It has been a privilege to serve as your Catholic School Board Trustee in Oakville over the last four years. I am running for re-election and ask for your support once again.
Trustees have a number of responsibilities including budget approvals, acquiring land, building schools, setting policy, and most importantly, strategic planning and the hiring of the Board’s Director of Education. It was a successful term in all areas.
We very recently hired a new Director of Education in Mr. Patrick Daly, who will lead our Board into the 2020’s following our new, five-year strategic plan. That plan focuses our board on improved student achievement, with an emphasis on mathematics and a strong foundation in the Catholic faith.
I am proud of what our Board has accomplished over the last term. From saving Early French Immersion at St. Mary to reversing the proposed closure of Holy Family Catholic Elementary School in Falgarwood and its merger with St. Marguerite D’Youville in Joshua Creek.
I stood out in a frozen field in The Preserve as Bishop Miehm blessed the property and we turned over the soil for the new St. Gregory the Great Catholic Elementary School, and was delighted to attend the grand opening of the beautiful new school, less than a year later.
Despite my dissenting opinion, our board has voted to close St. James Catholic Elementary this term, as the current and projected student population could not support a viable school community. However, I toured St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School with Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, where she announced funding for the building of the new St. Nicholas school, which will house the combined St. Joseph and St. James communities in a state of the art facility, opening next year. We will maintain the St. James school site next to the parish and bring our Thomas Merton alternative and adult education programs to Morden Ave.
Our Board has held the line on financial expenditures. We held an extensive budget consultation process and ensured a balanced budget with a watchful eye on increased spending outside of the classroom, while still ensuring that funding requests for in-class programs and Special Education needs were approved. We capped executive compensation at a 2.9% increase while being pressured to approve a 5% increase.
I co-chaired meetings of the Board’s Bargaining and Compensation Committee and recommended the approval of contracts with each of the Board’s staff bargaining units. I hope to return to those Committees if re-elected, as another round of bargaining is likely to begin in 2019.
Four years ago, I was a parent of four daughters in the board, a member of our school’s parent council with a desire to improve accountability and transparency at the Trustee level. Thank you for allowing me to do just that.
With 7 of 9 Trustee seats without an incumbent, I offer experience, continuity and a smooth transition to a new Board of Trustees for the next term, if re-elected.
With oversight of a $400,000,000 budget, it is of utmost importance to ensure that your Trustees are there to represent YOUR interest and not those of special interests. I am pleased to say that I have remained an independent voice for parents and ratepayers. After four years, I owe no favours, nor am I beholden to any political party or special interest group. I did not accept any election funding from the employee unions and have voted in the best interest of students and our board in every instance, without reservation or fear of reprisal. I did not lobby for the hiring of any staff nor seek personal favours. I have a 98% attendance record at Board meetings.
One Less Oakville Trustee.
I led the fight against the recommendation to realign Trustee distribution. Unfortunately, our case was lost at the The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board) where the Town of Milton intervened, seeking to over turn the majority vote of our Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, the Town of Oakville did not stand up for their Catholic ratepayers and in their absence, the tribunal sided with the Town of Milton, leading to a 25% decrease in the Oakville representation at our school board.
Priorities for 2018-2022
A continued focus on the math proficiency for all students, and increased access to STEM, with a particular focus on the success of applied stream students, who appear to be falling through the cracks between EQAO tests.
I will also be asking the Board to look at the success outcomes of boys in our Board. As the father of four daughters, this has not been on my radar, but more and more parents are sharing their concerns with me about the specific educational needs of boys.
With the support of the Board I will ask for a full report on the disparities in outcomes (if any) between boys and girls and act on any findings that may show a negative trend in their success.
As our Board becomes increasingly diverse, I will work to ensure equality of opportunity for all students attending our Catholic schools and seek out the best measures to ensure that any barriers to success are identified and removed.
The health and physical fitness of our children is an ongoing concern that I share with many parents. I will continue to look for opportunities at the Board level to encourage active transportation, in-class physical activity and open and inclusive extra-curricular activities and teams that will promote a life long commitment to physical activity.
Union Leadership Doesn’t Want Me Back.
The teachers, educational assistants, early child educators, custodians and office staff in our board are the professionals we rely on to care for our children during school hours.
They provide the highest standard of skill in their field, with a commitment and passion that shapes our children’s character through personal example and pedagogy, with the goal of helping our children achieve their highest potential. I respect and appreciate our teachers and staff!
Unfortunately, the leadership of the Halton Secondary Unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) do not reciprocate the respect I have for their teachers. As there are only two incumbents running for re-election, I can only assume that this letter (below) and its vitriol are aimed at me.
I am a supporter of unions. Both my parents were lifetime CAW members and my grandfather was a custodian at my own elementary school. I have paid dues to the Teamsters, the ATU, Brewery Workers, UFCW and CUPE. If it weren’t for the effort of labour unions, my parents couldn’t have afforded to help send me the university or provided a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle for my sister and I.
I believe unions have an important role in advancing and protecting the rights and compensation of workers. But I can’t see how having representative views of the union, on both sides of the bargaining table will benefit the Catholic taxpayer, the parental voice, students or the Board as a whole.
The interests of parents, ratepayers and students can only be undermined by the unions leaders’ handpicked candidates, should they be elected across the Halton Catholic board.
I can’t imagine what will become of a Board of Trustees so openly beholden to their supporters. There’s potential for conflict of interest at every meeting and in every vote cast by a Trustee who wins a seat as a result of the unions’ effort on their behalf, particularly going into 2019 and another round of collective bargaining with the teachers and other bargaining units.
I can’t imagine how “Right-Wing American political ideology” would have gotten into the classroom. But I’m certain I didn’t put it there. Trustee’s are rarely in the classroom. That’s not our job, nor expertise. In fact, I was only in two class rooms and a number of ceremonies in the school gyms over the last four years, and I didn’t leave anything behind but thanks and congratulations on behalf of the Board. I support fiscal responsibility with your tax dollars, and upholding the “Catholic” in publicly funded Catholic education.
Our students have been reciting the twelve-second Oath of Canadian Citizenship over the last two years. It is prescribed in the Ontario Education Act and was intended to instill a sense of civic responsibility among students as part of their morning exercises along with prayer and the singing of the Canadian National Anthem.
I support an optional, robust French language program in the HCDSB; including Early French-Immersion, Extended French and Core French and encourage the Board to find the teachers required to provide these programs, using innovative recruiting efforts to meet the needs of the families in our board. Public education is a service and we, as the service providers have a duty to meet the needs of our community to the best of our ability. This can be accomplished without any negative effect on families who are not pursuing the French language.
I don’t think that Catholic Institutions should be raising money that goes to groups that don’t believe that every human life has value.
I think the issue was escalated well out of proportion, with the lack of support from board staff in the direction that the majority of trustees wanted to take, in asserting our Catholic belief in the sanctity of all human life, when raising funds for charities. This led to an unnecessary polarization, spurred on by the teachers’ union leadership and their vocal opposition to in the media.
Our schools’ Catholic Graduate Expectations clearly call for all students to be able to promote social justice and the sanctity of life. When students leave our board, they are expected to be “a responsible citizen who gives witness to Catholic social teaching by promoting peace, justice and the sacredness of human life.”
The update to the policy was intended to ensure that the students passion for social justice included the protection of life, from conception to death, in a society that increasingly diminishes the intrinsic value of human life.
Our Board has returned Trustee oversight to the annual $400,000,000 budget. (They vast majority of which are the fixed costs of teacher salaries and benefits.) Often, the mindset in the public sector is to spend as much as you are given and ask for more when you run out. Our Board has voted for a small reserve, as we plan for possible funding changes from the new provincial government and other yet unforeseen need. It’s sound financial management.
It would be absurd to pass control of the school board funds, policies, and forward planning to the OECTA leadership. It would be a catastrophe for Catholic education in Halton that could likely not be undone.
Prayer in School
I have supported the volunteer-led Rosary Apostolate in our schools and voted in favour of the daily recitation of the Angelus at the start of the students’ lunch break. I remain concerned about the Board’s focus on ‘Christian Meditation’ over traditional prayer and teaching of the Catechism of the Church, and the funding senior staff’s participation in pseudo-scientific Enneagram training.