Michael Coteau and Gerri Gershon back at the school board
(Written for Town Crier Oct. 29)
Re-elected Don Valley East Trustee Michael Coteau says after knocking on 10,000 doors during the election campaign, he is re-energized to tackle tough issues at the school board.
“After seven years, you don’t realize how many people you have helped in the past.
You wonder if people are paying attention and you get to the door and get this sense of energy,” said Coteau, who was first elected in 2003.
Coteau won back his school board seat handily on election day, garnering just over 63 percent of the vote. Now he wants to make the system more efficient cutting administration costs, putting cash back into the classrooms, obtaining e-books and fixing school property.
“Our buildings are old and need to be replaced,” said Coteau, who grew up in the Don Valley area and went to local schools.
To obtain cash, he’s open to looking at different options such as energy retrofits of buildings to reduce costs, selling some surplus buildings not used for education anymore.
He’s also pushing for more e-books so students have access to reading material from home as sometimes there are not enough school books per child or the books have to remain in the classrooms. And electronic reading material can be updated more frequently.
He’s pleased there are seven new faces on the 22-trustee board.
“Change is good. We have seven new members,” said Coteau.
“We have to instantly come together. We may have several different approaches, but every single member of the board wants the same thing. And that is to have an educational system that allows young people to be who they want to be and participate.”
There are also three former trustees: Josh Matlow, James Pasternak and Gary Crawford who successfully ran for seats on city council.
“I wish them well and I see them as allies.”
Like Coteau, Don Valley West trustee Gerri Gershon also sailed back into her school board seat on Oct. 25.
A veteran trustee, she won with almost 70 percent of the vote while her only competitor, Muhammad Shahid, garnered 30.8 percent.
“I am very excited about it (returning),” she said the day after the Oct. 25 election. “We are going to undergo some significant changes in educational reform.”
She cited the roll-out of all-day kindergarten and the introduction of new classroom technology as some of the challenges she’ll work on.
A big change in her own riding will be a new school in Thorncliffe Park, said Gershon, first elected to the school board in North York in 1985.
“We have gone through the design stage. It’s going through the approval stage at the city now,” said Gershon about the proposed new Thorncliffe school. “I anticipate a shovel in the ground by next spring.”
The mother of three and grandmother of seven is also hoping to work well with the new council team at city hall.
“I hope new councillors who were recently trustees will remember our concerns at the board and push for strong and productive (collaboration) for council and the board,” said Gershon who lives with husband Dr. Syd Gershon in Don Valley West.