2014 TDSB Election: Ward 8 – Eglinton-Lawrence

The Incumbent:

Howard Goodman

The Race

The incumbent is not up for re-election this year. Aaron Grinhaus’ kind words were much appreciated and Ron Singer’s commitment to reducing waste was quite clear, but both of these candidates might have provided more detail in their responses. Claudia Webb brought some experience as a teacher to bear on her answers, providing interesting responses for questions relating to special needs and how to address overspending, but most of her answers could have used a bit more fleshing out.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Jennifer Arp, John Vassal

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Time must be devoted to this subject at each board meeting
    Webb, Claudia Cut where it minimally affects students and teachers


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron 1) line by line evaluation in all areas of spending, 2) sell any art or artifacts 3) cut back on trustee honorariums 4) review the trade council arrangement 5) review consulting contracts
    Webb, Claudia Lease schools instead of selling them, partner with private companies to protect green space.


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron No
    Webb, Claudia  No


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Review the amount of resources spent on special education
    Webb, Claudia Test all children, and look for success stories and replicate them


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Same answer as for question #2
    Webb, Claudia Study budget and  brainstorm with other trustees to find areas for improvement.


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Stop wasteful spending before allocating any new money
    Webb, Claudia Ensure we get the best value for our money


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Yes
    Webb, Claudia Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Cut trustee pay as an example
    Webb, Claudia Avoid strikes and get to a solution that satisfies both sides


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Yes
    Webb, Claudia  Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Grinhaus, Aaron  Did not respond to this specific question. See Full Response.
    Singer, Ron Same answer to question #1
    Webb, Claudia  Cuts created the problem- need to be more careful about what is cut first

 

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?

    Thanks for your email. I am very happy to see a group of citizens who is as concerned as I am with the growing deficits and the shrinking services, and with the specter of tax increases on the horizon. As a tax lawyer these are issues near and dear to my heart, and ones which initially motivated me to run. Although my platform consists of a few other issues I will do my best to address the ones you have raised.
    As an experienced tax lawyer with a small child in the TDSB system I was alarmed to see how inefficient the budgeting and maintenance processes are. Inefficient and wasteful. My goal, if I am elected, is not to “cut” or overhaul the delivery of services, but instead to analyze the budget and identify efficiencies which would reduce costs. In addition, the deficits are caused by the need for services as population and demographics evolve. It is a shame that the province has shut off the taps, so to speak, and imposed funding formulas which are now inadequate to meet those changing needs. The board has also been forced to sell land that WILL BE REQUIRED for new schools and learning facilities, to pay for repairs on existing, crumbling schools. Therefore, approaching the province with effective, objective criteria for the formulation of funding, as well as effectively communicating the long-term funding needs of the school board, is a goal of mine as well.

    This simply involves planning beyond the next election, which, for our children’s education, is worth the effort! Less politics, more objective, professional policy.

    The delivery of educational services is a paramount societal need. Increasing efficiency, creating modern funding strategies and implementing new formulas for funding will help address many of the issues outlined in your questions below. My platform also involves the delivery of special needs, managing TDSB property, and community outreach strategies. An open dialogue is important in order for the board to be effective. The dialogue between the Board, the TDSB bureaucracy, the province, the teachers, the parents, and other stake
    holders is very complex; however, effective consultation and discussion on these levels and around the city is what will make my daughter’s (and every child’s) experience in the classroom as valuable as it can be, so that our kids can maximize their potential.

  • 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 would shine a light on this we have to be aware of it all the time
    Their should be time devoted to this at every board meeting
    Hard earned tax dollars have to be devoted to kids and classrooms

    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 a line by line evaluation in all areas of spending
    2 sell any art or artifacts
    3 cut back on trustee honorariums
    4 look at the trade council arrangement
    5 look at any consulting contracts

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

    No new taxes until spending is brought under control

    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?

    We have to look at the amount of resources devoted to it

    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?

    1 a line by line evaluation in all areas of spending
    2 sell any art or artifacts
    3 cut back on trustee honorariums
    4 look at the trade council arrangement
    5 look at any consulting 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?

    We have to shut off wasteful spending before we can allocate any money

    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 support private investment but it has to be vetted so a project is not detrimental to the TDSB

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

    The trustees have to engage all stakeholders- we have to first cut our pay as an example to them

    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 current system can not continue- the repair costs have to be brought in line
    The schools should be able to do more and I would not oppose more outside bidding on contracts

    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 point 1 I said wasteful spending should be a focus- we should devote time every meeting to go over this how can we ask for more money when are shown to be so wasteful in spending it

  • 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?

    It is important that the School Board maintain a balanced budget as that is its legal responsibility. If elected, I would ensure that the budget remained balanced by dealing with the hard choices facing the Board. We need to spend only what we are given by cutting where it will minimally affect our students and teachers. I am sure that there are areas that we can work on.

    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 am actually not entirely against selling property. I do not think we should sell schools as student populations change and we may need them in the future. However, similar to the Bannockburn situation, we could lease the school until needed in the future. I think we should look at encouraging a relationship with private companies who would be willing to buy school green spaces but who would be willing to share that green space with schools and communities. I am very concerned about the cost of maintenance of schools. I am not referring to general maintenance by custodians but rather bigger jobs requiring contractors. I believe jobs done for the TDSB should be tendered just as in the private sector in order to get the best deal available. Our school pools are such an asset to our local communities but a huge cost to the TDSB. I’d like to look at ways to keep our pools open but keep them funded at minimal cost. It will be difficult to cut anywhere. As a former teacher and a parent, I have seen where too many cuts lead. It will be a difficult decision but I reiterate that maintaining a balanced budget is always a priority.

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

    I wonder if that is possible in Toronto as taxpayers are already overwhelmed by costs. Property taxes increase annually. I really feel we need to focus more on dialogue with the province to ask for the support that we as the largest school board in Canada and fourth largest in North America need.

    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 encompasses a huge gamut of needs. I support a special education program that is flexible in nature. Most children should be in a regular classroom with modified expectations. Some require more intensive support. I have worked as a Resource teacher and have seen first hand the variety of children in the program. It is overwhelming at times. I think we start to identify too late. Early intervention ensures children are working in the right environment and at the right pace. We need to provide testing to all children when they begin school and provide support to the teachers so they can help all children as best they can. I also think we need to have a committee that is searching actively for success stories in the TDSB and other school boards. Then we can replicate those programs elsewhere.

    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?

    Again, it is a requirement that the board submit a balanced budget. I will work hard to make sure this is realized. I plan on scrutinizing the budget and looking for areas that seem problematic. I am an ideas person so I think I can help as a board member to brainstorm solutions which work for all.

    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 think we need to make sure that we have the best price for every job done for the TDSB. It also needs to be done quickly – time is money. We as trustees need to make sure that whoever we hire to do the job does it quickly and at a reasonable cost.

    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. Schools are not just for children. They are a valuable resource for the entire community. The TDSB is struggling to meet the budget without a deficit every year. I think it would be great if the municipal and provincial government could find some way to contribute more financially to education in Toronto but that is somewhat unlikely. It is time to allow private companies to use schools and their facilities to promote community unity, community green space and education in general. We live in a capitalist society so we need to consider using companies to help social programming which is in dire need. However, it has to be done carefully as we do not want to increase the cost of access to these areas for local people. Companies need to see this as a contribution not a way to make money. Their reputation as a philanthropic organization will help them economically but we don’t want to end up with company run schools, fields, gyms etc.

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

    The Government has said that the cost of implementing FDK means no additional money for teaching contracts. However as long as there are unions involved in contract negotiations, there will always be a demand for more. So we have to negotiate a deal that is beneficial to both parties. Eventually, a contract is always signed. I would like to avoid strikes and just get to a fair contract.

    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?

    There is always room for change. We are the only board with an agreement with Skilled trades. I think we have to let them know that if they can’t provide the best price, we have to go elsewhere. And they should not be doing jobs that CUPE or volunteers can handle.

    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?​

    These illogical expenses are in part due to cuts that were made in the past for budgetary reasons. The management position that assigned jobs based on difficulty level was cut and CUPE and skilled trades workers were left to decide which jobs were assigned to whom. The management position needs to be reassigned and this kind of irresponsibility cannot be allowed to happen. This is a cautionary tale about cutting positions and programs. These decisions must be made with a long term focus. We need to assess the long term results of any cut and prepare in advance for it. I am a former teacher and a mother of four children – my eldest was in a specialized dance program in her high school, my other daughter is in the gifted program, and my two sons are young enough that every decision made by the Board over the next four years will impact them. I was a teacher and I know how cuts can impact learning. I have supply taught. I have taught in French Immersion and I have been a resource teacher. So I know that every decision around programming, spending and cutting can seriously impact a school, students, teachers, parents and the community. I would take this opportunity as school trustee very seriously.