Current school board rep Josh Matlow to run for council in 2010
No incumbent so at least 4 contenders consider run for seat
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Nov. 6 for Town Crier.)
A former school trustee, a young community activist, a pet food mogul and a politically-minded parent are hoping to get a passing grade from the electorate in 2010.
The quartet is musing about running to replace Josh Matlow on the Toronto District School Board. Matlow recently announced he’d be running for city council next year.
Here’s a look at four potential candidates Shelley Laskin, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Jim Walker and Heather Johnston.
Community volunteer Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler
Chaleff-Freudenthaler may be just 24 but he already has a decade of community activism under his belt including stints with the Canadian Federation of Students, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson and Toronto Youth Cabinet.
“The school is the centre of any neighbourhood from daycare to continuing education for seniors. You can’t achieve community dreams without schools,” said Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who is on the Toronto Public Library board.
His community involvement stems from a deep belief in social justice, he said.
“It’s an ethic I was raised with. It’s our obligation to give back to the world.”
He’s also politically active.
When the Town Crier spoke with Chaleff-Freudenthaler on Nov.4, he was at city hall lobbying for a new million-dollar billboard tax with revenues to be directed to youth, culture and the arts.
He said he’s now trying to determine if he’s right for the role of trustee.
“I’m speaking to community leaders about their priorities,” he said. “It isn’t a decision to be rushed.”
Businessman Jim Walker
Walker is president of Global Pet Foods, which he started with one store in the midtown area and has grown to 125 locations across the country.
He said his business savvy is just one asset he could bring to the job of trustee, which he is considering running for.
“It’s important to contribute my own efforts to make sure my kids have a quality education system,” said Walker, who has a three-year-old daughter, 3, and infant son.
“In this neighbourhood we have excellent primary schools and above average secondary schools,” Walker said.
He said ensuring the board and schools are funded properly is key to their continued success.
Walker has run for public office before. In 2000, he ran against veteran St. Paul’s East Councillor Michael Walker. He garnered 4,822 votes to Walker’s 11,542.
Parent and school volunteer Heather Johnston
Johnston has worked on various school committees including volunteering at Hodgson Sr. PS where her daughter attends.
“What concerns me is the TDSB is talking about closing and amalgamating schools,” she said. “It has to be done carefully.”
She said the public school board does have to close some schools with low enrollment, but only after consultation with the community.
“We need more family friendly housing in the city, so we get more kids in Toronto schools and bring enrollment up,” she said.
Johnston plans to make her decision to run early in the new year.
“I thought about running last time, but Josh (Matlow) decided to run again and I support him,” said the 54-year-old mother. “I am at the age now where if you don’t do it, you might regret it.”
Former trustee Shelley Laskin
“I am seriously considering it,” said Laskin, who used to be school trustee in St. Paul’s. “It’s too early to make a decision.”
Laskin is currently working for the provincial government in health promotion.
Current trustee Matlow lives in St. Paul’s and is keeping a close eye on the race from a professional and personal point of view.
“I’d like to vote for a candidate who reflects the priorities of parents and residents of St. Paul’s and continues to work to rebuild the school system so schools in St. Paul’s get needs met,” said Matlow, who is newly married and plans to have kids one day.
“I must admit I will miss many of the experiences I had as trustee,” said Matlow. “I hope to continue my communication with many people after I leave this role.”