2014 TDSB Election: Ward 13 – Don Valley West

The Incumbent:

Gerri Gershon

The Race

Trustee Gerri Gershon is up for re-election this year with a couple of opponents, one of whom responded to our survey. We appreciate the shared willingness to address the need for savings and to stay within budget for capital costs. There is a shared sentiment with candidates in other wards to stop the mismanagement at the TDSB.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Pushpa Mathanalingam

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Have always supported measures which are cost-saving and make sense. Not beholden to any political party.
    Hedrick, Don Longer range planning, better priorities for capital savings, reduction and consolidation of space, some outsourcing of services, school-based budgeting with an envelope of funds.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Yes. In union contracts, transportation, program consolidation, cashless schools, and use of technology in accounting and reporting systems.
    Hedrick, Don Sell properties, consolidate more programs under one roof, more imaginative timetabling to permit more students under the same roof.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri No
    Hedrick, Don No


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Evidence-based decision-making
    Hedrick, Don Earlier identification and spaces set aside specifically in best performing schools for students with exceptionalities.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri We must seek efficiencies. Hard to control contracts by federal and provincial legislation.
    Hedrick, Don Use partnerships for funding. Evening and weekend parking fees. Review central departments not central to instruction (Equity).


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Sale of our roofs for the use of solar panels pay for repairs.
    Hedrick, Don Improve contract compliance with penalties.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Yes, with controls and for certain purposes.
    Hedrick, Don Will consider with community acceptance and after establishing specific rules for the nature of the support.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Openness, respect, and excellent analysis and fact.
    Hedrick, Don The major central issues are now bargained at the provincial table.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri Best left to the negotiating table
    Hedrick, Don More contract compliance is needed.


  • Candidate Response
    Gershon, Gerri We have taken great strides to address this issue as listed in many Board reports.
    Hedrick, Don Full electronic disclosure including board meeting minutes.

 

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?

    The TDSB examines its budget yearly. I have always supported measures which are cost saving and make sense. Unlike some of my colleagues I am not beholding to any political party and advocate only for my taxpayers, parents and students. Using our resources wisely is a wise choice

    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.

    Some school closures cannot be avoided because they make program sense and in fact save money. Its difficult to save money in the capital budget- although we are always looking for great efficiencies so that we can redirect fund to our aging buildings which are desperately in need of hundreds of millions of dollars. We cannot possibly find the savings in the operation side that we need for capital.

    We must rethink along with the Provincial Government the entire issue of Capital funding and the way we go about repairing and building schools.Some areas of possible efficiencies however are
    1/ Union Contracts
    2/ Transportation
    3/ program consolidations
    4/cashless schools
    5 Use of technology in accounting and reporting systems

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

    I don’t know much about the implications or the advantages. I do need more information on this. As said previously…. We must rethink along with the Provincial Government the entire issue of Capital funding and the way we go about repairing and building schools.

    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?

    Evidence based decision making must be used so that we lead not only with our hearts but our heads

    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?

    As mentioned previously we must seek efficiencies. It is very difficult to control contracts we had nothing to do with or Provincial and Federal legislation that adds to our costs

    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 are striving so that the sale of our roofs for the use of solar panels pay for the repairs.

    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?

    Yes, but with stick controls and only for certain purposes.

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

    Openness, respect, and excellent analysis and facts

    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?

    No doubt, but its best left to the negotiating table.

    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?​

    We have taken great stride to address this issue as listed in many Board reports.

  • 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?

    1. Longer range planning for operations over a 3 year period.
    2. Better priorities for capital spending.
    3. Reduction and consolidation of space. Many of our schools operate below 50% capacity. Consolidated programs permit more offerings for students.
    - The includes sale of lands and buildings
    4. Some outsourcing of services and sharing of services with other regional school boards eg. warehousing of materials and equipment
    5. School based budgeting and the beginning of decentralization where principals, staff and communities decide priorities for their schools with an envelope of funds.
    6. More partnerships including P3 models in areas of infill.

    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.

    Sell properties – secondary schools running at under 50% have to be examined for possible consolidation
    Consolidate more programs under one roof eg. Western Tech, Ursula Franklin and Student
    School all in the Western Technical and Commercial
    More imaginative timetabling in secondary schools to permit more students under the same  roof  eg. 4 period timetables can be increased to 5 and 6 period timetables to allow flexible programming
    In under enrolled areas consideration to a 7-12 grade school model – permitting a middle school with rotary and the secondary school to operate in the same building

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

    A lot of our programming decisions have caused parents and students to consider and move to  the separate schools and consider private options.
    Full school choice for parents. Allow the schools to essentially be able to develop their own unique programs. Students where students feel welcome and part of the program along with their parents will grow and thrive and those marginal schools not meeting objectives can be reviewed for improvement or disposal.

    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 allocations to be used – 100%. Earlier identification and do not go through identifidcation processes again for students already identified in other jurisdictions. Spaces specifically set aside in the best performing schools for students with exceptionalities.

    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?

    Partnerships to utilize for funding. P3 arrangements and leasebacks of property. Evening and weekend parking fees in areas capable of generating meaningful parking fees. Review of some central departments that are not central to instruction eg. Equity. Foreign student fees to fill half empty schools and to improve the academic tone of schools. Continuous review of building renewal contracts.

    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?

    Improve contract compliance with penalties. Evaluation of contractors and rating of contractor compliance.

    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?

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

    There is very little role for the TDSB in the teacher bargaining since major central issues are now bargained at a provincial table. Understand that teachers over 70% of teachers in the bargaining units have already taken 0% in the first year of the last deal and took between 0.8% and 1.8% cut in the second year.
    Recognize that teachers and principals in Toronto while living in the most expensive area of the province and in the top two expensive areas of the country do not have the highest compensation in the province. Previous negotiations have already dealt with reductions in sick days and compensation for lost days.
    Support staff contract are also tight now.

    Our youngest teachers also have very high student levels.

    Effectively bargaining with the teachers is on non-monetary issues. There is a great deal of bitterness still at the school level.

    The person who wrote this question has not understood the nature of teacher bargaining and negotiations since 1974-75.

    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?

    More efficiencies can be found in the current arrangements however having seen what happens when outside contractors come in, it is not always the best for schools. More contract compliance needed.

    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?​

    Full electronic disclosure including board meeting minutes that are far detailed as was done in the legacy school boards.