Public and Separate School Trustee Debates

Last night, candidates for local Trustee and City Council squared off in the Mount Dennis Legion Hall on Weston Road. The debates were jointly organized by the Mount Dennis, Rockcliffe Smythe and Weston Community associations. The evening began with a debate between two of the five Public School Trustee candidates, Kevin Milburn and two-term incumbent Chris Tonks – for the benefit of about 20 people. The debate was cordial with the two candidates respectful of one another.

Moderator Judith Hayes, Kevin Milburn and Chris Tonks
Moderator Judith Hayes, Kevin Milburn and Chris Tonks

Paralegal Kevin Milburn’s views on education seem to be mainly through the prism of his volunteer work at H.J. Alexander P.S. and says he has spent thousands of hours observing what goes on in the school calling it a model for others. Milburn was able to point to some of the recent scandals at TDSB calling the organization ‘somewhat dysfunctional’ and objects to having ’20 school superintendents all making over $100,000′. He feels that the board could get by with fewer superintendents, claiming that principals and vice-principals ‘don’t need as much supervision’ but instead they need mentoring. He also feels that there is too much red tape and insurance requirements getting in the way of community access to schools after hours. He would get rid of the Board’s permit program and use Toronto’s Parks and Rec to organize after school activities. His three top priorities are fiscal responsibility, student success and infrastructure repairs.

Lawyer Chris Tonks feels that the solution to school excellence and low minority graduation rates is a ‘great principal’. Unlike Milburn, he believes that the Board’s scandals have been taken care of, ‘people have been terminated’. He would like to see all elementary schools revert to a JK – 8 format to foster greater student involvement and attachment. He agrees with Milburn’s criticism that it is more difficult for communities to gain access to schools after hours and offers the suggestion that other levels of government should contribute to after-hours programs. He says that since amalgamation, boards have moved away from people and feels that ‘perhaps we should break down our Board’ into smaller components that would be more responsive to community needs. On the topic of fundraising, Tonks acknowledges the disparity faced by schools in a poor demographic area and allows that there is a need to find ways to increase funding for these schools. His three top priorities are financial integrity, investing in schools and after school programs.

In between the trustee debates was the City Councillor debate which is dealt with in a separate article.

At the end of the evening, only one candidate, Frank D’Amico was present for the Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee debate so the format became question and answer.

Frank D'Amico
Frank D’Amico

A serving member of the Army Reserve, 7th Toronto Regiment, D’Amico feels that funding is the number one issue facing the TCDSB. He feels that even though funding is supposed to be the same as that in the Public Boards, in practice, ‘We get a little bit less’. One of his fears is that if budget problems aren’t tackled, the Province might take over the Board’s financial affairs. D’Amico says he really enjoys being a trustee and visits schools in the Ward as often as he can as it helps him be better informed. On the role of trustees in advocating on behalf of parents, he feels that he should listen to parents, bring any issues to the board and report back. His top priorities are balancing the budget and ensuring that St. John the Evangelist school gets built.

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