide them with more opportunity to become better prepared for occupations of the present and future. There are plenty of areas they could go further to assist our students, and as a trustee, I will advocate on their behalf.
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?
Demand for mental health services has been increasing, especially for our young people. The pandemic exacerbated the widespread loss of loved ones and the threat of losing them, severe learning disruptions, lack of access to learning supports and tools, economic instability, severe stress for many families, long periods of social isolation from friends, no extracurricular experiences and successes, and closed places of worship were a huge loss for our students.
Catholic education is meant to support the whole child—mental, physical, and spiritual—because student success, in the broadest and most fulfilling sense, is dependent on all three and each impacts the other two.
Equity means staff need to be provided the professional development needed to recognize when students are in need—in need of programs, tools, or resources to create a more level playing field for students across our school board.
Wellington Catholic has taken some strong and impressive steps so far. As a trustee, I will encourage adding additional community partnerships and will look for opportunities and inspiration from other places, such as other school boards, to help enhance and add to our board’s mental health program. My commitment as a trustee is to make the well-being of our staff and students at Wellington Catholic a priority for years to come.
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?
Overall, Wellington Catholic has done an excellent job of maintaining its facilities, as mentioned in the provincial Facilities Condition Index. As a trustee, I will make sure we are securing proper funding to keep our buildings and classrooms in great shape for years to come.
As a trustee, I will encourage a plan that looks at ways to eliminate or at least minimize the use of portable classrooms at 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?
I am committed to being a steward for the safety and inclusion of all students. They are, after all, the boards’ most important stakeholders. Catholic education has always been about making sure every student has the opportunities they need to live their life to the fullest potential.
Feeling safe is essential to the emotional and physical well-being of all students. I will be a strong advocate for anti-bullying, whether it is in-person or cyber. Promotion of an inclusive and positive environment, irrespective of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender, family status or ability, is essential. Pupils must be encouraged to be allies to those experiencing any type of oppression so that they may ensure a safe and protected environment.
Effective communication among students, parents, and staff will reduce feelings of isolation and alienation. By giving students access to resources, we can give them more power and lessen the stigma around mental health, addiction, and other problems.
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?
Everything possible must be done to guarantee that the content promotes positive depictions of all human worth, tolerance, diversity, and appropriateness. Each student should have a sense of acceptance and dignity in school. As a board, we must show our support for the many teachers who have already taken steps toward making learning environments for all kids more inclusive and fairer.
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?
Education is a preparation for life. It is about producing students who will maximize their human potential by giving them the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and values they need to thrive and contribute to society, as well as face the challenges and opportunities that await them.
It’s about empowering them to pursue their passions and live fulfilling lives, civically participating in a vibrant democracy, making meaningful contributions to the world and economy, and understanding that people can see things differently and that those differences deserve respect rather than persecution. The curriculum and means of assessment must support that preparation.
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?
I desire fair and honest communication between the parties. I would implore the Ministry to rescind Bill 124 since it makes it more challenging for teachers to remain in the field. Teachers’ union leaders must demonstrate the even more complex work that goes into educating a child so that everyone is aware of the need for additional investment.
Finish this sentence: I would be very disappointed if we got the end of this election without debating…?
The provincial government’s system for distributing funds to schools isn’t exactly equitable, and it’s high time that was looked at. It’s disheartening that this problem is still around 23 years after I graduated from high school.
Where can people learn more about you, and your campaign?