Addressing the democratic deficit at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board should be a top priority this municipal election. Meaningful public input and consultation is a basic expectation for parents, students and residents, but for inexplicable reasons the board has not met this basic expectation.
A major example was the closure of Rideau High School last year. Under the closure process adopted by the board of trustees, there was a lack of full dialogue with the local community.
Consultations that did occur happened as administrative staff made transition plans to close the school. Many who participated said that the process was stage-managed. The surrounding community, which has some of the highest poverty and high-school dropout rates in the city, was asked to use an online consultation tool. The community association that sat directly in the school’s catchment area was effectively locked out from providing meaningful input during the closure process until the end, relegated to a three-minute statement in front of the board just before the board voted for closure.
Many residents I have talked with found this lack of proper consultation appalling, since the school board is supposedly a democratic body that spends nearly $1 billion annually. While unpopular decisions are often common in our democratic system, a key component that grants the system and those decisions their legitimacy is meaningful public consultation. Unfortunately, the current board of trustees has a tendency to shun consultation.
Most recently, the board appointed an extremely inspired choice as its new director of education. Many in Ottawa are looking forward to her installation due to her commitment to equity, transparency and social mobility. Unfortunately, trustees decided to appoint the new director before the election, effectively curtailing any input and deliberation by incoming trustees under a new mandate.
As well, during this campaign, some sitting trustees have refused to answer questions from both ratepayers and educational interest groups about teacher work conditions and curriculum innovation.
In a democracy, accountability requires both answering tough questions and listening to constituents. When you cast your vote this election, please consider whether your sitting trustee has actually listened to your community in good faith before making decisions that impacted the entire school district, as well as your children.
Rawlson King is a candidate for Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee in Zone 12, Innes/Beacon Hill–Cyrville.
Concerning diversity and equity in Ottawa schools, I told CBC Radio Ottawa:
Primarily, I can completely commiserate ... because I am a black Canadian. That is one of the reasons I am running. I don't think there is enough diversity around the table.
We have 50,000 black people within this region, and we don't have anybody representing us around the school board table.
One of the bad decisions I was personally involved in as the president of a community association was the closure of Rideau High School.
It was in a low-income community, had lots of people of colour, lots of Indigenous people, a Syrian refugee population, and the board decided to close it.
Primarily, Ms. Schwartz was someone who supported that closure.
I was on the other side of the table actually fighting to keep the school open. I think having representation around the table is important. I think we need to have budgetary components at the board that actually look at an equity lens, ensuring there is an equity lens to what occurs.
We have to look at decolonization of our curriculums. We have to have more curriculum that deals with Indigenous people and more curriculum that deals with racialized people.
Rawlson King, candidate for Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Trustee in Zone 12, Innes/Beacon Hill–Cyrville, said that he is opposed to appointing a new OCDSB Director of Education before October 22, the date of the Ottawa municipal election.
"In order to build stronger communities through our schools, I believe we need to build better lines of direct communication with communities, parents, youth and the school administration," said King. "Appointing a new Director before the municipal election is undemocratic and nonconstructive because its does not allow for a new, duly elected Board to set a new agenda and mandate, with public consultation, that would guide the selection of a new Director of Education."
Previous issues, such as school closures, have demonstrated that communication among the school board, staff and neighbourhoods need to be more frequent, and require more community input. Meaningful public consultation and deliberation among the next set of Trustees, along with the general public, must be a precondition before a new Director of Education is selected.
Education is the key factor in creating upward mobility for our children and communities. That's why Rawlson King is running for OCDSB Trustee in Zone 12, Innes/Beacon Hill–Cyrville.
As a recognized community volunteer and leader, I want to be your champion for quality public education.
Firstly, I am committed to ensuring student excellence through curriculum innovation and pilot projects that focus on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Secondly, I'm committed to retaining local control of education-related decision making and for actively advocating for more resources from Queen's Park, since the new provincial government will be looking to cut back on its already inadequate spending in local education.
Thirdly, I'm dedicated to building better lines of communication with parents, students, teachers and the school administration.
A vote for me sends a clear message that we want meaningful consultation, innovation in education, a better funding formula, and greater community autonomy over our local schools so that we can strengthen our neighbourhoods.
The Overbrook community has worked hard over the past three years to collaboratively and holistically implement multiple pillars of crime prevention with multiple partners, including: a post-incident neighbourhood support protocol, a youth strategy and a community hub.
As President of the Overbrook Community Association, I worked hard to ensure that we introduced a post-incident neighbourhood support protocol to provide a rapid response to serious crime. Under the protocol, different City agencies and community associations collaborate on a collective response immediately after an incident has occurred. The coordinated response often results security patrols, along with the canvassing of nearby residents and businesses by police and social agencies to obtain resident feedback and input, to increase safety awareness and crime prevention. The support protocol pilot that we tested in Overbrook eventually became the model for the entire city.
The Association also contributed to the development of neighbourhood youth strategy. The strategy, developed after two years of consultations, is designed to give young people in the neighbourhood greater access to job and training opportunities, as well as safe recreational activities. Working in conjunction partners including the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, Ottawa Community Housing and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the community will implement new programming for at-youth risk.
Our community also continues to advocate for the creation of a new community hub that offers co-located, coordinated and integrated services such as health care and social services. A community hub would allow a number of agencies to such services, as well as contribute to economic development opportunities.
Working with multiple partners, our community has achieved a great measure of success. I hope to transfer this successful holistic model to the school board as your next Trustee for Zone 12, Innes/Beacon Hill–Cyrville.