Archive for the ‘Platform’ Category

Here we are folks. The day before the election.  Tomorrow, we will vote for our Trustees, Mayor and Councillors.

I have received so much encouragement from so many people…. got a call the other night that gave me the impetus to stay the course for a few hours more.

Here are the brass tacks: I will do as I say. I will listen. And I will respond.

The past few months have been really enjoyable. So many great folks in this community. So many great ideas.

I ask for the honour of your vote on Monday and I will put these great ideas into motion.

Thank-you..

And yes, I know I look goofy below… it gets better.

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Raising the bar

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Platform
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Verb

to raise the bar

  1. (idiomatic) To raise standards or expectations, especially by creating something to a higher standard.
    Acme’s new technology will raise the bar for the entire industry.

“Why do you want to do this?”

As I walk around the streets of my community, I have time to reflect on questions like these.

It is in fact a stock question asked of each and every candidate for a seat at the School Board Table. Indeed, it is a question asked of any candidate – Trustee, Councillor, Mayor, or in a job interview.

But in the case of public office, the question is often framed in the context of “why do you want to take on a task that will place huge demands on you and your family, practically wipe out any free time you now have, sets you up as a target for anyone with a grievance and pays pretty much peanuts relative to the hours spent on the job.”

The answer for each candidate varies according to the platform of ideas that the particular candidate wants to put out there. Some have new and innovative ideas and approaches. Some want greater transparency and accountability. Better communications. Better fiscal management. Better representation. Some care deeply for local governance and feel they can contribute in a positive way. Others have an axe to grind. Some are running more “against” an incumbent than actually “for” anything.

My reasons for running fit into a number of those reasons.

But, as has happened a few times over the past few months, clarity clicks and I am reminded of the real reason why I took up this challenge.

I want to help raise the bar for education in Zone 6 and in Ottawa.

Joe Banks of the Citizen penned an article last week that reminded me of my true motivation.

Mediocrity has become the new normal.

Today’s Castor Valley School Council was told at its June meeting that the school would have two more portables, bringing its total to nine from seven. This is progress?

That over-reliance on portables, in fact, is a city-wide problem. And as much as we can harp on it in the rural wards, Citizen columnist Randall Denley recently highlighted the 30-year-old school overcrowding issue in Kanata. Katimavik elementary school “has nearly as many students in portables as it does in the school and is likely the most crowded school in the system,” he reported.

Even if you don’t have kids in the system, the structural reliance on portables is an aged sign the system is not progressing, in spite of McGuinty’s pro-education pronouncements.

That should be of great concern to every taxpayer, and something broached by the candidates running for school board this fall, a campaign largely overshadowed by the municipal one, which has in turn been sidelined by the mayoral contest.

Mediocrity has become the new normal.

If an apparently progressive society has stopped progressing and, in fact, shows signs of regression, then it’s a clear sign there’s a systemic break in the system, that in spite of the comings and goings of staff, trustees, students and parents, there remains an immovable obstacle to make things better.

Regrettably, most voters don’t care, or at least don’t know to care, about local government, and much less about school board matters, at least until an issue surfaces that directly affects their property values or quality of life.

You and I can shout that needs to change. But until the current system recognizes how some wrongs are never made right, the only progress we’ll see is in voter cynicism.

If low standards (e.g., portables) persist long enough, then they become the benchmarks – the norm rather than below the norm.

And I don’t think we can point to only our aging infrastructure in this way. Talk around Board tables and Council tables is always about cutting programs, prioritization, slashing budgets, “zero means zero”. It is seldom about how to move forward, improve programs meet new needs, excelling. It does happen (e.g., Trustee Brockington’s motion to look at the feasibility of integrating a swimming program into the curriculum), but not as often as it should.

Now to be clear, I am not suggesting that the Board go on a haphazard spending spree. Not at all. The Trustees are responsible for tax dollars collected from Ottawans and these funds must be allocated carefully and without waste. This is imperative. Yet it is also imperative that the conversation changes from one of meeting the bare minimum to how families can be offered a boosted version of excellence in education. Innovation in programs. Challenges to the norm.

Raising the bar.

We are fortunate to have truly great schools in this city with equally talented and inspiring educators. We are not starting from the bottom rung by no means! Look around. Look at Canterbury HS and its world-renowned arts programs. Look at Riverview Alternative and how it offers top-notch teaching in a way that meets the needs of a variety of students. Pleasant Park PS and Alta Vista PS and their engaged parent communities. Rockcliffe Park PS and its rich history. And look at all of the rest of the schools in Zone 6 and this city and each of them offers something that screams out “excellence!”

But we can do even better. We can raise that bar everywhere. Stand up to Queens Park. Raise that lowest common denominator. Reduce the number of portables. Be more responsive. Be more transparent. Don’t settle for less.

And that is why I am running for Trustee.

 

Then click on this link. Go to Zone 6 and you will see the link on my name.

It sends you to the answers to a number of questions posed to me last week by the Ottawa Parents Education Network. They seem like a solid group with admirable goals.

Here is a summary of their mission:

The Ottawa Parents’ Education Network (OPEN) is dedicated to providing information on public school-related issues to people in the Ottawa region. OPEN was created by a group of parents who want to focus attention on what is happening in our schools and promote greater parent and community engagement in public education.  Our goal is to keep parents and community members informed about local issues in education and, in doing so, foster greater collaboration between parents, trustees and board staff to ensure that public schools are meeting the diverse needs of all students and families in Ottawa.

I think that regardless of whether or not I am elected, I will stay in touch with these folks.

I love opportunities to do what I am doing this evening: meeting and interacting with a school community.

Like I have said, good communication is key. And good communication begins on the campaign trail but cannot end on voting day.

If you are an Alta Vista PS parent, come on out to the AGM at 7 pm. Trustee candidates will be joining the meeting at 8.

Last night’s airing on Rogers TV of some of the Trustee candidates in Zones 1 through 6 was quite informative. The range of preparation and talent in front of the camera was very wide. Some were very, very comfortable and completely prepared. And of course, others not so much.

I think I fell into the former rather than the latter though there were a few candidates whose experience shone through much brighter than mine.

And that is that as far as television goes in this campaign – as far as we Trustee candidates are concerned. Some candidates may have something planned independently, but unlike the Council and Mayoral candidates, our 90 seconds of fame on Rogers is pretty much it.

Happily, people are taking the initiative and emailing questions about my stance on certain issues… keeps me busy but I’m glad to do my part in keeping our communities informed.

John Marshall: communication is key

Posted: September 19, 2010 in Platform
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After improving 2 way communications between the Board and the communities it serves,  protecting local control of local education follows in terms of my priorities if I am elected.

Our public school system is under pressure like never before. Programs are being curtailed. Or programs are being cut altogether in some schools. Sometimes even schools are closed. And our children pay the price. I personally know a couple of little girls who were devastated by the closing of McGregor Easson Public School.  We should not alllow this to happen again.

Our Public School Board cannot really be blamed for this. They have been subject to the whims of  a provincial master that has downloaded, offloaded and taken an increasingly command and control approach to local education. Dwindling funds have forced the Board into, what have been at times, no-win situations.

Bill 177 is symbolic of this usurping of local control over local education. This Bill, currently before the legislature, will hamstring Trustees like never before. The Director of Education essentially becomes the Board’s “boss”. The Ontario Public School Boards Association notes that:

A pervasive theme in many of the provisions that diminishes the role of trustees and erodes their status as individuals democratically elected to office and as a board of trustees.

Read the Bill here and tell me what you think.

What can I offer up to help preserve and protect local governance over education?

– When I was a municipal Councillor, I was never afraid to stand up to Queen’s Park when undue provincial interference worked against the interests of my constituents. I would do likewise as your Trustee.

– My day job requires that I be adept at dealing with the media and users of our products. I have to be able to negotiate arrangements that are beneficial for everyone. This skill would be valuable when dealing with the province.

– I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance that I personally attach to local governance.  It is the local citizenry who are best able to make decisions about the direction of education in their communities – not a Ministry of Education employee in Toronto.

Stay tuned over the coming days for the next part of my platform: innovative thinking and acting.

Following on the communications theme that I began a couple of days ago, I’d like to propose another clear and direct way to bring the Board closer to those who support Public Education.

It’s quite simple, actually. I’m surprised no one has yet come up with it.

Or maybe they have but it has been overlooked by the mainstream media’s obsession with the Mayoral and Council contests.

Here it is.

Wait for it.

In the 21st century, can we not film Board proceedings and make them available live on the Internet?

I watched the World Cup – live from South Africa – on my iPhone. It was great! The quality was good (except for those bloomin’ vuvuzelas!) and all it took to access the vid was a touch or three on the screen.

Soooooooo… we can’t we live-stream Board meetings?

Yeah, I know that when the Board goes in camera it is for a good reason and the video would need to be paused, but for the public portion of the meetings, why not?

And hey! Here’s another idea: put aside a few dollars – wouldn’t take many – and do a little outreach program to tell folks that if they click on http:www.ocdsb.whatevertheurl.ca they can watch their Trustees in action. In real-time.

Seriously, is this such a radical path?

If we are to preserve local control over local education, we have to build better connections between the Board and their constituents. Just the other day, someone said to me: “Really? we vote for our School Board”?

We NEED to up the relevance index if we are to preserve local control of local education.

Oh, and Ms. Funicello, in case I’m not successful, feel free to steal this idea… I truly hope you do.

Communication.

How well it is managed by a School Board Trustee (or any other person in public office) will go a long way in determining whether or not he or she is effective in informing the community about the issues at the Board level or informing the Board about what concerns the constituency at the community level.

All of my life I have believed in the value of effective communication and I have been pretty good at practicing what I preach.

In order to carry out the role of Trustee in the best way possible, I will speak to each of the Parent Councils about their own local concerns. And I will do as soon as practicable after my election.

Following this, I will invite the Chairpersons of each of the Parent Councils to join with me in a Trustee Advisory Group that will guide me in my decisions over the next 4 years. We will meet at least quarterly to chart out responses to pressing issues.

The second main thrust of my plan to improve communications between the Trustee and the Community will be to reach out to my constituents through social media like this website, my Facebook site and Twitter. I am not one who thinks that all communication problems can be solved digitally – but it does help, especially with younger members of our communities.

I think these measures will help improve the communication between the school communities in Alta Vista and Rideau-Rockcliffe and the OCDSB. And this will make me a more effective Trustee.

Next – how I plan on improving the lines of communication between the Board as a whole and the educational constituency it serves.

Fleshing out my platform

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Platform
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When I decided to contest the Zone 6 seat on the OCDSB, I targeted tomorrow, the first of September as the day I would launch my campaign in earnest. Having a full-time job, I have to allocate my campaigning time wisely and thought it best to concentrate the bulk of my efforts on the final 6 – 7 weeks or so leading up to the vote on October 25.

So, beginning tomorrow, I will be updating this blog frequently with an aim to clearly explain where I stand on the major issues facing the Zone and the Board as a whole.

I will, of course, continue to monitor and comment on other races and any interesting matters that pop up in the mainstream media.

As always, feel free to scribble your comments on my posts or contact me directly through email – marshall4ocdsb@gmail.com – or by phone at 613-219-9503.