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Interviews with Ward 16 Public School Trustee Candidates

posted Oct 10, 2014, 7:03 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Oct 16, 2014, 6:05 PM ]

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 10 months, you'll know that it's election time in Toronto! While the mayoral and city council candidates seem to get most of the media spotlight, school trustee candidates are also running for positions on the publicCatholic and French school boards. 

As a parent whose child was in a Catholic elementary school but is moving back to a public school next year, I am especially interested in who our local trustee will be for the duration of her high school experience. Trustees act as representatives of the schools in their ward (in our case that is 23 elementary and 3 high schools) and in many instances they are also advocates for parents navigating through the bureaucracy of the school system. 

I recently had the opportunity to engage in some great political conversations with my neighbours who are part of the Kingston Road Village Residents' Association, an informal group of almost 800 people who live, work and do business in the Upper Beaches. Like me, many residents feel as if they don't get much information about what kinds of skills the trustee candidates will bring to the job and what they endeavour to accomplish if elected. As a result of our discussions, we generated a list of several questions that were posed to the public school candidates (via email) and I have compiled their responses below. 

The four candidates running for public school trustee in Ward 16 (an area that includes parts of The Beaches and East York) are Sheila Cary-Meagher, Marietta Fox, Navarius Mombo and Jen Sagar.  I think it is important to note that all candidates personally acknowledged receipt of my email within 4 hours of receiving it. I have organized the responses in the order that I received a reply and have also included any additional information that the candidates asked me to include. 

Jen Sagar

Jen asked me to pass on her number on to anyone else who may have questions for her. She is at 647-233-9658. Jen also sent me Navarius's email address when I had trouble locating it. 

1. What skills will you bring from your current job to the job of trustee? 

As a parent, an active community member, and a real estate professional I have many skills that I believe will serve me well in the job of School Trustee. I am a problem solver, a researcher, a communicator, a negotiator, and a collaborator. 

Educated in the TDSB, I am a graduate of the French Immersion Program. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Spanish, and spent a year studying in Granada, Spain. Certified in Teaching English as a Second Language, I have worked and volunteered as a Language Instructor, a Program Facilitator, and as a Tutor-Trainer in Literacy Initiatives. I was honoured with an Award of Merit from Frontier College for my commitment to Literacy and for my work as Establishing Chair of Students for Literacy at Trent University.

I believe in lifelong learning, and in recent years returned to university to pursue a second degree in Psychology with a focus on Learning and Development.

I have often taken on leadership roles in our community and gladly step up when and where I see a need. I have been a Group Leader at MumNet, Fundraising Chair at Beaches Co-Op, Parent Class Rep many times at Adam Beck, and am currently the School Council Chair at Glen Ames.  

I will be an accountable, reliable, and accessible voice for our Ward and I will work diligently for our students, our schools and our community with a high level of competence, professionalism, integrity and respect. I believe in our public school system and wholeheartedly support quality education for all. 

2. How much time are you willing to commit to being trustee?

I am fully prepared to commit to this position full-time. There are 26 schools in Ward 16, and there is a great deal of work ahead in order to renew public confidence and restore integrity to the position of TDSB Trustee. I am eager to get to work, and I believe that a full-time commitment will be essential to being a productive and effective Trustee for our Ward. 

3. How will you engage with the community in meaningful ways?

Some people prefer meetings and information sessions, while others prefer email, online forums, or social media.  My job will be to make sure that I offer many different opportunities for involvement so that our community members can participate easily and at their convenience.

I have heard from several community members that trying to get access to schools for community use is a difficult and frustrating process. I know the importance and value of schools as community hubs, and will advocate for changes to facilitate and encourage community access to our public schools and facilities.

 4. How will you reach out to your constituents to keep them informed?

Effective communication is a cornerstone of my campaign. I believe that information should be readily available and easy to access. It is important that all residents of our ward are kept up to date and are involved in the important issues facing our schools and our community. I am committed to being available by phone, in person and online and I will work hard to create opportunities and build networks that will bring us together and promote our success.

5. How will you maintain and expand parent participation in schools?

That's a great question, and one that is particularly important to me. I see a real opportunity to bring us together so that we can easily share ideas and best practices all across our Ward. As your Trustee I will improve and increase access to resources and support systems that will benefit parents and make it easier for us all to be active partners in the success of our students, our schools and our community.

6. How do you see your Ward Council running and how will you encourage parent participation in Ward Council meetings?

We lead busy lives, and especially for parents of young children, making it to an evening Ward Council meeting can be a real challenge. That doesn’t, however, mean that we don’t want to know what’s going on at our schools and in our community. In addition to the traditional Ward Council Meeting I will use technology and social media to engage all parents on all issues at their convenience.

 7. What can you do to ensure there is more access to Orff and Roots of Empathy programs? 

Orff and Roots of Empathy are both very worthwhile programs. The Orff philosophy “combines the elements of speech, rhythm, movement, dance, and song”. Roots of Empathy's mission is “to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults”.  As your Trustee I will do all I can to encourage access and opportunities to programs like these, as well as a wide range of programming and opportunities that support the overall achievement and well-being of our students. 

Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. Your feedback is most welcome.

Marietta Fox

Marietta asked me to pass on these links to articles about the race for Ward 16 trustee as well as links to her website and Facebook page.

1. What skills will you bring from your current job to the job of trustee?

I would bring the same skills and principles I have used successfully in my classrooms, community work and household for the past three decades. Respectfully working as a team member; knowing what’s important and what’s not and being creative on limited resources and presenting responsibility and trust on all levels. Teachers, like healthcare workers, are in a position where trust is paramount.  

2. How much time are you willing to commit to being trustee?

I will spend as much time as is needed on the position. The Ontario Education Services document “Making a Difference for Kids: Running for election as a School Board Trustee” guide for candidates and communities states that a trustee can expect to spend an average of 15 hours weekly on all the matters pertaining to trusteeship. This includes responding to telephone calls and/or emails, meeting requests and queries from constituents as well as attending board and committee meetings. If elected, I intend to devote 2 full week days to trustee matters as well as evenings and weekends. This position is not meant to be full time. Most trustees maintain their day jobs. Mine as a teacher means that my finger is on the pulse of what matters most: education. Students should be at the heart of every decision of the School Board. As someone who balances parenting, including a son with special needs, community work and teaching, I know how to maximize my time. As in any job, it’s about quality of work not quantity of time spent.

3. How will you engage with the community in meaningful ways?

By inviting dialogue regularly through visits to all 26 schools, through attending their Parent Council meetings, by organizing and promoting Ward meetings and by keeping those parents who are not involved in School Council informed about changes and opportunities. Creating an inclusive environment is a priority of mine. 

Open the doors! I am a BIG believer in Schools as community Hubs.Toronto residents pay taxes towards the TDSB and should have equal access to them. A better permitting system must be achieved. 6-8 weeks booking period is not acceptable. Neither are excessive fees. Spaces are under-used and should be fully utilized for community meetings, clubs, gardening, kitchen use and more. Teens should be encouraged to book schools for activities and schools should have a welcoming presence in our neighbourhoods. For example, Adam Beck PS playground is the only green space in that pocket. Creative animation and sharing of that space that includes dog walkers, kids playing and sporting activities is an obtainable and necessary goal.

4. How will you reach out to your constituents to keep them informed?

Through my community and school visits, attendance at local events and via a TDSB Ward 16 trustee website, Facebook page and Twitter tweets. Printed bulletins would be made available to those without internet access.

5. How will you maintain and expand parent participation in schools?

By informing and encouraging parents as to what possibilities are open to them in their respective schools i.e. joining the various committees already in place and/or forming new ones as need arises. All parents should have a knowledge of what the school provides re curriculum, extra curricular activities, safety in the school and what they can contribute towards the wellbeing and education of their children.

6. How do you see your Ward Council running and how will you encourage parent participation in Ward Council meetings?

Like the TDSB, Ward Councils will work best when a culture of collaboration is encouraged. This involves respectful listening as well as seeking and establishing common ground for discussion. Ward Council meetings are an opportunity for parent reps from schools in the ward to meet with their local school trustee to discuss issues of common concern. They are also an opportunity for the trustee to inform parents about matters under consideration by the Board. These meetings should provide for knowledge exchange and exploration of potential solutions to whatever problems that might arise.

 7. What can you do to ensure there is more access to Orff and Roots of Empathy programs?

As a student in Montreal I was in the first wave of children to be introduced to the Orff method of music. I am a certified Orff teacher (York University) and spent many years teaching Orff (Waterfront Montessori Schools). I’d like to see Orff offered more widely to our students throughout the schools in Ward 16. As an advocate for Roots of Empathy; it is a hugely valuable programme and I personally have linked new families to the programme in our schools! I commit to ensuring the continuation of such irreplaceable programmes. 

Navarius Mombo 


1. What skills will you bring from your current job to the job of trustee

My experience as formal Board Member of the  Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, formal Classroom Instructor, and my professional background in Sociology and Demography have equipped me for the challenges  as a Trustee. Couple with my years of experience, I bring the following skills to the trustee position:  Negotiation, Judgment and sound Decision-Making, empirical thinking, listening and social skills.

2. How much time are you willing to commit to being trustee?

It depends on the circumstance. As a trustee and representative of my ward, I will make myself available at all meetings as lay out by the standard of the TDSB. I accept this challenge because I want to make a different .I will give my time, effort and actively participate in attending meetings.

3. How will you engage with the community in meaningful ways?

 I will reach out to the various communities in the ward, conducting   meaningful discussion that benefits the community. Engage in awareness program that incorporate all people in the community including youth, and elderly, organizing social events.

4. How will you reach out to your constituents to keep them informed?

  I will put in place all electronic apparatus such as e-blasts and e-newsletters. These two are amid the perfect tool for reaching out to my constituents and keeping them informed concerning all activities as their representative. I will as well engage in individual phone calls and face-to-face interaction with my constituents at all time. My phone and email available for those who plan to call and talk to me.

5. How will you maintain and expand parent participation in schools?

Numbers make a difference. I will table issues that parents share in common. Their concern will be part of the school agenda. By so doing, they will be interested in school participation. I will introduce a common interest program and suggest a joint activity. I will keep focus on working together. Building relationship takes time but can pay off in the long term. Finally, Concerts, rallies, festivals, holiday picnics, will be part of the activities that will encourage parents’ participation in school. I will put in place what I refer to as Open-door policy that ensures parents to ask questions.

6. How do you see your Ward Council running and how will you encourage parent participation in Ward Council meetings?

I will listen to the concerns of the parents; equity be considered paramount in council meeting, by so doing parents will be encouraged to participate on the council and the widen of the bylaws.  Collaborate with other ward councils that have things that are “working” and see how they can apply to my ward. The decision of the council respected. Respect of each other is a necessary tool.

 7. What can you do to ensure there is more access to Orff and Roots of Empathy programs?

This is an excellent program. However, nothing achieved without proper funding. I will engage donors in my ward as well as candidly explain and communicate to the Ministry of Education and fellow trustees the significant of this program.  We cannot expand when there is no fund. Another way we can fund and expand the program is training more teachers and fundraise .Moreover, creating awareness and space.


Sheila Cary-Meagher

 1.      As trustee, what would you do differently this time around?)

I am in mid-stream on a number of projects that I would want to see to their finish – Model Schools for Inner Cities, the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Integrity Commissioner and to stop the Trustee bullying of staff, the completion of the capital projects at both George Webster and Secord Public Schools and the expansion of French programmes to secondary schools.

I think in this term I will be more focused on fewer projects and stick to the list above and do them to the best that I can do. 

I will continue to meet face to face frequently with parents about their problems.  I find that issues are more easily resolved when there is human contact.  The time invested usually is much more productive because there is a clearer understanding of the issue and the depth of feelings involved..

2.      How much time are you willing to commit to being trustee?

I will continue to devote 60 hours a week to the job.  I do that because it is the time that it takes to do the job well and I, luckily, I have the time to do that.  This truly is my life and my joy…

3.      How will you engage with the community in meaningful ways?

I have not used Facebook and the website well.  I think it can be a much more engaging tool.  I can reach more people with the “how” and ‘why’ of things.  The Board is so un-transparent.  These sites can be a way to get all the “stuff” out and open and available.

I think it is time to use social media for “education undressed”.  There is little reason for all the secrecy that is used.  Very little that we do is a big secret. 

I guess this is the long way to say, I want to create way more openness…

4.      How will you reach out to your constituents to keep them informed?

Much as I do now with the additions mentioned above.  I visit schools regularly and do an annual walk-about of each school.  I attend parent council meetings on a rotating schedule.  With 26 school councils it is difficult to attend more than 4 a month.  I do not like drive-by visits but prefer to stay through the whole meeting because I learn more about that school and am more available for questions and comments.

5.      How will you maintain and expand parent participation in schools?

That is a huge question.  I find that participation rises and falls with an issue that captures local attention – for good or for naught.  When things are perceived as good, participation is often down and when there is a problem the attendance goes up.  I also find that relevance in a family’s life is the key.

This is a hard issue and one that needs constant evaluation and experimentation for everybody. 

6.      How do you see your Ward Council running and how will you encourage parent participation in Ward Council meetings?

It has taken a LONG time to build this ward council.  The size of the ward has something to do with it but it is not a major issue. 

We meet north of the Danforth one meeting and then south the next.

We ask schools to be hosts and have that school talk about what they do and what they are proud of.  We occasionally have speakers but only at the request of the group.  We ask each June and again in September for topics of interest and for folks to be leaders in that topic if they like.

We begin each year with an informal potluck at my home so as to set a tone of intimacy and comfort.  It seems to be a successful event.