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WRDSB – Kitchener Candidate Forum Answers

Why do/did you want to become a school board trustee? What experience do you bring to the role? How will you balance the time and effort you devote to being a trustee with other commitments you may have?
I want to make sure that every students is provided equal access to a high quality education. Over the last ten years, I have consistently been involved in initiatives, projects, programs and organizations that aim to better the lives of students, not only in Waterloo Region but across the country. After being chosen as one of ten women to receive the Province of Ontario’s Leading Women, Building Communities award for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo in 2018, I knew it was time to use the skills that I’ve gained from my experience in educational institutions, advocacy and equity roles to support students and educators in the Waterloo Region. As a woman of colour, who is the child of an immigrant, with a variety of invisible and visible marginalizations, I am passionate about equity in education. If elected to be a Trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board, I promise to tirelessly work to ensure that every student in Waterloo Region is supported and given the tools that they need to have a positive and successful educational journey.

Some of the key strengths that I bring are my communication and public relations skills, expansive facilitation background, my conflict resolution experience (especially in regards to marginalized populations) and background, technical background, and advocacy background. I’m humbled as I reflect on some of the leadership roles that individuals and organizations have asked me to take on over the years, especially in formal committees and boards. I’m a founding and current member of the International Citizen Science Association (CSA)’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Working Group, an invited member of the City of Cambridge’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and one of the lead organizers of Plan B KW. I’ve taken on leadership roles on boards and committees at both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, inclusive of sitting on the Centre for Community Research, Learning, and Action (CCRLA)’s board. In my day job, I am proud to be a member of the Persons with Disabilities Committee representing teams across Technology Solutions at TD and work closely on Women in Leadership in Technology and LGBT Initiatives for Technology Solutions at TD. Moreover, I’m lucky enough to mentor the co-op employees who work with TD Lab each term and the students and youth in STEM that I get the pleasure of teaching design thinking and ideation skills to through the programs that TD supports. I owe these opportunities to incredible mentors both in and outside of the workplace.

As for time management, I’m a Type A Planner kind of human. However, I am fortunate to know that if I am elected, the first year of being a Trustee would correspond with my maternity leave. I would use this time to really get to know each of the schools in Kitchener, the concerns and successes of each of them, and understand the amount of extra work that I could put in as a new parent. Once I have this understanding, I would be able to adequately understand the best ways to devote my time to the role.

What is the single greatest impact you plan to make for students?
I aim to make each and every student feel like they belong and are supported in their educational journey. The policies, procedures, and political statements that we make as a board will actively signal to our students, parents, and educators how welcomed and supported they are in our educational system. I will advocate that we listen to our marginalized students in all policy and procedural decisions made by WRDSB.

What are your top three priorities?
I have seven priorities: TRC Curriculum and Indigenous-settler relations, systemic and institutional inequality in education for underserved populations, health education, violence in the classroom, the ratio of educators to students, retrofiting and maintenance of our schools, and the balancing of budgets when the amount of offloading of costs from the province isn’t known yet.

What things must we get right in education over the next decade?
We need to really address the inequalities that can be found in the student experience, due to factors such as sexual and gender identity, class, race, religion, and accessibility needs. We need to address the unintentional/intentional intellectual segregation that our students face based on the school (and enrichment program – be it French Immersion, technology, IB, etc.) that they attend.

What is the biggest challenge schools in our community currently face? How do you propose to address it?
That’s a tricky question; depending on who you are talking to, there is a wide range of answers. From talking with parents, students, and educators, some of the key challenges and issues that have come up include: TRC Curriculum and Indigenous-settler relations, systemic and institutional inequality in education for underserved populations, health education, violence in the classroom, the ratio of educators to students, retrofiting and maintenance of our schools, French Immersion access and a perceived two-tier system, enrichment programming access, and the balancing of budgets when the amount of offloading of costs from the province isn’t known yet. Each of these challenges needs to be assessed, involve our communities in the discussion, and we must ensure that we creating an equitable educational system for all.

What do you see as the role of schools and school boards in being responsive to diverse communities and ensuring equity and inclusion in schools?
As a woman of colour, with invisible marginalizations, who is the child of an immigrant, I understand first hand the barriers that prevent and exclude individuals from participating fully in our community. I’m thankful that, since 2013, I’ve either been employed by or co-led organizations where over 75% of my tasks are focused on work that is meant to tear down barriers and increase the participation of underrepresented and underserved communities, inclusive of youth in STEM, women in STEM, LGBTQIA+ in Waterloo Region, accessibility in tech, and individuals new to Canada. I am cognizant of how privileged I am to even run in a municipal election, and hope to represent, if elected to WRDSB, many of the communities that are not represented in the current set of trustees.

Having spent time as an advocate and a lobbyist, I am excited to continue this work and work with our local governments by taking a four-pronged approach: 1. Employing consultants and experts of those maginalizations for all comprehensive research and strategy reports and plans, 2. Engaging with the gatekeepers and elders in those communities respectfully, from the beginning of my term, and committing to relationships built on respect, transparency from WRDSB, and humility, 3. Asking for involvement from those communities, giving them the space and room to voice their experiences and concerns, and not moving forward on decision-making meetings if we haven’t reached quorum on representation from these communities, and 4. Actively seek members from those communities to be involved in WRDBS committees.

What do you see as the role of schools in making sure that all Canadian students understand Canada’s history in terms of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples? What would you do to support the Calls to Action of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)?
As I have stated publicly, the dismissal and treatment of the Elders a part of the TRC writing sessions is abysmal at best, and an act of colonization at worst. The Elders deserve a public apology, at a bare minimum, with a commitment from the government to complete the writing sessions with the funding that is deserved, necessary, and needed. Even if I am not elected, I will continue to fight for the Indigenous curriculum in our educational system, inclusive of the TRC writing sessions.

Moreover, the last residential schools closed in 1996, the year that many of our newest educators were born. Waterloo Region is situated on the Haldimand Tract, and yet many of our residents couldn’t name the closest reserve nor the nations of the people who called this area home first. With the scrapping of the TRC Curriculum, it is up to WRDSB to create (in consultation with Indigenous communities) and enact policies to ensure that, if the Province does not move forward, we as a school board move forward on acting on as many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s action as possible.

How much access do you think the public should have to their school board trustees?
Your elected officials should be accessible and you should have direct access to them. I commit to regularly updating the public, be it through blogs, social media, email, or media availability to talk about all upcoming meetings, the things being discussed, and would have a regular call out for feedback to ensure that all voices are represented in those decisions and processes. Even now, my virtual door (as I don’t have a public office) is always open and easily accessible via my website, http://www.samantha-wr.com.

What sort of relationship do you think a trustee should have with fellow trustees and student trustees? How do you plan to support a collaborative environment in the board room?
Trustees should have a working, collaborative relationship that is centred on the wellbeing of our students and educational system. With our student trustees, we should also have a mentorship-centred relationship that would allow for the transfer of knowledge, best practices, and professional growth in their role and respects the unique expertise and viewpoint they bring to the Board. As a trained mediator, I would utilize my academic and professional training to create a collaborative environment in and outside of the board room.

What sort of relationship do you think a trustee should have with the board’s Director of Education? How will this help you in your role of responding to concerns raised by parents and other members of the community?
Trustees and the Director of Education should have an open and transparent relationship that is centred on the wellbeing of our students and educational system. This open and transparent relationship would allow me to express concerns raised by parents and other members of the community, and share the most up to date information from the staff. By having an open and transparent line of communication between the board and the staff, parents and members of the community can receive the information that they seek as quickly as possible and give back feedback regularly.

What sort of relationship do you think a trustee should have with the municipal government?
We need to have a collaborative relationship with our municipal governments. We are only a few months into this new government, and we are already seeing the province offload costs on to municipalities by cancelling grants and programs that would support initiatives needed and utilized by our school boards and educational system. I am sure that we will continue to see the offloading of costs by the province as the next four years progress. We will need to ensure that we are able to deliver the quality of education that our students deserve, both in terms of service and the physical space, while adjusting to the new fiscal realities that WRDSB will face over the next four years. This can only be done by working in tandem with our municipal governments to help shape how our budgets can best be utilized to support our educational system.

How do you plan to promote accountability and transparency at your board?
I’m a professional communicator, facilitator, advocate and artist – meaningful participation is a core element of how I work and live. As someone who has weaseled my way into more than my fair share of meetings to get (as close as possible) an understanding of policy and budget decisions, I commit to being transparent about all WRDSB decisions and processes (unless it breaks laws, statutes or in-camera confidentialities). As stated above, I commit to regularly updating the public, be it through blogs, social media, email, or media availability to talk about all upcoming meetings, the things being discussed, and would have a regular call out for feedback to ensure that all voices are represented in those decisions and processes. Even now, my virtual door (as I don’t have a public office) is always open and easily accessible via my website, http://www.samantha-wr.com.

Can you comment on the value of professional development opportunities for trustees and student trustees?
Some of the best professional development happened during my time as a student on board and committees during my university journey. I actively reflect on the professional development opportunities that I had access to and the skills I acquired. Currently, I sit on a variety of boards and committees and have continue to find the professional development opportunities, be it specialized training, coaching, workshops, etc., continue to be invaluable and some of the best pathways of growth for myself. I also strongly believe that these opportunities have made me a better employee, community member, and person in general.

Can you comment on what schools need to support the full range of student abilities including students with special needs?
My sister is a teacher who focused on junior grades before taking a string of long-term occasional (LTO) roles as an elementary resource teacher. There is a backlog (and a steep financial barrier) in the way that we diagnose and understand the complex learning and accessibility needs of our students, even more so for marginalized students. We need to ensure that, from in-take to IEP creation, the student is prioritized. On top of this, our classroom sizes are too large and there are not enough educational assistants (EAs) to ensure that the ratio of students to educators is at a level that supports the learning of all students. With a lower ratio of students to educators, educators can take the time and care to ensure that each student is support, no matter their accessibility needs.

What should be done to contribute to the overall mental health and well-being of students and staff in schools?
As stated above, there is a backlog (and a steep financial barrier) in the way that we diagnose and understand the complex learning and accessibility needs of our students, even more so for marginalized students. We need to ensure that, from in-take to IEP creation, the student is prioritized. Moreover, this means taking the time needed to humanize the student in this process. This also means creating environments in our classrooms that validate the identities of the students, not marginalize or discriminate. The policies, procedures and political statements that we make as a board actively signal to our staff and students how much we prioritize their mental health and well-being, be it support the 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum, the TRC writing session, advocating for small student-to-educator ratios to address violence in the classrooms, or prioritizing retrofitting our schools so that classrooms do not reach 47 degrees during a heat wave.

What are your views on the role of technology in teaching and learning?
I am currently (soon to be on maternity leave) the Outreach Operations Manager for TD Lab, TD Bank’s Innovation Lab in Communitech. I spend a significant amount of time in my role facilitating workshops for students across the Region on Design Thinking, ideation, wireframing, Scratch, among other things. I have seen first hand the growth in the students that have access to technology enrichment programming and classes. However, not all students in Waterloo Region have access to these programs and this is often most apparent in schools in neighbourhoods with lower socio-economic status.

If elected, I would propose a study of the current technology enrichment programs and classes run through the Region to assess the following: the successes/gaps/demands of current enrichment programs and classes, which schools are under-served, how many enrichment teachers would be needed to expand enrichment programming to all schools, the cost to staff new technology enrichment programs at schools across the Region to meet the demand (if/when found), and a comprehensive study of unintentional /intentional intellectual segregation and tiered experience of students with access to enrichment programming and those without access to enrichment programming.

What are your thoughts on the use of social media in the classroom and in schools?
As someone who works in technology, I understand the pros and cons of using social media in the classroom and schools. When used correctly, it opens up the world to the students, be it virtually exploring the Great Wall of China, chatting with students in France as a means of practicing their French, or creating their own art galleries using exhibits from the Museum of Modern Art without leaving the classroom. However, social media can also be a beacon for incorrect information, discrimination, cyberbullying, and hate speech. There needs to be protocols in place that allows classrooms to utilize social media while protecting our students from harm. If elected, I would utilize my extensive experience in social media to sit on the Internet Content Filtering Working Committee and work with parents and educators on these creation of these protocols, policies and procedures.

What are schools doing, or what more should schools be doing to be safe and inclusive places for students, e.g., with regard to anti-bullying?
If you look at the type of extracurriculars, leadership opportunities, educational extension opportunities, and the state of the schools in the poorest and richest neighbourhoods in Kitchener, you can see the stark difference in the education that our students receive. We don’t need to do more than a cursory Google search to see the extent of the bullying and isolation that our students of colour, LGBTQIA+ students, and students with accessibility needs experience. We need to address this in a two fold manner: targeting underserved schools and improving their infrastructure, and creating policies that focus on the safety, inclusion and validations of our most marginalized students.

My Health Ed Curriculum Delegation Statement to WRDSB

Tonight, I had the honour of speaking on behalf of Plan B KW at a meeting of the Waterloo Region District School Board. I urged them, in my speech below, to support the validation of our most vulnerable students by refusing to reprimand educators who use their professional knowledge to teach about consent, LGBTQ identity, and medical terms for their bodies. I’ve included my full remarks below.

– Samantha

My name is Samantha Estoesta, a soon-to-be-parent of a child who will attend Suddaby Public School. I also was an attendee at the previous meeting on Health Education and appreciate how quickly the Board has responded to this crucial issue and how the Board continues to work to support our students and educators..

Today, I am here as one of the founding organizers of Plan B KW, an organization in town that focuses on supporting and advocating for LGBTQ youth, particularly those at the margins of society such as those of low socioeconomic status, queer people of colour, and those with visible and invisible accessibility needs. Through our work, Plan B has advocated for this community at each of the Post-Secondary Institutions in Waterloo Region, as a member of the City of Cambridge’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and a variety of other conferences and gatherings. We are proud to be one of the few organizations that not just advocates on behalf of the queer community as a whole but does specific and detailed advocacy for the particular needs of queer people of colour, inclusive of immigrants and refugees. We proudly are the premier QPOC organization in Waterloo Region and use our organization to talk about key issues such as anti-blackness and Indigenous-Settler relations within the LGBTQ community. Another key aspect of our work is sourcing and providing gender-affirming clothing, be it sourcing significantly discounted or free Binders for Trans folks or offering free clothing and sanitized makeup in our regular clothing swaps. The vast majority of our attendees and organizers are youth still in school, with many of the organizers still or just barely removed from the educational system.

Delegations from the last meeting have already made it clear why the 2015 Health Education Curriculum is critical and life-saving for our most vulnerable students; I’m sure the delegations after me will continue to share these important stories. I am not here to speak on why you should advocate for the continuation of the usage of the 2015 curriculum. Instead, I come to you as someone with extensive experience in the creation of bylaws and policies that centre on diversity and inclusion, particularly in educational environments.

I have read through all of the applicable legislation, bylaws and policies regarding the professional standards demanded of teachers, the responsibilities of school boards, and the rights of our students, inclusive of Ontario College of Teachers Act and the Education Act.

As Waterloo Region District School Board is well aware, there are two key governing documents that are crucial for this conversation:

The Safe School Act, particularly Policy Memorandum No. 128 regarding The School Board Codes of Conduct, and The Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws Section 32 – Professional and Ethical Standards.

As the public may not be aware, Policy Memorandum No. 128 clearly outlines that all members of the school community must:

  • respect and comply with all applicable federal, provincial, and municipal laws;
    demonstrate honesty and integrity;
  • respect differences in people, their ideas, and their opinions;
  • treat one another with dignity and respect at all times, and especially when there is disagreement;
  • respect and treat others fairly, regardless of, for example, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability;
  • respect the rights of others;

School boards provide direction to their schools to ensure opportunity, academic excellence, and accountability in the education system. It is the responsibility of school boards to:

  • develop policies that set out how their schools will implement and enforce the provincial Code of Conduct and all other rules that they develop that are related to the provincial standards that promote and support respect, civility, responsible citizenship, and safety;

And, again for the public, the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws Section 32 – Professional and Ethical Standards states that the following are hereby prescribed as standards of practice for the teaching profession:

  • Commitment to Students and Student Learning
    Members are dedicated in their care and commitment to students. They treat students equitably and with respect and are sensitive to factors that influence individual student learning. Members facilitate the development of students as contributing citizens of Canadian society.
  • Professional Knowledge
    Members strive to be current in their professional knowledge and recognize its relationship to practice. They understand and reflect on student development, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum, ethics, educational research and related policies and legislation to inform professional judgment in practice.
  • Professional Practice
    Members apply professional knowledge and experience to promote student learning. They use appropriate pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, resources and technology in planning for and responding to the needs of individual students and learning communities. Members refine their professional practice through ongoing inquiry, dialogue and reflection.

The following are hereby prescribed as the ethical standards for the teaching profession:

  • Care
    The ethical standard of Care includes compassion, acceptance, interest and insight for developing students’ potential. Members express their commitment to students’ well being and learning through positive influence, professional judgment and empathy in practice.
  • Respect
    Intrinsic to the ethical standard of Respect are trust and fair-mindedness. Members honour human dignity, emotional wellness and cognitive development. In their professional practice, they model respect for spiritual and cultural values, social justice, confidentiality, freedom, democracy and the environment.

Crucially, the Communications Office for the Ontario College of Teachers released a statement to Maclean’s stating that, “If a teacher flat-out refuses to deliver the required program to students, the responsibility is on the employer—in this case, the school board—to report the person to the OCT.”

I beg of the Board to consider having a motion that not only supports our most vulnerable students, but our educators. I urge you all to create one that contains the following elements:

That Waterloo Region District School Board, in accordance with The Safe Schools Act, The Education Act, and The Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws, will:

  1. Will develop a clear and actionable policy, in accordance with The Safe Schools Act and in cooperation with our educators and educational communities, that ensures that educators who teach all applicable Health Education Curriculum that involve current federal, provincial and municipal laws, inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as per the Canadian Human Rights Act section 2 and 3, and consent and the numerous ways it can be given, as per the Canadian Criminal Code section 153, are protected from professional reprimand and persecution;
  2. Defer to the judgement of our educators, in accordance of the Section 32 of the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws, in regards to teaching the 2015 Health Education Curriculum instead of the 1998 Health Education Curriculum;
  3. Refuse to report any educators to the Ontario College of Teachers who decline to deliver the 1998 Health Education Curriculum as per their professional and ethical judgement as stated in Section 32 of the Ontario College of Teachers Bylaws.

A snitch line has already been created by the current provincial government and the Ministry of Education; it will be weaponized by those who are unreceptive to the academic, medical and professional expertise behind the 2015 Health Education Curriculum. It is the duty of the Waterloo Region District School Board to use its power to protect its students and educators.

Thank you.

Poetry & Politics: A Poetry Fundraiser for Samantha Estoesta

When:  Thursday, August 30 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Where: Open Sesame, 220 King Street West, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1A9
Cost: Pay What You Can up to $25 cash at the door

Join us for a night of poetry and politics at this fundraiser for Samantha Estoesta’s WRDSB campaign!

As a first-time candidate, it will take a very strong and dedicated grass roots campaign to be elected. With thousands of brochures to purchase, hundreds of yard signs to order, scores of ads to place, and the largest city in Waterloo Region to cover, our campaign will need help. Your early contribution will give our race a tremendous boost right out of the starting block. More over, as a poet, Samantha couldn’t think of a better way of sharing her two passions: poetry and equity in education.

We are graced with performances from Bashar Lulu Jabbour and the candidate herself. Mona Mousa, the founder and director of Feather & Anchor a talent management agency serving performance artists from the BIPOC & LGBT Communities, will be speaking on the importance of performance art in education, especially that which represents BIPOC and LGBT communities.

This event is Pay What You Can, up to $25 cash, at the door. Tea and coffee is available for a donation and there will be campaign signs, flyers, etc. available for you to pick up to show your support for Samantha!

About the Performers:

Bashar Lulu Jabbour is an immigrant poet! He uses the mundane to give you a glimpse of the complexities of leaving one home for another. Bashar is a storyteller, and his stories are deeply personal. He is a nationally competing poet, finishing 5th (team) & 6th (individual) in Canada. His poetry is a staple at the many festivals of Kitchener-Waterloo (where he resides) and southwest Ontario, including Cherry Festival, Latitudes Storytelling Festival, and Word on the Street. He was an opening act for artists such as Carlos Andres Gomez and national festivals like Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. His debut book has been funded by Ontario Arts Council, Waterloo Region Arts Fund, and Public Interest Research Groups, and will be released in mid 2018.

Bashar is also active an arts organizer. Since 2015, Bashar has been the co-artistic director of the Kitchener Waterloo Poetry Slam. In his role, he has focused on building community through consistent intimate events (poetry circles, writing circles and workshops), as well as accountability and conversation. He is also the organizer of Tea + Art, a writing workshop series for Non-binary and Women of Colour. He is relentless in pursuing artistic growth through community building, organizing and skill exchange.

Samantha Estoesta (she/her) is a multiple-published poet and long time #WomenInSTEM advocate. She has performed across the country, highlighted in Edmonton, Victoria, Hangzhou, and Kitchener-Waterloo. With a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies (Conrad Grebel), a MA in Intercultural Communications (Royal Roads) and over ten years in advocacy, communications, community development, community engagement, and social media strategy, she centres her efforts on growing communities through reciprocal relationships.

As someone who is passionate about education and equity, she is hoping to represent Kitchener on the Waterloo Region District School Board. Over the last ten years, she has consistently been involved in initiatives, projects, programs and organizations that aim to better the lives of students, not only in Waterloo Region, but across the country. After being chosen as one of ten women to receive the Province of Ontario’s Leading Women, Building Communities award for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo in 2018, she knew it was time to use the skills that she’s gained from my experience in educational institutions, advocacy and equity roles to support students in the Waterloo Region.

If elected to be a Trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board, she promise to tirelessly work to ensure that every student in Waterloo Region is supported and given the tools that they need to have a positive and successful educational journey.

Testimonials

“Samantha Estoesta Williams is an extremely positive role model in the KW community. If you mention her name, it’s likely someone will say they know her and have been positively impacted by one of her many ongoing efforts to foster safety and care for people. In addition to volunteering for a number of organizations, Samantha often volunteers her time as a mediator; helping resolve interpersonal conflicts and promoting social wellbeing. While she continues to uplift and encourage female leadership in others; including donating her time to advance representation of women (especially BIPOC) in municipal/provincial politics, Samantha is a leader, herself; she is looked up to by an incredibly wide circle of people as a person who is active in their social justice efforts. Samantha is there. She is present. She is putting in organizational work, energy and all of her heart into bettering her community.
– Susan Cadell

If there is something being organized that is for bettering the lives of women, queer, trans and non-binary people, local politics, or enhancing KW’s multiculturalism, Samantha is present. If not, she is one of the organizing bodies who put their time, energy, and care into creating the event itself. Samantha attends events and stays in touch with many people and happenings. There are few people as genuinely open, caring, and involved as Samantha.

Her work now with increasing women and girls presence in the science, technology and math fields is particularly inspiring. Samantha is well suited for the work, and I am confident that many young women will see possibilities for themselves that they never did before. This work, along with Samantha’s moving testimonials about the women of colour who have inspired her, stands to make an incredibly positive impact for our KW community at large. Samantha is a leader filled with humility, integrity, and courage to act not just for others, but with others.
– Alysha Brilla, Singer/Songwriter, 3x Juno Nominee, Producer, Community Builder

Samantha is as fierce in love as she is in determination. Dedicated to the progress of all women, she stands in the gap for others by being there when needed and going above and beyond to make sure all are included and uplifted in their differences and gifts. A beacon in the tech sector, Samantha continuously affirms that one life can kindle and bring visibility to many others. And her authenticity and commitment to genuine listening is an example for all those engaged in the work of social justice. Samantha is an inspiration.”
– Devon Spier, Published Poet, Community Builder, Future Rabbi

Samantha’s Platform

There are four key pillars in Samantha’s Platform:

  1. Sustainable Fiscal Planning and Execution
  2. Student-focused, Forward-Looking, Research-Centred Policies
  3. Supportive, Equitable, and Accessible Learning Environments
  4. Transparent and Consistent Communication

Sustainable Fiscal Planning and Execution
There is a likely chance that over the next four years, the Province of Ontario will expect Ontario school boards to work with slimmer budgets while still expanding on programming, services and necessary upgrades to aging facilities. With over 10+ years of exemplary budgetary management, Samantha has a unique background stretching budgets in educational institutions while ensuring that the services and supports for students are not sacrificed. She hopes to utilize her years in government relations to work diligently with the municipal and provincial government to ensure no student in Waterloo Region is left behind.

Student-focused, Forward-Looking, Research-Centred Policies
Policy creation for the Waterloo Region District School Board should have three key elements: student-focused, forward-looking, and research-centred. In such an innovative ecosystem, schools in the Region should have policies that are as innovative as the products produced here, inclusive of accessible STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming available for all WRDSB students. In her student-centred advocacy roles, Samantha has represented over 300,000 students in over 20 post-secondary institutions, and has written hundreds of surveys, qualitative studies for stakeholder engagement, bylaws, and policies. Her policy work can be found in national, provincial, and local non-profits, along with three university institutions across the country.

Supportive, Equitable, and Accessible Learning Environments
Waterloo Region has a diverse population with a large disparity between high and low socioeconomic status students. The students attending WRDSB schools come from a variety of different backgrounds and identities, inclusive of those who identify as Indigenous, immigrants, low socioeconomic status, visible minorities, religious minorities, LGBTQ, and those with accessibility needs. Each of these students deserve to have an accessible and equitable education. Samantha’s extensive policy and advocacy work has centred on diversity and inclusion, especially in regards to creating accessible environments where individuals are supported and treated equitably, no matter their background, identities, or abilities.

Transparent and Consistent Communication
As outlined by the current provincial government, there are going to be extensive changes in the school board, be it the re-evaluation of the 2018 Health Curriculum or the use of standardized testing as a benchmark. It is crucial that the WRDSB’s trustee are in constant communication with the guardians of their students and are transparent in all matters that effect them. As a seasoned communications professional and community builder, Samantha understands how important that two way communication will be over the next four years and is committed to openly working with her communities.

If elected, Samantha has a keen interest in actively participating in the following WRDSB committees:

Mental Health Advisory Committee
In her current role, Samantha is a valued member of the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Committee for her employee where she routinely advocates for access to mental health services. As an advocate for student employees in technology teams, Samantha has created detailed SWOTs, prepared improvements plans, and a Wellness Plan that can be utilized by student and non-student employees. Samantha hopes to utilize her experience in accessibility advocacy and mental health support on the Mental Health Advisory Committee to ensure that every WRDSB student is holistically supported both mentally and physically.

Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group
Many in Waterloo Region know Samantha as an advocate for equity and inclusion, be it in educational settings or in technology. Over the last ten years, Samantha’s extensive policy and advocacy work has centred on diversity and inclusion, especially in regards to creating accessible learning and working environments. She hopes to bring this experience to the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group to ensure that all students are supported and treated equitably, no matter their background, identities, or abilities.

Accessibility Committee
Through her current and past work, Samantha has extensive experience with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, inclusive of physical spaces, individual rights, and digital accessibility – all within the realm of educational spaces. Samantha hopes to utilize her experience in accessibility advocacy in the Accessibility Committee to ensure that every WRDSB student has a barrier free educational experience which allows them to thrive.

Early Years Advisory Group
As Samantha and her husband, Justin, are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child late in 2018, the Early Years Advisory Group is of special interest to Samantha. The first years, inclusive of Pre-School and Kindergarten, are incredibly important in the development of children. As a soon-to-be-parent, Samantha hopes to ensure that those on this committee represent the parents and families of those in Early Years programming.

Internet Content Filtering Working Committee
Through her work in the technology field, Samantha understands completely both the usefulness and dangerousness of technology. She is also incredibly aware of the social media channels utilized by the youngest generation through her work as a STEM facilitator and social media specialist. Her extensive experience in this field would be invaluable to the Internet Content Filtering Working Committee, ensuring that the most vulnerable of technologists still access the websites and content they need for their education, while protecting them from predators and environments that spur on cyberbullying.