Candidate for Trustee of the Rainbow District School Board





   I 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.

If 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 years.  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 table.

   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 schools today.  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 Middle…Robert KIRWAN

It would be an honour for me to be chosen to represent you as trustee.

   When 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 grandparents.

   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 difference!  Please make me your choice when you mark your ballot.


EWIN, Gordon
KIRWAN, Robert


WARD, Ruth

Remember The Name In The Middle…Robert KIRWAN



I 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!

Classroom 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 grade levels.


In 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 parents face.


One Person Can Make A Difference On A School Board.
I Am Asking You To Give Me The
Opportunity To Be That Person.

   Fortunately, 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 children.

   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 neighbours. 

  One person CAN make a difference and your vote will make sure of it. 

  Thank you.

Robert Kirwan Announces His Candidacy For The Position of Trustee With The Rainbow District School Board for Area 3, (Wards 5 & 6), Valley East and Cambrian Heights
Tuesday, 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 Rainbow District School board.  Area 3 covers the entire community of Valley East plus the Cambrian Heights Area of Sudbury.

Since moving to Valley East 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.  


Kirwan’s 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..  


“I have 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.”  


“I decided 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 provincial election.”


Kirwan 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."

Kirwan 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.

Robert Kirwan, OCT, B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)
Candidate for Trustee, Area 3 (Wards 5 & 6)
Rainbow District School Board

Thank 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 School Board.

The next four years are going to be a time of tremendous challenge in the education system, both locally and across Ontario. 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. 


The 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. 

Therefore, the 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 put any 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.

The second event centers around the fact that the current collective agreement with teachers expires on
August 31, 2012 . 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.

This 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.


These 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. 

However, 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.

As 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.


My 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
Northern Ontario . I would appreciate the opportunity to be a trustee on a School Board that has been recognized for its leadership and innovation. Never 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 province. 


Those 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.


Robert Kirwan, OCT, B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)

bulletBorn in Coniston where I lived until the age of five
bulletRaised in Lively
bulletMarried in June 1972
bulletMoved to Val Therese in March 1974
bulletRaised three sons in Val Therese
bulletFor more details>>>>
bulletAttended elementary school at Lively Public School #1 (Georges Vanier Public School)
bulletGraduated from Grade 13 at Lively Secondary School in 1969
bulletGraduated from Laurentian University with B.A. in Math & Economics in 1972
bulletGraduated from North Bay Teachers' College in 1973
bulletGraduated from Central Michigan University with Masters Degree in Education in 1985
bulletObtained Principal's Qualifications from Nipissing University in 1985
bulletProfessional Classroom Teacher for 28 years
bulletPresident of the local Teachers' Union for 9 years
bulletMarketing & Public Relations Specialist for over 20 years
bulletNews paper editor with The Vision Paper for over 8 years
bulletEducation columnist with Northern Life for five years from 1985 to 1990
bulletPublisher of Valley East Today Community Lifestyle Magazine since 2003
bulletPrivate Practice as an Independent Education & Career Development Consultant since 2001
bulletConsulting Services provided to school boards, students and parents of all four school boards
bulletServices provided to CDI private career college for one year
bulletOwner of Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic Tutoring Agency since January 2007
bulletHost of The Learning Clinic Radio Show on CKLU 96.7FM since January 2008
bulletTaught at St. Anne School in Hanmer for 23 years
bulletMarketing manager of the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre (March 2004 to March 2010)
bulletEditor/Writer of the Vision Paper for over over 8 years
bulletPublisher of Valley East Today Community Lifestyle Magazine
bulletPublisher of Valley East Today Community Web Site since 2003
bulletPublisher of After The Whistle - An Online Hockey Magazine & Web Site
bulletValley East Minor hockey coach at both the house league and rep team levels
bulletValley East Minor soccer coach at both the house league and competitive team levels
bulletValley East Minor baseball coach at both the house league and competitive team levels
bulletBadminton team coach at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer
bulletPresident of Valley East Minor Hockey Association
bulletMember of the St. Kevin's Church Parish Council
bulletMember of Valley East Men's Slo-Pitch League
bulletPublisher of special interest Community newspapers and business directory
bulletNight school and summer school coordinator at St. Anne School
bulletFounding Member of the Clearview Golf Club 
bulletMember of Valley Acres Playground Association
bulletBoard member with Community Living Greater Sudbury
bulletBoard member with Kidney Foundation of Sudbury

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 students.

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: 

Click on a topic to read more:
bulletBringing a Sense of "Reality" to the Board Room
bulletSchool Boards will be facing tremendous financial challenges during the next four years;
bulletLabour relations must be strengthened before the collective agreement expires on August 31, 2012;
bulletMany parents feel that the education system is failing to meet the needs of their children;
bulletSchools must become more "open" to both the public and private sectors;
bulletStudents need to establish a career development strategy;
bulletMany people would like to see a reduced amount of fundraising in the schools;

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.

My 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.


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?


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 programs.

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 private institution.

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 competition.

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 come.


Trustees will be faced with tremendous financial challenges during the next four years. 

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 resist.

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.


"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 new?"


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 time.

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 job effectively.

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. 

I 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.

Therefore, by 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 schools. 

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 schools. 

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 students. 

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.


"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?"


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this question.

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 sector. 

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.

In addition, 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 performance levels. 

This 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.


You were a union President for nine years. What do you think it will be like on the other side of the bargaining table?


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 involve much 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 and frustrated. 

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 general image 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.


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 this problem?


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 around.



"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."


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 week." 

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 room."

The Toronto Star concluded the article with the sentence, "Class clowns come in all ages."

Obviously, 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 our system.

For 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.

Therefore, 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.  

I can 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 post-secondary training. 

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.


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 their programs.

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?


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 forthcoming.

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 voluntary activities. 

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 regular budget. 



We’ve 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?


I 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. 

I 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 be provided.

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.

I 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 participate.

If 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 schools.



A comprehensive community web site containing just about everything you would want to know about the community of Valley East


Robert Kirwan, OCT, B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)
Independent Education, Training & Career Development Consultant
The Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic
(705) 969-7215 

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 School Board.



Phone: (705) 969-7215