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Seven Oaks: Ward 1 (West St. Paul)

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Ward 1 (1 to be elected)

Roberta Marsh

1. Are you an incumbent trustee? Have you served or run at other political levels? Are you running for a political party, and if so, which one?

I am not an incumbent trustee. This is my second opportunity to run for School Trustee; I ran in the 2006 Municipal Election for School Trustee in Seven Oaks Ward 3. I am not running for a political party.

2. Do you have children enrolled in or graduated from this division? Are/were any of your children home-schooled, or enrolled in an independent school?

My husband and I have two children presently enrolled in Seven Oaks School Division. My eldest is in the middle years program and my middle daughter is in the early years program.

I am a strong supporter of Public Education none of my children have or will be home schooled or enrolled in private school. 

3. List five issues which you believe your division’s school board will have to deal with in the next year, and state your position on these issues.

1. Over crowding

While other school divisions experiencing a decline in student population Seven Oaks School Division has been growing at a rate of approx 4% each year. This growth is not only being felt in our elementary schools but is having a significant impact on our middle and high schools. Seven Oaks School Division has 21 schools to house our 9,644 children. As SOSD continues to run out of physical space our children lose valuable space once dedicated to computer labs, libraries, and music rooms.

Class sizes have grown well above the recommended student teacher ratios, as posted on the SOSD website, placing additional stress on our teachers who are working to build individual relationships and provide quality educational opportunities to our children in a classroom filled with children who have varying needs.

Seven Oaks School Division at present is in the process of working with the Province to build two new schools. While I am definitely in support of the construction of two new schools, our children, teachers, administration and support staff, deserve immediate relief. As a board we need to be flexible and adapt, which may require a review of our current policies and practices. For example:

  • Revisit the policy of accepting student enrolment from outside the division on a temporary basis;
  • Work together with our local community and recreation centres to temporarily relocate our community based programs;
  • Be flexible in the make up of the school adjusting the number of classes in each grade as well as the grades available in any one school. For example if Kindergarten Enrolment was particularly high but grade 5 enrolment was low School A may decide not to offer grade 5 in order to open another kindergarten room. Those grade 5 students would be transported to another school within close proximity.

2. Aging Infrastructure

Seven Oaks has some aging facilities. From old windows that do not close properly to a poorly functioning septic system in our rural school, we have some work that needs to be done. As a parent ad taxpayer I want to be confident that all of our schools protect the health and well being of our children and the environment as well operate in an efficient and cost effective manner. The Seven Oaks Maintenance Staff work very hard to keep our schools beautiful, clean, and operating efficiently; this can be difficult when things are old and/or broken. I believe that it is important to work closely with Maintenance Staff to identify areas requiring attention building these projects into the annual budgeting process.

3. Equity in Funding

I believe we must continue to call for equity when it comes to funding our public education system. Although Seven Oaks was able to reduce its mill rate from 29.3 to 17.3 residents will still experience higher property tax as a result of our low commercial base. I see this as an unfair practice which truly discriminates against taxpayers for the area in which they choose to reside.

4. Workplace Safety and Health

As an employer Seven Oaks has an increasing responsibility for the safety, health and well being of its employees. Together with our unions and associations we must work to ensure the workplace is safe and when injury occurs appropriate action is taken to assess and remove the hazard. As the employer Seven Oaks needs to ensure that appropriate Return to Work supports are available to employees who are currently off work due to injury and or illness.

5. Retirements, Recruitment and Retention

Like all employers Seven Oaks School Division is also facing mass retirements. Although this turn over is healthy the rate at which retirements occur and the positions that are left vacant as a result can be troublesome. The competition for quality educators, bus operators, maintenance staff and senior leaders is stiff. Seven Oaks needs to ensure that its recruitment practices are attracting quality employees as well as providing growth and development opportunities to the current workforce building our future leaders from within the organization.

4. List your top five capital priorities for your division and which you would favour your board submitting to the province for funding, in descending order of priority.

  1. Construction of 2 new schools
  2. Overhaul of the water and sewer system at West St. Paul School to ensure that it is operating properly and that it meets environmental standards.
  3. Accessibility projects to ensure all of our schools and playgrounds are accessible to students and to the community
  4. Replacement and/or upgrading of ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems in our older schools
  5. Upgrades to the athletic fields at Garden City Collegiate including lighting, track and better field drainage allowing for school Football Team to practice and host games on their home field. Similarly the work that is occurring at Maples Collegiate should also include better lighting and field drainage.

5. What percentage increase in annual salary would be appropriate for teachers in your division? Would you reduce, maintain or increase the number of teachers in your division?

Salaries are a negotiated item between the Teachers Association (union) and the various School Boards. Although each contract maybe negotiated separately they are influenced by each other. Teachers are professional staff whose education and experience call for a specific level of compensation. At present I do not believe that the teaching salaries are inappropriate.

I believe it is important to maintain the student teacher ratios as outlined on the Seven Oaks website at present this means increasing the number of teachers in the division however in future years this may mean reducing or maintaining again dependent on student enrolment.

6. Should the province lift its moratorium on school closings? Is or are there a school or schools in the division which should be reviewed for closure because of low enrolment? Which one(s)?

I believe that the authority to close schools should rest with local School boards. As the provincial government continues to lean on school boards to limit spending and freeze taxes, it only makes sense that the school board should have this option available to them. As a taxpayer I want my school board to be prudent and I expect that they will make good sound financial decisions about the appropriation of operating funds.

Although Seven Oaks School Division is in dire need of more schools not less, as a school trustee I would consider school closures on a temporary and/or permanent basis as a result of dwindling enrolment or as a result of the infrastructure being outdated and irreparable.

7. Would you accept the province’s tax incentive grant and agree to freeze property taxes, even if it meant cutting jobs, services or programs?

I disagree with the province tying the tax incentive grant to property tax as each School Division has a different ratio of residential : business : farm land, all of which have a significant impact on the revenue a school division is able to generate from property tax. I would not be in support of cutting jobs, services or programs for the tax incentive grant from the province.

I would expect that as a School Board we are consistently reviewing and evaluating our programs and services ensuring their relevance and impact; and that we would ensure that our staff compliment is appropriate based on enrolment and facility management.

8. Would you increase property taxes? If so, what percentage increase is acceptable and for what specific reason(s)?

As a taxpayer in Seven Oaks School Division I do not like paying tax but I understand that it is necessary to invest in my community and its schools. At present I am in agreement with the tax freeze as a result of the negotiations between Seven Oaks School Board and the Province.

9. Do you believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy? Should "failed" students repeat a school year? Should students be docked marks for late assignments?

No I do not believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy. However, I believe that there is difference in the way children, like adults, learn and grow and that these differences need to be acknowledged and respected. The multiage school room approach provides an environment which respects the concept that learning is continuous and that each child learns and matures at a different pace. After speaking with teachers who lead multi age classrooms, especially those who loop, talk specifically about the growth they observed in those students who were struggling the first year and succeeding in the second. I believe this approach works well for the Early and Middle years programs.

Once in high school the child has matured and is able to take responsibility for their learning. They can speak to their learning strengths and weaknesses and have often developed learning strategies to cope. The idea of having to repeat a course is not unreasonable and is often understood by the learner. In some cases learners have chosen to repeat a course to increase their grade level or secure a better understanding before progressing to the next level.

I am of the opinion that students should take responsibility for their learning, this responsibility needs to be age appropriate. As an adult in the workforce with competing priorities I take the initiative and have the responsibility to open discussions with my leader about an extension or alternative solutions to get the work done. Deadlines are a reality of life and part of learning and development is learning to prioritize and manage your time so that you can meet the expectations set out by your school or workplace. Just as we expect our students to be responsible with deadlines and their learning, I also expect that teachers will use the option to dock marks for late assignments with care and in a reasonable manner, which most do.

10. Do you believe in standardized tests? For what subjects and grades? What proportion of the final mark should they should be worth?

Standardized tests are an important tool and should be used to evaluate curriculum and to ensure all schools are teaching and testing at the same level. I believe that standardized testing should be used for all core subjects (Math, the Sciences, and English) and should account for approximately 20% of the final mark as this is one of many testing tools a teacher may use throughout the school year to evaluate their students learning.

 

Did not respond:

Evelyn Myskiw

Peter Blahey

D’Anna Routley

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