Manitoulin Votes 2018: Meet your candidates for school board trustee

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Linda Erskine, candidate,
Rainbow District School Board trustee

by Warren Schlote

MANITOULIN—“I believe in fairness for all the kids on Manitoulin and having the same opportunities as students in Sudbury,” says Linda Erskine, a candidate for Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) trustee on Manitoulin Island.

“That means no longer having fewer classes,” she says, meaning that students in Sudbury can take classes geared towards their career interests but those classes often do not exist on the Island.

“It means getting late buses on the nights that have extracurriculars. And not just late buses to Gore Bay and Little Current, ones that take kids all the way to their homes,” says Ms. Erskine.

“We did a lot of driving, not just of our kids but other peoples’ kids because they didn’t have transportation and wouldn’t have been able to participate,” she says, noting that five of her six children attended RDSB schools on Manitoulin.

Ms. Erskine strongly believes in extracurricular involvement because of what she sees in her role as a job developer with the Sudbury Vocational Resource Centre.

“I get to meet up with a lot of people who went through the education system on Manitoulin. A lot of them have done extremely well but some have fallen through the cracks,” says Ms. Erskine. “Kids that didn’t participate in sports don’t have the same soft skills in the workforce. They come to us because they’re facing barriers.”

Ms. Erskine is chair of the Manitoulin Legal Clinic and a past board member of Manitoulin Family Resources. She has been on TVOntario’s advisory committee and has been president of the Little Current Minor Hockey Association.

“A good education looks well-rounded. Kids have soft skills, have hard skills, can get along with others, can interact, know how to be leaders and also follow when needed. They are team players, can read and write, know technology, they’ve learned respect and they have a sense of who they are and a good sense of self-worth,” says Ms. Erskine.

On an administrative level, Ms. Erskine says the school board needs more transparency and accountability.

“When RDSB took over the Manitoulin School Board many years ago they needed to … make sure kids here had the same opportunities as kids in the city,” she says.

“Any time I take on a job, I work my hardest to make sure things happen,” says Ms. Erskine. “Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a yes person — I’ll work for what’s right and fair.”

She adds that having never worked within RDSB will give her a unique point of view on issues.

“As someone who wasn’t part of the education system but is part of seeing what kids go through and what their opportunities are, I think I’m a good candidate.”

Ms. Erskine says she is dedicated to students and will work with parents to ensure their concerns are adequately addressed.

“I want to hear from people on the Island. I don’t want (my goals) to be things I want for students; I want to hear from people about what they want for students, so we can make it happen,” she says.

Margaret Stringer, candidate,
Rainbow District School Board trustee

by Warren Schlote

MANITOULIN—“My top three concerns are student centred: Student health and safety, student well-being and student achievement, in that order,” says Margaret Stringer, Manitoulin trustee candidate for the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB).

Ms. Stringer is a retired educator who has worked as a teacher, vice-principal, principal and system principal for special education across all RDSB schools. She has worked in Central Manitoulin, Assiginack and Little Current schools in various roles before she retired.

“That’s where I got used to sitting down with parents, community partners and trying to figure out better ways to help students,” she says.

Ms. Stringer’s priorities include creating caring, safe places for students and staff while continuing to embrace diversity and inclusivity. She says that leads into safe building infrastructure as well, such as having safe drinking water.

She also says she believes in transparency and accountability and welcomes the news that RDSB …Margaret Stringer, candidate,

Rainbow District School Board trustee

has decided to livestream its regular board meetings. However, she says the board should go beyond that.

“That’s a good first step. If elected, I will be working to ensure that all public board meetings are livestreamed,” she says.

Her work as a special education principal for the board had involved negotiating for positions such as school psychologists, giving Ms. Stringer a view of some additional aspects of education. She also says she gained experience with long-term planning.

“I support the whole idea of keeping our Island schools as they are, as the vital links for our communities. I’m thinking further down the road: five, 10, 15 years. I want to diversify and get services in our schools like daycares and health hubs that offer services for children.”

“I think I bring good experience to the role,” says Ms. Stringer. “I have a window into seeing the big picture for the student needs, school needs and system needs that enables me to ask the pertinent questions and identify ways to help schools, students and parents.”

“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than getting to sit down with a parent,” she says, noting a time when she spent months working on a solution for a particular child and their family. “We worked through it and it changed the life of the child.”

Ms. Stringer says a good education is one that provides a solid foundation but also elevates children to higher levels of thinking and gives them a better sense of self.

“Literacy, math and sciences are the building blocks of a good education but knowledge is not enough, especially in today’s world. A good education needs to provide students with the opportunities to develop strong critical thinking skills and inquiry skills,” she says.

Those experiences will enable students to face challenges in ways they can understand and enable them to “bounce back” quicker than children without a good grasp of their own strengths, Ms. Stringer adds.

“My interest in education has always been about making a difference for kids and I think that’s what drew me back to the idea of being trustee,” says Ms. Stringer. “It’s nice to feel you’re doing something that is making a difference.”