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My statement on Mayor John Tory’s endorsement

I am immensely proud to report that Toronto Mayor John Tory is endorsing me for school trustee for Scarborough Southwest.

As I reporter, I covered Mayor Tory both at City Hall and at Queen’s Park. What I learned in the years I was writing about him was that he is a man of immense honesty and integrity. I was not always kind to him in my commentary, but he was always gracious, never rude and always treated me with respect. In return, I have the utmost respect for him.

He is someone you can disagree with without being disagreeable. He listens to others’ views carefully and when he has given his word on something, he keeps that promise.

I am thrilled that he has chosen to endorse me for TDSB school trustee in Scarborough Southwest. I am the only person running for the school board across the city that he is endorsing and that means a great deal to me.

 

My statement on school safety

All children have the right to a safe learning space. I support reinstating the Student Resource Officer program that was cancelled by the Toronto District School Board last year.

In the National Post in January of this year, columnist Christie Blatchford reported on an exhaustive research study that has demonstrated conclusively that young people feel safer in schools where an SRO is present.

“Students benefited one way or another by having an SRO, regardless of their gender, or whether they’d ever been arrested or stopped by the police, or whether they had been victimized.

 “All students … indicated that they felt significantly safer at school and less stressed and anxious” after five months’ exposure to the SRO,” Blatchford reported. 

“And the more contact a student had with an SRO, the more likely he or she was to see the program in a positive light — and fully 75 per cent of the students felt safer because of the SRO,” she said.

Blatchford reports that the 258-page analysis, done by two Carleton University professors and their PhD students, shows unequivocally that students overwhelmingly feel safer in school — and even report sleeping better and feeling less anxiety — with SROs.

If a student doesn’t feel safe in the classroom, he or she will not learn. As a trustee, I will do my utmost to ensure that all students in all schools are able to study and learn while feeling safe and secure. 

Fishing for votes at Bluffers Park

My former Sun colleague Sun-Ann Levy dropped by Scarborough Southwest to see how the school board election campaign is going. Here’s her take.

https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-sun/20181014/281582356594027

School board: The forgotten race

Children are our most precious resource and our future.  We must work to ensure they get the best public education possible. So why is no one paying attention to the school board race that is so vital to the education of our young people?

BLIZZARD: Spotlight has missed school board races

Kind words from John Snobelen

Former Education Minister John Snobelen shared some thoughts about me in the Sun today. Check it out here.

SNOBELEN: Familiar faces hit the election trail

My statement on the math curriculum

Going door to door in Scarborough Southwest, I’m hearing from parents who are worried their children are falling behind in math.

More than half Grade 6 students in this province did not meet the provincial requirements in math. That’s not their fault. That’s not their teachers’ fault.

The blame lies squarely with the curriculum. 

It’s been failing our students years. Over the last decade, there’s been a steady slide in math scores.

Teachers I’ve talked to have spoken of their frustration with a curriculum they know just isn’t working.

When smart kids stumble over simple arithmetic and don’t know their times tables, it sets off alarm bells.

When I was a journalist, I interviewed Dr. Anna Stokke, a University of Winnipeg Math professor who pushed for change in Manitoba.

“People think they want to teach creativity and problem-solving and all that sort of thing from the top down.

“Those are all really good things. We want students to be able to problem solve and think creatively, but they can’t do that unless they have a solid foundation to work on,” she told me several years ago.

Several years ago, she and other math professors started the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math (WiseMath). They were successful in petitioning the Manitoba government to have times tables and standard arithmetic teaching restored to the curriculum.

She told me “terrible textbooks” are party of the problem. Part of the problem, she said, are the “terrible textbooks,” this province uses.

“The big focus is on using multiple strategies for coming up with simple arithmetic.”

Stokke uses the example of multiplication tables. If a child is asked to calculate 8 x 7 and doesn’t know the answer, the new math teaches them complex methods to come up with the answer.

They’ll be told to calculate 4 x 7 — and then double the answer – a ludicrous and convoluted way make an easy calculation

I’m no mathematician, but I do know I use the times tables I learned as a child every day. I use them when I go to the supermarket. I use them when I balance my bank account. 

I’m not suggesting we go back to the old way of kids sitting in rows learning by rote. We need a balanced approach – with children taught the basics they will need for the rest of their lives in a creative fashion.

My statement on the sex-ed curriculum

The province’s health and physical education curriculum – commonly known as sex-ed – is an issue many parents care about and raised as I have gone door to door across Scarborough Southwest.

I have read the entire curriculum and have a vested interest in keeping children safe: My grandson will be entering the public school system before long.

We must educate young people to protect them from on-line stalkers  and sexual predators. They need to be able to understand their bodies and discuss issues such as gender identity, consent  and cyber-bullying.

The new curriculum was introduced without meaningful consultation with parents. That caused hostility and anxiety among groups that did not fully understand its content. It also became overly politicized when the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne chose to hold a vote on it in the Legislature. This turned the curriculum into a divisive and partisan political document, which it should never have been.

The math curriculum does not get voted on in the Legislature. The geography curriculum does not get voted on in the Legislature. It is inappropriate, therefore, for the sex-ed curriculum to be voted on along party lines.

In the past, the Toronto public school board was able to develop parts of its own curriculum, within provincial guidelines. The sex-ed curriculum is an example of why we should revert to that model. Toronto District School Board should produce programs that are appropriate to urban schools and tailor-made for Toronto.

Young people need to have access to information that will keep them safe and families need to have a comfort level with what their children are being taught.

The director of the Toronto District School Board has issued a directive confirming that teacher prompts in the 1998 curriculum allow teachers to address issues from the updated 2015 version. And I support that! 

At one time, sex-ed was an issue that was addressed only by the family. In many instances, that is no longer the case. In the complex world of social media, students need to be taught the knowledge of how to navigate through an often difficult and perilous cyber world. While some parts of the new curriculum were, in my view, not age appropriate, I believe with small tweaks it can work for everyone. 

Scarborough Southwest is a community with a great deal of cultural and religious diversity. Schools must teach sex-ed in a way that respects that diversity and consults with parents every step of the way.

Curricula are living documents that are constantly being up-dated. With consultation and co-operation, we can create a new and better curriculum that will keep our children safe while respecting parental rights.