Trustee D’Amico was first elected as TCDSB trustee in the last election. His sole opponent didn’t fill out our survey, so here’s what Mr. D’Amico had to say.
Candidates Who Did Not Participate: Kim Daniel
Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Yes Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank No ideas given Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Listening, attending community events, responding to constituent concerns Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Will consider Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Yes Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Culture has changed, will continue to change it by setting a good example Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Funding, and visiting with special education teachers to understand their needs Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank 2% of the budget goes towards administration Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Offer free training to staff in areas of Special Education, Conflict resolution, and First Aid Candidate Response D'Amico, Frank Yes
The full responses
1. Recently the Canadian Football League and Nissan stepped in to help school boards with the costs of organized sports. Do you support seeking private investment at the TCDSB?
I’m an Argo’s season seat holder, I’m always networking looking for partners, sponsors, I’m presently looking into revitalizing the former Borough of York Stadium located next door to one of my high schools, The Loretto College field, the St. Nicholas of Bari yard, a new playground for St John the Evangelist… I can go on, St Mary of the Angels, and St Clare’s green spaces were revitalized with the help of partners and they turned out wonderful. We just have to make sure that the partners are in good standing with society, for an example I don’t think we would search out a partner that runs a sweatshop or exploits children etc.
2. What ideas do you have to address the budget challenges that the TCDSB faces?
We’ve balanced four consecutive Billion dollar budgets since I’ve been on the Board,”without any pink slips,” with a decent surplus. I think its important to keep our employees working, Wages make up a large part of the budget, in my first term I noticed we spend about 20 Million more that we’re allotted on Special Education which is very important, we need to somehow involve the Ministry of Health a little bit to see if there’s anything they can do to assist with some Education funding related to Health. Transportation is another area we’re overspending the allotment because we’re doing our best to accommodate.
3. How will you foster and engage school communities and ratepayers at large?
I will foster and engage school communities and ratepayers at large as I’ve been doing the last four years, I listen, listening is important, community partners want to be heard, they want to a part of the solution, I return all calls and emails within 48 hours, I attend as many community events as I can, I don’t need to be a guest of honour, I show up because I live here too, I enjoy interacting with community groups, I have at least two Ward meetings a year where the community is invited, if needed I’ve hosted several meetings to accommodate rate payers at their request.
4. There are candidates who have proposed advocating for a new tax dedicated specifically to education. Is this a proposal you support?
Education is already incorporated into our taxes, everyone pays into it and I’m okay with this system. We’ll have to see how the proposed system pans out, there are tax payers that don’t have children and don’t want to pay taxes for schools, I wouldn’t want to lose that, it will be difficult to make up, but if it works then its something that should be looked at.
5. TCDSB has debated and budgeted for an ombudsman. Do you – and will you support this important initiative?
I do support an ombudsman, I’m not sure if it should be a full time position, unless full time is necessary because eventually the money comes out of the classroom, I’ve been here four years and haven’t had any constituent complaints where the issues weren’t resolved either at the Principal or Superintendent level, or through mediation.
6. Do you believe the culture among TCDSB Trustees has changed after a spending scandal that saw Trustees expense gold jewellry, trips, university tuition, personalized licence plates and lingerie, among other things? If not how will you change this culture?
Six new Trustees were Elected in 2010 including myself, Individual Trustee expenses are posted on the TCDSB website, Trustees are more careful with what they expense, I find it too time consuming counting Kms everywhere I go, to discern whether its board business or personal when I visit my schools, or go watch my school teams play sports so I pay for my own gas and have been doing so for my entire term, I can’t spend an hour figuring out if I should expense 59 cents, I’d rather be networking, trying to get something good for my students. How will I change the culture? lead by example, set a good example, treat everyone with respect, be a good listener, try to work well as a team, try to bring out their good qualities, everyone can contribute somehow, and in some way, I may not always get my way, but I need to find a positive approach and gain support to make constituents in my Ward happy and give the students the best possible classroom experience.
7. Failures in special education are considered by some to be the greatest failure in the public system. What is your plan for correcting this?
Special Education is a sensitive issue, one dear to my heart as my brother has Downsyndrome and went through the TCDSB system, I’ve partially answered this in my no 2. Answer. To continue, on top of funding, I visit all my Special Ed classrooms, I speak with the Teachers, Principals, and Parents, I don’t just visit once, I’ve made several visits to each classroom over the last four years, and I was impressed with what I saw, I saw elementary special ed students building websites, (I can’t do this) I’ve seen high school special ed students using smart boards, I find that impressive because I don’t know how to use it. I attend the mini olympics when I can, its a wonderful feeling when these special students see me, remember me, and even say hello. Its important to visit classrooms in person, to know what is going on, to see how things work, and not only visit when there’s an issue because all the positive interactions won’t have any weight in making informed decisions.
8. What are your ideas on how we can reduce the cost of administration and governance at TCDSB?
2% of the budget is allocated towards administration and Governance, most of that is salary for central support services for schools (accounting, purchasing, planning etc). There’s been significant reductions in both funding and expenditures over the years, and the Board is always looking for ways to be more efficient when it comes to saving money. TCDSB is a member of the Catholic School Board Services Association (CSBSA) and have initiated “cooperative services arrangements” and “joint purchasing arrangements” with the 6 member Catholic School Boards. Initiatives include joint purchasing of natural gas, paper products and technology. These initiatives not only saved administrative costs but the Board was able to take advantage of price reductions because of bulk purchasing discounts, these are an example of some of the effective ways to reduce administrative and Governance costs.
9. What do you think is the best approach for the TCDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and staff?
The Provincial Government has initiated Provincial Bargaining, and has taken over the responsibility to negotiate a provincial contract with all unions including teachers, for monetary issues. In the past, school Board negotiated non-monetary local issues with the local union organizations. As a result, the TCDSB (and any other Board in the Province) has minimal impact on the central negotiations. I personally feel teachers have suffered enough, and they deserve an adjustment in pay, although I’d like to see more free training available to all staff in area’s of Special Education, Conflict resolution, and First Aid, this will benefit the school community as a whole.
10. TCDSB is in the process of developing a parent/student bill of rights. What do you view as one of the most important rights in education for parents and students? Will you support this initiative?
Yes I will definitely support the parent/student bill of rights, and will advocate for the right of students to have equitable access to educational opportunities that best meet the needs of the student/parent. I would support any motion that benefits the welbeing of our students and makes their classroom experience that much better.