Issues

“As a school trustee candidate my number one concern is to educate and prepare the younger generation for the world they will soon face as adults. Below are issues that I feel passionate about, or that concerned parents, teachers, and community members have brought to my attention. If you would like my views on an issue that is not covered below, please Email Me and I will answer your questions as quickly as I can, and post it to this site.”

Index: Click to Move to that Issue

  1. School, Family, and Community Partnerships in Practice.
  2. Digital Copyright Fees for Educational Materials.
  3. Facilitating Communication Between Teachers and Administration.
  4. Education and Conservation.
  5. Low Socio-Economic Status (SES) Schools.
  6. Non-Certified Experts in Supplementary Teaching Positions.
  7. Guidelines for the Sale of Public School Board Properties.
  8. The Central Role of Libraries in Schools

Have an issue that is not addressed? Please Email Me and I will add it.

School, Family, and Community Partnerships:
How Partnerships Might Work in Practice:

In my introduction (on the home page) I argued that fostering greater relationships between schools, families, and the community would benefit everyone, most especially students.  How might such partnerships look in practice?  The following are practical ideas that can be implemented with little or no impact on school district budgets.  These ideas are mainly drawn from the work of renowned educational sociologist Joyce Epstein in combination with my own background in Information Technologies:

  1. Parenting: Empowering parents to play a greater role supporting their children as students.  Practices might include setting up a support website with suggestions for creating a home environment conducive to learning, and tips for the needs of a child for each grade level.  For some families, sections on nutrition and general health would be beneficial.  A section might also be included for what a child should be prepared for upon entering kindergarten (e.g., able to tie own shoes).  Neighbourhood groups might wish to collaborate with schools to develop a neighbourhood support system to help students through important transitions.  (e.g., elementary to high school etc…)  
  1. Communicating: Designing an effective communication system that encourages school-to-home and home-to-school dialogue.  Practices might include automated email forms that teachers fill out for each student that parents have an opportunity to respond to rather than the current one-way report card model.  Another idea might be to have parents come in to pick up report cards and have teacher’s provide a 5 minute debriefing on their child.  The Internet can be used as an inexpensive means of encouraging parental feedback wherever possible, to follow-up on parent-teacher nights, report cards, newsletters, and other types of conferences.  A key item here would be to empower schools to clearly outline options for students to parents and describe possible consequences for each decision. (e.g., Not all parents are aware of typical University requirements for admission to Sciences)
  1. Volunteering: Systems that aid schools in recruiting and organizing parents to help and support in school.  The parent councils that schools in our district enjoy are already a giant step forward in this area.  Other ideas include having an online survey to help identify the talents and abilities of parents and matching these to appropriate classroom activities.  If volunteering in a school is successful, creating the space for a small ‘parent room’ to meet and share resources might be warranted.  Parental telephone and email lists should be encouraged to support parent-to-parent communication.  Volunteering can take place in the classroom, on field trips, in the school’s office, on school grounds during recess and lunch.  The bottom line is empowering parents to feel as though they have an important contribution to make towards their child’s education, because they do.
  1. Studying: Providing information to families to assist them in supporting students with homework and other curriculum related activities.  Practices might include district wide web resources for each module that a child is studying, and a guide to additional resources for parents who wish to explore the subject further with their child.  As with the ‘parenting’ section above, providing tips to parents on creating home environments that facilitate studying.  Implementing homework that involves having a child discussing subject matter with parents.  Family based goal-planning sessions with the teacher would be helpful in creating a goal-based approach that can be reviewed throughout the year.
  1. Decision Making: Again, thanks to parent councils Guelph schools have a great track record in this area.  The only area here I can identify as requiring improvement would be to facilitate the communication between parents currently in leadership positions with parents who may not be involved at all.  Again, the Internet can provide an inexpensive solution to this.
  1. Community Collaboration: Identifying and integrating community resources that would strengthen school activities, teaching resources, student learning and development, and family health.  The Guelph board should be applauded for already developing programs in this direction that foster community relationships and direct involvement with schools.  Again key is for schools to  communicate health, cultural, recreational, and social community resources to parents, and foster an environment that allows a child’s specific needs to be addressed using a united and integrated approach on the family, school, and community levels.

Naturally all of the above ideas have challenges associated with them, but it is my belief that working towards implementing the above practices will have a beneficial effect on our schools and communities while carrying a relatively low price tag.

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Digital Copyright Fees for Educational Materials

I believe in digital copyright laws that compensate creators fairly while making digital materials affordable to large groups of students. One of the major emerging issues for the next school board trustee term is the contract renewal between the Ministry of Education and Access Copyright for a license to copy and distribute online materials in classrooms. Up until 2004, the fee per full time employee was $2.30, at the time considered fair compensation by both parties. For the current contract renewal, Access Copyright is currently requesting a %600 increase in compensation to a proposed tariff of $12 per FTE, which threatens to increase the Guelph Public School Board budget by several hundred thousand dollars, and tens of millions provincially. Worse, their proposal calls for retroactive pay to August 2004, effectively creating a potential budget short fall for the Guelph School Board for the last 2 years.  Perhaps increased compensation is warranted, but a %600 increase for a service many school boards have come to rely on is tantamount to a pusher who offers services inexpensively, only to hook their client and ask for an unreasonable amount once they have become dependent. This issue must be addressed on the municipal, provincial, and federal level to ensure that our children continue to have access to first rate libraries of educational material without leaving school boards the means to cover the expenses. I have spoken with teachers who already feel they are compromised at the current tariff of $2.30—clearly $12 would be a disastrous blow to our children’s access to educational materials.  This is an issue I feel passionate about, and as an owner of a local IT company, I feel I have the expertise in the area to lead a local campaign (and pressure campaigns at the provincial level) to negotiate a fair compromise.

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Facilitating Communication Between Teachers and Administration

The number one issue that teachers have so far voiced to me involves improving the communication lines between teachers and administration. Teachers receive instructions from a variety of sources: federal, provincial, municipal administration and municipal board, and sometimes feel confused and powerless as to whom to provide return feedback. For example, Guelph teachers are currently under instruction to answer every legitimate Email they receive promptly, yet some find this a difficult task with the older computer equipment and software systems used in some schools. One teacher complained to me that she has no program that can keep track of Email addresses, an otherwise basic function of any Email program. Teachers expressed frustration that they are provided guidelines that they are not able to satisfactorily meet with the resources available to them, and felt little control over the situation. Reviewing current communication policies is a key first step in addressing this concern.

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Education and Conservation

 I passionately believe in striving to connect children with our environment. Alternative energy awareness and conservation must begin to be taught at the school level. A child educated in an environment that teaches, encourages, and practices conservation will be more likely to employ these ideas and skills in adulthood. I believe that energy conservation is an issue that all of our children will face as adults. Currently, conservation is a teacher-based initiative in Guelph schools, which means that unless a specific teacher takes the initiative, no conservation programs (such as basic recycling) are emphasized in the school and in the classroom. Let's make sure the next generation of students is equipped as much as possible to succeed in the emerging reality of possible energy, water, and resource shortages.

Water Conservation: A Pipeline for Guelph?

Why is a School Board Trustee candidate weighing in on the pipeline debate? Because I believe that the most responsible solutions to Guelph’s long term water supply issues involve conservation, and that education in this area should be encouraged in schools. The Guelph water supply quandry is not a short-term issue. Those who believe that we should build a water pipeline provide merely a short-term solution. The pipeline will not only cost a small fortune (as much as 1 billion dollars!) and add to the ecological challenges to the Great Lakes, it will perhaps most importantly discourage conservation. As a school trustee my number one concern is to educate and prepare the younger generation for the world they will soon face as adults. Water conservation should be a skill that is taught – and practiced – at the elementary and high school levels through strategies such as grey water systems. Let’s make Guelph one of the first cities in Canada where students will be amazed that anyone once used the same clean water for drinking in their toilets.

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Low Socio-Economic Status (SES) Schools:

I'm not a big fan of the term "inner city school." I admire how some school districts (such as Vancouver) have designated schools in low socio-economic status areas as 'community schools,' and this a concept I wholeheartedly endorse. Community schools receive more funding for lunch and afterschool programs, community support visitations, and tend to encourage a stronger relationship between parents, teachers, and community resources. Research has demonstrated that stronger ties between parents, teachers, and community resources impacts grades and drop-out rates in any school, but most profoundly for students who come from a low SES background. This is a central issue in my platform: I want to encourage all schools to deepen relationships with parents and community resources, but this is most specifically beneficial for schools that are fed by a low SES demographic.

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Non-Certified Experts in Supplementary Teaching Positions

I passionately believe in extending teaching beyond the traditional role of a single teacher in a classroom, provided the policy has been approved by the province and local school board with guidelines clearly laid out for teachers. I believe that only teachers certified by the Ontario College of Teachers and the province should be permitted to head a class. However, the perspectives and resources that volunteers and paid part-time parents and supplementary support staff provide to a classroom can be invaluable to students and deeply enrich the learning experience. These volunteers/supplementary staff can also aid in fostering meaningful relationships between the classroom, students’ families, and community resources. I strongly, strongly urge that application for any volunteer or part-time paid position be accompanied by a mandatory criminal records search.

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Guidelines for the Sale of Public School Board Properties

The sale of any public school board property should be a last resort, and in my opinion should not even be up for discussion unless the board has reached dire straights. Better uses for schools that may not be immediately needed for classroom space include (in order of priority):

  1. Resource and storage space for centralized school resources and services, such as centralized district remedial, counseling, psychological, enrichment, and other school and community programs.
  2. Space to be rented out to independent schools (such as Montessori) until such a time that the space is again needed.
  3. Rented to community resources such as psychological or medical practitioners.
  4. Rented out for office space.

The last 3 points ensure a revenue stream until such a time that the space is again needed for public classroom purposes.

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The Central Role of Libraries in Schools

One Guelph librarian recently E-mailed me her belief that the library is the "heart and soul" of a school. I agree. Quite literally this is the location in a school that should serve to motivate students to learn more about a topic that interests them--that sparks their imagination and awe. I still remember the librarian in my high school who sparked my interest in science fiction, which I would read avidly for several years afterwards. She nicknamed me "Mark Bailey, Space Cadet." It is relationships like these and the materials to motivate a student to read and learn that form the basis of a healthy library. A healthy library motivates learning and student interest while an underfunded and outdated library can indeed make reading and learning seem dull.

I would like to once again see libraries as the 'imagination centres' in schools. Computers and media-rich educational applications need to be able to compete with the mass media and video games to motivate the current generation of students. Whether through direct lobbying to the provincial government, or through grassroots fundraising efforts libraries need to maintain current readings lists to ensure drawing the greatest interest possible in reading. Just as libraries are the heart and soul of schools, so literacy is the heart and soul of our information-based culture, and this is one area that we need to keep as free from compromise as possible.

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Issues will be added often, please visit again!