Shelley Laskin Responds to Davisville Questions
Davisville School Council recently wrote a letter to each of the three candidates running for the position of Toronto District School Board Trustee in our Ward 11, St. Paul’s. The letter shared some information about our school’s current needs and asked the candidates some questions.
Responses to these questions from candidate Shelley Laskin appear below:
1. If re-elected, will you commit to ensuring that children at Davisville will be given the opportunity to learn in a physical space that meets their needs?
Believe you me, if I could ensure, I would, but as a trustee, I am one of 22 – it is the school board that makes the collective decision and I have worked hard over the last four years to not only get board support for the Davisville Rebuilding Project to move forward, but to work with staff to confirm it is on the board capital priority list, to follow-up with the province both through our MPP Eric Hoskin’s office and directly with the Ministry of Education Capital Programs Branch to try and break the log jam on why they have not yet approved the Business Plan for Davisville identifying the system need to build a new 668 pupil school has been with them since the summer of 2013.
As you know, the Business Plan highlights the need to rebuild due to the significant enrolment growth adding to the accommodation pressures (the identified need for a larger school came out of the ARC process that concluded in 2010); that the facility condition of the building is 169%, second highest in the TDSB and significantly higher than the Prohibitive to Repair threshold of 65%; and as the majority of the classrooms were purpose built for the Metro Toronto School for the Deaf, there are 16 classrooms built at 625 square feet that will now are used as regular instructional spaces for Grade 1‐6 students (ministry’s standard for basic classroom is 700 sq. ft.).
The revenue‐neutral redevelopment of the Davisville site presents an opportunity for the TDSB to replace an aging, inadequate building with a new, energy efficient facility that will address the long term accommodation needs of the Yonge & Davisville community. This project has been proposed as an integrated redevelopment to maximize the opportunities available to the board for generating revenue while providing a new, vibrant learning environment for students. All funding options to address the rebuild of an expanded Davisville school need to be considered.
I am truly at a loss to explain why Davisville does not meet Ministry criteria for capital funding, but I am committed to continuing to fight alongside the community and with the local councillor and MPP for the rebuilding of Davisville School.
2. Will you press the TDSB to ensure its capital allocation and other policies fully take into account the requirements of our dense, urban midtown location?
Absolutely, but the scope of this question is beyond that of the TDSB. I have advocated directly to the Ministry of Education that their process for all school boards across the province, regardless of their size or capital need, to submit 8 projects and then the Ministry determines which of the eight for all boards they will fund unfairly disadvantages Toronto’s students. We are we not given the same proportional access to Provincial funds to support enrolment growth as all other Ontario school Boards and are we are expected to fund the growth pressures created by new development. I have advocated for access to development charges to support school space pressures that result from development.
As we have serious issues with both renewal and capacity in our schools and such a significant gap between funding and need, I will continue to push for a multi-faceted approach which includes redevelopment opportunities, developer contributions through EDCs, fair share of provincial capital funding, new partnerships with public sector entities, and, a new partnership with the City that recognizes schools as a critical component of community infrastructure.
There is a need for additional pupil places in the Davisville “family of schools”. As identified through the PARC process, enrolment is in excess of capacity and this area of Toronto should have a long term demand for public school pupil places-subway corridor subject to increased density and demand from young families as houses tum over and redevelopment continues.
Staff have committed to Davisville as a capital priority for the Toronto District School Board and I will continue to work with the community to keep the issue on the front burner for the Ministry of Education.
3. If re-elected, what will be the top three objectives you will seek to accomplish as a Trustee? And how do you propose to accomplish these?
The top three objectives I want to accomplish by continuing to represent St Paul’s are:
1. Strengthen the voice of parents and community members in decision making – I will continue to be as collaborative as possible with sharing information, seeking advice and communicating decisions through my Weekly Update, attending School Council meetings or inviting community to Ward Forums, and by bringing community views to the Board table;
2. Increase the number and quality of supports and services for students [including promoting excellence in all staff, programs that increase student success, support their mental well-being and reduce systemic barriers to poverty and continue to use technology for learning] – this is the lens by which I will consider before all votes; and
3. Along with my colleagues, continue on a path to financial stability, while at the same time, negotiating with the province for a “real” capital budget to improve our school buildings, and build pupil spaces to meet the needs of all students – because of the level of development in our ward, and the fact that our schools are well supported within their communities, the issue of space is critical our communities and I will continue to bring this issue to the forefront in discussions with my board colleagues and staff, local councillors and provincial and federal representatives. I will continue to work with students, parents, staff and the community. Toronto students deserve fair and equitable funding.
4. How will you work with and advocate for the Davisville School community if elected as a Trustee?
The Davisville-Yonge PARC was called in 2009 to look at a student accommodation plan for an oversubscribed area in the ward. I was a community representative on the PARC at that time. The previous Board began a process to explore options for redeveloping the Davisville school site in June 2010, when the trustees voted to support the recommendation of the Davisville-Yonge PARC that a school presence be maintained on the Davisville site to accommodate the programs as defined by the PARC. It also recommended appropriate supports be added to the schools to meet projected enrolments, and that reasonable capital investment be provided to ensure enhanced programming for all students.
Since May of 2011, as Trustee, I have been working with the community on the Local School Community Design Team (LSCDT). It took months to gain the community’s trust and gain consensus on the development plan that would fund the new school. That came in May 2012, and as noted above, the results of that consultation were approved by the board in December 2012 including a severance of 0.98 acres of land from the site. Davisville Jr. Public School has been identified as a capital priority by the Toronto District School Board since June 2013 and the Business Case to rebuild the school sent to the Ministry of Education.
And since the summer of 2013, I have been working with the community leadership to ensure this issue stays at the forefront of the TDSB and working with staff to do everything possible to get the Ministry to approve rebuilding of the school.
I know parents, educators, students and community members of Davisville are concerned about the future of their local school. I know you want to be actively involved in shaping this future be it issues of redevelopment, changing enrolment, adequate funding, promoting excellence in all staff, responding to those with special needs, ensuring equity, providing day care and other community services and most importantly, ensuring children have the supports they need to reach their full potential. And I believe I have demonstrated by working with you that I take that role seriously.
We arrived at this point together, through collaboration and consultation with affected students, parents and community members and I am determined to continue until everyone is convinced Davisville must be rebuilt.
5. Finally, we ask that you share with us why you want to be our Trustee.
I want to build on my demonstrated record of strengthening public education. With your vote on October 27, I can build on my proven track record to:
- Ensure the voices of students, parents, educators and community members are reflected in decision-making.
- Increase the numbers of needed resources in schools and support the excellence of teachers, support staff and school leaders.
- Create and implement an effective plan for financial stability.
- Negotiate innovative partnerships at all levels to improve school buildings and grounds, increase community access to schools, expand before- and after-school programs and fund full service schools.
- Champion a thriving, effective public school system that rebuilds public trust, promotes diversity and supports every child to reach his or her full potential.
For more information, please click on www.shelleylaskin.ca
Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions.