2014 TCDSB Election: Ward 4 – North York

The Incumbent:

Patrizia Bottoni

The Race

First term Trustee Patrizia Bottoni declined to participate in our project but a pair of her opponents did participate. Both candidates below present differing ideas on how to reduce the burden on taxpayers, so be sure to consider your options and weigh all the ideas before you enter the ballot box!

Candidates Who Did Not Participate: Marina Laccona, Patrizia Bottoni

The Breakdown

 

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 am not opposed to private investments or partnerships.  Like it or not, this is the way of the future.  Big companies have funds that the TCDSB require and can utilize and that we cannot access in any other way. While open to partnerships, I am cautious about how much we allow into the school.  It is a fine balance. I would ask, how are the students benefitting from this? Materials? Equipment? Resources? How will their education benefit from this?  I would be mindful of the messages, subliminal and overt, the sponsors are portraying.  Having a reputable company sponsor a gym and equipment or sponsoring a playground has benefits as it is an extra tool that is not taking funds away from the school.  In this day and age, sponsors are everywhere.  Having a limited amount in the schools would not be negative, if properly controlled.

    2. What ideas do you have to address the budget challenges that the TCDSB faces?

    We need to evaluate all the budget shortfalls and look for savings.  The provincial government has cut  program funding such as the Junior Literacy Intervention. The funding was removed a few years ago but it is a useful tool that the TCDSB continued by taking on the cost itself.  Provincial funding for computers has also been reduced.  We need the provincial government to step up and help and realize that these kids are our future and they need access to proper tools and resources.   We also cannot overspend at the TCDSB, as it puts the school board in debt and forces them to crawl back out of the hole, which is never easy.  We need to budget properly so that future leaders are not left to solve the problem.  We need to examine and re-evaluate ways to create new formulas and ways to generate revenue.   These issues need to be responsibly taken care of now.

    3. How will you foster and engage school communities and ratepayers at large?

    The way I would foster and engage school communities and rate payers is by communicating in many ways so that people can access the information.  We need to use as many mediums as we have available to us, to accomplish this.  For example, I wouldn’t just put information in the newspaper as that would limit my target audience.  I need to get my message across different types of media; bulletins at libraries, schools and community centres; social media; related websites and local or community newspapers.  We need to make sure we hit the ratepayers association on the municipal level more than the provincial level, as this hits closer to home.  We must also be mindful that some of these taxpayers may be new to the country and with this comes a new culture of education and a population who may not be used to this culture.  Information should be made available and clear for all, not just those that are educated.  Daycare should be provided at meetings so that all can attend.

    4. There are candidates who have proposed advocating for a new tax dedicated specifically to education. Is this a proposal you support?

    No, I would not advocate for a new tax.  Toronto residents are already taxed enough.  Education is important and we need to gain more access to funds through other means.  We need to ask the provincial government to provide more funding.  We need to find more savings in the TCDSB and our schools.

    5. TCDSB has debated and budgeted for an ombudsman. Do you – and will you support this important initiative?

    No, I do not support this initiative. TCDSB is too top heavy right now as it is. Money could be better spent to benefit students directly.  There is already a system in place that deals with issues that arise. I am, by no means against anything that would endorse and encourage equality and accountability, I just question whether that budgeted money could be better utilized elsewhere.

    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?

    Safety nets have been put into place to change this culture.  First and foremost there needs to be clear communication from the start and very clear parameters put in place on what is clearly acceptable and what is not. You get into trouble when you have shades of grey. There has to be accountability on the trustees. Receipts need to be shown. More than one signature should be required on bigger purchases, etc.  The TCDSB has taken very good steps in posting all expenses by Trustees. This shows transparency and is the right direction to cut out frivolous expenditures. The question should always be, “How does this expenditure benefit the students?”  There are some things that are necessary, such as workshops and out of town trips, but we need to make sure they are always within reason.

    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 learning curve and a work in progress. There are more children involved with special education every year. The idea that God created everyone equally permeates my beliefs especially with this topic. All students have the right to learn. All special education students need to always have the right to work with trained, specialized individuals and access to all programs and resources that enhance, support, and enrich their learning.  Assistance must be given to all students that require it.

    8. What are your ideas on how we can reduce the cost of administration and governance at TCDSB?

    All of us, as citizens of this planet, should be making an effort to reduce our use of consumables (ie. paper, electricity, office supplies, etc.). If administration and governance would take stock of what is really essential in their daily operations versus what is wasteful, excessive or just plain unnecessary, then very easily we could start to make inroads to reducing expenditures. This same philosophy could be applied to other areas within administration.

    9. What do you think is the best approach for the TCDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and staff?

    The best approach for the TCDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations is to use fairness, transparency and good faith bargaining.  All teachers and administration want safe and good working conditions and these always need to be provided as they also enhance student life at the school. What the TCDSB needs to have is more rigorous standards for hiring practices in future negotiations.

    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?​

    As clearly outlined in the Education Act of Ontario, every child is owed the right to an education.  Clearly, what that education looks like will be different.  This is, by far, the most important right owed to a parent and their child.  Ensuring that no matter what a child’s needs may be, or how different the programming and delivery must be, all efforts must be made to accommodate.  Every child has the right to learn in the TCDSB. We cannot leave any child behind. We need to foster student achievement and well-being while adhering to our Catholic values.

  • 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?

    Partnerships – yes but only after careful scrutiny. It must pass the smell test, so ethical considerations and avoidance of conflicts of interest must take precedence over the financial advantages

    2. What ideas do you have to address the budget challenges that the TCDSB faces?

    TCDSB can do the usual but necessary review of all spending practices to avoid duplication of programmes and expenses. Trustee expenses can still be reduced as can some of the staff PD programmes, some of which can be delivered in house by the board’s own qualified staff.

    3. How will you foster and engage school communities and ratepayers at large?

    The existing mechanisms need to be better utilized. Do not re-invent the wheel, improve the web site’s interactive qualities and promote school (parents and stakeholders) councils. Send info home with students. Re-jig mechanisms to get feedback via e mail, phone and notes from parents, students and other parties.

    4. There are candidates who have proposed advocating for a new tax dedicated specifically to education. Is this a proposal you support?

    It is not simple to go back to self-taxing abilities that school boards used to have. With current income based solely on min of ed grants, boards have to claim more but are hampered by the funding formulas. This is something to investigate but there is no simple solution to the never ending need for more in an environment where (extra) taxes are unpopular and have to be justified.

    5. TCDSB has debated and budgeted for an ombudsman. Do you – and will you support this important initiative?

    Yes. This discussion has already taken place.

    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?

    There has been a great improvement in the culture since the appointment of the supervisors and the egregious acts of several never applied to all trustees. The whole issue of trustees’ roles and duties need re-evaluating. Attending trustee meetings reveals that a great deal of PD, education and training is needed for several of them to see the difference between governance (them) and management (senior staff), the corporate memory and history of the board, Robert’s rules and parliamentary procedure.

    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?

    I have worked with special needs students for over 40 years. I have a son who is developmentally delayed and a grandson who is autistic. I know the value of special education and  continue to be committed to its implementation. But there cannot ever be unlimited funds so the task is in the fair allocation of resources. Quite frankly, some programmes are better than others. Some programmes need expanding, some need closing.

    8. What are your ideas on how we can reduce the cost of administration and governance at TCDSB?

    I support constant and regular review of costs and their effectiveness. I support more PD for governors (trustees) and managers but at less cost by using the in house expertise that we have. I also would review allowable expenses and set firm guidelines. An examination of the regional structure of management (4 regions) is overdue to continue to avoid duplication of services

    9. What do you think is the best approach for the TCDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and staff?

    There is limited room for upcoming collective agreement contract negotiations since major table issues like remuneration and other big cost items are negotiated at the provincial tables with the mini of ed and provincial trustee associations. It leaves only relatively minor local items. In negotiations, I hope both sides show respect, reality and exercise restraint. It is possible to negotiate in a less adversarial manner through mutual interest bargaining. I have had much experience as a union president in these negotiations

    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. There should be nothing to fear over any human rights legislation as long as the process is well discussed, lots of consultation with all stake holders and not be hi-jacked by any the the ombudsman is a question that needs consideration. Confessional systems (including Catholic) have a task reconciling some of general “rights” with some of the church’s view and traditions. That is not a reason, not to try.