Outgoing trustee Matlow hosts all-candidates’ debate
Trustee candidates square off in heated race
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier June 4.)
About 30 parents and educators peppered St. Paul’s school trustee candidates with questions at a June 3 debate hosted by outgoing trustee Josh Matlow.
Matlow’s running for a council seat and five trustee candidates have registered for the wide-open race. Candidates Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Shelley Laskin, Mark Tishman and Mike Wiener debated issues raised by parents in the audience at Maurice Cody PS. A fifth registered candidate, Maya Worsoff, wasn’t there because Matlow wasn’t able to find contact information to invite her.
Candidate Tishman said if elected, he’d make fixing the provincial education funding formula a top priority. He’d like to see it redesigned to allow more flexibility for schools to spend some of the money on local education priorities.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler said he’s running on a three-issue platform: turning half empty schools into community hubs, professional development for teachers and fixing the funding formula.
Wiener, who attended local schools, said he endured three education-related strikes as student and doesn’t want to see more.
Laskin, who was the local trustee from 1997 to 2003, said having excellent teachers who are supported is her top priority.
Candidates also addressed issues like the funding formula, the $2.8 million capital maintenance backlog, boutique schools that cater to specific groups, and changing the rules to allow parents and students to pick which local school they attend.
Wiener said that the maintenance backlog is a real deterrent for students.
“I remember friend of mine switching to private schools because they have better sports fields,” said Wiener.
And for students and parents wanting to donate time or equipment to improve a school, they often hit roadblocks.
“When I was a student at Northern, I tried to get a donation of machines (allowed) to the metal shop. The teacher told me it wasn’t possible,” Wiener said.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler sat on the Toronto Public Library board for three years helping work on balanced budgets, and said this experience will come in handy.
The School board director wants to create four new schools: all-boys, all-girls, a choir and a sports academy. A parent asked who supported this idea.
Laskin said it was worth a try: “if we can draw kids back into the system, we will know if they (schools) are successful by attendance.”
Tishman and Chaleff-Freudenthaler were not enthusiastic about these type of schools, but Wiener said he supported the school as pilot type projects.
School enrollment boundaries
A parent asked who supported the idea of more flexibility in terms of which local school students could attend if their home school was not the preferred site.
Tishman said, “if your school closes, your child should be bumped to the top of the list (for another school).”
But circumstance needs to be considered based on different scenarios, said Chaleff-Freudenthaler. In some cases, a school may close that has a specialized program and students will want to be able to attend another school, possibly outside their area, that offers that extended French, music or sports focus.
Wiener advocates for students to be able to go to schools outside their area if there are programs there that suit their needs.
The more choice offered to students, the better, said Laskin. If one school is popular, perhaps other schools need to find out why so they can attract more students.
What’s the most important education issue you want fixed?