Letters to the Editor: Feb. 22, 2020

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School board focus is on student achievement

There is exemplary teaching and learning happening in the Limestone District School Board because of the collaborative and caring relationship of our educators, support staff, administrators, families and trustees who work together to support our students — our reason for being.

The role of the trustee is to contribute to the board as it carries out its mandate to achieve its mission and goals related to student success and the development of an improved learning environment. It is time to focus on this work. It is time to focus on what is most important, student achievement and well-being, and to direct our collective energy, expertise and time toward supporting this worthy mission.

Trustees of the Limestone District School Board have discussed, at length, concerns raised by a few individuals (less than one per cent of our constituents) requesting a governance review of the board of trustees. Unfortunately, the recent negative attention around a perceived governance issue has nothing to do with student achievement and well-being. It is easy to forget our students when too much attention is given to a small yet vocal group of people who disagree with policy and process; whose campaign to deliberately spread misinformation and false statements puts the integrity and work of good people at risk.

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It is important for the letter writers (and the public) to know that the board of trustees has its own specific code of conduct, in addition to the LDSB Code of Conduct, which governs students, staff, contractors and trustees, which has explicit expectations. This code states that, “Trustees of the board shall discharge their duties loyally, faithfully, impartially and in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the abilities and integrity of the board.”

Despite adherence to the Trustee Code of Conduct, trustees passed a motion at its regular meeting on Jan. 15, 2020, directing staff to provide a report on the costs and logistics involved with retaining an integrity commissioner. The board suspended discussion of this issue until this report was received, reviewed and discussed. At the Feb. 12, 2020, board meeting, trustees heard the report and requested another report. That request was voted down by the majority of trustees. No further action on this matter was motioned.

In Limestone, we teach our students to be good digital citizens: to be critical thinkers, to ask questions, to check sources, to evaluate. Trustees must do the same. There will always be people who disagree with our decisions.

The beauty and value of democracy is that every four years, constituents, happy or unhappy, come together to elect their trustee representatives. Please let this group of duly elected trustees get on with the duties of governing the board to maintain and improve public education for all students in this district.


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Suzanne Ruttan

Chair, Limestone District School Board of Trustees

Province should return to bargaining table

We implore the Ontario government to return to the bargaining table with the teachers unions immediately.  We all agree our children and our teachers and support staff need to return to their classrooms and to their work.

Bill 124 limits wage increases to one per cent, which denies them their legal right to bargain. In effect, it is, “union busting.” It doesn’t help our economy or our society or the future of our children. The current inflation rate is projected by the Bank of Canada to be 1.8 per cent in 2020 and two per cent in 2021.

However, a wage increase for teachers and support staff is by no means the major issue. The funding cuts seriously hurt special education, full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes, reduction in violent incidents as well as fair compensation.

Mental health issues remain a serious concern. An article by a well-known children’s advocate, Craig Kielburger, in the Whig Standard (page C6, Jan. 31, 2020) indicates that “one-third of Canadians under 15 have lived through some form of trauma, from sentinel events like physical or sexual abuse to growing up amid substance use.” We are all clearly aware of the opioid crisis. Does the Ontario government expect teachers and support staff to deal with these students with fewer resources and larger classes?

Another issue we strongly protest is giving families up to $60 per day up to age 12 for childcare costs. This is not a fair or logical way to spend our tax dollars. Also, this could very well prolong the strike. Nobody wants that. Parents might be less inclined to encourage bargaining. This is a blatant attempt to pit parents against teachers.

The demand for e-learning courses for high school students is unacceptable, not to mention unfair. If a family has only one, or no, computer, the students won’t always be able to use it. This also removes the face-to-face communication between teacher and student, which is unacceptable for teenagers.

We expect the Ontario government to return immediately to the bargaining table and negotiate fairly.

Mary McPhee

For the Kingston Faith and Justice Coalition