On September 14th, I emailed the London candidates for Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) Trustee. As outlined in a previous blog post, this was done to provide more exposure to this important position and to give Londoners an opportunity to get more insight into the candidates.
Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
Nine years ago, I made two of the most important decisions of my life. My partner and I adopted our son, Dakota. I knew at the time about his many health, mental health and developmental disabilities, and already anticipated the lifelong challenge that required us to be a committed and dedicated advocate for his needs. The early days of our journey were rocky. One ‘expert’ advised I should “just lower my expectations and everything would be easier”. The second important decision was not taking that advice.
Dakota was seven when we adopted him. At the time he couldn’t read, couldn’t do the most basic person care independently, and worst of all was not attending school. His needs were so poorly understood that the TVDSB had yet to admit him as a student. Over the years I have had to learn to navigate the system, advocate to schools, the board and even the ministry for his needs; everything from initial admission to school and subsequently to specialized classes, up to modified curriculum, educational assistants, IEPs and appropriate transportation.
Now in grade 10, Dakota continues to improve, regularly attends school, and has become involved in extra-curriculars. He became certified in SCUBA diving, a long time goal of his; and First Aid through Red Cross. Any child can succeed with the proper supports and guidance.
I did it for my Dakota, now I want to do it for other children.
I am not a seasoned politician. I am not knocking on doors asking for money for this campaign. And I am not supported by a team of people doing the work behind the scenes.
I am a parent. I am an advocate for the needs of all children in our community. And most importantly, I am committed to being part of every child’s team.
I am encouraging voters not to lower their expectations or accept anything but what is best for their child. Together we can ensure every child succeeds.
What do you consider to be the most important role of a school board trustee?
Although responsible for a number of crucial votes and approvals on things like budgets and programs, a trustee is there to represent the public. When families are experiencing challenges or concerns with their child’s education, a trustee should be a support, either providing guidance and information to the family, or acting as an advocate. Ultimately the trustees are there to protect the best interests of the children.
What do you believe to be the most important issue for the TVDSB to address over the next four years?
Declining student enrollment within TVDSB continues. This is already proving to have devastating impacts on students and families across the board with many school closures having happened, currently being proposed or considered at this time. Future decline could signal more closures if business as usual continues. Various ideas have been put forth by concerned parents and community members, but the result is all too often the same, closing of a school. Our trustees need to be willing to stand up for the families and think of new and innovative ways of ensuring our schools remain open; community partnerships, realigning specialized programs, increasing enrollment through international studies… these approaches can work. We need a board willing to enact these plans, not just talk and fall back on closures that hurt families, business and the community.
What skills and experience do you have that qualify you to be a school board trustee?
Currently serving as Chair of the Parent Council at Montcalm Secondary, I work closely with the administration, ensuring the best possible school environment for all students. My commitment to Children doesn’t stop at school. I am a Scout Leader, a Block Parent, and former Big Brother and respite provider. I am a member of the Ontario Association on Developmental Disabilities; Parents for Children’s Mental Health; and ARCH Disability Law Centre.
For years I have served on the City of London’s Accessibility Advisory committee, currently serving my third consecutive term as elected Chair. During this time I spearheaded moves to streamline recreation subsidies for low income families; improve playground accessibility and playground standard; create more accessible recreation programs ; and Chaired two disability conferences including one on Children and Youth with Disabilities, which included a large focus on education and transitioning to adult life. Perhaps the greatest success was the commitment of the City to begin work on a Municipal Children’s Mental Health Stigma Reduction program – to my knowledge the first of its kind. I also sit as a member of the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee. During my time with both committees I have never missed a meeting.
Professionally I am the Administrative Manager for an accessibility service providing interpreting and captioning. In this role I develop policies, ensure compliance with changing laws and legislation, manage and report on a budget of approximately $10 Million, work to expand the service, all while ensuring the needs of the Deaf, deafened or hard-of-hearing people relying us have seamless service.
How can voters get in touch with you for more information?
Voters can call me at home (519-473-3272) or on my cell (226-378-1875) or reach me by email at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dawthorne.com.