What's wrong with the TDSB? +
In my opinion most Trustees are using the TDSB as a springboard for their political career. Consequently, their decisions are more often than not driven by partisanship and/or populism rather than the genuine best interests of our children. Here's an example: last year the TDSB incomprehensibly decided to pull the plug on the Resource Officer (SRO) Program. Certainly, it was not a perfect program. In particular, 14% students said that they felt watched and targeted as a result. However, 57% students said having police in school made them feel safer, and the vast majority of parents and teachers were very happy with the program. The officers weren’t placed in schools to lay charges, but instead were on hand to help resolve issues and to keep people out of the criminal justice system. This program had the potential to build relationships between youth and police and served as an important preventive measure.
The political bias of the TDSB in this case was made obvious by the fact that the decision was taken in advance of the yearlong review of the program undertaken by Ryerson University. It's as if the Trustees were so afraid that empirical evidence would demonstrate that the program was working, that they preferred to halt things it before it could be argued that they didn't make an informed decision.
What if, instead of kicking out police officers, we had tried to redefine the program so nobody felt watched and/or targeted? The Ontario Justice Education Network has developed very successful Youth-Police Dialogue programs which offer young people a safe, inclusive space to share their perspectives about issues that cause conflict with the police, featuring roundtable discussion between youth and police officers where both sides work to come up with respectful solutions. It would have been possible to modify the program to make it more progressive and inclusive, all the while keeping an active uniform presence in the school community to establish positive relationships and make everybody feels safer. It's worth mentioning as well that the program is still operating in the Toronto Catholic District School Board where students seem to feel comfortable with a police officer in uniform in the school, so much so that it even created an interest in careers in law enforcement: https://www.tcdsb.org/schools/blessedcardinalnewman/sro/Pages/default.aspx
What is the effect of Bill 5 on the Toronto District School Board? +
Most of the TDSB wards are not affected given that they already corresponded to Provincial ridings. However, for incomprehensible reasons, Eglinton Lawrence has been merged with St Paul, creating a monster riding, the size of which is unprecedented in TDSB history. The previous Ward 8 had 17 schools (which was already a lot, given that each has upwards of 700 students and many were already operating over capacity). The new Ward 8 will be made up of 33 schools and over 16,500 students! Also, the TDSB Trustee for Eglinton Lawrence and St Paul will represent up to two to three times more people than her or his colleagues, in effect diluting in the same proportion the voice of midtown residents.
Far from being discouraged, I am now even more eager to be elected the TDSB Midtown Trustee and to stand up for our education system and the future of our children.
What will I do if I am elected? +
One of my priorities will be to defend evidence-based educational policies which have been implemented by our previous government -which in my opinion did a stellar job as far as education is concerned- in concert with parents, students, teachers, administrators AND academics. In particular, I will do my best to make sure our modern, evidence-based and progressive sex-ed curriculum is not sacrificed to ideology and that its central themes (consent, safety, self- knowledge, as well as affirming the entirely normal and mainstream nature of LGBTQ relationships) remain.
I will also lead the charge to solve our infrastructure problem. Approximately 50 percent of our schools are over 60 years old and 51 are more than 95 years old, including seven that were built before 1900. Our repair backlog is now over billion and has been consistently increasing since 2014, without any substantial action taken by the previous Board. Furthermore, some of our schools are operating over capacity, and this problem is set to increase as new high rises are built, and families with school-aged children move into the ward.
I am determined to make our schools safer for our kids. I will advocate for a comprehensive assessment of violence, bullying, sexual harassment, racism, theft, traffic accidents, guns, drugs and discipline, without leaving a single stone unturned. In particular I will investigate best practices in terms of codes of conduct and creative ways of encouraging self‐regulation alongside more top‐down techniques. I will also be a strong advocate to bring back the resource officer (SRO) program after it has been improved so that racialized and underprivileged students don't feel watched and targeted and that nobody feels intimidated.
I am also eager to work with the Province to figure out how to improve the way we teach Math and French so as to ensure students are meeting curriculum milestones. More specifically, I believe we must reassess the efficiency of discovery math. We need also to bring major changes to the French Immersion program which is bloated with students and starved of qualified teachers. I also intend to thoroughly examine how integrated classrooms have led to an increase in violence against teachers and the problem we have with lunchtime supervision. I have also many questions about the “pedagogical” use of screens in the classroom and the evidence that it is based upon.