2014 TDSB Election: Ward 10 – Trinity-Spadina

The Incumbent:

Briony Glassco

The Race

Richard Klagsbrun’s answers were very specific and addressed all issues, and he proposed unique and detailed solutions such as analyzing the value of TDSB conferences and alternative schools, forensic audits of expenses, and contracting out some services while still giving careful thought to the issue of students with special needs. Sabrina Zuniga’s solution for special needs students showed some careful thought.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Tony Aires, Ybia Anderson, Hans Bathija, Kenneth Chan, Colleen Kennedy, Ausma Malik, Michael Sims

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard Amalgamate underused schools, make trustee expenses public, review the use of alternative schools, video learning at home for students
    Zuniga, Sabrina Did not answer this specific question, See Full Response

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard 1) reduce Administration expenses, 2)  end conferences which provide no benefit to the students 3) tendering of contracts and examining outsourcing of some services, 4) finding more public-private partnerships 5)reducing Trustee expenses.
    Zuniga, Sabrina Applying for permit should be done online

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard  No
    Zuniga, Sabrina  No

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard More specified training of teachers and specific assessments needed, especially for students with dyslexia
    Zuniga, Sabrina Better communication from year to year, focus on hiring and attracting more competent individuals

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard See Answers 1-5
    Zuniga, Sabrina Public private partnerships, but only for solar panels on roofs and sports facilities

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard Tender out contracts and use more City/TDSB and private/public partnerships
    Zuniga, Sabrina Did not answer this specific question, See Full Response

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard Will consider
    Zuniga, Sabrina Will Consider

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard Only wage increases that TDSB can afford- teachers are very well paid comparatively
    Zuniga, Sabrina Talk with province and other school boards

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard No
    Zuniga, Sabrina Did not answer this specific question, See Full Response

  • Candidate Response
    Klagsbrun, Richard Regular forensic audits and more transparency
    Zuniga, Sabrina Did not answer this specific question, See Full Response

 

The full responses

  • 1. Evidence suggests the TDSB was warned in 2006 about spending problems. Previous Chair Chris Bolton chose to ignore these warnings until his resignation. Going forward, how would you address the issue of over-spending at the school board?

    I believe there are a number of cost-saving approaches that the TDSB can employ to reduce waste and improve the education experience for its students. With a decline in enrollment, there are some under-utilized schools in the Board, some of which can be amalgamated into one location. A study of long-term needs can determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the space made available by such amalgamation should result in making it available for lease to the private sector where possible (e.g. private school use, etc.) The Board also needs to pay close attention to audits and reduce waste and overspending. Trustee junkets at the taxpayers’ expense are often an abuse of public funds and Trustee expenses should be made completely public and closely scrutinized. We also need a review of the way TDSB funds are utilized for Alternative Schools, some of which are highly politicized and drain expenses while not serving the best needs of the public. I have also proposed expanding the utilization of Sal Khan’s teaching methods which utilize lessons on video which students can review at home at their own time and at their own pace, which makes classroom time available for the students to receive clarification on their specific needs with regards to those lessons. This method, over time and with improved technology that is expected in the coming years, may allow for more remote learning for many students, reducing some physical space needs and expenses for the Board.

    2. The TDSB has been faced with a difficult decision about potentially selling school properties. To avoid this, where would you find savings in future budgets? List your top five specific priorities for savings.

    My five priorities for savings at the Board are 1) reducing Administration expenses, 2) bringing an end to certain conferences that the TDSB conducts at significant expense which are of no real benefit to the students or teachers in the Board, 3) Reducing maintenance costs through tendering of contracts and examining outsourcing of some services, 4) finding more public-private partnerships 5)reducing Trustee expenses.

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

    I am completely opposed to a dedicated education tax. Property taxes were in large measure supposed to be used for Education funding until much of that formula changed due to ill-advised reforms imposed by the Harris government. So a dedicated Education Tax would in effect be a piling-on tax burden on Toronto taxpayers caused by an inability of the Provincial and Municipal governments, plus the TDSB, to live within their means. Governments need to learn to allocate their resources properly rather than place additional burdens on citizens because of their inability to do so, and our current political leadership’s inability to do that is a compelling argument for replacing them.

    4. 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 in the TDSB has enormous room for improvement. As it stands, students with different challenges and requirements are placed together in special ed classes, which inhibits the learning of all. Teachers need to receive specific training in the different types of needs for students identified with learning disabilities. Dyslexia in particular is a matter which is widespread throughout the board and requires improvements in teacher training. Students with dyslexia have difficulty decoding but possess equal if not better intellectual abilities to their peers, but require different teaching methods and can in fact be taught to find ways to adapt so that their reading skills match or exceed those of other students.

    5. The current board saw the TDSB deficit balloon to $109-million – it’s biggest ever. What is your plan to address this going forward?

    I believe the cost-saving measures I have proposed and which can be found in the answers above will, if utilized, make significant headway in addressing the TDSB’s budget deficit.

    6. The TDSB recently estimated the cost of roof repairs to more than $2.5-million dollars. How would you ensure that necessary capital refurbishments are met within budget?

    We have to tender out contracts and employ more public private-partnerships to both reduce expenses and address the shortfall in funds. The Board can also cooperate with the City of Toronto to a much greater extent to utilize available municipal funds. The TDSB seems irrationally averse to some City/TDSB partnerships which would help mitigate expenses, and the Board has a poor track-record of
    following through on them.

    7. Recently the Canadian Football League and Nissan stepped in to help school boards with the costs of organized sports. Do you support seeking more private investment at the TDSB?

    In certain instances, I absolutely do support more public/private cooperation for the Board, including more access to technology for students sponsored by private enterprise.

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

    The Board needs to indicate that it appreciates and supports teachers and staff, but must be firm in establishing that it must live within its budget, so any wage increases must be kept within amounts the TDSB can afford. Ontario teachers have pension funds which are among the wealthiest in the world and that fact needs to be considered in contract negotiations.

    9. In short time, the agreement between the TDSB and Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council is up for re-negotiation. Do you feel there are changes needed in the current agreement?

    When the contract between the TDSB and Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council expires, it must be placed for an open tender that includes private contractors. I do not believe the current contract serves the best interests of the Board nor the taxpayers who finance it.

    10. TDSB has come under fire for ridiculous expenses – $150 to cut a key, $140 for a pencil sharpener, and a $200 toilet seat are just scratching the surface. How will you bring about a new culture that respects the budget and sees money spent wisely?​

    The culture in place currently at the TDSB is shameful in many regards, and waste of public funds is one among many serious issues which need to be addressed. Trustees must be held more accountable for personal expenses, and for votes which see public expenses wasted in the schools. We need regular audits, including the possibility of a forensic audit of the TDSB, and more transparency of how TDSB funds are spent, including making public all Board spending that can legally be made available through the TDSB website.

  • 2. The TDSB has been faced with a difficult decision about potentially selling school properties. To avoid this, where would you find savings in future budgets? List your top five specific priorities for savings.

    I know there are places in the budget where cost savings can be found, but I have not had the opportunity to examine the budget line-for-line, so I can’t say where exactly. What I can do is offer an example of recent cost savings the board is putting in place. The board will be moving some services such as applying for a permit to an online format, and other simple interfaces like this will move to use modern technology. I believe more example can be found like this.

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

    I can state easily that I do not support a new tax for education.

    4. Failures in special education are considered by some to be the greatest failure in the public system. What is your plan for correcting this?

    The issues around special education are varied and nuanced. I could speak too long to that. I will say that one problem the board has is hiring qualified individuals for assessments and student support because the individuals qualified make a lot more money working outside the school system. We need to find ways to assess students accurately and in a timely fashion, and this is something I am committed to doing. We also need to help teachers and staff as much as possible with, not just the extra staff they need, but better communication with parents, so for instance, a parent does not feel like each school year is a new start with the need to explain yet again the issues of their student(s). Communication is a key part of my platform.

    5. The current board saw the TDSB deficit balloon to $109-million – it’s biggest ever. What is your plan to address this going forward?

    With regards to the TDSB balancing it’s budget. Yes, I believe that is an important part of the job of trustee. I would only consider public/private partnerships where they have a direct impact such as the plan to resurface roofs to put up solar panels, and the plan to create championship playing fields for our students on a year-round basis. I don’t want to see stadiums or buildings renamed with a company name, for instance, as has been happening in sports stadiums around North America. The students should notice greater services and safe, clean buildings, but not company signs.

    7. Recently the Canadian Football League and Nissan stepped in to help school boards with the costs of organized sports. Do you support seeking more private investment at the TDSB?

    I also believe we need to consider public/public partnerships. The levels of government need to work together to bring services to students, especially those in the low-income category who would otherwise have to travel to another location in the city for the services they are needing. Our schools can and should be community hubs.

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

    With regards to union contract negotiations. As you know, the provincial government has taken the bulk of this away from school boards. This does not mean I would give up trying to make sure costs for standard items are reasonable. I would talk with the province and keep lines of communication open with other school boards and the province.