2014 TDSB Election: Ward 15 – Toronto-Danforth

The Incumbent:

Cathy Dandy

The Race

Ward 15 candidate Cathy Dandy faces tougher competition in 2014 in her bid for re-election. Toronto-Danforth residents will decide if they are content with the status quo or if a fresh approach is needed. Three out of five contenders have shared their views with us on whether a shift in attitude is needed at the TDSB. All three candidates below agree that improvements can be made to the Board’s agreement with the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Sergio Otoya, Jennifer Story

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy The TDSB Trustees have never ignored spending problems. Our focus in hiring Directors has always been to have someone at the helm that understands the critical nature of proper spending, cutting waste and improving service delivery.
    Johnston, Robert All expenditures need to be reviewed by the board and going over budget should not be an option that should be considered. Not when there are so many questionable spends by the board."
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Need to be transparent, and forthcoming, and proactive. Our first step is to ensure that we have a strong system in place, and that these types of spending problems do not occur. Period. Experts are needed, to provide guidance: on market rates, and we need to set caps on what the trade unions can charge.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy The key to preserving properties is to move to an integrated service delivery model.
    Johnston, Robert 1. Drawing estimates and proposals from suppliers with penalties for over estimated amounts and completion dates. 2/Spends on supplies.  3/Spends on repairs. 4/Spending on opening of additional schools.  5/Explore opportunities for corporate support of school enhancement on a community support platform that would allow corporate rights and tax credits without giving into profitable resolutions that jeopardize the educational system.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Selling school properties is not the answer. We need to get the repair and maintenance costs in order, and work with the Province to change the funding formula on the Education Development Charge. Currently, the TDSB is not eligible for funding under the current formula, as the TDSB must show that all schools are at capacity.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy Will consider
    Johnston, Robert No
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria No


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy I have examined how other school boards deliver special education and I have been advocating for the TDSB to consider other delivery methods. I also have advocated for a detailed accounting of each school’s special education needs and then a comprehensive plan to maximize resources and partner with other agencies to deliver additional services.
    Johnston, Robert Not all special needs are the same so a general policy for dealing with this is the biggest problem. Each individual situation needs to be dealt with as a singular not as a rule.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria We have a great system in place, but we need to provide better support and guidance. I will propose that we have resource teachers, with specialities in special education, integrated into classrooms. This will allow for all students to get extra support, and will not take kids out of the classroom, where they may feel stigmatized.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy The reality is that the TDSB balanced its budget earlier than ever and there is no deficit. By law, we are not allowed to carry a deficit and the Board has worked diligently to streamline and even cut necessary teachers to balance the books. I find this distressing and the TDSB must have a strategy to work with other Boards to hold the provincial government to account. They promised to revise the inadequate education funding model in 2010 and they have failed to live up to that promise.
    Johnston, Robert Review all spending, eliminate political motivated spends and also reckless spending and focus on educational benefits.  More RFP with specific guidelines should help eliminate and control more of the process ultimately reducing the spends.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Getting our share of The Education Development Charge would be a huge asset to the TDSB. And, once we get the repairs and maintenance charges under strict control, I believe we will be in a better position to balance the budget.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy We have worked with staff to create an accountability mechanism and our projects continue to stay within budget.
    Johnston, Robert Vendors need to held accountable for staying within their estimates.  Suppliers need to be pushed for actuate estimates and could be offered additional projects based on estimate accuracy and penalized for over budget additional requirements.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Providing a transparent and public forecast of the cost of the repairs is a must. We need to keep in mind that there is a maintenance backlog of $3 Billion. Need to prioritize repairs, and we should explore partnerships with Eco-friendly companies that can expedite repairs, and help with costs.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy No
    Johnston, Robert Yes
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Will consider


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy We have an excellent negotiating team at the TDSB and the goal of that team is to work out a fair deal that supports teacher excellence and student learning.
    Johnston, Robert The TDSB should also be proactively looking at all factors now and evaluating, calculating what is fiscally responsible and possible as a precursor to going to the table.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Since negotiations are between the Province and the Unions, my focus would be on ensuring that my community is kept informed every step of the way.


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy Yes
    Johnston, Robert Yes
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Dandy, Cathy In actual fact, the TDSB had already found some unwise spending although these were the exception not the rule. We continue to push our Director to demonstrate excellent budget management and project control.
    Johnston, Robert I got 3 keys for $12. dollars the other day. Changing the culture is related to the elected trustees, trustees need to be reminded that the tax payer is not a bottomless pit. A strong educational system requires money management. Every dollar wasted is a dollar lost to the support of education which is the reason the board exists.
    Saras-Voutsinas, Maria I cannot see how anyone would disagree in the fact that we need to respect taxpayers by spending money wisely. Our focus needs to be on the administration, teachers, and ultimately, our children. We need to cap costs, in a way that reflects market rates, making it fair for everyone.

 

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 Trustees have never ignored spending problems. Our focus in hiring Directors has always been to have someone at the helm that understands the critical nature of proper spending, cutting waste and improving service delivery. One of the people hired by the Director was the head of Facilities who identified the issues named in the Toronto Star before they were published. Although this was not reported, our staff had already moved to correct many of the problems. I have always believed that, despite chronic underfunding by the Provincial government (cost of salaries and textbooks are not even covered), we work constantly to spend money in the places that are critical to student success. I will continue to fight for this and endeavour to elect a Chair that believes in this as well.

    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.

    The key to preserving properties is to move to an integrated service delivery model. We want to keep our schools because they fill up again (two in the south end of my ward were empty and under threat of closure and now they are full!). But we need to maintain them and keep them in good shape. If we integrate other public services into our sites such as mental health delivery, first level health care services for seniors, childcare, etc., other Ministries reach the public with their services right in the community and they help to pay for the buildings.

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

    I think that this is a possibility worth considering but it would have to come with transparency in knowing where it was spent. In this age of online access, I believe we should be able to demonstrate value for money to the public if this was the route that the government chose to take.

    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?

    I work in the children’s mental health sector and mental health and special education have been a focus for me for both terms. I have examined how other school boards deliver special education and I have been advocating for the TDSB to consider other delivery methods. I also have advocated for a detailed accounting of each school’s special education needs and then a comprehensive plan to maximize resources and partner with other agencies to deliver additional services.

    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?

    The reality is that the TDSB balanced its budget earlier than ever and there is no deficit. By law, we are not allowed to carry a deficit and the Board has worked diligently to streamline and even cut necessary teachers to balance the books. I find this distressing and the TDSB must have a strategy to work with other Boards to hold the provincial government to account. They promised to revise the inadequate education funding model in 2010 and they have failed to live up to that promise.

    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 worked with staff to create an accountability mechanism and our projects continue to stay within budget.

    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 believe that public education is in the best interests of the public and proper use of taxes should support it. The United States has moved to heavy investment by private companies and this has resulted in schools being closed if they did not meet the needs of the corporation and curriculum being directed by private interests. This does not serve the public good. There is no reason that public taxes, spent wisely, cannot pay for our children’s education.

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

    Much of the negotiations take place at the provincial level now. We have an excellent negotiating team at the TDSB and the goal of that team is to work out a fair deal that supports teacher excellence and student learning.

    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?

    All contracts need improving and, as noted in question 8, the goal of our negotiating team is to work out a fair deal that supports students.

    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?​

    In actual fact, the TDSB had already found some unwise spending although these were the exception not the rule. As noted in question 1, one of the people hired by the Director was the head of Facilities who identified the issues named in the Toronto Star before they were published. Although this was not reported, our staff had already moved to correct many of the problems.

    We continue to push our Director to demonstrate excellent budget management and project control.

  • 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?

    All expenditures need to be reviewed by the board and going over budget should not be an option that should be considered. Not when there are so many questionable spends by 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.

    Without reviewing the spends it is difficult however’ number 1. Drawing estimates and proposals from suppliers with penalties for over estimated amounts and completion dates.

    2/Spends on supplies.  3/Spends on repairs. 4/Spending on opening of additional schools.  5/Explore opportunities for corporate support of school enhancement on a community support platform that would allow corporate rights and tax credits without giving into profitable resolutions that jeopardize the educational system.

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

    New taxes are not the answer and should only be considered as a last resort. They only leads to more reckless spending. Responsible spend could yield the same gains without adding to tax payer burdens.

    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?

    Not all special needs are the same so a general policy for dealing with this is the biggest problem. I have witnessed different special need children being dealt with in the same fashion. Each individual situation needs to be dealt with as a singular not as a rule. That way it will allow us to create policies for each special need rather than a general rule.

    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?

    Review all spending, eliminate political motivated spends and also reckless spending and focus on educational benefits.  More RFP with specific guidelines should help eliminate and control more of the process ultimately reducing the spends.

    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?

    Vendors need to held accountable for staying within their estimates. Estimates for repair projects need to be closely scrutinized to ensure estimated amounts are actuate. Suppliers need to be pushed for actuate estimates and could be offered additional projects based on estimate accuracy and penalized for over budget additional requirements.

    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?
    Absolutely corporate fundings is great way to introduce added capital without impacting the tax payer. I support increasing this as long as it does not impact education and is tightly controlled and regulated by the board.

    I would also advocate additional tax benefits for corporations that contribute to the educational system to encourage support.

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

    This is a difficult question without knowing the demands. I believe the TDSB should listen and review the contract and act based on the demands. We are in a critical time with regards to wage demands, benefits and available funds for maintaining any increases.

    The TDSB should also be proactively looking at all factors now and evaluating, calculating what is fiscally responsible and possible as a precursor to going to the table.

    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?

    Without a doubt, if these trades are not working within budgeted amounts the agreements must be reevaluated and adjusted accordingly.

    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?​

    I got 3 keys for $12. dollars the other day.

    There is no reason for these spends. All these generic items should be contracted to a single suppliers by RFP this would allow the TDSB the opportunity to do actual market comparison and ensure retail or better’ pricing.  The major cause of reckless spending is laziness and convenience.

    Changing the culture is related to the elected trustees, trustees need to be reminded that the tax payer is not a bottomless pit. A strong educational system requires money management. Every dollar wasted is a dollar lost to the support of education which is the reason the board exists.

  • 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?

    Finding out about overspending via investigative journalism makes taxpayers cynical. We need to be transparent, and forthcoming, and proactive. Our first step is to ensure that we have a strong system in place, and that these types of spending problems do not occur. Period. Experts are needed, to provide guidance: on market rates, and we need to set caps on what the trade unions can charge.

    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.

    Selling school properties is not the answer. We need to get the repair and maintenance costs in order, and work with the Province to change the funding formula on the Education Development Charge. Currently, the TDSB is not eligible for funding under the current formula, as the TDSB must show that all schools are at capacity. While a number of schools are over-flowing, others have space. In a city our size, and with different pockets growing rapidly, while others remain stagnant, we will likely never be able to satisfy that requirement, and we are losing out on millions from the Province, and Developers.

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

    NO!

    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?

    I have met many frustrated parents that have given up, and taken their chidlren out of the public school system, and placed them into private schools, where they believe their children will receive better support. We have a great system in place, but we need to provide better support and guidance. I will propose that we have resource teachers, with specialities in special education, integrated into classrooms. This will allow for all students to get extra support, and will not take kids out of the classroom, where they may feel stigmatized.

    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?

    Getting our share of The Education Development Charge would be a huge asset to the TDSB. And, once we get the repairs and maintenance charges under strict control, I believe we will be in a better position to balance the budget.

    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?

    Providing a transparent and public forecast of the cost of the repairs is a must. We would need to continue to inform the public of how we are doing, financially, every step of the way. We need to keep in mind that there is a maintenance backlog of $3 Billion. In order to get moving, and stay within budget, we need to prioritize repairs, and we should explore partnerships with Eco-friendly companies that can expedite repairs, and help with costs.

    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 my ward, a Private Partnership within an elementary school proved to be beneficial to that school, and it was supported by many parents (a milk vending machine). I would need to consult with the community should we be faced with similar initiatives.

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

    Since negotiations are between the Province and the Unions, my focus would be on ensuring that my community is kept informed every step of the way.

    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?

    Yes. We would need to ensure that both taxpayers, and the unions get a fair deal.

    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?​

    Yes, the infamous sharpener! TDSB Trustees need to work together, in a cooperative environment. I cannot see how anyone would disagree in the fact that we need to respect taxpayers by spending money wisely (i.e. allowing caretaking staff to hang pictures, and install sharpeners). Our focus needs to be on the administration, teachers, and ultimately, our children. We need to cap costs, in a way that reflects market rates, making it fair for everyone.