Interview

Below is an interview I gave to the Barrhaven Independent local newspaper, you can find the published piece in the latest issue here, but I felt it important to share with voters my full responses.

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Tell me a bit about yourself and why you have decided to run for school trustee?  I’ve always had an interest in education. Whether in my daily life as a parent or through my work as an academic in the areas of education and children’s rights, I know the importance of education to any community. I decided to run for trustee because the past few years have been especially challenging for so many, and I know I can bring a strong, progressive, creative and collaborative voice to the board. 

Why do you feel a new trustee is needed for Barrhaven?
It’s been twelve years since we’ve had a change in our trustee for Zone 3, and Barrhaven has grown and evolved in so many ways since then! We also have a new boundary for Zone 3 for this election, so it’s a great time for a change or, at least, for the Barrhaven community to have some choice on who they’d like to be their representative on the board. We definitely need someone in the role who is closely connected to, and trusted by, the community.

How do you feel about the current COVID-19 protocols in OCDSB schools? Do you think the board could/should be doing more? If so, what? 

I don’t believe the current protocols related to preventing the spread of COVID-19 are adequate. I think the board should continue to strive to make classrooms as safe as possible by providing improved ventilation systems (and in many cases, windows that can stay open and contribute to improving air circulation). I also think the board could be doing more to encourage students and parents to wear masks, and get vaccinated. More public education and awareness could go a long way here.

There has been a lot of discussion, especially locally, regarding police presence in schools and the cancellation of the SRO program. Since then we have seen a number of incidents in local Barrhaven schools, including a stabbing at Longfields Davidson Heights. How do we do we keep schools safe when there is no direct link with Ottawa Police for OCDSB schools? 

I was happy to see the board accept this key recommendation from the OCDSB’s Office of the Human Rights and Equity Advisor’s report on the “Policy and Practice Review of Police Involvement in Schools,” and end the SRO program. That report was thoroughly researched and its findings demonstrated a number of harms that many students faced as a result of the SRO program in Ottawa’s schools. There is a lot of work for the board, schools, and community partners to do in this area, but thankfully, the OCDSB is not the first to remove police officers from their schools so we have some great, well-proven examples of alternatives that we can learn from here. The answer to “how do we keep schools safe” is: through a wide range of practices. At this point, we need to consider everything from having (unarmed and non-police) community safety monitors in schools; to prioritizing and investing in social workers, counsellors, coaches, EAs, and other staff trained in alternative ways to provide safety in youth spaces; to ensuring that OCDSB schools are committed, in practice, to building a community where all students feel supported and where addressing systemic racism, colonialism, ableism and anti-2SLGBTQ discrimination is taken seriously in all areas of schooling. Those are just a few examples among many of how to improve safety for all students.

Your website says you’re concerned about the education system in Ontario after the recent provincial election. What can be done at the local school board level, when the province has made it clear they don’t have jurisdiction over many key issues? 

What can be done at the local level is that we can bring values into our decision-making that are missing from the leadership at the provincial level. Inclusion, equity, community, respect: these are values that I bring to my decision-making, to setting priorities, and to developing creative solutions and working collaboratively. We will continue to face constraints (financial and otherwise) at the board level,  but I believe that the values shaping our decisions can lead to creative and effective solutions to these challenges.

We have seen a lot of overcrowding in Barrhaven schools. It seems to be getting slightly better, but as the community continues to grow, so does demand. John McCrae has lost a large portion of its sports field and room for even more portable classrooms seems to have run out. What can we do to deal with this before it counties to get worse?

This is a longstanding issue in our area and I know that many students and parents continue to be concerned. As trustee, I’ll make this issue a priority. Following up on the current plans (revisiting John McCrae SS data after 2023) will be especially important; as well as revisiting earlier suggestions will be necessary, with open consultation and communication with parents, students and other community members. I also have experience working with demographic data and would join efforts to work on or analyze projections for our zone’s population growth and feeder schools. I would also commit to advocating for Barrhaven as an area where a new school is needed as the board prepares its funding calls to the Ministry.

Anything else you would like to add? I’m happy to answer any other questions from community members and learn more about the issues that Barrhaven students, parents, and others are concerned with.  patriciakmiec.2022@gmail.com and patriciakmiec.com is where they can find me!

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