School Board Survey
from the Thunder Bay & Distrct Labour Council
Survey Answered by: Lawrence Badanai
Candidate for Trustee of the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
1- What particular skills do you bring to the role of Trustee?
Our children need a new voice, a strong champion, to promote their interests and advance their goals, that’s why I’m running for Trustee of the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board. I am a father of a three year old daughter, Emmy, and I am passionate about education & providing children with the support & resources they require to achieve their fullest potential.
I am a creative leader and a community arts educator with my wife Candi where we empower children with confidence through the performance arts at Paramount Live, or with adults at Badanai Theatre. Creative leadership is a universally sought after skill. It’s crucial to the success of individuals, teams and even corporations. Over the last twenty years of my theatre experience, I have worked with hundreds of children ranging from two years old to twenty-one as they explore theatre arts. One of the best things we can do for our children is to foster a creative learning environment where students feel free to express themselves. During this my time with Paramount Live, I learned a lot about what today’s generation of students have to deal with on a daily basis; from their positive experiences, and challenges that never existed when I went to school or that of my previous generation. Our society has changed and having worked directly with children as a community arts educator, I have learned a lot about what their needs, concerns, and challenges are.
I work in health care as a Privacy & Communications Officer at the Northwest Health Alliance, and previously was a Corporate Communications & New Media Consultant with the North West LHIN. I am a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Canadian Public Relations Society, and certified with the Canadian Institute of Access and Privacy Professional (CIAPP-C). I have expertise in creation of strategic communications and community engagement plans from my recent work in health care, to earlier days as a Senior Web and Multimedia Designer at Firedog Communications. I’ve demonstrated success in implementation and management of health care projects with knowledge and awareness of our regions communities, cultures and organizations.
I’m actively involved in our community, including being past chairman of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and past board member of Cambrian Players, Westfort Prosvita, and other community groups. As a cancer survivor, I especially wished to give back to our community.
I will bring a fresh perspective to the table, that of a parent with a young child, while also respecting all sides of the educational experience. I believe I can relate to the daily concerns and tribulations of young families and will seek to learn from others and hear their stories. I grew up inspired by my father Norris Badanai who lived & breathed service to the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board (TBCDSB).
2- What is your view on the inclusion of cultural teachings in our schools?
Catholic schools are communities of inclusion as Catholic education builds upon a community of faith that helps students experience a socially conscience society of acceptance of one another and of our differences. We need to continue to learn and celebrate all of our cultural diversity and demonstrate to our children about being proud of their cultural background. I would love to see programs such as the Aboriginal cultural learning program expanded and being delivered yearly to all students so that they may listen and learn further about our multicultural region. The cultural teachings in our schools need to reflect our children’s society and the world around them and I know listening to recommendations from the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, we can inspire some great new programs for students.
3- In schools that are under utilized, how would you deal with the financial short fall?
Since 1998, the provincial government has had full control of education property tax revenue and has assumed the previous authority of school boards to levy local property taxes. The Ministry of Education, using a funding formula, determines each board’s overall allocation. The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board (TBCDSB) does have some flexibility when determining how they use their funding to meet local priorities. Should there by a financial short fall the Board would have to address the reason why it occurred, for example if enrollment began to decline. In the case of enrollment, the TBCDSB needs to be proactive in attracting families to discover the value and benefits of the Catholic School system for their children. The work of the Catholic school involves initiating, facilitating and maintaining trusting relationships with and among the Catholic educational partners. Further, Catholic school faculties can play a significant role in becoming a larger community centre and welcoming new partnerships for community use of the faculties. The TBCDSB educational facilities are an integral part of our community and, as such, add to the spiritual, educational, recreational and social development of all who share them. Additional revenue can be explored by sharing these facilities with other community groups for example.
4- Do you think that addressing mental health and well being should be part of school board plans going forward? Why?
Yes, I think that addressing mental health and the well being of our students should be part of future school board considerations as children and youth spend majority of their daily lives within an elementary or secondary school environment. A student struggling with a mental health issue can affect their personal school life and their potential learning ability. Schools are a great place for children to learn about mental health well-being and we should encourage families to take advantage of available opportunities in the school system. No student should be left behind without the resources required to provide the best possible education.
5- Do you agree that students with special needs should receive additional funding to meet student needs?
Yes, I agree that students with special needs should receive additional funding to meet their requirements. We need to provide enough funding to give students the tools, aids, and resources they require to be able to learn, and also give their teachers the tools they need to assist and teach them as well. Resources, tools, and strategies to support the learning of all students with special education needs should be easily available for families to access or learn about without red tape getting in the way. Let’s provide students and their families with the help they need and when they need it most. We need to ensure that all students with special education needs are supported and ensure that their diversified needs are met in an inclusive learning environment. We need to embrace a philosophy of inclusion that our Catholic schools are committed to and support each family and their child’s education.
6- If you could make one radical change to education what would it be?
If I could make one radical change within the capability of a school board trustee, it would be to make the TBCDSB meetings streamed online and archived online. In today’s fast and constantly moving world, many parents (and even employees) who wish to remain up-to-date with the news of the TBCDSB find themselves without time to attend meetings in person. Making regular board meetings open, transparent and accessible to the public allows trustees to readily (instantly) communicate their views and decisions on the board back to their constituents. We should open additional avenues of community engagement and having live streamed meetings is a modern tool that could be the catalyst for other future initiatives.
7- What is your opinion on the need for EQAO testing?
Math and literacy are the foundation for knowledge and skills that students will use in their careers and in society and this is what EQAO testing data hopes to measure. It does not however capture a complete picture of the student’s individual strengths and abilities. If the test was to measure a larger field of measurable skills and knowledge taught in our schools, perhaps it would be a more useful tool to benchmark the educational system.
8-To help all students feel valued, included and respected in our schools regardless of their differences, what strategies would you recommend?
We need to continue working on fostering and creating positive educational environments for students that the TBCDSB serves. There is a known link of success between student achievement and students being in a positive environment where they feel included, valued, respected and safe. Catholic schools are places where students should be freely able to find hope, meaning and purpose of life in a religious environment. Each day our schools should provide a welcoming and safe environment as the students arrive to school. A warm greeting in the morning can start a child’s day off in the right direction. Our school environment should be inclusive places of learning that enables students to grow, be respected for their beliefs, and encourage them to strive for their personal best. Personally, I believe the TBCDSB employs some of the finest teachers in our region and care for the welfare of our students.
9-What is your philosophy on student discipline? How do you think bullying should be addressed in our schools?
The TBCDSB has a policy and plan on “Bullying, Prevention and Intervention” to align with the Accepting Schools Act of 2012. All forms of bullying in schools should not accepted on school property, at school-related activities, on school buses, or even online. Students engaging in bullying will have a negative impact on the positive school environment that we are trying to create together. In this day and age, bullying goes beyond the physical walls of our educational facilities, and online communication plays a large role in our student’s daily lives. We need to teachers, principals, and families to work together to provide support and ensure their safety is our top property.
10-What is your position regarding the 2015 revised Health & Sexual Education curriculum?
We need a Catholic school system that will prepare our children for the complexities of the word around them. The TBCDSB receives Health and Sexual Education curriculum content through a program call “Fully Alive” which was developed by the Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Reversal from the 2015 health and sexual education curriculum to the 1998 curriculum will not meet the needs of equity and inclusivity for today’s students, their well-being and their safety. Our students need to be prepared with all the tools for success and their safety in the world. A reversal to the 1998 curriculum on Health and Sexual Education is no longer relative to this day and age.
11-Is there still a role for School Board Trustees in Ontario today?
Yes, there is still a role for School Board Trustees in Ontario. School board trustees play a vital role in establishing the board’s mission, vision, values, goals, and culture. We need local representation on school boards that allows public engagement and consultation to happen to form a vision of a school system that truly reflects the community that it serves. I’d love to see trustees playing a larger role in creating conditions for achieving greater excellence in students learning, promoting student wellbeing, and enhancing the benefits and values of what it means to have separate Catholic school system. We need local representation so that families have a place to address their concerns related to their children’s education.
12-What should be the role of School Boards (in the yet undefined legislation) to negotiate collective agreements in the education sector?
Every school board needs to represent the community in which they serve. Local representation from district school boards needs to remain part of the negotiation process to ensure local needs are being addressed. Without knowing the yet undefined legislation, I hope open and transparent negations can happen at the local level to ensure local union’s needs are being heard and addressed just like the requirements from our parents and children which the school boards serve.