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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.

Why Vote Samantha?

The next four years will involve significant budgetary and policy changes that affect the public school system in Waterloo Region. With extensive experience in budget management, government relations and student-centred advocacy,

Waterloo Region needs to elect WRDSB Trustees like Samantha.

Over the last ten years, Samantha 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. In 2018, Samantha was chosen as one of ten women to receive the Province of Ontario’s Leading Women, Building Communities award for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Her applicable experience includes:

✔︎ 5+ years of exemplary budget management
✔︎ 6+ years of thought leadership on diversity and STEM
✔︎ 10+ years in student-centred advocacy on diversity, inclusion, and STEM
✔︎ 10+ years of board experience related to educational institutions and non-profits
✔︎ 7+ years of Federal, Provincial, and Municipal government relations and advocacy

She has worked at and with a variety of educational institutions and education-centred organizations over the last ten years, including:

✔︎ Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College and the University of Alberta
✔︎ Founding and current member of the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Working Group of the International Citizen Science Association
✔︎ Waterloo Region’s Business & Entrepreneurship Program, a specialized program for high school students in both WRDSB and WRCDSB
✔︎ Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, Canadian Federation of Students, FedS, WLUGSA, WLUSU, OPIRG, and PIRGS Canada
✔︎ Represented over 300,000 students at over 20 post-secondary institutions and written hundreds of surveys, qualitative studies for stakeholder engagement, bylaws, and policies

Samantha is passionate about education and equity. If elected to be a Trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board, Samantha will 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.