Candidates vie for SCDSB trustee seat in Collingwood-Wasaga Beach

0

Five candidates are on the ballot for a trustee seat on the Simcoe County District School Board which represents Collingwood and Wasaga Beach schools

Election Day is October 24, and candidates who hope to make a difference to education in Simcoe County have already started campaigning.

CollingwoodToday.ca asked questions of candidates running for the position of Trustee of the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) representing Zone 6: Collingwood and Wasaga Beach.

There are five candidates vying for the seat: Mike Foley, Al Halimic, Bob Lima, Barbara-Anne Smith and Audrey Stukas.

When reached by CollingwoodToday.ca, Lima declined to participate. Audrey Stukas did not return multiple requests for comment.

The Simcoe County District School Board consists of 87 elementary schools, 15 secondary schools, and seven learning centers. The schools serve approximately 55,925 students. The public council is governed by 12 trustees – 11 elected to represent the various municipalities of Simcoe County and one appointed to represent the county’s First Nations communities.

The board oversaw the administration of an operating budget of $654 million in 2022.

Voters will only vote for one of the council directors. By default, a voter card will include the English public board (Simcoe County District School Board), unless a voter has remitted their school board taxes to a Catholic or French board.

Answers have been edited for clarity.

1. What is your background, for people who may not know you?

Mike Foley: My interest in education started as a parent. When our son was in school, we actively participated in his education by participating in various school activities. I taught at Sheridan College for several years and was a program facilitator for the Ontario government. I have been a school trustee for the Upper Grand School Board since 2018 and it has given me a solid understanding of how school boards work with their communities.

Al Halimic: My family and I have called Wasaga Beach home for almost a decade. I have been happily married to my wife for 10 years. We share a daughter who is enrolled in the English school board and our son is looking forward to his chance to start his journey very soon. I love anything that involves the outdoors and enjoy reading a good book.

Barbara-Anne Smith: I was born and raised in the GTA and made Wasaga Beach my home in 2015. I held administrative positions early in my working life, but over the past 25 years I have been school bus driver, transit and paratransit driver, and now I’m a tourist bus driver. My most important experience is as a mother. I have two children: 27 and 12 years old. I have been passionate about children and education for as long as I can remember. If the opportunities in my life had been different, I aspired to become a teacher. I believe it is my experience thus far that prepares me for the role of school trustee that I have championed for myself, my children and my community at various times. I am a compassionate and critical individual and am committed to being progressive, open-minded, and collaborative in approaching the complex issues we currently face in developing equitable and inclusive public education for the future. I look forward to serving my community as a school counselor as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as I believe this is a critical time in our history and I would like to be instrumental in finding an equitable path so that all children in our community are able to realize their potential and become passionate about learning and the opportunities that education provides.

2. What is your vision for the public school board in your area? Are you happy with the way things are? What would you like to see changed?

Mike Foley: I see the path ahead for our students clearly marked by a nurturing culture of care and guidance. Our education system is good but can always be improved. Our school board must develop the necessary mental health support systems as students have endured nearly three years of COVID-related chaos. I will work in partnership with our community stakeholders to provide the tools needed to improve student success post-pandemic.

Al Halimic: Two very important areas come to mind: building new schools (this includes a new high school for Wasaga Beach) and repairing schools as needed. This will improve the health and safety of our students, educators and school administrators. I also want to improve the current curriculum at all levels to ensure our students and children are globally competitive.

Barbara-Anne Smith: SCDSB’s current mission and vision resonates deeply with me. I have always supported equity in our schools; the vision that all children do not get exactly the same, but get what they need as individuals to support and underpin their particular learning needs. Education provides opportunities, a way out of poverty or other challenges and is vital for a secure, democratic and prosperous society. I want to be part of the continued construction here in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, and throughout Simcoe County. The pillars of fairness, diversion and inclusion are vitally important to the health and growth of our community as we move into the next chapter of our story. Once elected as a director, I look forward to seeing what opportunities I will have to participate in committees and activities that will most fruitfully advance the SCDSB’s strategic plans.

3. School funding comes from the provincial government, but the trustee position is at the municipal level. How do you plan to reconcile provincial, municipal and resident concerns?

Mike Foley: Collaboration and compromise are important elements in achieving results when communicating with governments at multiple levels. As an administrator, I know that the power of community is a key factor in creating positive change. Consultation with parents, students and educational staff provides insight into the educational needs of our community. Working with these groups and other community stakeholders provides the valuable direction I need to achieve the goals necessary for student success.

Al Halimic: If elected, I will have a strong and respectful voice around the table on behalf of all my constituents. I am ready and willing to work with provincial and municipal partners to ensure our region gets what our students and children deserve.

Barbara-Anne Smith: Balancing the needs of all voters and students will require leadership, vision, cooperation, and the ability to see and think both small and big. As trustees, we will need to practice self-discipline and the habits of thought of the community, province and global society as a whole as we develop and support policies and practices moving forward.

4. In your opinion, what is the biggest problem at the school board level in your area? How do you intend to solve this problem?

Mike Foley: Structural improvements are needed in a number of schools, as many are older buildings and require investment in order to provide a safe and secure learning environment. Wasaga Beach has been asking for a high school for some time, and Wasaga’s population is growing to the point where that desire has become a need. I want to meet with parents, students and staff to hear their concerns and work collectively to find real solutions to the problems that arise.

Al Halimic: Build new schools, hire more teachers and ECEs so that our students and children are at the center of a world-class public education.

Barbara-Anne Smith: I don’t think there is a single problem at the school board level in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach. Rather, I think there is a confluence of challenges facing our education systems at this particular time and how we choose to manage and mitigate these challenges dictates our future success. We are emerging from a pandemic with parents, teachers, and students all stressed and worried about public education from different, but all equally important and valid perspectives. These are truly unprecedented times in public education, since 2019 and beyond. Simcoe County, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach in particular will face significant population growth and development over the next decade. I believe it is incumbent on government and school boards to manage these sometimes conflicting needs and challenges with strong, positive and creative leadership and I would love to be a part of it. It will take listening, negotiating, compromising and developing meaningful plans for growth and development at the individual, community and provincial levels.

5. Is there anything else you would like people in the area to know about you?

Mike Foley: I worked for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for three decades. I also have two degrees in social sciences and recreation. I was president and director of Waste Wise, an environmental charity in Halton Hills from 2001 to 2019, co-founder of The Bread Basket Food Bank, board member of Wellington Water Watchers, and local leader of OPSEU. Recently, I started a bike repair program with students in Guelph that provided repaired bikes to Ukrainian refugees and marginalized communities. Our family happily resides in Wasaga Beach.

Al Halimic: I am a fair and open-minded person who seeks to have an impact on our biggest investment: our children. We must start now and plan for future generations. The status quo is unacceptable.

Barbara-Anne Smith: Did not submit an answer to this question.

Share.

Comments are closed.