Laskin in most heated trustee race in Toronto
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier June 3.)
Former St. Paul’s school trustee Shelley Laskin wants her old job back.
Laskin, who represented the riding from 1997 to 2003, is a candidate in the hotly contested St. Paul’s trustee race.
With incumbent Josh Matlow taking a stab at a council seat, the trustee seat is wide open. Laskin is one of five vying for the spot so far.
“I think it’s an advantage that I’m an experienced trustee,” she said. “The fact I remained involved as a parent and community volunteer allows me the context and perspective.”
She’s served as school council chair at both Hodgson Senior PS and Northern SS and was a three-year representative in trustee Matlow’s ward forum.
“I’m still a known entity through my involvement in schools,” Laskin said.
While she started campaigning in May, she will gear up in the fall when most people turn their attention to the city’s Oct. 25 election. Her key ideas are outlined on her website.
The main issue for her is getting additional quality teachers.
“The single most important factor to a child’s learning is the excellence of the teacher in the classroom,” the mother of three said. “We need to increase human resources. Teacher to student ratios aren’t the best.”
She’d like to see more support so teachers have sufficient class preparation time as well as more education assistants and hall monitors in schools.
“I’m advocating that we take a strong look at the current resources,” Laskin said. “And we have to continue to advocate for more resources. There is a need to fund the system adequately.”
Laskin was appointed as a community rep for the Davisville-Yonge Accommodation Review Committee that recommended additional programming and no school closing for five local facilities. The school board will vote on that June 23.
Having been involved as a parent and community member, she stresses the importance of having parents, students, school board staff and the community all working together at the education decision table.
“Decisions are best made locally with everyone’s involvement,” she said.
She’s also advocating for making schools community hubs, which she said the province has expressed support for. Now is a good time to have those discussions as the school board is making decisions about selling off under-used or closed facilities, she said. And vacant sites could become community or health centres, she added.
Starting in 2004, Laskin worked for the province in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and also the Ministry of Health Promotion.
The province has set up a healthy schools framework.
“I’d like to see every school become a healthy school,” she said.
That means healthier, more caring school environments and more facilities qualifying as eco schools, she said.
Laskin grew up with a mother who was active in social causes and her father, Saul, was mayor of Thunder Bay. He helped with her successful 1997 and 2000 trustee campaigns. He died a year and half ago at age 90.
“I had role models with my parents that demonstrated a sense of what it means to be involved in community,” Laskin said. “Focusing on our students is the most important job. It’s the opportunity to build the community of tomorrow. I’d be honoured to serve the ward again.”
What would make more people pay attention to school trustee races?