2014 TDSB Election: Ward 21 – Scarborough-Rouge River

The Incumbent:

Shaun Chen

The Race

The incumbent in this race did not provide his views on the TDSB issues discussed in our Voting Guide. Interesting, considering he is running for re-election as Trustee and for a political nomination at the federal level of government.  The candidate that did respond provides ideas on how to scale back on spending and move forward with responsible spending measures at TDSB.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Shaun Chen, Aasia Khatoon, Krishanthy Sarojkumaran, Piravena Sathiyanantham, Phoenix Yuan

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah Overspending at the school board is due to a lack of accountability and mismanagement of funds. It is also due to having maintenance contracts and procurement contracts that are outrageously high and above average from the current market. We need to end contracts that are not affordable.


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah 1) Accountability for use of taxpayer dollars.2) Rent out current school space.3) Fundraising efforts.4) External Audits every two years.5) Analyzing Staffing Cost


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah No


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah  "Certain areas of special educational needs (such as slow and challenged learners) are often isolated from the mainstream student body. Buddy programs and mentorship programs within schools would go a long way to help special education needs students integrate into society."


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah See number 2


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah There must be competitive bidding on any contracts, including roofing contracts. Trustees have to ensure that they are informed about each project on an ongoing basis to prevent over expenditures.


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah Will consider


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah TDSB can negotiate staffing contracts with incentives that does not have monetary values. We also have to monitor the percentage of salary increases so that it remains within an affordable budget.


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah The MCSTC is under the guidance of the TDSB and they do not go ahead on work that is not approved by staff members of the TDSB. In looking at renegotiations, work completed in schools should be open for competition.


  • Candidate Response
    Lieberman, Jeevitha Deborah Staff and trustees need to be educated on frugal practices. They should also be consequences for misspending funds. Trustees should be leaders in how to spend money wisely.

 

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?

    Overspending at the school board is due to a lack of accountability and mismanagement of funds. It is also due to having maintenance contracts and procurement contracts that are outrageously high and above average from the current market. We need to end contracts that are not affordable. I would also look at the current use of funds, and the places in which we are unnecessarily overspending. Another issue – that we need to look at is the School Trustee expenditures. We need to have tighter guidelines/policies and consequences on how the trustees spend TDSB funds. One of the consequences should be that trustees pay back the funds that they spend for personal use. There needs to be firm accountability and transparency towards the taxpayers about every dollar that is spent. This information must be available for the public.

    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 top five specific priorities for savings are:
    1) Accountability for use of taxpayer dollars. The mismanagement of the TDSB funds has caused a ridiculous amount of spending on items. It is imperative that this be stopped.
    2) Rent out current school space. Currently, many school spaces are unused when they could be occupied by Canadian businesses and the community, especially during the summer. I would look at the process through which communities/ businesses can access these space and provide rental income to the TDSB.
    3) Fundraising efforts. Schools should not be left alone to fundraise for themselves. There are many agencies that are happy to work with youth and provide funding for necessary programs. I would look at connecting major businesses with schools to create partnerships. Many major businesses (such as RBC feeding our future) would be happy to connect with schools and the community to raise awareness of their businesses (that do not affect children’s health or values) in exchange for donating money for additional school programs.
    4) External Audits every two years. There is a lack of accountability for how money is being spent by the TDSB. This will aid TDSB to monitor expenses and their budget. The recommendations of the audits must be implemented.
    5) Analyzing Staffing Cost – It is important that trustees adhere to a provincial freeze on staff salaries (Example: Senior staff were given raises amounting to $1.2million dollars when there was a provincial freeze on salaries)

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

    I do not support this proposal, as there is money within the budget, but it is being mismanaged. We must first look at how the money is being used and they ways in which we can bring in more funds.

    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 current design for special educational needs, and specifically challenged learners, fails to incorporate these students as members of the school. We must look at the beginning to the end of the journey, how students transition into the school system in junior kindergarten to how they leave the school system. Certain areas of special educational needs (such as slow and challenged learners) are often isolated from the mainstream student body. While special education needs students do need extra attention, there must also be a culture of acceptance, that is taught from an early age. Buddy programs and mentorship programs within schools would go a long way to help special education needs students integrate into society. As for gifted students, schools must focus on specific programs that these students can be a part of, so that each school has a specific skill set it can offer to exceptional 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?

    See number 2

    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?

    There must be competitive bidding on any contracts, including roofing contracts. Trustees have to ensure that they are informed about each project on an ongoing basis to prevent over expenditures.

    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?

    It seems like a slippery slope when introducing major businesses into the school arena, but if this is done carefully and with consideration for both parties, it can be a major benefit to schools as well as to businesses. Allowing for external Canadian funding will help reduce the budget as well as help students achieve. As long as contracts are put in place and private investments don’t become direct advertising within schools, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

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

    TDSB can negotiate staffing contracts with incentives that does not have monetary values. We also have to monitor the percentage of salary increases so that it remains within an affordable budget.

    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?

    The MCSTC is under the guidance of the TDSB and they do not go ahead on work that is not approved by staff members of the TDSB. In looking at renegotiations, work completed in schools should be open for competition.

    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?​

    Staff and trustees need to be educated on frugal practices. They should also be consequences for misspending funds. Trustees should be leaders in how to spend money wisely.