TO ENGLISH PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPPORTERS
LIVING IN AREA 3 (Wards 5 & 6)
Candidate for Trustee of the Rainbow
made the decision to run for the school board the moment I saw
the picture of my two granddaughters on the right. As I looked
at the two of them snuggled up safely in the palms of the
giant hands, I realized that the time has come for me to step
forward to be the guiding hands for them and all of the other
children in our schools.
It was apparent that I would not be able to live with
myself if I simply sat back and allowed them to risk their
future in an education system that is clearly not meeting the
expectations of many parents and grandparents. I have the
experience and the knowledge that will enable me to make a
significant difference in the lives of all children of the
area, therefore it is time for me to accept responsibility for
using the talents I have been given in a way which will
benefit all children who are currently in our elementary and
secondary schools, or who will be enrolling some time in the
future. In order to achieve this goal I am coming to you and
all other English Public School Supporters in Wards 5 and 6,
to humbly ask for your vote in the October 25 election so that
I may take my place as a Trustee with the Rainbow District
School Board for the next four years.
You Always Do What You’ve Always Done,
You’ll Always Get
What You’ve Always Got!
The greatest problem with our education system at this
time is that the trustees who are responsible for setting
policy have been around so long that they have stopped asking
the right questions. Policies that were useful 10 or 20 years
ago are no longer effective in meeting the realities faced by
students and classroom teachers today.
The Rainbow District School Board consists of two
trustees who have been in office for over 20 years, three who
have been in office for 12 years, two
who have been there 7 years, and they are all running again.
The day-to-day operations are being supervised by people who,
in some cases, have been out of the classroom for well over 20
It is no wonder that students, teachers and parents are
so frustrated with the state of education today. We
need a fresh point of view to bring a new perspective to the
It reminds me of the story about the young girl who was
watching her mother preparing to cook a roast. The girl asked
her mother why she cut the ends off of the roast before
putting it into the pan. The mother stated that is how her
mother always did it, so they went to the girl’s grandmother
to ask for an explanation. The grandmother said that was how
her mother used to cook her roasts so she just followed her
example. So they all took a drive over to see the elderly lady
to discover the secret of why she always cut the ends off her
roast before placing it in the pan. When they asked the
question, the young girl’s great-grandmother smiled and
said, “Back in those days I only had a small roast pan. The
roasts were always too big to fit into the pan so I had to cut
the ends off so the roast would fit.”
This story is so indicative of what is happening in our
I intend to be like the little girl in the story above.
If something doesn’t look right, whether that is a policy of
the board or a recommendation by administration, I am not just
going to accept it. I intend to ask the right questions so
that we stop doing things that no longer make any sense.
Remember The Name In The
|It would be an honour for me to be
chosen to represent you as trustee.
you cast your ballot on October 25 I would be extremely
grateful if you give me a chance to sit on the school
board for the next four years so that I can ask the hard
questions to make sure our schools meet the needs of all
students and satisfy the expectations of parents and
As you continue reading, I will show you that as
far as overall experience and knowledge about the
realities facing students, parents and teachers is
concerned, if you want to ensure a fresh new point of
view and perspective in the board room, I am the
candidate who has the best chance of making a
Please make me your choice when you mark your
YOUR CHOICE FOR TRUSTEE
Remember The Name In The
TOP PRIORITIES FOR THE
NEXT FOUR YEARS
PUT THE FOCUS BACK ON ESSENTIAL LEARNING
SKILLS FOR STUDENTS
have a total of 28 years of experience as a
“classroom teacher” and I’ve spent the
past four years working with hundreds of
students through my tutoring agency. There
is no doubt that students today are lacking
in some of the fundamental learning skills
that are needed for them to be successful in
life. As a trustee I will help my fellow
board members better understand how board
policies and practices may be hindering the
development of these essential skills. None
of the existing trustees, or the two people
who are running against me for this
position, have the range of experiences I
have accumulated over the years. I will
bring this knowledge to the board room and
will make sure that we put the focus back on
the essential basics that our children need!
PROVIDE BETTER RESOURCES AND SUPPORT FOR
teachers deserve better resources and
support. I know the realities of day-to-day
teaching and what teachers go through. We
are burying classroom teachers in paperwork,
testing, and pilot projects. I also spent
nine years as President of my local
teachers’ union, so I understand the
concerns and challenges faced by teachers on
the front line of education. I will make
sure that the school board provides the
resources and support that teachers are able
to put to use in their classrooms to deliver
more effective instruction. No one on the
current board or running for this position
has the background I have when it comes to
representing teachers. As a trustee I intend
to open the lines of communication between
the board and the teachers unions to improve
labour relations and help make sure our
classroom teachers are able to do their job
in meeting the needs of students at all
DO A BETTER JOB OF MEETING THE EXPECTATIONS
my private practice as an education
consultant, hundreds of parents with
children in all four school boards have
talked to me about how the school system is
failing to meet their expectations. Despite
the glowing reports and wonderful success
stories, too many of our children are
falling through the cracks in a system that
is not suited to the students of today. I
will share with my fellow trustees the
messages I have heard from parents. I will
ask the right questions of board
administrators when they approach us with
their suggestions for policy changes and I
will make sure that the Rainbow District
School Board meets the needs of all students
in our schools. One of the first things I
intend to do is revitalize the school
councils and give parents more input into
the operation of their school. I will also
do what I can to put an end to the practice
of charging student activity fees every year
and of using students to fund-raise to
purchase school supplies. It is time for the
school board to realize the realities
One Person Can Make A Difference On A School Board.
I Am Asking You To Give Me The
To Be That Person.
one person CAN make a difference in the entire
school system if he has the background, knowledge
and experience to know what questions to ask. I am
aware of the realities faced by students, parents
and teachers. I understand the true impact
policies may have on students, parents and
teachers. And I have the self-confidence to stand
up and fight for choices that will be in the best
interest of all children.
I long for the peace of mind that comes
from knowing that my grandson will be able to
enjoy all the wonders this life has to offer, like
taking his dog on carefree walks along the trail
and an education system that will allow him to
develop his full potential. If
you give me your vote of confidence on October 25,
I guarantee that I am ready to take on the job of
protecting his future and the future of all
I sincerely hope that I have been able to
earn your vote with this letter. Please share it
with others in the household who are registered to
vote and also share it with your friends and
One person CAN make a difference and your vote
will make sure of it.
Announces His Candidacy For The Position of Trustee With The Rainbow
District School Board for Area 3, (Wards 5 & 6), Valley East and
September 7, 2010:
Robert Kirwan has announced today that he will be seeking the
position of Trustee for Area 3, consisting of Wards 5 & 6 of the
City of Greater Sudbury, for the
board. Area 3 covers the
entire community of
plus the Cambrian Heights Area of Sudbury.
in 1974, Robert Kirwan, and his wife Valerie, have raised three sons and
were very active in all aspects of the community. Kirwan is
well-known as the editorial writer with The Vision Paper as well as
the publisher of the Valley East Today Community Lifestyle Magazine,
a weekly publication that is delivered through the internet and is
part of the Valley East Today Web Site.
AT ALL LEVELS OF EDUCATION
education career began in 1973. He retired in 2001 after 28 years as
a classroom teacher to open a private practice as a consultant. For
the past nine years he has been involved in various capacities with
students, parents, teachers and administrators from all four local
school boards. During that time he has also worked with a private career
college and is involved with post-secondary school students at
Laurentian University where he has hosted a live talk radio show
called The Learning Clinic Radio Show since January 2008..
PASSION FOR EDUCATION
always had a passion for education and since opening my private
practice nine years ago I have had a chance to gain some valuable insight
into the major issues that are impacting students, parents and
teachers in all school boards. I have also been doing a lot of
research on the trends and developments that will pose further
challenges down the road,” he explained. “I am now absolutely
convinced that the next decade is going to be one of the most
important transformational periods in the history of education in Ontario. There are a number of elements that are all coming together to create
the perfect storm. When the storm has passed our education system
will never be the same.”
TO BECOME A CHANGE AGENT WITH THE BOARD
that the best way for me to make a significant contribution to the
education sector at this stage of my life is to become a member of
The Rainbow District School Board, which is without question the
largest and most influential in Northern Ontario and clearly
destined to become a major change agent during the reform period
that we are about to enter.” Kirwan added when asked why he chose
to run for a position on the Rainbow District School Board. “I am
more than ready to take on a leadership role with the Rainbow
District School Board. I am thoroughly aware of the needs and
concerns of students, parents and teachers. I am confident that I
can help administrators come up with creative and innovative ways of
satisfying those needs. In addition, the knowledge gained during my
nine years as president of a local teachers union will serve me well
as we design policies that will enhance employee relations while
coming up with cost-effective governance policies in light of
further budget restraints which are expected after the next
WITHOUT ANY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS
claims that the greatest advantage he will be offering as a trustee
on the Rainbow District School Board is that has no preconceived
notions about any of the programs or staff with the board. "If
I had been a teacher or administrator with the school board then I
would have a history of relationships with staff and a reputation
that might be hard to shake in my new role as trustee. I am not
emotionally tied to any of the programs or policies, so I will be
able to look at each of them objectively and offer a fresh
perspective. In addition, I am aware of what is going on in the
other school systems, so I can help develop the best-of-the-best for
the Rainbow District School Board. I know that I will be able to
make a much greater difference as a trustee with the Rainbow
District School Board than with any other board because I will be
new to the system."
concluded that we are entering a time when changes will have to be
made. Trustees cannot afford to spend time "defending"
programs that they created. They will have to seek alternatives and
it may be difficult for people who have been part of the system for
so many years.
Kirwan, OCT, B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)
Candidate for Trustee, Area 3 (Wards 5 & 6)
Rainbow District School Board
you for taking time to visit my web site. I will try to give you a
clear understanding of why I am asking for your support in my
campaign to earn a place as a trustee with the Rainbow District
next four years are going to be a time of tremendous challenge in
the education system, both locally and across
Changes are coming as a result of conditions that are for the most
part beyond the control of
local school boards. It is therefore going to be critical that the members
of the school board become "agents of change" and not merely
people who are intent on "maintaining the status quo" or
continuing to protect policies simply because they "worked yesterday".
Two events are coming up during the 2011 to 2014 term that
will create this situation of change and evolution.
ELECTION IN OCTOBER 2011
first is the Provincial election in October 2011. The promises made by
provincial parties during
that election campaign are expected to emphasize health care more
than education. The funding for the extension of the Early Learning
Program has already been committed so it is not likely that there
will be much more money poured into education prior to the election.
budget for 2012 - 2013 fiscal year of is going to be
"brutal" for school boards. You can expect that the
government in power after the election of 2011 will be reluctant to
more money into education if they do not have to, and with the next
election after that some four years away, they can take hard-line approach to
all of our
requests for additional funding. That is why I expect that in the
spring of 2012 we are going to hear some very bad news indeed that
will impact school boards tremendously as they set their budget for
the September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013 fiscal year.
OF NEW COLLECTIVE BARGAINING CYCLE IN 2012
The second event centers around the fact that the current collective
agreement with teachers expires on
The public sector has already been told that there will be no new
money for salary increases and that does not sit well with the teacher
unions, especially the Elementary Teachers who were forced to accept
a salary grid that was lower than the rest of the teachers in Ontario.
They will want to close the gap, despite the fact that there may be
no money forthcoming from the province for salary increases. The
Secondary School Teachers have their own issues that must be
addressed and they too will be upset with the position being taken
by the province.
all means that we are likely in for a period of extreme labour unrest with
the local school boards becoming the battlefields for the
confrontation between the provincial government and the provincial
teacher unions. This is something that no one wants to be part of,
but I for one can understand where the teachers are coming from.
They should not be forced to bear responsibility for balancing the
provincial budget. Regardless of what anyone thinks about collective
bargaining or strikes, there is going to be some serious collateral damage on the front lines
if the government and provincial unions decide to play "hard
ball" and our students may be the victims.
NEED FOR A FRESH NEW PERSPECTIVE
two events, coupled with other existing budget constraints in the area of
special education and special services will force school boards into
a corner where they must come up with creative solutions and
innovations to change the way we deliver our education program. We
do not have the ability to raise funds, so if we are forced to do
more with less, we are going to have to come up with a way to do it.
It is my opinion
and personal experience that a trustee who is "too"
familiar with the current method of operation of a school board may
have a harder time accepting the need to change and innovate
when we hit the "perfect storm" that is coming.
Trustees, teachers and administrators who have been involved with
the same school system for a long time often become emotionally involved
with certain programs that they may actually have helped establish. It is often
difficult for them to "recognize" new approaches to what
worked in the past since they were the authors of those programs
which may have been created under different circumstances and may
have worked well at the time.
we know that changes must be forthcoming
to cope with what is going to happen during the next four years. And
we must begin preparing for the inevitable today! We must be
proactive in our management of the school board, not reactive. It is
very much the same as what people go through when they are told that
a hurricane is approaching their community. While the sun is
shining, some people heed the warnings and begin preparing for the
hurricane by boarding up windows and securing their property.
Others, look at the sun and enter a state of denial, deciding to
wait to see if the warnings were accurate. They don't do anything
until the storm arrives and then it is usually too late.
trustees, we cannot put our students and teachers at risk. The
conditions are right for a major storm in 2012 and we must begin
preparing for it now. Even though is appears to be "sunny"
and things seem to be going well.
I feel my background and past experiences enable me to bring a "fresh new
perspective" to the board room as a trustee with the
Rainbow District School Board. I have a great deal to offer to the
education sector in general as we go through the next four to eight
years of transition and I am seeking the endorsement of the public
school supporters in Wards 5 and 6 to take a seat at the table for
the next four years.
knowledge of Education Law, my hands-on career as a
front-line classroom teacher for 28 years, my thorough knowledge of the
collective bargaining process from my nine years as President of my
local Teachers' Union, and the insight I have into the
operations of all four school
boards through my independent
education & career development practice during the past nine years will all serve me well as I work with the rest of the trustees
elected to the Rainbow District School Board to make decisions that
will be in the best interests of all students, parents, teachers and
other partners in education.
By not having a direct "history" with the Board, other than the
fact that my elementary and secondary education was done in Lively,
I will be able to examine each of the issues and challenges facing
the Rainbow District School Board with more openness and objectivity.
I feel that I can add a lot to the entire education sector in the
Greater Sudbury Area as a trustee with the largest school board in
I would appreciate the opportunity to be a trustee on a
School Board that has been recognized for its leadership and
before will this "leadership" role be more important as
all school boards in the province are forced to deliver their
programs under the most severe constraints ever experiences in the
FOR THE PERFECT STORM
are just some of the reasons why I choose to offer my candidacy with
the Rainbow District School Board. I think that during the next four
years the ability to make objective decisions, a sound knowledge of
the Acts & Regulations, and the courage to be innovative in
the face of severe financial constraints and political pressure will
be far more important qualities in a trustee than previous
experience in the system or on the school board.
||I realize that there are many issues and
challenges in education today, however, as a trustee, it
will be my job to deal with those one at a time and make
decisions that are in the best interests of the
During the course of this campaign I will address the
issues that come up and be completely open and honest
about where I stand on them. If you have any questions,
comments, or wish to express your own opinion about
anything I write, please feel send me a message at:
| TOPICS ADDRESSED BELOW:
Click on a topic to read more:
Since the provincial government provides funding to
school boards mainly in accordance with student enrolment, we have
been seeing a great deal of advertising and marketing by all school
systems in an attempt to attract students.
The current funding structure will continue to
fuel this marketing frenzy, forcing school boards to spend a lot of
time and money trying to "sell" their product.
goal will be to try to bring a sense of "reality" to the
discussions in the board room if I am elected to serve as trustee
for the next four years.
As a trustee, my job is not about what we are
"selling" to parents. It is about understanding the
"realities" of what it is like to be a student, a parent
or a teacher in today's world. We need people on school boards who
have a through knowledge of these realities and who are willing to
search for solutions to the problems that exist with the system. We
don't need people on the school board who are going to spend their
time trying to tell parents about how good a job we are doing when
in fact many of our policies are ineffective and out-of-touch with
the real needs of students, parents and teachers.
Fortunately, my life and career experiences have
been such that I have been able to experience the
"realities" of which I am speaking. I will be able to put
some relevant information about these realities on the board room
table for discussion so that we can clearly address the needs of all
students, parents and teachers.
|A PARENT FROM VAL THERESE:
I'm tired of hearing about how much of a good
job the schools are doing. If they are doing such a good
job, then why are our kids so mixed up?
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
Regardless of what the "purists" say,
Education is an "industry" in Ontario today.
There are four school systems plus private schools all
vying for students. In addition, there is a virtual
explosion of tutoring franchises and companies springing
up all over the place looking for students.
Post-secondary institutions are all trying to convince
secondary school graduates and adults to enrol in their
The reality is that "all" funding for
education in Ontario is based on revenue "per
student". The public sector gets its money in a
complex arrangement from the provincial government. The
private sector gets its money from individual parents
and students. And the post-secondary school students
generally find it relatively easy to get into debt to
fund their education whether it be in a public or
As a result, you will NEVER hear any of the
institutions in the Education Industry talking about
their shortfalls. But we do know that the system is not
working very well as standards plummet across the board
and we find that young people in their 20's are
ill-prepared for demanding careers that deal with global
If I am given the opportunity to sit as a trustee on
the Rainbow District School Board, I intend to use my
experience and knowledge about the realities being faced
by students, parents and teachers to full advantage. I
will continue to allow my staff to do what they can to
promote the system in order to generate enough revenue
for us to operate. However, I will work with my fellow
trustees so that we can "walk the talk" and
demonstrate to parents that we do understand their
realities and that we are working on programs to address
their needs. Satisfied students, parents and teachers
will become our most valuable marketing assets. We don't
need big expensive advertising campaigns to attract
students. We just need to do a better job and they will
Trustees will be faced with tremendous financial challenges during the next
We have seen the last of the big spending by the
province with the grants for Early Learning Programs. Once the
provincial election in October 2011 is over the government will be
seeking ways of paying for its promises. Already the battle
lines are being drawn by the Conservatives who have indicated that they will
make changes to the Early Learning Program if elected.
I don't expect much new funding will be
coming to education with the 2012 budget once the new government
takes power and is forced to find ways of trimming the deficit.
Therefore, we must be prepared as a school board to adopt new and innovative ways
of meeting the needs of all of our partners in education, including
our students, their parents, our teachers, our administrators, our
support staff and our community. Everybody has needs that must
be met and we will have to accommodate everyone's needs within the
constraints of a limited budget.
||My goal will be to bring a fresh viewpoint to the
board room as a trustee with the Rainbow District School Board. No
school board in the province will be able to continue to do things the way
they have been doing them
in the past. Change is necessary and will be impossible to
The pending budget restrictions coupled with demands
from the public for more accountability will force us to
search for better ways of providing for the overall development of
the students in our care. This will include finding better ways
of satisfying the personal and professional needs of our employees.
I will bring new ideas to the board room and will be able to
identify opportunities that can be capitalized upon by using the
strengths that already exist in the Rainbow District School Board. I
am confident that I will be able to facilitate methods of satisfying
all needs and ensure that all partners in education feel that they
have been listened to and treated with fairness and respect.
|A PARENT FROM HANMER:
"It is hard to get new ideas when all of the
trustees have been on the school board for so long. The
Rainbow Board has two trustees who have been there for
20 years; three who have been there for 12 years and two
who have been there for seven years. If they all get
elected again you can add four more years to those
totals. How are you going to get people with such
entrenched points of view to look at something
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
You make a very good point with this question. It
might appear that a person who is new to the board would
have difficulty changing the minds of so many trustees
who have been sitting in their positions for such a long
That being said, I
definitely think you need a certain amount of "experience"
when you assume the responsibilities of a school board
trustee. You don't want just anyone from off the street
coming in to impact on decisions that will affect your
children. Nevertheless, that doesn't necessarily mean that you
need experience as a trustee with that school board in
order to be able to fulfill your obligations and do your
I have a great deal of respect for the trustees who
have served on the Rainbow District School
Board, especially the ones who have been there the
longest. They have obviously won the confidence of their
constituents in order to serve for such a long time and
without question representing the interests of constituents is one of the
major responsibilities of a trustee.
I too have a great deal of experience in
education, even though none of it has yet been as a trustee. This,
however, is not
necessarily a bad thing as we head into the next four
years. Being new to the position, yet having experienced
all aspects of the education system since 1973, will
allow me to approach the next four years with an open
mind. I won't be getting caught up in the emotional
tug-of-war that is often encountered when people are
forced to make changes to policies and methods that have
worked in the past.
In addition, a lot of
my professional teaching experience has come from working as part
of another local school board. This too is not a bad thing
because of the fact that I come to the table with a
fresh new outlook on the system and do not carry with me
any historical ties to any of the existing programs or
policies, nor will I have to deal with being overly
familiar with other staff members or trustees.
will be in a perfect position to bring a fresh and objective viewpoint to the
Rainbow District School Board. I will be able to look at
the system and policies from a unique and different
perspective, yet I will be making these observations as
a person who is extremely familiar with what is going on
in all school boards, at all levels, and who is
extremely comfortable with education law and the labour
organizations that are part of the education scene.
providing my fresh new insight into the operation of the
school board, I will be able to help trustees come up
with innovative and creative solutions that will better
enable us to cope with the challenges of the future.
We have done a remarkable job of helping the students find
ways to "reach out" to the community.
However, we must now do more to "invite" the community into the
The time has come for us to turn all of our elementary and
secondary schools into true "community centers". Schools
have an opportunity to utilize the existing resources of the
community, so we must take on the role of "community
builder" and "facilitator".
||My goal will be to facilitate the successful and
appropriate integration of businesses, professionals and institutions into our
We must get rid of the "private-sector paranoia"
that may prevail in certain situations. The business
community has a lot to offer the schools and should be counted upon to
positively enhance the educational experiences of all of our
We can no longer be satisfied with finding ways of
allowing our students to "reach
out" to the community. We will need the support of the entire
community, including the businesses and institutions as we move
forward in light of continued fiscal limitations.
|A PARENT FROM VAL CARON:
"I own a business in Valley East so I am
constantly approached by students and parents to donate
gifts and money for a variety of projects and field
trips. Hardly a week goes by without someone knocking at
my door looking for a handout or looking to set up a
table to sell tickets. However, every time I've asked if
I could come in and set up a booth at one of their
events, or speak to a class about my business, or even
to distribute flyers announcing a special event I am
hosting at my store, I am treated as if I am a serious
disease. It is as if the schools have an iron wall
around their property and they are trying to protect
their students from outside capitalists. What are you
going to do about this?"
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this
If I am elected as a trustee, I will make sure that
our students are not exposed to marketing strategies
from the outside that are merely intended to manipulate them or
damage them in any way. Our students are captive
audiences and should not be subject to blatant
advertising of any kind.
However, I think that schools, and the public sector
in general, must get rid of what I call the
"private-sector paranoia" that has existed for
as long as I can remember.
There is nothing wrong with
schools opening up their doors to the private sector in
order to become more included in the community. We
should be offering our facilities and services
to the community groups and organizations, including the
businesses professional offices that form the business
Our students must be made more aware of what is
happening in the community. They must be allowed to get
to know the business leaders and professionals in a way
that is positive and helpful. They must see that people
from the private-sector are not "just interested in making a
profit". Many, if not most of them, are searching
for ways of giving something back to the community when
they get involved in the schools.
I also see the school system supplementing its
depleting budgets by taking advantage of some tasteful
marketing opportunities. For example, if a company
wishes to purchase pencils for the entire school system
in return for putting their name and phone number on the
pencil, then perhaps we should consider entering into
some kind of agreement with them. If some other company
wishes to come in and provide presentations to a class
on their business operations, then why not use it as a
teaching opportunity to enhance the curriculum? Why look
at it as something negative?
Right now, private companies that approach the school
with an idea are often immediately met with skepticism
and distrust of their intentions. It is time that we
understood what marketing is all about. Not all
marketing is to be feared. Some of it can be beneficial
to students. We must be willing to consider all
proposals on their own merit.
The current collective agreement with Teachers expires on
August 31, 2012.
We are now in an era of provincial bargaining and
will have very little control over whether or not there is going to
be labour unrest in our schools in the fall of 2012. The
conditions that develop during the next two years will lay the
groundwork for a difficult set of negotiations, so there is no sense
in trying to deny it. We must take proactive action to make sure
that we reduce the damage that may be caused as a result of a
situation that is beyond our control.
Teachers and administrators are facing some of the most serious
career challenges in modern day history. They have many concerns
with respect to working conditions, despite the fact that everyone
tends to "bite their lips" and do their job.
We are doing
a disservice to our students if we force teachers and
principals to work under extremely stressful conditions which often
lead to job dissatisfaction an an inability to achieve maximum
is something that must be addressed immediately.
||My goal will be to work with the union leaders who
represent our teachers and staff to come up with satisfactory
solutions to their day-to-day concerns.
While there are some areas, mostly
dealing with compensation, that have been shifted to the provincial
collective bargaining arena, there are still many "working
conditions" that we can address on a local level.
I want to deal with
these conditions during the next couple of years "before" the
"perfect storm" arrives in the fall of 2012. As a trustee,
I can assure all employees that meeting their professional and
personal needs will take on a
high priority during my term of office.
|A PARENT FROM HANMER:
You were a union President for nine years. What do
you think it will be like on the other side of the
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
First of all, I don't believe that I will be working
on the "other side of the table".
I plan on sitting at a "round table" where
all partners will work together, collaboratively to find
satisfactory solutions to the issues that are important
to our employees. There need not be an adversarial
climate when it comes to labour relations. To draw a
line and engage in a battle is counterproductive and
will only hurt our students.
Times have changed with respect to teacher collective
bargaining in Ontario since I was sitting as President
of the Teachers' Union. The provincial teachers
associations are now recognized as the bargaining agents and the Ministry
of Education controls the money. Therefore, they are the
ones negotiating the contentious monetary issues. This
part of the collective bargaining process is entirely out of the hands of the local school boards
and branch affiliates.
Locally, we negotiate working conditions and some benefits,
but that is about all. The things we deal with do not really
money so it is largely a matter of treating your
employees with respect and consideration within the
constraints we have as employers operating under the
Ministry of Education. We are given a specific "pot
of money" and must make decisions on how to spend
it wisely. I want to sit down with the local teacher
representatives to come up with a plan that makes sense
and will satisfy everyone as much as possible.
Because I was a Union President for nine years I
understand the concerns of teachers and what is needed
to meet their needs. I don't intend to wait until the
end of the collective agreement to deal
with those issues. The school board should be able to
solve some of the problems before the next round of bargaining even
begins. That way, when it comes time to put everything
on paper, it won't take as long or be a painful
exercise. I believe that it is
important to have happy employees who do not feel undue stress
on the job and who truly do feel appreciated by their
employer and by parents.
I will likely be the only one on the school board
with teachers' union experience, so I feel that I will have a
great deal to add when it comes to labour relations.
Parents are the most important "learning coaches"
their children will ever have.
Yet, as the education system becomes
increasingly complex, parents are becoming more and more confused
Many parents today feel that the public education
system is failing to prepare their children for a life after high
school. Therefore, public confidence in the education system today is
not where we would like it to be.
Most parents will tell you that they are satisfied
with the teachers and principals who work directly with their own
children. In other words, they are very loyal to their own school
and don't often have problems with the teachers who are working with
their own children.
However, the majority of them are not
satisfied with the "education system" in general.
|My goal will be to help parents feel more comfortable
with the education process and empower them to the point where they
truly feel like they are an equal and welcome partner in a team that includes
not only classroom teachers, support staff, and principals, but
parents themselves - a complete team that has
been put together to meet the needs of their children.
The past four years operating my private practice as an education and
career development consultant have given me tremendous insight into
the serious concerns that parents have about the system. I have
listened to them as they have come to me for guidance and support.
As a trustee I intend to address some of those concerns.
Another one of my goals is to do everything I can to improve the
of our education system and of the teaching profession. I am a
professional educator. I take great pride in my image and try to
maintain a high standard in all of my activities.
I intend to focus
on strategies that will raise the image and profile not only of the Rainbow
District School Board, but of the education system in Ontario as a
whole. It is critical that we restore the confidence of parents
and grandparents in the system.
I feel I have a better chance of making a difference if I am a
trustee sitting on the largest school board in Northern Ontario.
|A PARENT FROM CAMBRIAN HEIGHTS:
My experience has been that the schools talk a lot
about team work and cooperation, but when it comes to
action they keep to themselves and shut the parents out.
We are kept in the dark until they need us to volunteer
for their fund raising projects. What can you do about
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
I am a parent and a grandparent. I have also listened
to hundreds of parents over the past four years while
operating the Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic. I can
assure you that I have heard loud and clear the issues
that parents have with the education system. I feel
confident that I can bring some useful information to
the board room which will enable myself and my fellow
trustees to come up with policies that will demonstrate
to the parents that we do mean business this time
|A PARENT FROM VAL CARON:
"How can we have confidence in our school system
when most school boards act in ways that seem to
completely ignore the realities of society today? Many
school boards behave as if they are living in complete
isolation from the rest of the world. No wonder we don't
have any confidence."
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
I am not
going to totally disagree with your comment because if
that is your perception of what is taking place then
that is in fact your reality. I do know that you are not
the only person feeling this way.
In fact, that is
going to be something I work on every single day if
I am elected to the position of trustee with the Rainbow
District School Board. I will be constantly reminding my
fellow trustees and the staff of our schools that we
should always think about the public perception before
we make decisions which we may some day come to regret.
As leaders and decision-makers we may think that something sounds good, but when the
public sees what we are doing they may have a completely
different point of view.
For example, on September 1, 2010, over 19,000
teachers from the Toronto District School Board
assembled in the Air Canada Centre for a three-hour
professional development extravaganza filled with
speeches, song and entertainment. The TDSB trustees had
approved a request from their new Director of Education,
Chris Spence to bring all of the teachers together for a
massive meeting so that he could deliver a motivational
message to them and inspire them at the beginning of a
new school year. His own speech to the teachers lasted 20
minutes out of the entire three hours.
The Toronto Star reported that the event was called a
pep rally by some of the teachers in attendance. In fact, the very first
sentence in the article which was written by Star Education
Reporter, Louise Brown, was "They
mugged for the Jumbotron, checked their BlackBerrys and
skipped class before the last singer hit the stage —
behaviour they won’t put up with from students next
Ms Brown concluded her article by giving an
example of how the audience roared with laughter while
the two student trustees were speaking. The students
were giving a tribute to teachers but many in the
audience didn't hear them because, "It seemed
whenever the Jumbotron camera panned the audience,
teachers could not resist waving at the camera, holding
their fingers in peace signs, rubbing a colleague’s
bald pate or even flexing their bicep for the
Toronto Star concluded the article with the sentence,
"Class clowns come in all ages."
the Director of Education had good
intentions when he made the request for the massive
event to the TDSB
trustees, but this was a request that would have been
flatly denied if anyone on the school board thought
about how this kind of event could be perceived by the
general public. My purpose in running for a seat on the Rainbow
District School Board is so that I can prevent us from
doing anything that will reduce the public confidence in
example, if I had been on the TDSB when the trustees
were told that the cost of the professional activity day
at the Air Canada Centre was only going to be $125,000,
I would have quickly reminded them that this was
absolutely false! It might be costing $125,000 to rent
the Air Canada Centre for 3 hours, but what about the
cost to get the 19,000 teachers to the arena from all
over the city? Even if all of the
teachers came by school bus, they would have needed at least
350 buses at a total cost of at least $100,000. They
were also paying each of the teachers a full day of
salary for traveling to and from the Air Canada Centre
for a three hour performance, primarily to listen to the Director
of Education give them an inspirational speech for a
mere 20 minutes. The total amount of the
salary and benefits that they were spending to have the
staff gather for the event will come to at least $8
million. If the teachers had not been at the gathering, they
would have been doing other work or training in their schools,
therefore, this was actually an $8 million cost to the
TDSB and not the $125,000 that they were lead to
believe. Trustees simply didn't take this into
consideration and agreed to spend this kind of money for
a single event that at the end of the day will likely
cause more long-term damage than benefit.
no matter how the teachers feel about the day at the Air
Canada Centre, they must now deal with millions of
people in Toronto and across the province who will
remember the fact that this was an assembly of
"class clowns" behaving in a manner that they
would not tolerate from their own students, and to add
salt to the wound, were completely disrespectful to the
two student trustees while they were speaking. This was
definitely not good for the professional image of
teachers or of educators in general.
assure you that the Rainbow District School Board would
never fall into a similar public relations nightmare if
I am given the opportunity to sit at on the School
Board. I feel I have the ability to foresee the
potential for negative fallout from recommendations that
may not be thoroughly thought through by the presenter.
Secondary school graduates are more confused than ever about
their career development strategies.
Many of them have no idea what
they would like to do with their life when the leave Grade 12 and
consequentially flounder around for the next five to ten years
searching for something meaningful.
Many of them begin
post-secondary school programs only to drop out or change programs
within the first two years. Others get a degree or diploma and are
unable to find work in their chosen career.
Others still simply
enter the workforce until they have time to decide what they want to
do and some of these people never get out of the poverty trap.
|My goal will be to help students establish career
development strategies that will enable them to make wise choices
that are in keeping with their abilities and interests.
Despite the fact that our Guidance Counsellors have never been as
well-trained for the job and have a wealth of information and
resources available to help students decide on career goals, too many
young people are leaving secondary school in a state of confusion as
to what they really want out of life. They flounder in university or
college, and many end up leaving the formal education system,
risking a life of meaningless jobs until they return for
This does not reflect on the quality of our staff or on our
resources. It is something that society is dealing with in all
demographic groups. Many retirees are facing the same anxiety about
their future as those who are currently in secondary school.
I intend to work with other trustees and staff to see if we can
do something for our students in the Rainbow District School Board
that will enable them to perhaps make better choices about their
future. There will always be certain elements that are beyond our
control or jurisdiction, but we will try out best to make the
transition much smoother.
|A PARENT FROM CAMBRIAN HEIGHTS:
My oldest son has just dropped out of his 2nd year of
studies in the Music Department at an out of town
college. He was never sure what he wanted to do when he
finished high school so he just took whatever seemed
interesting. Now he finds that this isn't what he wants
and has wasted two years of his life and two years of
tuition and room and board. Students are forced to take
a Career Studies course in Grade 10. We have huge
Guidance Departments and there are all kinds of
post-secondary schools on campus each year promoting
With all of the money and energy going into preparing
our children for careers, why is there so much confusion
and uncertainty among our youth? I know many other
parents whose children are going through the very same
thing. What are you going to do about it?
RESPONSE FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
I have done a lot of work with post-secondary
students who have fallen into the same trap as your son.
Many of them are working on their 2nd and 3rd degrees
trying to find out what it is that will interest them.
Unfortunately, recruiters make some of the programs and
career opportunities sound so attractive that students enroll
for the wrong reasons. They go for the jobs, the money
and the prestige, only to find out that when something
sounds tool good, it probably isn't.
We have to do a better job of preparing our young
people for life after high school, no doubt about it!
The secret is finding out where the natural passions and
talents lay and then help students develop a solid
strategy for accomplishing their career objectives and
goals. I will do my best over the next four years to
make sure that the students of the Rainbow District
School Board avoid some of the mistakes of their older
brothers and sisters.
That being said, I still believe
that the parent's role is critical in this matter. It is
my intention to work with Guidance Counsellors and
parents to see if there is some way we can help parents
become better "career coaches" for their
children. After all, a parent is always going to coach
his/her child, no matter what age the child.
The amount of fund-raising that is
going on in schools across Ontario has reached unacceptable levels,
with a total of $600 million being generated annually through a combination
of fees, fundraising, vending machines, donations from businesses
and other revenue sources.
A significant amount of this money is
being used for field trips, extracurricular activities and donations
to charities. However, a large amount of money is being used to pay
for some basic supplies that are required by students in order to
complete their course of studies.
The government of Ontario has
promised to look into the whole issue of fundraising through
schools, but it has been five years and nothing has been
||My goal is to put an end to any and all fundraising
that is directly related to the curriculum.
This is something that
must be made very clear to principals and members of parent
councils. Fund raising must be for charitable purposes or for
Also there should be no need for fees to be
charged to students for supplies, year books, or student organizers.
If those items are required, then they should be supplied out of our
|A PARENT FROM VAL CARON WRITES:
moved well beyond the days when bake sales helped
subsidize a special school trip. Now parents are
fundraising for school supplies or paying fees for
science labs and French workbooks. We are even having
our children come home with lists of supplies like
pencils, erasers, pens and paper, student organizers to
keep track of their homework, and athletic fees. Each
September I dread the first couple of weeks of school
because I know that my son is going to come home one
night with two dozen chocolate bars that he is expected
to sell in order to earn some fantastic prizes that were
shown during a pep rally assembly at the school. This is
nothing more than an education tax. What do you intend
to do about it?
FROM ROBERT KIRWAN:
share your frustration completely. It all started a long
time ago when my son came home with a note requesting
that we send back $20 to pay for material that would be
used in shop activities that he would be participating
in as part of his course. When I refused to pay, my son
was devastated and I eventually had to give in. I knew
it was wrong, but I didn't want to "centre my child
out" as being one of the few who didn't pay.
also hate hearing about out of town school trips for
graduating classes where the students are told to bring
in hundreds of dollars to pay for the trip or they won't
be able to go on the trip. Even though the trip is
during the school year and those who can't pay will
remain at the school doing busywork while others are off
enjoying a memorable trip.
The rules which govern fundraising
and student fees are under review by the province.
However, generally, students cannot be asked to pay for
anything that they “require” for their course of
studies. If it is required for the course, then it must
According to the Ministry, fees
cannot be charged for textbooks, course materials or
registration. However, they can be charged for voluntary
activities such as
extracurricular sports, yearbooks or field trips.
The key here is “voluntary”. Therefore, if a class
is planning a field trip during the day and there is a
small “fee” for the trip, parents are free to choose
to pay the fee or not.
Basically, if you require
material, products or equipment to complete any course,
then you cannot be charged. This is why children are
provided with pencils, notebooks, etc. by the schools
each year. All students have the right to attend school
without the payment of fees.
can't say for sure that the Rainbow District School
Board is guilty of any of this type of activity, but I
do know that the board raises over $4 million annually
in fundraising. I can assure all of the parents in my
jurisdiction that I will not tolerate the use of
fundraising for anything but purely charitable or
voluntary purposes. I will also try to convince my
fellow trustees to pass a policy that eliminates the
practice of sending home chocolate bars or other
fund-raising products without first of all receiving
permission from the individual parents. And I will make
sure that children are not put under any kind of
pressure from slick marketing strategies that are
intended to make students feel badly if they do not
we need more money for materials and supplies, then
perhaps we should be looking to the private sector
businesses for support and if they want to put their
company logo on the pencils or workbooks, then so be it.
Let them. It is much better than making parents feel
pressured into taking money out of their pockets to
supplement the shortfalls in budget at their local
A comprehensive community web
site containing just about everything you would want to know about
the community of Valley East
Kirwan, OCT, B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)
Training & Career Development Consultant
The Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic
(705) 969-7215 www.thelearningclinic.ca
|The Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic was established
in January 2007 as my own private practice as an Independent
Education, Training and Career Development Consultant. It began
primarily as a personal tutoring agency and is evolving into a full
service education and career development agency.
I would invite everyone who is interested in education and career
development to visit the web site at:
This is a web site that contains a wealth of information and
resources for students, parents, grandparents, teachers and
administrators. It is also something that trustees will find
invaluable in gaining insight into issues and challenges that come
before them during the year.
The web site will also give you an excellent understanding of who
I am and what I stand for. You will soon realize that education is
my passion and you will also recognize that I do indeed have a great
deal to bring to the table as a trustee with the Rainbow District