Results of our Questionnaire to School Trustee Candidates in Regina’s 2022 By-Election

This month, Take Action Against COVID partnered with Safe Schools Saskatchewan and Regina Education Alliance to produce a questionnaire for school board trustee candidates running in the By-Election for Subdivision No 2 (Regina Public School Division No. 4), asking them numerous questions related to public health and inclusivity for kids.

Sidebar: Role of School Board trustees in Saskatchewan, explained

We did this out of concern that several reports that “Freedom Convoy”-related groups were getting involved in school board elections across the country to push a highly ideological and narrow agenda that is anti-vaccine, anti-social-emotional-learning, anti-LGBTQ, and opposed to anti-racist education as well.

Normally, extreme social conservatives getting involved in city council and trustee races is nothing new, especially across the United States. However, these same reports have signalled that this school board trustee “entryism” across Canada has been a much more organized yet secretive effort this time around. As a pro-public-health group, we therefore reasoned that we should ask all candidates questions in an attempt to clarify their positions on public health and equity initiatives in schools.

We also felt, more positively, that our questionnaire would let excellent candidates stand out and highlight who we should vote for and not merely vote against. The thoughtfulness of school board candidates, and their commitment to equity and educational quality in many aspects of public K-12 education, is consequential for our children and their educational outcomes, and for our society generally.

We should all make efforts to support good candidates, take an interest as parents and voters, and if we’re eligible to vote, take the time to vote in School Board elections in an informed way.

The vote happens Tuesday, Oct 25. If you are eligible to vote in the Regina Public School Subdivision No. 2 By-Election, here is information about it.

The candidates

Greta LangeprofileemailFacebook

Matt ThompsonprofileemailFacebook • Twitterwebsite

Mavis Olesenprofileemail

Nasir Sohailprofileemail

Tracey McMurchyprofileemailFacebook • TwitterInstagram

Here is a City of Regina webpage with introductions to the candidates where you can see quick overviews of candidates’ backgrounds, administration, and advocacy experience.

Here is a video on YouTube with statements from the candidates created by Access Now.

Note: If you have questions for candidates, please reach out to them yourself via their contact info on their profile on the City of Regina election information page, their email address above, or via social media linked above.

We narrowed our long list of questions down to a couple dozen, which we asked of everyone.

We encourage you to read all of the answers, but public-health-specific questions we asked are in Section 7, Student and Employee Health (the last section of the questionnaire). If you have feedback or questions about our questionnaire, please email us.

Note: We recently updated this post for formatting major formatting changes and to include Tracey McMurchy’s answers.

The image below is the intro to our questionnaire.

Our greetings to the candidates.
Here is a Google Doc link to the whole questionnaire that was submitted to candidates.

Questionnaire Responses

Matt Thompson’s answers are in violet.

Nasir Sohail’s answers are in blue.

Tracey McMurchy’s answers are in orange.

The order of the candidates’ responses to each question was randomized.

1. Governance

Do you agree with the current level of transparency in schools? What would you like to change?

Nasir Sohail: Parents expect their children’s well-being to come first when children attend school. This includes the expectation of respect for students’ privacy and adequate protection of the confidentiality of children’s personal information. To that end, parents expect openness and transparency from schools and districts about their data practices, so that parents can evaluate whether a school’s protection of children’s personal information meets those expectations.

I think there is always a room for improvement. Accountability is created when families are brought into the education conversation, and I am a strong supporter of families’ involvement in their children’s education as I believe IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO GROW A CHILD. Once parents are actively engaged in their children’s education there will be a greater transparency and more could be achieved to foster the skill sets of children.

Matt Thompson: I am committed to be as open and transparent as possible. I would like to see more public responses to actions from the Ministry of Education.

Tracey McMurchy: This is a work in progress, with some schools doing it very well while others struggle. I think school staff at all levels are working hard and trying their best. My experience as a parent has shown me that dialogue between parents/families and teachers/administration/board does need to improve. There needs to be clarity and consistency in the information around policies, processes/procedures and expectations that is communicated to parents and families. There is a lot going on, and it can be challenging and confusing for parents who are trying to stay on top of it all and understand how to navigate their way when they have concerns. Parents and families have a right to understand what is happening in the school system and how it affects their children. I know when parents/families have concerns/problems/incidents, many do not know how to navigate the system to address and resolve these issues. People who don’t feel their concerns are addressed appropriately become disengaged with the system. That doesn’t solve anything and often exacerbates the issue.

I will work with and listen to parents/families and school staff and administrators to understand their concerns and determine where the disconnect is and how best to strengthen communication and increase transparency.

2. Employee Relations

Will you vote to uphold the principles of collective bargaining of Regina educators and other staff to ensure the process is fair and balanced?

Matt Thompson: Yes.

Tracey McMurchy: Yes, I will.

Nasir Sohail: Yes I will vote to uphold the principles of collective bargaining of Regina educators and other staff to ensure the process is fair and balanced. I studied the AGREEMENT July 2016 – June 2018 between THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE REGINA SCHOOL DIVISION NO. 4 OF SASKATCHEWAN and THE TEACHERS OF THE REGINA SCHOOL DIVISION NO. 4.

I strongly agree with the agreement and to protect the rights of educators and staff. I will certainly vote to the fair and balanced working environment and other perks for them.

3. Diversity and Inclusion

Will you vote for continued efforts around equity and inclusion to improve student achievement, close opportunity gaps, and support student well-being?

Nasir Sohail: I am an educationalist and I am passionate about the culture of teaching and learning. I strongly believe all the students must be able to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning. In my profile statement I mentioned about change, Canada is a multicultural country and Differences in ethnicity, culture, religion and a variety of other factors can all play a role in the development of students.

Matt Thompson: I believe that all students and teachers deserve to feel safe and welcome in the Regina Public School System, regardless of their sexual or gender identity, race, or religion.

Tracey McMurchy: Of course I will. One of our key priorities should be to ensure students feel safe at school, while supporting learning and mental health. There is good work currently being done around diversity and inclusion, recognizing the challenges with gender identity and racial discrimination. If not addressed appropriately, issues can further develop that distract from learning, may cause mental health problems in children and more harm down the road.

A sense of belonging is very important for children’s growth, development and especially in building confidence. This involves listening to concerns of students, parents and families, and ensuring teachers and all school system staff continue to receive anti-racism training and diversity and inclusion training.

With attacks on anti-racist education rising, how will you protect the rights of children to an education that emphasizes teaching about racism as both a historic and contemporary phenomenon?

Tracey McMurchy: As a minority, and the mother of bi-racial children, my view is this: Racism exists everywhere, but not everyone or everything is racist. I want a school system that is supportive and focuses on inclusivity, not one that labels people.  

As Trustee, I want to see positive change when it comes to the safety of our students. I understand that the Regina Public School Board has made it mandatory to deliver anti-racism and anti-oppression training for all staff in the school division. I look forward to hearing from students, parents and teachers about how effective they feel this has been and any suggestions for how these initiatives can be enhanced or supplemented.  

Continued education and awareness with students on acceptance and diversity will enhance learning and understanding. All humans benefit from learning about other cultures and traditions. 

Racism is an issue that hits home for me. I have experienced racism in my life. My children have experienced racism from peers while attending Regina Public Schools, which was very upsetting.  I encourage them to be proud of who they are and to report any racial harassment. I support zero-tolerance of racism in schools and feel like any allegations of racism should be thoroughly investigated and treated with the appropriate seriousness by school authorities. 

Matt Thompson: I was incredibly disappointed with the direction of the provincial government to the school boards in regards to the Anti-Hate support material. I believe that our teachers should be trained in anti-racism education and relay that to students. The change in attitudes starts with our youth.

Nasir Sohail: I believe it’s critical to start anti-racism teaching in schools because of the wide range of cultural backgrounds including Indigenous students and new Canadians.

I work with different newcomer students as transition facilitator and I work with students to get them to think with an anti-racist lens and sometimes that’s uncomfortable and people get uncomfortable talking about it.

How do you intend to support Truth and Reconciliation in Saskatchewan?

Nasir Sohail: Acknowledging the TRC in Saskatchewan is of vital importance and we need to engage different elders and parents from ingenious communities to share their stories and feelings in different schools as part of the healing process. By listening to their ideas and feelings about the TRC we can learn and understand different prospects from ingenious elders and communities and share our common interest to move forward.

I also think we should have different symposiums and seminars in different schools where indigenous students are in high numbers and we can present different ideas and strategies to move forward.

Tracey McMurchy: I think there is effort being made in the school division, but feel that much more can and should be done. I believe Regina Public needs stronger focus in this area and understand that what is being done is not enough, as it relates to education. 

In my opinion, supporting this further could include culturally appropriate curriculum, hiring more Indigenous teachers, land-based education, implementing after-school programs, providing the appropriate technology needed, and ensuring the students feel a sense of belonging. When kids do not feel included, like they belong, or feel like they matter, they can get into difficult situations.

This is a journey we must all take together. Ultimately it takes all levels of decision-makers — from the federal government down to the school division level — to critically examine (a) what is being done, (b) what should be done, and (c) how to bridge those gaps.

Matt Thompson: I would like to see it as a more than one-day event. I found the stadium event that occurred this last year to be not engaging to students. It was too long, and didn’t really provide much context. I would like to see smaller, more engaging sessions that would provide more enrichment. I think that students should have access to Elders, smudging rooms and more.

Will you push to remove the School Resource Officer program in light of other divisions that are doing so because of the harm they can cause racialized students?

Matt Thompson: Yes, I don’t believe that School Resource Officers are needed. It provides an uncomfortable environment for racialized students, and I believe that all students should feel safe in the public school system.

Nasir Sohail: I have no comments on this as I need to study and learn about the role of resource officers program and how they are racializing students. 

Tracey McMurchy: I would support an evaluation/assessment of the School Resource Officer program. That evaluation should include hearing from racialized students and their families. In an ideal world, the School Resource Officer program should be about building relationships and trust.

If you support GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances or sometimes Gay Sexualities Alliances) in schools, how will you defend the rights of children — including 2SLGBTQ+ children — to privacy?

Nasir Sohail: I strongly acknowledge GSA’s at schools as it provides a platform for2SLGBTQ+ children to express themselves. It should be with the teachers and staff (Psychologist, Counselors etc.). If teachers notice anything unusual in the child’s behavior or attitude parents should be involved and informed about the changes that have been observed by the school staff. Together parents, guidance counselors, psychologists, counselors etc. should work together to protect and guide the student about the changes that he/she is going through and respectfully teach the child about the changes that may happen to him/her in his/her later years in life.

LGBTQ youth may experience being hit, punched, kicked, threatened, chased home, chased at school, spat upon, persecuted, or tied up and beaten. Hence it is the responsibility of parents to learn and recognize and teach the students about these types of instances where they may be subjected to verbal/physical abuse because of their gender identity.

Tracey McMurchy: I have spoken with many residents of Subdivision Two on diversity and inclusion, and the rights of all children. I believe in respect, inclusion, and equality – especially when it comes to our children and effects on their mental health, well-being, sense of safety, and ability to learn. My son attends Campbell and has a number of friends who have transitioned or are transitioning. I’m so proud of his dedication to being an ally; I wish others found it as easy.  

As Trustee, I would work to ensure that all students and all teachers are treated with respect, feel safe in their surroundings, and maintain a sense of belonging. It is everyone’s responsibility to support and encourage one another, respecting gender identity and sexuality. Creating a supportive environment includes support of GSAs within schools, education and awareness, encouraging the use of preferred pronouns and names, and the opportunity to participate in Pride celebrations. As Trustee, I would listen to students, teachers and the community to further promote inclusion.  

In regard to privacy, I’d hope 2SLGBTQ+ students would be supported and accepted at home for who they are. Sadly, that’s not always the case. So the school should also be a safe place for students and make them feel safe and like they belong and are taken care of. I don’t think the teachers or school officials should be “outing” a student against their will, unless there was a concern that the child was in danger. I think there could be meaningful conversations that could be had that would improve communication between the student and their parents. This must be approached with sensitivity.

For many, this is a learning and growth experience. As long as there is open-mindedness, acceptance, respect and inclusion, there is progress.   

Any policy related to gender identity that is adopted by Regina Public Schools should be thoughtfully considered with the primary goal of making the affected students feel included, respected and safe.   

Matt Thompson: I support GSAs and am the only candidate that has publicly stated that I would support and protect 2SLGBTQ+ children in schools. I feel more gender neutral washrooms are needed for students to feel safe and supported.

Will you support the raising of the rainbow flag during Pri​de month?

Tracey McMurchy: Yes.

Matt Thompson: Yes, I would also support adding a second flag pole to schools, due to the two flag limit that is currently in place so that the Canadian, Pride, and Treaty flags could all be raised at the same time.

Nasir Sohail: No Comments.

4. Classroom / School Supports

Will you vote for allocating resources to initiatives that ensure that mental health supports and well-being are integrated into the experiences of students? 

Nasir Sohail: Yes I will support allocating resources for mental health and well-being of students.

Matt Thompson: I’ve experienced firsthand the lack of mental health supports currently in our school system. There are not enough counsellors and they actually told us we should reach out to children and youth instead due to them not being able to have time. Since the pandemic, stress has elevated for both students and teachers. Teachers are now leaving the profession completely and 1 in 5 students between the ages of 15 and 17 are experiencing severe depression or anxiety. We need more supports for both teachers and students.

Tracey McMurchy: Yes. I taught Health Education at the University of Regina, in which mental health was a key focus. I also worked in Health Promotion during my time with the Ministry of Health, so I am very much supportive of any initiatives and supports for mental health that are in the best interests of the children.

What is the maximum number of students you think each classroom should have?

Tracey McMurchy: Teachers work tirelessly no matter the number of students assigned to their classroom. I admire their commitment, dedication and love for their students. When I taught at the University I felt that having between 20 and 25 students was reasonable. I understand it is hard to compare the two as the ages and needs of students are different but if we are thinking about students’ needs (e.g. time with the teacher for questions and assistance) and teachers’ responsibilities (e.g. time with students, lesson plans, prep, marking), they can be quite similar. I understand that many classrooms have over 25 students and so I will listen to the students, parents, families, teachers and school staff continuously to understand what the needs are, how decisions are affecting them, and how we can do better.

Matt Thompson: I think this depends on the subject being taught. But ideally less than 20. We have far too high of a student teacher ratio right now and need support from the provincial government to lower that. I would advocate and help others advocate for smaller class sizes.

Nasir Sohail: I think the ratio should be 1:22 in each classroom, unless or otherwise it is appropriate. We are influenced by the climate, culture and environment where we are and where we make decisions about this ratio.

Do you support expanding school breakfast, lunch and snack programs? Do you agree no child should go hungry at school in Saskatchewan?

Nasir Sohail: Yes 100% and I will ask school community councils to initiate this program. Saskatchewan is warm and friendly and we care for every individual. I strongly believe that once it is discussed in SCC’s there will not be a single child who will go hungry. I witnessed how people open their arms to assist others. Generosity is at its best when it comes to children particularly in Saskatchewan.

Tracey McMurchy: My family came to Canada in 1980 and as newcomers, we did not have much. We moved around a lot in search of affordable housing. I went to seven different elementary schools… and felt taken care by every school I went to. I was provided food when I was hungry at school. If children are hungry, it is very difficult for them to learn. So yes, I support school meal programs. I want children to feel safe and taken care of, like I did.

Matt Thompson: Yes definitely. There should be no reason that a child should be hungry in school. Hungry children mean a lack of focus and learning will occur.

Will you advocate against cuts (and cuts to special education supports) and advocate for greater supports and resources for special education?

Matt Thompson: As someone that has had a child that needed extra support in school, I would advocate for greater supports for special education. Public schools should be accessible for all.

Nasir Sohail: Yes I will advocate for additional resources for special needs students and education. I am actually working on a draft to promote accessible playgrounds in different schools.

Tracey McMurchy: Yes. The needs of children come first and so parents, families, and teachers need the resources for quality education, including special education supports. It will always be a challenge to find more resources, but this system should serve all students and their needs. I am a 22-year public servant and a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), so I am passionate, empathetic, have a strong voice, and a solid understanding of fiscal constraints and opportunities. I can identify where funding can be used more efficiently and cut red tape (e.g. redundancies, inefficiencies, repetitiveness, things that don’t make sense or hinder progress) in our system.

5. Special Issues

What do you think should be cut from schools or what do you think should be funded at schools?

Nasir Sohail: When I look at education and how it is set up I don’t want to make swift decisions in the long term because we have a short term deficit problem. I won’t compromise on the student’s teacher’s ratio during classroom sessions. I will vote for reductions to facility renovation and contracted services budgets. Transportation efficiencies in light vehicle costs. We can also work on reducing the cost for bus service during field trips as many a parents will be able to support with the transportation cost when class is going for field trips. There are numerous instances where we can reduce the spending and improve the resources in schools.

Matt Thompson: I think there is a lot of red tape that could be cut.

Tracey McMurchy: It is important that the board continues to be thoughtful stewards of public funds. Obviously, tax dollars are finite, and we have to manage with the resources available. I’m not coming into this looking to cut anything; I do want taxpayers to get the best value out of the funding they provide Regina Public Schools. My professional experience will be helpful in this regard. I have a CPA designation, I’m a former Director of Education Funding and am currently leading the province’s red tape reduction efforts. I was responsible for the distribution funding formula. I understand the details of how funding is distributed and reading statements to determine where inefficiencies (red tape) lie and how best to redistribute funding so that students’ needs are met the best way possible with the resources we have. This is what I would bring to the board. Looking at best practices, red tape reduction, and continuous improvement in processes and procedures will help to reduce costs and create efficiencies.

Do you agree with our current curriculum?

Tracey McMurchy: The curriculum is directed by the Ministry of Education (many people I’ve spoken with throughout the campaign did not know this). I think we are heading in the right direction in general. Curriculum in Saskatchewan has expanded from the traditional subjects (English, Math, Social Studies) to ensuring students are exposed to learning about diversity and inclusion and acceptance of all. With more newcomers into the province, there is a shift (increase) in the supports required by students from teachers and all staff to teach the curriculum. We just have to recognize that this requires a lot from teachers and should look at what they also need. Having been a sessional instructor at the University of Regina, I taught students who just graduated high school. I applaud the excellent work the teachers and the school system have done to help these students get to a place where they are independent, intelligent, creative, thoughtful, learners. I was very happy when the ministry implemented personal finance as a course that students can take.  Financial literacy is important and it’s something that not enough people have. 

Matt Thompson: For the most part yes, but I feel that we always need to be learning and listening to experts. As someone with a science-based background, I feel that education experts would be best at improving the curriculum and finding things we’ve missed teaching. Also as someone with a science-based background who’s taught university-level labs, I would like to see a bit more emphasis on source material and how to tell if something is legitimate or not.

Nasir Sohail: Canada enjoys the greatest education system in the world, however, there is always a room for improvement and I am sure we can add some additional resources to improve the curriculum. Additional worksheets and additional text books can be added. ICT can also play an important role in improving skills, knowledge, attributes and values in children’s education and academics.

How much physical activity do you think children should get each day at school?

Nasir Sohail: As much as they possibly can. It is as important as developing their cognitive skills. It is both the intrinsic and extrinsic environment that develop the children into healthy, productive and responsible students.

Tracey McMurchy: I worked in Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health and I taught Health Education at the University of Regina, so I am very much in favour of regular physical exercise. Physical activity not only helps overall physical health, it is so important for mental health and well-being. How much exercise depends on individual abilities, but I think as much as possible that can fit into the daily schedule of classes. Depending on what is realistic, teachers can look for ways to incorporate the outdoors and physical activity into the class instruction.

Matt Thompson: I believe physical activity is an important part of the school day. It gets the wiggles out, expels excess energy and has overall many health benefits.

6. Advocacy

The future of universally accessible public education is under attack. The Saskatchewan Party government has forced school boards to enact cuts, layoffs, introduce user fees, etc. What will you do if the provincial government directs school boards to implement austerity measures that could adversely affect students?

Matt Thompson: I will advocate and help others advocate and lobby for more funding.

Nasir Sohail: Well I only have one sentence, “advocate for the children and their future.”

Tracey McMurchy: I will reiterate that it is important that the board continues to be thoughtful stewards of public funds. Again, this is where my CPA designation, background as former Director of Education Funding and current Director in red tape reduction efforts will be very valuable. I understand financial statements and could examine the line items to ensure efficiencies in spending and accountability. Reducing red tape in our processes and looking at spending through a continuous improvement lens will also help the board and school system as a whole. Understanding how funds are being spent and utilized is important. It will put trustees in a better position to advocate for more funding, being able to explain where the shortfalls are, what we have done to manage and how we could use additional funds to meet students’ and teachers’ needs.

Will you work with other school divisions to demand permanent stable funding for public education?

Tracey McMurchy: Yes, the Regina Public School Board would work with other SDs to seek more stability in funding. Being able to show transparency and fiscal accountability in our operations will also go a long way, in addition to ensuring our strategic direction is sound and reflects what is heard from students, parents, families, teachers, and staff.

Nasir Sohail: Yes this is a great idea and at the end of the day it is not any individual that we are talking about, but the students and their future, in other words, it is our future and our legacy. We need to understand that everything is not politics and we should have a common goal of development of our generation.

Matt Thompson: Yes.

Will you vote to advocate for more provincial resources to fix the school repair backlog and for funding solutions to address this so that students are in safe and comfortable conditions?

Matt Thompson: Yes.

Tracey McMurchy: Children’s safety is priority and so yes, I would work to allocate more resources to repairs and more long-term solutions that lowers future maintenance costs.

Nasir Sohail: Yes I will.

Do you think all schools should have their extracurricular needs (field trips, technology, gym equipment, playgrounds etc) equally funded by the government or should they be allowed or even required to fundraise and ask for donations?

Nasir Sohail: I think donations and fundraising whatever is possible and get some resources by the city grants, grants from different businesses can also help achieving these objectives.

Matt Thompson: I think that by requiring families to pay a certain amount via fundraising, it’s leaving out lower income households that cannot afford this and causes unneeded stress.

I think to an extent, extracurricular needs should be funded, but there should be a limit. For example, international trips etc, would require some fundraising.

However, I also think there should be a publicized grant process for underprivileged youth for these as well.

Tracey McMurchy: I have had many of these conversations with parents. The consensus, and also my opinion, is that parents who are able, are fine to share in the fees within reason – whether it is direct payments, or donations, or through fundraising efforts. To elaborate, I feel that fees could be partially subsidized by the government, as these are part of children’s needs in school, and that the rest can be made up of other components such as parents’ contributions/donations, and fundraising. Parents also contribute to the fundraising efforts, so if allowed, these would be reasonable approaches to raising money for extracurricular activities. If it causes hardship for parents/families, there should be a solution developed to manage those situations, as it may vary from school to school.

Should a publicly-funded school board provide services to private schools? Why or why not?

Matt Thompson: No, a publicly-funded school board should only provide funding to public schools. The Public School system is for everyone; by funding private schools, it’s going against this ideology as they (private schools) are only providing education to the select few students.

Tracey McMurchy: No. I believe public school board resources should allocated to public schools. I think that is what taxpayers expect. 

Nasir Sohail: Yes a publicly-funded school board provide services to private schools in order to have a say in the decisions and policies of private schools. There is another element of transparency and sense of belonging for private schools as they will be forced to maintain the highest standard of education and upheld the constitution of Canada and public school board in private schools. There will an accountability and enforced structure to maintain.

7. Student and Employee Health

How do you intend to keep our schools safe and accessible for all students?

Nasir Sohail: It is my belief that “no plan conceived will ever be perfect and cover all situations equally well, but the absence of a plan is often the cause of devastating results.”

School board trustees should work with the school management and SCC to ensure to create a committee including management, staff and parents to have the following prevention measures: 1) anti-bullying programs and suicide prevention programs 2). Intervention measures: including the development of protocols for response to threats of violence in schools 3). Postvention measures: including defusing and debriefing responses to schools which have experienced a traumatic events.

I would like the staff to be fully trained for VTRA level 1 and level 2. Staff should have drills to evacuate the schools frequently and let the students know the safety protocol in the unforeseen event of threat.

Matt Thompson: By listening to experts, peer-reviewed research and mandating based on these findings.

Tracey McMurchy: It is very important for the board to follow the guidelines of public health authorities and recognized experts in the fields of health and safety (for accessibility) in determining how to keep our schools safe and accessible. The board needs to take their recommendations seriously and consider the best options in our decisions. 

How would you monitor a school for outbreaks of communicable disease and what is the threshold for notifying the parents? What would you monitor for?

Tracey McMurchy: Again, I think the board should follow public health guidelines and the professionals in the health field. The board should work with the experts and understand the circumstances, the options available, the experts’ recommendations, and consider all the implications prior to making decisions.

Matt Thompson: This would be something that an expert on communicable diseases would have to develop. I am a geologist and so I would listen to the expert advice as opposed to making rules on things I don’t really understand.

Nasir Sohail: I believe teachers and management should keep a close eye and work closely with local health authorities to understand the outbreaks and preventative measure to keep everyone safe. I believe RPSB did a splendid job during pandemic and parents were also kept abreast with all the necessary steps that were taken by school management during Covid-19 pandemic. 

Do you support the administration of vaccines at schools?

Matt Thompson: Yes.

Tracey McMurchy: Yes, I do. I think that anything that makes accessibility to vaccines easier for people is a good thing.

Nasir Sohail: Yes since every school have different set of families and students therefore vacancies needs to be administered by schools as the school management will understand exactly how many teaching and non-teaching staff they need. Proper protocol should be followed with audit system in order to avoid exploitation of the resources. 

How do you think schools should manage sick children? Acknowledging not all parents are able to arrange child care to keep them home when sick.

Matt Thompson: I truly am unsure about the answer to this question.

Nasir Sohail: I think parents should take responsibility of their children when they are sick. We acknowledge that parents are working class and may not be able to arrange child care but I will take it as an emergency to care for their children. I also believe that most work places are very flexible when it comes to children’s health. 

Tracey McMurchy: As working parent of two children, I know how difficult it can be when children are sick on a school day.  If at all possible, a sick child should not be put in a position where they could spread illness to their classmates. The safety of all children is priority. When a child is sick, the child should be assessed in terms of severity. The parents/family should work with the school to determine the best solution. This will have to be done be case by case, balancing the need to ensure safety while accounting for home situations. I acknowledge that there are no easy answers. Increased opportunities to access lessons online may be helpful in this regard. 

Do you support increasing ventilation, adding Hepa filters or Corsi Rosenthal units to every room?

Tracey McMurchy: Yes, I do support this. Clean and higher quality air are essential to children’s health and well-being.

Nasir Sohail: Yes I do believe ventilation is essential and we should improve ventilation where it is necessary.

Matt Thompson: Oh yes, this should have been done in 2020.

How would you support a medically vulnerable or complex student who wishes to attend in-person classrooms?

Matt Thompson: I believe this would be entirely individualized based on the student involved. Their parents and medical staff would need to be involved to maintain a safe environment.

Tracey McMurchy: I want every child to feel like they belong. Whenever feasible, measures should be taken to ensure medically vulnerable or complex students are able to attend in-person classes, if they are able to physically. Some accommodations will need to be made. The school, parents and medical professionals should work together to determine the needs specific to the child and the accommodations needed. Teachers should be provided with the necessary resources they need in order to accommodate. These children should be included in classroom activities as much as they are able. This will also benefit their classmates and help them learn to be inclusive, empathetic and kind.

Nasir Sohail: I think there are few opportunities for vulnerable students and we can also bring in the medically vulnerable child in schools. I believe even the students will be caring and helpful with the students who need some attention during recess or school time off. 

General answers

Some candidates (Greta Lange and Mavis Olesson) did not respond to our questionnaire question-by-question but replied in general about their platforms, sometimes referring to the questionnaire and sometimes not.

Greta Lange’s response

These are all very complicated issues.

My positions have been clear from the beginning of the campaign. I support Inclusion, I support Diversity and I support Safe Schools for all staff and students. I definitely want strong predictable funding and equitable access to supports to help every student reach their potential. I do take an interest in, and believe in, inclusive policies that support the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of all students.

I am committed to using my skills and experience to focus on increasing and adapting mental health services, working to break down barriers that lead to inequitable outcomes, and creating inclusive communities by recognizing diverse thinking and experiences. I believe that all children have the right to feel safe, seen, heard and supported in our schools and I know that this can happen through the building and development of genuine relationships in the school system and our communities.

As you can appreciate, I am extremely busy this week, but after the election please feel free to reach out to me for further dialogue on these important issues.

Mavis Olesen’s response

Thank you for your questionnaire.

I will carefully address its specifics after/if I am elected and actually am able to find out details, background, plans, then do more research and respond specifically. If needed I will contact you for clarification as I work. I certainly will respond to specifics.

Thus for now these are my remarks:

This is a public system and as such, we will always have a broad spectrum of opinion, belief and commitment in regard to many issues and policies.

However, while we need to live with some paradox in order to reap the vast richness of such a spectrum, we must accommodate and offer choice respecting parents’ varying values. Parents are legally entitled to information and choice. (see Local authority of Freedom of Information and Protection Act, Section 49d). Parents know their children best, know the values in their homes and are the system’s ‘customers’. We are here to serve. At times, Boards also lead as there is always part of the spectrum that remains ‘outside’ for some. Accommodations are to be made for all.

I am a ‘both/and person’ and thankfully the common ground across the entire spectrum is that no one wants children hurt. All know the life long impact hurt, often in the form of bullying, has on lives. The hurtful behaviour we address is rooted in ‘fear’ also across the spectrum and when humans fear they have a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. If it’s ‘fight’ then bullying even in subtle ways occurs. This needs to be continually monitored, reviewed. It’s amazing how we can find ways to hurt others!!

My area is child development/curriculum which would have much to offer as we are vigilant among these questions seeking accommodations appropriate for children – as young, middle and older students- and youth.

The values of the system have come from work of Rev. Dr. George Baxter, a former Board Chairperson, once my minister, along with a widely diverse group of system participants. These values are still a solid foundation for vigilance in regard to your questionnaire.

Thank you for reading this. I trust this tells you the seriousness with which I would approach this questionnaire. It deserves a study in depth.