2014 TDSB Election: Ward 2 – Etobicoke Centre

The Incumbent:

Chris Glover

The Race

While incumbent Chris Glover mostly defended the work of the TDSB, his insight into why the Board is running deficits (i.e. the province is forcing trustees to pay for wage increases and for full day kindergarten) was very valuable. The other three candidates expressed many fiscally conservative sentiments, with Abdullahi being the most succinct and McKinley being the most detailed. Thiele’s idea to have communities participate in projects to renovate and fix schools is a good one.

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Public website for all expenses, questionable expenses to be flagged, and clearer rules about spending.
    Glover, Chris New manager of facilities is putting GPS in trucks, providing toolboxes to school custodians can make minor repairs, and investigating work orders over budget
    McKinley, Elizabeth Bullet point budgeting instructions and key definitions, top 3 budget items for protection from cost cutting initiatives and all other line items to be cut by 10% in the first year including expense accounts
    Thiele, Stephen Ensure all of the policies are being properly followed and fill gaps in the policies, and elect new trustees across the city.


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Lease the school property after hours, sponsorship of gym, computer lab, playgrounds.
    Glover, Chris Board has reduced central administration by 20%, brought in a new manager to make the facilities department more efficient and cut $200 million in staff, programs and services (6% of staff from existing services)
    McKinley, Elizabeth use outside consultants sparingly, don't cancel contracts already awarded, economize costs and services, low cost sustainability initiatives, preventive maintenance programs
    Thiele, Stephen No selling school property, end partnership with the Confucius Institute and specialized school programs where there is little demand.


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban No
    Glover, Chris No
    McKinley, Elizabeth Will Consider
    Thiele, Stephen No


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Need clearer definition of special education first
    Glover, Chris Special Education Forum improve special needs services in the TDSB- accessible buses for field trips, new Education Plan form to help high school teachers  accommodate students with special needs, social program at Central Etobicoke High School.
    McKinley, Elizabeth Get parents and teachers on the same page, then make sure money is being spent appropriately
    Thiele, Stephen Better understand needs of special needs students.


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Look at other school systems, e-learning is a possibility, charge more for field trips
    Glover, Chris Shortfalls have been generated because the province was cutting funding to pay for Full-Day Kindergarten- the board has cut 200 secondary teachers while hiring 200 Full-Day Kindergarten teachers
    McKinley, Elizabeth In addition to answers to question #1 and #2: leasing space after hours for classrooms, auditoriums and grounds
    Thiele, Stephen Better fiscal management, new revenue streams, review streams of provincial funding, decisive decisions by trustees.


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Update our supplier list and look at private partnerships.
    Glover, Chris Solar panel project will pay for budget
    McKinley, Elizabeth Comprehensive preventive maintenance plans, annual roof inspections and R&M contingencies, 10 year capital plans with standardized school board roof replacement specifications and regional capital tenders.
    Thiele, Stephen Capital improvements prioritized, communities will actively participate in the maintenance and repair of our schools


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Yes
    Glover, Chris Will Consider
    McKinley, Elizabeth Will Consider
    Thiele, Stephen Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Current approach is fine
    Glover, Chris TDSB should insist that the province pay fully for any increased costs they negotiate as finding the money has been the board's responsibility in the past
    McKinley, Elizabeth  Choose fiscally responsible negotiators and set firm standards and penalties
    Thiele, Stephen Proceed with respect for all involved


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Yes
    Glover, Chris Yes
    McKinley, Elizabeth Will Consider
    Thiele, Stephen Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Abdullahi, Suban Pubic Accountability on Public Website
    Glover, Chris Rely on new manager of facilities
    McKinley, Elizabeth Electing fiscally responsible board, regular inspection sweeps, share resources with another school and cross-training of staff, after hours services-severe reprimands, termination and cost recovery for repeat offenders.
    Thiele, Stephen Agenda of fiscal management, implement appropriate technology which will track all work orders and prevent inflated charges.

 

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 all expenses incurred by trustees and other senior administrators should be posted on a public website. Also, the rules and regulations about spending should be clearer: how much do we spend on meals, when can we take taxis etc…If a receipt is handed in for an expense not to do with schooling (for example, a day at the spa), this should be flagged, and posted on the website. Shame goes a long way.

    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 believe we can lease the school property after hours, weekends and in the summer. I also believe we can have “sponsorship” of our schools. For instance, put a donor’s name on the gym, on the computer lab, and on the playgrounds. Private Public Partnerships do work.

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

    Before we even start thinking about more taxes we should look at the books and see how wisely we are spending our education dollars. Lets look to our business community before we hit taxpayers in the pocket.

    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?

    Well, first we have to define special education. What is its intent? Who says it’s not working? What are the benchmarks we are using to measure success? Is it student disinterest, untrained teachers? What happens to the special education student when he/she leaves the protected school system? Who will advocate for him/her then? Continuity is important.

    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?

    We should look at school systems around the world that are making schooling work with less dollars. More money doesn’t produce better grades. Where is Board money being spent? E-learning will go a long way in reducing purchase costs. It saddens me to say, but perhaps there will be a time when we will have to start charging students to take extra curricular activities. As it is, they pay to go to the theatre and school trips.

    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?

    Again, lets update our supplier list, and let’s look at private partnerships.

    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.

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

    The current approach is fine: respect one another.

    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?

    I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure the ball is in our court, so let’s negotiate in our favour.

    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?​

    Public accountability on a public website. Who approved these expenses? Who is asleep at the switch. If we’re looking to save money, we could have saved $145 on the key, $139 on the pencil, and we could have FIXED the toilet seat. Common sense folks. Those savings could have sent a few more students to Stratford or Shaw


    • 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 board’s spending problems were largely in the facilities department. Early in my term as Trustee we brought in a new manager of facilities, Angelos Bacapoulos. He has spent the past three years making the department function more efficiently by putting GPS in trucks to monitor where workers are, providing toolboxes so school custodians can make minor repairs, and tracking and investigating work orders that come in over budget. There is still work to be done, but Angelos is moving the department in the right direction to make sure that we as taxpayers get good value for our money.

      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.

      Over the past 16 years the board has sold 59 properties. The TDSB cannot sell more properties without sacrificing the ability to accommodate future growth, as the next wave of enrolment growth is now entering our schools. We also cannot continue to sell more properties without sacrificing green space where children play. In the summer of 2013, the Ministry refused to accept the TDSB’s capital plan unless it included revenue from the severance and sale of portions of schoolyards. I voted against this plan. I do not believe we should be sacrificing green space where children play in order to have a one time cash infusion.

      As for other cuts, over the past four years, the board has reduced central administration by 20%, brought in a new manager to make the facilities department more efficient and cut $200 million in staff, programs and services (6% of staff from existing services). There will undoubtedly be further shortfalls from the provincial funding formula, but further savings are getting harder to find.

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

      Toronto is already paying more than its share of education taxes. When I was teaching high  school in the 1990s, Toronto schools were well funded. At that time the education portion of our property taxes went directly to the school boards. Today the education portion of our property taxes goes to the provincial government, and they give some of it back to the TDSB. Since the province took control of education taxes, the provincial funding formula has generated an annual funding shortfall of between $25 and $110 million. These shortfalls have to be made up through cuts to staff programs and services. We don’t need a new tax, we need to get the taxes we are still paying back to our local school board.

      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?

      In contrast to your question, the TDSB provides the most diverse and well recognized special education services in the province, and probably in the country. If you visit a school like Seneca (on Rathburn at Renforth in Etobicoke) you will see an incredibly dedicated staff supporting the learning of students with multiple special needs.

      That being said, there is always a need to improve what we are doing. So for the past four years, I have held monthly meetings of a Special Education Forum, a place for parents, students, and staff to look for ways to improve special needs services in the TDSB. The Forum has made accessible buses available for field trips so students who use wheelchairs can ride with their classmates, introduced a new Education Plan form to more quickly let high school teachers know how to accommodate students with special needs in their classes, and led to a social program being introduced at Central Etobicoke High School.

      There is still more to be done, so I look forward to continuing to work with the Forum in the coming years.

      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 you say, the funding shortfall of $109 million in 2011 was the biggest ever. The other shortfalls over the past four years were $50 million, $55 million and $25 million. The TDSB is not introducing new programs that are generating the shortfalls, the TDSB is just trying to provide the same services it did in previous years – the shortfalls are generated by the provincial funding formula, which each year demands cuts to existing services. Recently, for example, these shortfalls have been generated because the province was cutting funding from secondary schools in order to generate revenue to pay for Full-Day Kindergarten. This has meant that for the past two years, the board has cut 200 secondary teachers while hiring 200 Full-Day Kindergarten teachers. Balancing the budget over the past couple of years has come down to a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

      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?

      The solar panel project will cover the cost of most roof repairs that are needed.

      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?

      We have many private organizations that support our students, particularly with our nutrition programs. These programs provide benefit to our students and are a real example of selfless philanthropy.

      In some cases, however, marketers want to use our schools as a place to provide advertising to a captive audience of children. I do not support this use of our schools.

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

      Contract negotiations have been frustrating for school boards because, for the past 10 years, the province has negotiated pay increases for staff, then not provided the money to pay for the increases, instead they have told boards to pay for the increases by cutting existing services. This has been one of the sources of the continuous shortfalls described in #5. In the upcoming negotiations, the TDSB should insist that the province pay fully for any increased costs they negotiate.

      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 need greater flexibility particularly with regard to the 3% surcharge that was negotiated in 1998 on any work not done by the Council.

      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?​

      See answer to #1. The new facilities manager has been working on bringing about a new culture since he was hired in the summer of 2011. I will support any initiative that provides greater value for our tax dollars.


      • 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?

        Overspending is directly tied to duplication, waste and personal causes. Clear and concise operating procedures are key. As is, accountability. First step, prepare bullet point budgeting instructions and key definitions. Next step, identify top 3 budget items for protection from cost cutting initiatives. All other line items to be cut by 10% in the first year including expense accounts. We then monitor operation and track any variances for action. We can spend our budget monies more wisely and efficiently than we are.

        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.

        #1 – use outside consultants sparingly (consultant fees are high and their opinions aren’t warranted when decisions can be made in house).

        #2 – avoid penalty fees by not cancelling project contracts that have already been awarded (how many times have we seen politicians stop work just because it was started by another politician? – this is gross misconduct).

        #3 – when awarding new service contracts, economize costs and services.

        #4 – employ low cost sustainability initiatives (adjust lighting schedules, rain sensors for irrigation systems, photo cells for exterior lighting, seasonal temperature set backs, drought resistant planting, etc).

        #5 – implement preventive maintenance programs in order to meet the estimated useful life of all systems (then don’t replace the system until it needs to be replaced).

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

        I’d need to see more details before I can give you a useful answer. That said, I support ONE public school system.

        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?

        This is a tough one. Teachers will tell you that they make every effort to identify and help special needs children but parents often feel differently and emotions are understandably running high. The first step is to try and get parents and teachers on the same page. This means better communication between all parties in order to bring a clear understanding of each situation on a case by case basis. The next peice is to ensure that the budgeted funds are being used properly.

        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?

        See my comments to questions 1 & 2 for cost cutting initiatives. I’d also like to see alternative revenue streams identified for co-op programs, donations and for the properties themselves (ie: leasing space after hours for classrooms, auditoriums and grounds for socially accepted events and classes)

        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?

        I’m still on the outside so I don’t have access to all documentation but it all starts with comprehensive preventive maintenance plans. Annual roof inspections and R&M contingencies in the regular operating budget will ensure we reach the full life expectency of the roof systems. Followed by 10 year capital plans identifying and planning for upcoming roof replacements based on the estimated life of a roof system with standardized school board roof replacement specifications for the various roof types (EPDM, BUR, etc.) to lessen consultant costs on the front end. Lastly we economize costs with regional capital tenders.

        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?

        For organized sports, yes. Help from outside entities in this regard can benefit everyone providing TDSB ethical and operating standards are upheld.

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

        Coolers heads will prevail. The reality is, we all share common goals and we all want the best for our children. Let’s start with choosing fiscally responsible representatives capable of working together and setting firm standards and penalties for adults who fail to respect their peers.

        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?

        I’d like to reserve the right for further comment on this because I haven’t read the full agreement. That said, renegotiation is the time to tighten operating efficiencies and cut costs ideally through consolidation of work and services.

        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 need a culture of accountability. A culture that is proactive not reactive. It starts with electing a fiscally responsible board that will work together and keep it simple. Too often we makes things more complicated than they are. Nearly every problem the TDSB faces can be solved with logic and a spirit of cooperation. By way of example, planning and common sense can easily take care of the items you noted in your question.

        Regular inspection sweeps, as part of a greater preventive maintenance program including the toilet seats and pencil sharpeners, can be done with replacement planned in bulk followed by keeping parts in stock for those one-off failures. Should your school run out of stock, share resources with another school. To save outside labour costs, on site staff can be trained and compensated accordingly to complete household type maintenance work in keeping with their contracts. With respect to cutting a key if this item is for emergency after hours lock smith services it should be labelled as such, if it really is as bad as it sounds, severe reprimands are warranted for all involved. Clear language should be built into all contracts to levy penalties for the blatant misuse of public funds, including termination and potentially cost recovery for repeat offenders.


        • 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?

          Toronto school board trustee have mismanaged the Board. As evidence by  the Ernst & Young audit and the internal TDSB audit conducted this year, numerous policies have been breached which has resulted in the diversion of funds away from school programs and unnecessary over-spending. The first step is to ensure that all of the policies currently in place are being properly followed and where there are gaps in the policies which permit inappropriate spending, to fill them. Every dime possible must be put into the schools. The Board must be held accountable. However, the only way to achieve greater accountability is to elect new trustees across the city.

          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.

          Schools or school property do not have to be sold. Nevertheless, the Board must critically assess the state of its schools and make decisive decisions regarding their future use. There are options which should be explored.

          In addition, it is not necessarily wise to cut items from the budget without having an opportunity to fully assess it on a line-by-line item basis and without having an opportunity to consider where additional revenues can be obtained.

          In the past, the Board has made a number of decision which have deprived it of revenue. However in direct response to your question, the Board should immediately end its partnership with the Confucius Institute and prioritize strengthening its basic education program rather than establishing specialized school programs where there is little demand.
          The Board should also immediately review decisions which were made in contravention of either Board or provincial policies to determine if funds improperly diverted from our school programs can be recovered.

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

          A special “education tax” is unnecessary.

          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?

          It is my understanding that special education needs are not being met. The only way to resolve the problem is to understand, from a professional basis and from those parents directly impacted, the needs of special education students. The Board must better deliver services to special education students and meet their needs promptly.

          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?

          Better fiscal management, examine potential new revenue streams, and review all streams of provincial funding so as to ensure future access to as much available funding as possible. In addition, years of inaction by our trustees must be replaced with decisive decisions.

          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?

          Capital improvements must be prioritized. This can be achieved through a better understanding that schools represent social meeting places in our community and that there is a great willingness in many communities to actively participate in the maintenance and repair of our schools. If we truly want to ensure that our schools are not crumbling or in a state of disrepair, then we must accept assistance wherever available.

          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.

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

          Contract negotiations must proceed with honesty and in good faith. They must start and end from the fundamental premise that we are all in the same boat.

          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?

          Please see 8 above. Any changes to the contract must be acceptable to both sides.

          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 Board needs someone to champion an agenda of fiscal management and to ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are being followed. I will champion these causes and work with staff to develop appropriate policies, and where necessary, implement appropriate technology which will track all work orders and prevent inflated charges for all expenditures, minor or major.