SOUTH DUNDAS – As part of a continuing election coverage, The Leader reached out to those school board trustee candidates who will be on the ballot for the upcoming municipal election.
In South Dundas there are elections for trustee seats with the Upper Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario.
The two candidates for each of the seats was asked to submit answers to four questions to allow voters to learn more about each of them. (CDSBEO trustee candidate Karen McAllister did not respond).
Only responses received by the deadline given to candidates are published. The Leader reserves the right to edit responses for journalistic-style and word count.
The questions and answers are as follows:
1) What is your background?
UCDSB Jeremy Armer: I grew up on a farm outside Creemore, Ontario, I moved to Ottawa to complete my university studies and joined CIBC and then later RBC bank after graduating.
I have four wonderful children and currently live and reside in beautiful North Dundas, and have for the last 12 years.
I became actively involved in education when my oldest daughter began attending Nationview Public. I was parent council chair for two years. Our mandate was to bring community members closer to the school and help educate our kids. I was so pleased to see such a wonderful community response and decided at that point to run for Trustee.
UCDSB Larry Berry: ‘Education’ and ‘business’. I started teaching school at 20 years old and taught for 33 years, 22 of which were in Dundas, with one year off to go to university and another to go as they say in Australia on “A walkabout”.
I was born and raised in South Mountain. Education: South Mountain Public School, Mountain District High School, Ottawa Teachers College, Carleton University (B.A.), Ottawa University ( M. Ed.).
My wife, Barbara, and I have three grown children and five grandchildren. Our eldest, Tara, is a core French teacher at South Branch Public School, Kemptville.
Three of our grandchildren are in the Ontario Public School system. Two are in Australia. For 35 years our family lived in Winchester and area. During that time we participated in the sports activities of the area especially in hockey.
On a part time basis my wife and I established a swimming pool business in Winchester and we still own a rented building in Morrisburg.
CDSBEO Donna Nielsen: My personal portfolio includes a Master’s in Education with a specialty in Curriculum and Special Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
During my 37 years in education, I worked for five boards of education and taught at all levels; kindergarten to Grade 12, English as a Second Language, Special Education, and primary French in Quebec.
I joined the CDSBEO in 2000 and in 2002, began a 16 year career as principal at St. Mary, Morrisburg, later St. Mary-St. Cecilia, Immaculate Conception, St. Peter’s, Bishop McDonell in Cornwall, and finally St. Andrew’s in St. Andrew’s.
I am passionate about the contributions I made in education, and remain passionate regarding the contributions I could make as trustee.
My husband Ted and I have been married 34 years.
We are proud parents and grandparents. We are members of St. Peter’s Parish in Cornwall.
I am Chair of Pastoral Council, am on the Hospitality Committee, assist with Baptisms and sacramental preparations, am a Eucharistic Minister, am a member of the CWL and belong to two Alpha groups.
2) Many voters are not familiar with the responsibilities of school board trustee. What would you like voters to know about that role? For you, what is the most important part of that role?
UCDSB Jeremy Armer: I would like voters to know that being a trustee is much more than attending meetings and voting. It is about helping to create a vision that will engage our employees and lead students to a successful life. It is about shaping the minds of tomorrow through inspired teaching and community engagement. It is about planning not just for four years but for a student’s entire academic career.
UCDSB Larry Berry: A trustee is a voting member of the Upper Canada District School Board. The responsibilities of school boards in Ontario are established by the Education Act and other legislation. There are eleven voting members.
One of the responsibilities of the board is to set the budget. Another responsibility is to hire the director and the superintendents and board committees assess their performance. The board makes policies by which the schools are operated. These policies give direction to the board office administration i.e. the director, superintendents and all board office personnel. It is important that the trustees develop and implement a work plan themselves which will then guide the director in his work plan. But the most important part of these plans is the promotion of student achievement and well-being.
The trustee is responsible for proper communications among all community stake holders: students, parents, taxpayers, board office personnel, teachers, Ontario government and township councils.
CDSBEO Donna Nielsen: The role of Trustee is very important, as the trustee is a community leader.
The trustee is a voice for all students within the school board, helping to ensure that every student’s needs are met.
In short, the heart, mind, body and soul, of every student.
The trustee works with Board of Education contributing to the multi-year strategic plan/vision to ensure the best education possible for every student.
The trustee is visible in the educational community, and brings school good news (initiatives, events, accomplishments) and concerns to the table.
The trustee facilitates improvement by being a respectful, caring and professional communicator and collaborator.
3) In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing schools in South Dundas and what is your plan to deal with that challenge?
UCDSB Jeremy Armer: The biggest challenge facing schools in South Dundas is ensuring that our students are receiving the best programing options.
We are addressing this now and continue to address by involving all levels of government to help build and fund exciting options in our high schools and elementary schools.
We have after school coding programs, and innovation and career center in Seaway and we will continue to reach out to our local businesses to grow our partnerships.
It is an exciting time to be part of the team at Upper Canada and see what we have accomplished.
UCDSB Larry Berry: The biggest challenge facing South Dundas schools is the same as North Dundas schools which is programming in the two high schools. The two high schools are both considered, from a programming point of view, small schools because there are not enough students to justify classes in certain subjects in the Ontario secondary curriculum.
Therefore, an objective the board and especially the administrative staff is to create and develop a robust E-learning program and other programs to expand the number of courses available to high school students. E-learning courses that are administrated and supervised by teachers. E-learning courses which are selected and planned by design and not by default. These courses need Ministry approval and would qualify for a secondary school diploma and also qualify the student for credits to university, college or other programs.
Interestingly, my granddaughter has just enrolled in a large secondary school near Hamilton, Ontario and even though there are 1,200 plus students she has been advised to take one of her courses in the second semester through E-learning.
The essential aspect is that students receive the support and resources they need.
CDSBEO Donna Nielsen: The pressures and expectations of today’s society can sometimes become overwhelming.
Positive mental health of all students in South Dundas is definitely a key concern. Our schools need to be welcoming, promoting a safe, caring and confidential environments. Students need to feel comfortable seeking counsel when in need.
We need to promote positive mental health throughout our curriculum delivery, religious education program, family life program and extra curricular opportunities.
When students are hopeful, they become confident.
This confidence is the essential key to reaching and exceeding potential. I plan to promote positive mental health by:
- Being a leader in Catholic education
- Promoting student achievement, well-being and equity
- Promoting a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all students
- Being a visible and valuable presence
- Creating collaborative relationships inside the board and across the community
- Promoting continuous improvement
4) What are your ideas to improve communication between school boards, municipal officials, schools and parents?
UCDSB Jeremy Armer: One of the ways I would like to improve communications is to expand on our already great relationship we have with the South Dundas mayor and councillors.
It has been a privilege to work with the south Dundas council to develop opportunities for our students.
With the new council to be voted in I am excited to work with whomever is elected.
We will continue to survey community members, students and staff on how they feel about our schools and the education we provide to our kids.
We have My Family Room, social media, school website, a host of Youtube videos, and will continue to evolve in how we deliver information to all stakeholders.
UCDSB Larry Berry: For our schools to operate to the maximum benefit for students’ full communication is essential.
The first step in communication is to LISTEN.
If elected, I will work hard to listen!
- attend School Committee Meetings as needed but at least once at all seven schools.
- answer individual contacts and complaints by email or telephone
- seek invitations from principals for special days and sporting events at their schools.
- attend the board meetings in person.
- include municipal council, school committees and the media in the board newsletter.
In general, I will work diligently, listen and be your voice at the board table.
CDSBEO Donna Nielsen: Communication is so very important.
I am blessed to have worked alongside dedicated educators, and I am confident this tradition would continue if I were trustee.
I am committed to attending school events on a regular basis. Currently the Trustee Newsletter is distributed every month along with each school’s newsletter. I hope to contribute to the Trustee Newsletter.
As trustee, I would make my self available by e-mail and by phone.
Hearing a friendly voice has become a gift in today’s society and I promise to be that friendly voice and listening ear.
I would welcome the opportunity to attend events promoting communication between school boards and municipal offices. I am an energetic and innovative leader. I am committed to my faith, my family and to catholic education.
As English Separate School Trustee, I would reflect upon and draw upon my many experiences in catholic education, experiences in my parish and my own faith to make positive and informed contributions. I eagerly anticipate being awarded this opportunity.
Voters in South Dundas go to the polls starting October 17th in advanced online and in-person polls. Election day is October 22nd.