School trustee candidates band together

By Meredith MacLeod/ Hamilton Spectator

Seven public school trustee candidates in the October municipal election have banded together under a platform that includes putting a five-year moratorium on school closures.

Experts say the move is highly unusual in a municipal election. It comes at a time when the board will see a big turnover in trustees, and after a tumultuous term of school closings and demolitions and the controversial decision to shift the school board headquarters out of the downtown.

The new group calls its shared vision The First 100 Days.

They vow to push for changes to the funding formula, advocate for at least one educational assistant in each elementary classroom and for separate facilities for secondary special needs students, and tackle high dropout rates.

They also say they will improve communication with the public and other levels of government, and push for transparency from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

The group says the accommodation review process needs to be overhauled.

A number of the candidates have fought closures in their neighbourhoods.

There are First 100 Days candidates in all but four races, including those in which incumbents Alex Johnstone, Wes Hicks and Todd White are running.

So far, Hicks and White are running unopposed.

Thirty-one people have, so far, jumped into the board races in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Addiction worker Sarah Warry-Poljanski jumped into the trustee race in Ward 7 after getting involved with the closures of both of her children’s schools. She’s concerned about special education and wants to see schools be used as true community hubs.

“What’s happened is that the trustees became spokespeople for the board,” she said. “Board staff was telling them what’s happening. Trustees should be spokespeople for the people to the board.”

She signed on with the First 100 Days platform because it mirrors her own vision.

“Why not work together? If a group of people wants to work hard, we can get things done. The public has lost trust in these officials but we can change that.”

Chris Erl, who is running in wards 1 and 2, says the First 100 Days group has built a vision based on shared knowledge and concerns. He says the slate is not a political bloc but a group galvanized by school closures and accommodation reviews.

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