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Who will be your voice on Halton’s public school board?

Photo by <a href="">Element5 Digital</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Oakville elects four trustees to the Halton District School Board (HDSB) to join seven other trustees from across the region.

Together, they implement policies and deliver school programs that are largely mandated and funded by the provincial government. Further details on their responsibilities can be found here.

Here are the registered trustee candidates, presented in alphabetical order. All live in the ward, unless otherwise noted.

HDSB Wards 1 and 2 trustee candidates

Carole Baxter

Carole Baxter says energetic, engaging and inspiring teachers helped foster her love of the sciences and led her to a post-secondary degree in biology and a career in research at the University of Toronto.

“I want to ensure that Halton students have the same quality public education that I had and will advocate for students and families.”

With two children in local elementary schools, Baxter says she has sat on the school council and served as an active volunteer with a range of programs, including literacy support, breakfast and lunch programs, fun days for students, and fundraising.

“For several years, I worked with a local charity that supports children and families living with poverty. These experiences have given me an appreciation for the role that trustees can play in helping families navigate the education system and ensure positive outcomes for students.” 

“As a trustee, I will fight for equity of access and equality of opportunity for all students in the Halton District School Board to ensure that they feel safe, supported, and challenged to reach their full potential when they are at school.

It is important that the public school system is responsive to the needs of students while providing relevant and innovative education to the benefit of students and their families. As trustee, I will prioritize engagement in order to be an effective voice at the board table for all families.

Funding is provided by the provincial government and is intended to be allocated to ensure the greatest benefit of students. As trustee, I will prioritize programs which will maximize positive outcomes for students and their families so that they will have the same appreciation and respect for the public system as I do.”

Abdullahi Jama and Zena Al-Mudaris are also registered to run for the Wards 1 and 2 seat. Neither responded to our questions.

HDSB Ward 3 and 6 trustee - acclaimed

Incumbent trustee Tanya Rocha has been acclaimed to represent Wards 3 and 6.

HDSB Ward 4 trustee candidates

Cheryl DeLugt

A full-time ICU nurse, Cheryl DeLugt, says she brings a different lens when it comes to the safety and well-being of students.

As a parent, she advocated to have elementary schools locked during school hours, video camera surveillance installed in her children’s elementary school and removing polling stations from elementary schools.

She says Oakville needs a strong voice to bring “fresh ideas and perspectives and to ask the tough questions and demand answers and hold the school board accountable and transparent to the students and families it represents.”

DeLugt says her main concerns are pandemic recovery, over-crowding and keeping students in the classroom.

“As a nurse, I have seen how this pandemic has negatively impacted our youth’s mental health, and families and students need the most support now as we recover from this worldwide pandemic. School boards need to invest more money in mental well-being support. It’s paramount.

“Portable Learning,” which is not conducive to any of our children, while other schools are closed, this has to change. I will advocate for the students to ask for more schools to keep up with the growth demands that our region is facing. 

What is also important to me is that the students remain in the classroom, especially with the upcoming educational, teacher negotiations. It is paramount that our students stay in the classroom, be in clubs, and activities on the field.

Joanna Oliver

First elected in 2014, Joanna Oliver is seeking a third term as Ward 4 trustee.

Prior to her role as trustee, she worked in public health and served two terms as the president of a professional association.

Over the last two terms, Oliver says her successes as a trustee include creating the first Ward 4 Super Council, spearheading an Oakville consultation session around ministry changes to education, and co-leading the board’s Reimagine initiative to gather input on post-COVID education evolution.

She says post-pandemic recovery, quality curriculum and student and parent voice are her most important priorities.

“Resources and supports must be dedicated to ensure that the mental health and well-being of all students are fully supported. Resources must be dedicated to ensure that students receive catch-up opportunities to close gaps in learning, as well as receive expanded social and extracurricular engagement opportunities.

I want to ensure our schools are inclusive of every student, serve the children in the immediate area and offer varied program choices for all.  The curriculum must keep pace with 21-century learning and support our students in becoming global citizens. I will support policies and practices that allow and support teachers to create conditions that support inclusive and engaging environments with their students’ best interests at heart.

Education is the cornerstone of society, and the education sector serves students, their families and the community-at-large. I will continue to seek out opportunities for student and parent engagement; listen to and incorporate the diversity of student and parent voices in decision-making; and continue to support the HDSB in improving communications and consultations with students, families and staff."

HDSB Wards 5 and 7 trustee candidate

Gemma Ahn

Business consultant Gemma Ahn says her career background helping organizations reach their goals will serve her well in helping families and students achieve educational goals and necessary life skills.

“I hope to continue to equip and enable our students to navigate through these complex times and prepare them to be resilient community builders, impactful leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and positive influencers of the future,” she says.

She says she will work on issues that the community has told her are most important.

David Chang Photography
David Chang Photography

“Educational standards is something that I have heard are concerns for parents. My focus is to build up the necessary achievement objectives, key competencies and growth mindset skills that prepare students for the next step, whether it be in their education or the real-life world.  

Another area of focus is advocating for the whole student. Listening and caring for their mental and physical wellbeing. Understanding the barriers that may hindering learning, growing, and having fun at school, and then advocating for helpful support and change.

Lastly, my focus is on accountability and transparency. Aligning the systems within our schools to measure, monitor progress and achievement, and hold to account the achievement of goals with the necessary support in place.”

Kelly Amos

First elected in 2000, Kelly Amos is seeking her sixth term as a school board trustee.

“I got involved to try and make a difference for my children and every other child within the system and believe I have made a difference and will continue to do so,” she says.

Through regular meetings with school councils in her area, Amos says she keeps parents connected with the school board and important issues and information.

She cites growth, funding and programming as key priorities.

“It is important to get enough schools for the growth area of Ward 7, as everyone should be able to go to school in their own community. It is also important that we continue to upgrade our older schools, which I have been continuously advocating for.

The Halton District School Board is one of the lowest or is the lowest funded school board in the province of Ontario. I believe that the funding formula needs to be looked at, so the students of Halton get the appropriate funding that they are entitled to. I have led a campaign called Fix the Funding, which I intend to continue when re-elected.

Students need to have access to programs that will teach them life skills that they can use later in life. Programs that used to be called Home Ec (Family Studies) and Shop (Tech Ed), need to be brought back, or elements of them need to be incorporated into existing programs within the school system, to teach students skills, such as cooking, sewing, how to use tools and other skills that will be useful to them later in life.”