Q&A GEDSB School Trustee Candidates: Who do you represent – school system or community? How to support Inclusiveness & Diversity? Meeting needs re: Health Curriculum

Q1. Do you see yourself as representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?

Responses:

Rita Collver: I believe my role as a Trustee is to serve and help families, students and community in the education of our children. I am committed and responsible to bring issues/concerns to the board.
Christina Speers: I see myself as the conduit that brokers communication between them both. I am however, elected by the community, to serve and represent their needs and address their concerns. This conduit is like a 3-way switch: the board and the community need someone to stand in the middle and ask the hard questions, respectfully. As trustee it is also my obligation to see the bigger picture across the entire Grand Erie School Board District, which means voting on the larger issues and then feeding back the explanation to the community. The job takes someone who is empathetic, but also strong enough to understand how to manage the board’s concerns, the province’s portfolio management AND the parent’s and student’s high priority requirements. These are people’s children and they are the future. As trustee I represent the relationship that can directly impact a student’s education, and I am very excited and completely ready to take on that role.
David VanTilborg: I see the need to represent the students in their pursuit of a rewarding career after they graduate.
Tom Waldschmidt: I see myself as both. As a member of the school board I am held to a higher standard in the community as that you are always a school board trustee and your behaviour is expected to provide respect to the position. I see myself as a representative of the community as I live and work in the community, as a parent with a child in the Grand Erie school system, a former long time school council member and a member of the Grand Erie Parent Involvement Committee.
Ensuring the parent voice is heard loud and clear is very important to me, and helps guide my decision making at the school board level

Q2. How will you support diversity and inclusion in the schools?

Responses:

Rita Collver: I will continue to build a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion that help our parents, students and staff feel safe and welcome in our schools.
Christina Speers: Diversity is what you have.Inclusion is what you do. As trustee, I will focus on tangible outcomes that result in a more prolific learning environment. For me that means helping student learn in different ways. We can do this with an influx of funding. As trustee, if I can assist in ending the EQAO, that will put approximately $35+/- million dollars back into the system. With those funds, I will ask for more teaching tools to help students learn in different ways. This would involve breaking it down into visual, oral, verbal or physical learning methods, and working to purchase the tools it takes to support these learning methods. As they grow, this would involve project based learning, coop placement etc..I want to work students to have mentors in their field of interest in high school – similar or working in tandem with coop placement. There is another aspect of school that has shown to be critical: diversity in the learning environment…the concept that while everyone is different, in the most fundamental ways, everyone is the same and should be treated with respect. When we empower each other in a positive working environment in our schools, that transfers exponentially later on in life in the workplace and in our cultural threads that we weave for each other. It is so important to advocate for self empowerment and inclusion simultaneously. What better place than school to practise a better way for the future?
David VanTilborg: Each and every student should be able to find a place at GEDSB, to achieve their goals. Although the Tech Wings are historically underrepresented by women, this needs to be change. Tradespersons only require the skills and knowledge of their trade and a good work ethic to succeed.
Tom Waldschmidt: Grand Erie’s Multi Year Plan includes equity, inclusion and diversity. It is important to create an equitable environment for all students by identifying barriers throughout the system to ensure all students feel a sense of belonging. Currently Grand Erie is using the Ontario Education Equity Action Plan to create a GEDSB action plan to identify gaps and develop strategies for improving outcomes in student achievement and a sense of belonging. I personally feel all students deserve to attend school in a safe, nurturing atmosphere.

Q3. With the repeal of the 2015 Health Curriculum how do you plan to respond to the needs and opinions of students, teachers and families?

Responses:

Rita Collver: I firmly believe in consulting and listening to the needs of our students, teachers and families. I encourage parents and students to have a conversation with the teacher to express their views on the curriculum.
Christina Speers: A very sensitive subject, not to be undertaken lightly. Our children, these students, they live in a new world and it’s time we accept it. It’s a paradigm shift (a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions) for many of us, and we are learning as we go. Let’s develop a new baseline while keeping the latest curriculum in place while we find the way. I think it’s critical for parents and students to develop a working relationship with the Principal of their respective schools, and ask for your needs to be met. And if that includes asking for confidential opting out of the curriculum for those who are not comfortable with it, then that is the responsibility of the Principal to respect that, assuming it’s a safe resolution for the student. As I have said recently, discussion isn’t about educating who you are speaking with. It’s about sharing information equally and coming to a decision or at minimum, allowing a safe and respectful place for compromise and debate. Please, I ask of you to never let fear guide you to the end goal.
David VanTilborg:  This subject is getting a lot of press but almost no traction among the hundreds of parents I have talked to so far. I have yet to have a parent move the conversion away from the goal of increasing design and tech in the elementary or better funding of the tech wings in the high schools.
Tom Waldschmidt: I plan to support any initiatives that are brought to the board table by parents, staff and families that will bridge the gaps left by the repeal of the 2015 curriculum. I am very interested to hear the opinions of parents, students, teachers aand families to ensure we make decisions that addresses the needs and opinions of the constituents.

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