What is motivating you to run for the position of school board trustee?
I have numerous motivations to run for the position of school board trustee, the most fundamental of which is my unwavering dedication to public education and its vital role in society. These are challenging times for education and my steadfast willingness to stand up and fight for it drives me to run, rather than stand on the sidelines helplessly. We need strong voices with deep passion for education at the Board table. My experience and dedication to the UGDSB and beyond are needed more than ever as we emerge into a changed world. I am passionate about education and creating change and a better world for my kids and all students.
I am also running because my strong skills with building and rebuilding relationships will serve our Board well both as we navigate the post-pandemic period and as we move through labour negotiations. In the UGDSB we have always taken immense pride in our strong relationships with our labour partners. These relationships have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of our system. We are known and respected throughout the province for many things and the teamwork and mutual support that we share with our labour partners has always been key to that. I am looking forward to continuing to play a role in the nurturing of those relationships and the deep contribution they will play in the recovery of our system.
That recovery of our system is another reason why I am running. The past 2 plus years have been difficult ones and have left no aspect of our system untouched. I am eager to continue the work that is being done to support our students, staff, and families and to advocate strongly for their needs and for adequate funding to address those needs.
Lastly, but definitely not least, I truly love being a trustee. We have an incredible education community filled with amazing staff, students, and their families. One of my favourite parts of my role is meeting and working with teachers, staff, parents, students, and community members. When I have participated in committees, conferences, and events outside of our board I have learned that what we have in the UGDSB is truly special. As trustees we are the envy of our colleagues across the province, and I am very proud to be associated with that. When I started as a trustee 8 years ago, my kids and their education experience was a strong motivator, and it still is but as I’ve grown into the role, I have had my eyes opened to so much more and to the vast possibilities of the power of public education. There are few other aspects of our lives, aside from our families that have as profound an impact on everything about us as education does. Being a part of the Upper Grand is an incredible honour that I cherish, and I am so grateful for the chance to help make a difference in the world.
What is the role of school board trustee as you understand it?
The role of school board trustee has many layers and aspects. Formally, as detailed in the Education Act, trustees are responsible for setting strategic directions, developing policy, and approval of the budget, among other things. Informally, trustees play many roles within the system. We act as liaisons between our communities, schools, committees, families, students, etc. and the Board. We do committee work to help guide the implementation of our strategic directions and develop policy. We approve decisions on a wide range of matters. We attend school events and graduations.
Essentially, we act as ambassadors for our school board and are the public face of the UGDSB. We are ultimately held accountable for the success of our system. The role of the trustee is complex and varied and is one that is extremely rewarding to those who take it on. While the monetary compensation is minimal compared to the work done, the true reward lies in the satisfaction of contributing to something that has the potential to have lifelong positive impact on all those we serve.
What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you?
The trustees recently approved our new Multi-Year Plan, and I was actively involved in the development process. The vision statement we developed is: “To be recognized as leaders in creating unparalleled, agile, and inclusive learning experiences for all”. In the supporting documentation, the inclusive learning experiences piece is further described as: “All students will feel safe, valued, and a sense of belonging, no matter who they are or where they come from. Everyone will be equipped with the access to resources (i.e. Emotional, academic, social, and technological resources) they need to reach their full potential”. If you extend these statements to include all members of our educational community, they encapsulate diversity, equity, and inclusion for me. If you expand these statements further, diversity, equity, and inclusion mean so many things to me. They mean that all students are able to attain success in their learning and go on to live fulfilled lives contributing to society in the way that best suits them, that all staff members are able to attain success in their work and achieve their career goals, that they are supported fully and encouraged to seek leadership opportunities, if that is part of their goals, that leadership opportunities are offered and encouraged for more than just the obvious people, staff and students who wouldn’t ordinarily seek out leadership opportunities are supported and encouraged, and that barriers to success in leadership are identified and removed.
It also means that there is fair and equitable access to learning support for all students. That parents don’t need to struggle to get what their student needs.
It means that students see themselves represented in all aspects of the organization in all aspects of diversity – ability, gender, lived experience, race, etc. Students, staff, and families are supported in their diverse needs and innovative approaches are used to create an educational community that is welcoming and easily navigable for all.
In addition, it means that all aspects of our organization (school buildings, board buildings, committee meetings, the Boardroom, online platforms, etc.) are considered safe spaces where all members of our community can speak and share their ideas freely without fear. And while all can speak and share their ideas freely, ideas and speech that promote hatred and/or violence towards any member of our society are not tolerated. Bullying and any form of aggression, physical or otherwise, are also not tolerated.
As a result of the above, if we are engaging in authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, we are sought out by families and staff members alike because they want to be part of our educational community. Staff members choose to apply to our organization because they recognize the good work we are doing and want to contribute. Volunteers and committee members freely give their time because they believe in our vision and want to support it.
From the Guelph Greens survey:
Guelph Greens stand for a caring and connected community with a practical, fiscally responsible plan for climate action. How will you bring that to Guelph?
As a sitting trustee with the Upper Grand District School Board I, along with my colleagues, have already begun to bring a plan for climate action and sustainability to our entire district, not just Guelph. Our recently approved Multi-Year Plan contains, for the first time in UGDSB history, a strategic priority that is dedicated to Leading through Sustainability. Adding this pillar will ensure that sustainability is embedded in every action and decision across all aspects of our system. It will also ensure that departments across the system and all the various stakeholders will work together for a common goal, instead of the previous model of addressing environmental issues in isolation. The key statements of this pillar are: “We will lead by climate action initiatives and benchmark ourselves against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals” and “We will live by sustainable stewardship and aspire to make positive change in our community and environment”. We are fully aware that benchmarking ourselves against the UN’s SDGs is a lofty ambition and we are deeply committed to striving towards this goal as anything less was unacceptable to us.
The UGDSB is known provincially for being a highly fiscally responsible school board and one that maximizes each dollar in funding that we receive. When we committed to the Multi-Year Plan and the inclusion of Leading by Sustainability, the only option was for it to be a plan that uses public funds in a responsible and practical manner. Aside from transforming the way we operate towards sustainable practices, we aspire to be leaders in showing how an education system can run with minimized harm to the environment while staying within budget.
In addition to the work we did as a whole Board to add sustainability to our Multi-Year Plan, I am also a current member of the UGDSB’s Trustee Climate Emergency Committee which meets monthly to discuss current issues regarding climate and sustainability. We make recommendations to the Board of Trustees on actions that can be taken to mitigate or eliminate the consequences of climate change. Each month we pick a theme and issue a challenge to the trustees to try simple things such as using litterless lunches or switching off power bars to encourage action and to show that working to protect the environment doesn’t always have to be big, complicated, and expensive.
One of the goals of the Trustee Climate Emergency Committee has been to build the new south Guelph high school as a carbon neutral school with features built in that strive towards sustainability. If re-elected I will continue to advocate for this and for a re-imagining of how we undertake all construction within our jurisdiction and in the province.
The public education system is the foundation of a truly equitable, sustainable society where achieving success is an attainable goal for all students. I am very excited for the future and for being a part of the Board of Trustees that brings these transformative changes to the way we deliver education.