Brent's Ideas for WRDSB

Brent’s goal is to help create a world-class public education system right here in Waterloo Region

Brent has many great ideas that will play a part in accomplishing this goal.

  

As framework, it is important to be aware of the Strategic Plan of the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), which includes three Strategic Goals, three Operational Goals, and a number of commitments to “guide the work of this board in delivering first class public education to Waterloo Region”.  You can learn more about this Strategic Plan by visiting the board website at https://www.wrdsb.ca/learning/.


Brent’s priorities are aligned with this Strategic Plan of WRDSB:


  • Accountability to ensure that WRDSB accomplishes the strategic goals, operational goals, and commitments listed in the Strategic Plan.  Brent will use all the tools at his disposal, including his CPA accounting designation, MBA, extensive governance experience, intensive community involvement (including being co-chair of the Parent Involvement Committee of WRDSB), existing positive relationships with senior staff at WRDSB, and the fact that he is a parent.
  • Parent Engagement that will effectively connect with parents and caregivers so that “WRDSB staff, families and caregivers are partners in every student’s learning journey”. Parent engagement is fundamental.  Brent is a parent, so his concerns are your concerns.
  • Community-building to foster and leverage existing and new relationships with community organizations that support students, families, staff, and the goal of creating a world-class education system.
  • Health and Well-Being of all staff, students, and families of the WRDSB. To be successful and to make an impact in our world, we need to ensure that all our stakeholders are safe, healthy, and feel included.  There are many issues with which we need to provide professional assistance to our students and families, including mental health, cannabis, drug use, bullying, internet safety, and more.  However, let's not lose sight of ensuring the health and safety of our staff.


Brent’s Ideas align with the WRDSB Strategic Plan and these above priorities.  Brent's Ideas range from simple to complex, from strategic to operational, from “we’ve tried that in the past” to “yes, why haven’t we done this?”.


Starting on the first day of school (Tuesday, September 4th, 2018), Brent will present “an idea a day” for a total of Brent’s 30 Ideas. In the name of full disclosure, there are 33 school days from the first day of school until the election.


Please visit Brent's Ideas at Brent4Trustee.ca each day or you can also follow Brent on Twitter @BrentHutzal where you will receive notification of these ideas as they are presented.



Brent's Idea #1:  Joint Trustee Blog or Social Media Account

From my campaign experience so far, it is clear that the general public is not familiar with who a school board trustee is, what they do, or why they are important.  I often spend a great deal of time talking about and explaining the role of a trustee, before I can even put in a good word for myself.  I am not complaining, as this is information that the public needs for the greater good of education in the region, but why is this the case?  Why does the average person not know anything about the role and responsibilities of a trustee or even the names of their trustees?


We need to do a better job of this.  People do not know who represents them at the school board, they do not know that they can contact a trustee, or they may feel intimidated to do so.  Let’s fix that!  There are so many not-so-innovative ways to accomplish this goal.  Let’s start a trustee blog or social media account – yes, something that is joint effort between ALL trustees, because joint efforts and working together are exactly what trustees should be doing.  Trustees can do a better job of being “personable”, making themselves appear to be approachable and that they understand (ie. “I get it because I have kids in WRDSB that are approximately the same age as yours).  Trustees can do a better job of explaining policy and their related decisions with regards to changes and not endorsing changes.  We should be publishing trustee voting records online, in addition to attendance records, for all to see.  These are just some basic ideas that I would build upon.


As your trustee, I would endorse and spearhead a joint trustee initiative (ie. a joint blog, joint social media account, etc) that would allow the community to better understand the role and responsibilities of a trustee, how to contact a trustee, what a trustee stands for, and essentially just to give our trustees a personality and to appear less intimidating.




Brent's Idea #2:  Utilize a Variety of Tools to Secure Community Feedback

I am a professor at Conestoga College (in the School of Business) and I use a variety of tools to solicit student feedback.  For example, I often use Socrative.com or TodaysMeet.com (in the past) to ask students to honestly provide me with feedback (about things that they like about the course so far, things they do not like, topics on which they wished I would spend more time, things that they appreciate, etc).  With face-to-face chats and feedback provided while in class, some students are very forthcoming, but the majority are not.  I see some great similarities here with regards to how trustees secure feedback from the community.  I have attended MANY trustee meetings and I cringe when I hear phrases such as “I have heard NOTHING but positive feedback” or “from the emails that I have received, ALL are in opposition” or something like that.  


There are numerous tools, online and offline, that trustees can utilize to secure community feedback.  As your trustee, I would endorse and spearhead an initiative for trustees to incorporate and leverage a VARIETY of these tools that would solicit community feedback from ALL stakeholders.  Trustees, together, would share this feedback for the greater good of the community.




Brent's Idea #3:  Revamp the Current Trustee Board Meeting Agenda Process

As co-chair of the Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) of WRDSB (https://www.wrdsb.ca/pic/), I have attended trustee meetings regularly and frequently.  Trustee meetings usually occur on Monday evenings, however the agenda for the meeting would typically be released on a Friday late afternoon.  This timing has always frustrated me!  How can trustees advocate for community and parent engagement (and give delegations adequate time to submit a request and to prepare their presentation) on this timetable?  Let’s overhaul the trustee board meeting agenda process as I believe that we can all agree that it does not make sense to publish an agenda on late Friday afternoon for the Monday meeting.  If we want complete community and parent engagement, we need to give the community adequate opportunity to engage.  The only argument that I have ever heard against revising this schedule is "well, we [trustees] would never approve that".


As your trustee, I want better community and parent engagement in trustee meetings.  I would make it a priority to revamp the current trustee board meeting agenda process and I would advocate for the release of the agenda earlier in the week for the subsequent Monday meeting.




Brent's Idea #4:  Help Parents, Caregivers, and Community Members Find High Impact Ways (in a Manner that is Convenient for Them) to Contribute to WRDSB

There are many committees and subcommittees within WRDSB that need parent/caregiver involvement – some with as little as 8 hours of meetings per year.  Yes, per year!  These opportunities may be affiliated with PIC or WRAPSC, but not always.  Let’s figure out how to promote these opportunities and create a well-publicized application process.  


For example, did you know that you can participate in the Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) of the board without being a member of PIC?  You can volunteer on any PIC subcommittee – only the chair of the subcommittee is required to be a PIC member.  There are so many exciting ways to get involved and use your skills and passion for the benefit of the school board, without having to commit to meetings that may not fit your schedule.


I understand that Parents + Engagement = Student Success.  I also understand that life gets busy.  As your trustee, I would endorse and spearhead the creation of an online resource that would present all volunteer opportunities, in a clear manner and in a timely fashion, for our parents/caregivers and community members.




Brent's Idea #5:  Create a Trusted Speakers' Directory

Piggybacking off of the previous idea, it is in the school board’s best interest to engage parents.  As trustees represent the voice of the community, parent engagement is something that needs to be taken seriously by each and every trustee.  There are countless ways to engage parents and caregivers – most are not earth-shattering in terms of complexity and this is one example.


School councils and their coordinating body, WRAPSC or the Waterloo Region Assembly of Public School Councils (where you can learn more here https://www.wrdsb.ca/our-schools/get-involved/wrapsc/), play such a vital role in WRDSB.  Oftentimes, an engaged parent’s first point of contact is with their school council, whether that is through a school council meeting, an event organized by the school council, a fundraising effort with leadership from the school council, or resources provided by your school council.  Through my experience as co-chair of the Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) of WRDSB, I have seen school councils organize so many valuable and impactful events for parents, many of which I have attended at my home school, Bridgeport Public School.


There are issues that our schools face each and every day – these challenges are often not unique and are frequently shared between many of our schools and school councils.  If a school council feels the call to organize an event that would benefit parents and caregivers, it can often be a challenge to identify effective, trustworthy, and engaging resources.  Let’s assist our school councils, the frontlines of parent engagement at WRDSB.


As your trustee, I would endorse and help coordinate a speakers’ directory for school council events.  This resource would identify speakers that have provided services and resources at a WRDSB event in the past, with feedback and specifics in order for school councils to make an effective, efficient, and informed decision.




Brent's Idea #6:  Develop an Online Library of Resources for all WRDSB Stakeholders

When we have a question or need a resource on any topic, our first stop is usually Google.  The good thing about this strategy is that there is no shortage of search results provided.  The bad thing about this strategy is that the reliability of any given search result is generally unknown.


As co-chair of the WRDSB Parent Involvement Committee (PIC), I have often referred parents to legitimate online resources, such as Family Compass Waterloo Region, the Parent Resources page of their school website (if it’s anything like Centennial Public School), the PIC website, or the websites of other trustworthy community organizations.  Despite the availability of these resources, it can still be a daunting and tedious task to find what you need, especially when you have questions that need answers in a timely fashion.


An ideal solution would be for a WRDSB “online librarian” to create and manage an online directory of trusted resources, which would be searchable by keyword and source.  We have so many amazing staff within WRDSB who are already providing helpful resources through various social media channels.  We have staff and parents who are attending conferences, on behalf of WRDSB, who can share the resources from their learning sessions.  We have resources available from our community partners that are being shared through their respective channels.  


Let’s consolidate these resources to create an interactive, trusted, and timely tool that shares knowledge and provides benefits to our schools, students, parents, staff, and trustees.




Brent's Idea #7:  Fight the Good Fight, Do Not Focus on Pet Projects  

I had some other Brent4Trustee ideas that were scheduled and ready to publish before this one, but based on a couple of recent online articles, this is very timely.  Here are those articles that continue to push an initiative that should be placed on the back burner:


Public board discussing year-round schooling

https://www.kitchenertoday.com/local-news/public-board-discussing-year-round-schooling-1039770


Public board chair can't see year-round schooling pilot program starting by 2019

https://www.kitchenertoday.com/local-news/public-board-chair-cant-see-year-round-schooling-pilot-program-starting-by-2019-1050743


Trustees provide governance to the school board, so a trustee needs to be able to discern the difference between a feasible project and/or related consultation that improves student achievement and well-being and one that does not.  WRDSB and its senior staff are inundated with possible and proposed projects – good governance would help WRDSB decide which of these initiatives to pursue.  I see Chair Scott McMillan doing a good job of setting these expectations in the second linked article after a confusing and misleading take by another trustee in the first linked article.


There is no need to distract ourselves with various “pet projects” and the year-round schooling discussion is the epitome of a “pet project”.  I am in full support of conversation and discussion, of course.  However, due to the most complex infrastructure, scheduling, and facilities issues related to year-round schooling, this absolutely should not be a “pet project” for WRDSB, but rather a part of a larger strategy from the Ministry of Education.  We can gather information and engage in productive conversation, but let’s not spend funds and efforts that could be better utilized in the classroom – for example, this committee has met MANY times with representation of the Director, superintendents, trustees, and community/parents, with no clear objective or goal – how much has this “pet project” already cost WRDSB?  


Do we even know how much support a year-round schooling initiative even has in Waterloo Region?  Further to Brent4Trustee Idea #2, of course not.  Admittedly, there is a great deal of research that supports the merit and benefit of year-round schooling, but there is also an extremely significant amount of research that discounts these same benefits, or, at the very least, provides concerns regarding the reported substantive evidence and questions its actual impact.  This is not enough to proceed with year-round schooling on our own, even as a pilot project, in WRDSB.


There are so many questions and concerns that I receive from parents regarding this conversation.  As I chat with parents, a great deal of concern comes back to quality family time.  Will a school board be able to effectively schedule summer vacation for your family if you have children in different grades, different schools, or different programs?  WRDSB, which is not unique to other school boards in the province, has enough difficulty with regards to managing and coordinating its current programs (ie. French Immersion, etc) and its accessibility (ie. transportation, enrollment, etc), without having to also manage these complexities in the context of year-round schooling.  Even a pilot project would cause unnecessary interruption and needless complications – what happens if a pilot project is run, students go to school for a couple summer terms, and then it is deemed to not be feasible?  How do we re-integrate that school back into the regular September to June schedule?  Not impossible, but it is another layer of unnecessary complexity.  Again, with no concrete evidence of any tangible benefits.


Last, but not least, let’s chat about air conditioning.  We should not be seriously considering  “year-round schooling” until our schools are equipped with air conditioning.  Let’s not put the cart before the horse, so to speak.  Even before a pilot project, we need a plan for air-conditioning throughout all our schools.  It is not logical to support year-round schooling before there are specific and guaranteed funds to install air-conditioning at all our schools - and in terms of capital investments and improvements, where does air-conditioning rank among other much-needed fixes to our school buildings?


Discernment, governance, logic.  Trustees need to avoid “pet projects” at all costs.  Student achievement and well-being are the priorities.


Let’s not create distractions and pull resources from where it counts - in the classroom.




Brent's Idea #8:  Teach Financial Literacy in Schools

It goes without saying that I am passionate about education.  I am also passionate about business and financial education – you may already know this, or you may have already guessed, but in the name of full disclosure, I am a CPA-designated accountant.  In addition, I teach accounting and business courses as a Professor at Conestoga College – this Brent4Trustee idea is “near and dear” to me.  Financial Literacy, at any age, is crucial and it is an important life skill that is lacking in the curriculum of the public education system, for the most part.  We need to better equip our students with the skills of Financial Literacy – students are graduating without a grasp of the basics of personal finance, including budgets, investing, credit cards, and debt.  


I invited the CPA organization (Chartered Professional Accountants) to speak at a PIC meeting last May to discuss their Financial Literacy program – you can learn more about this curriculum and how you can introduce it to your school at https://www.cpacanada.ca/en/the-cpa-profession/financial-literacy/about-cpa-canada-financial-literacy (or you can contact me and I will connect you with the local volunteer for this program, who is also a CPA-designated accountant).  


Let’s continue to foster this relationship between WRDSB and CPA Canada in order to effectively incorporate the applicable and invaluable teachings of Financial Literacy into the classroom.




Brent's Idea #9:  Active Students are Happy Students

My wife and I are fortunate to have a home school (Bridgeport PS) that is so heavily invested in keeping our students active. From Forest School to Adventure Racing to Running Club, and more, the Bears are a model for other schools looking to ramp up physical activity options for their students.


Time and time again, reputable studies trumpet the benefits of physical activity for children and youth. There are the expected physical health benefits, but being active also provides distinct mental health advantages, including how it “primes the brain for learning”. Pediatricians advocate for “play” (ie. unstructured, good old-fashioned play, such as “recess”) as a part of the optimal development for young children.


The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is taking the issue so seriously, it is advising doctors to give out “prescriptions for play” to parents, guardians and educators, in order to illustrate how important play is for children’s healthy development.


People for Education has summarized a Roadmap for building play into learning (https://peopleforeducation.ca/research/its-time-to-get-serious-about-play/).  Trustees need to endorse and support this roadmap, which specifies a number of areas for change, including roles for parents/caregivers, teachers, school boards, doctors, and the general public. As your trustee, I would play an active role in this initiative across WRDSB (yes, pun intended). I am a high-energy kind of guy, my wife is a pediatrician, and I would love to see physical activity have a greater role in our schools and classrooms across Waterloo Region.




Brent's Idea #10:  Publish Trustee Community Involvement Online

I am a “high energy” kind of guy.  I wake up in the morning and get my family moving, coordinated, ready, and out the door on time (maybe not my best quality, according to them).  I run half marathons.  I volunteer extensively.  I teach (stroll and talk and listen, on my feet) for six hours at a time.  I keep up with my two young daughters, who have more energy than me.  I can do 8 loads of laundry in a day.  


In short, a trustee’s job is tireless and requires an abundance of energy.  This is something that I can handle.


When I attend various board and parent events, I often do not see regular, consistent, and active involvement of all trustees.  A fully-engaged trustee is one that is participating in many of these events.  If not present and active on a regular basis, it would be difficult to engage with and represent the community.  You need to be actively involved in order to keep the pulse of the community.  And just being "there" in time for the photo does not count!


Ultimately, a trustee’s community involvement is what a trustee makes of it – there are no requirements or minimums.  I understand that the role of a trustee is part-time in nature and a trustee will always have other obligations.  However, it is important for a trustee to maintain an effective and efficient personal schedule in order to be available for the school board’s stakeholders.


In case you were wondering about my personal/family situation and expected level of commitment, my main “day job” is that I teach at Conestoga College – I am in the classroom for 12 hours each week.  Of course, there is considerable prep time, marking, meetings, and so much more that is required in addition to this time in the classroom, but that time is flexible and scheduled.  Bottom line, I am available to be active with the school board during the day.


I strongly feel that the public should be aware of their trustees’ involvement.  I advocate for publishing a listing of each trustee’s specific community involvement so we can gauge individual trustee engagement accordingly.




Brent's Idea #11:  Engage trustees, WRDSB staff, and health care professionals

Children and youth well-being, health, and education are very important issues in our home.  My wife, Carolyn, is a local pediatrician and is able to advise me on many of the more complicated health, developmental, and mental health-related issues that face WRDSB and our students (even in my role as co-chair of the Parent Involvement Committee of PIC, she provided some tremendous insight into policy).  


As a trustee, I would look forward to being a “connector”, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point”.  Let’s better engage and our tremendously talented health professionals in Waterloo Region.  If we invite them, they will come.  The next four years will see the need for complete community involvement and strategy related to numerous student health-related issues, such as cannabis, mental health, special needs, and more.  Let’s extend a formal invitation, listen, engage, and effectively improve our policies and procedures for the benefit of the health and well-being of all students.




Brent's Idea #12:    A New and Improved WRDSB.ca Website

A little-known fact about me, unless you have read my LinkedIn profile, is that I worked at the WestJet corporate headquarters while my wife and I lived in Calgary.  I worked in the Finance department for a year when I first started, but then moved into the role of Manager of Web Business.   Yes, an accountant became manager of the airline’s web business – mainly due to the fact that I was strategic, able to create a plan, and then execute.


In this role, I was responsible for working with numerous departments throughout the company, all of whom had a stake in the company’s online properties.  I facilitated discussions and managed relationships with IT Development, IT Support, Marketing, Sales, Distribution, Finance, Regulations, Legal, Pricing, Governance, the Executive team, and more.  We worked together.  I did not have all the answers, but I was a well-connected leader who knew where to find the answers.  These are skills that would also serve me well as your trustee.


I would be excited to play a part in the revamp of the WRDSB.ca website.  I am experienced,  leaning on lessons learned in my role as Manager of Web Business for WestJet and WestJet Vacations, and I would engage with and provide feedback from the community, students, and staff to help the board develop an online property that would be the envy of other school boards in the province.




Brent's Idea #13:  Create An App for That

As a parent, there is so much to keep track of when it comes to the school board and our children’s education.  There is board news to read, special events to attend, payments to submit, absences to report, bus delays to look into, Before/After School programs to register, social media accounts to follow, and so many reminders!


How convenient would it be for a parent to be able to access all this information by way of their smart phone?  WRDSB should create an app for ALL that (and more).


If there was an urgent message for the school board to convey to you, if you wanted to learn more about volunteer opportunities, if you wanted to register your child for JK, if you wanted to learn more about your home school, or if you wanted to reach out to your trustee, potentially you could do all that (and more) through the WRDSB App.


Check out the Halton District School Board’s app to gain a sense of what we could have for WRDSB – however, being in the innovation cluster that we are, the WRDSB app would be even more robust!  As your trustee, an app is just one tool for which I would wholeheartedly advocate, for the enhancement of community and parent engagement. 




Brent's Idea #14:  Better Engage Trustees in the Budget Process

Did you know that the WRDSB budget is close to $800M, almost four times the size of the Catholic school board’s budget?  While the role of the trustee is to provide governance to the school board, I feel as though the budget process is the area of least engagement among trustees.  It is not a problem unique to our current group of trustees – it is common for people to fear the numbers.


We are extremely fortunate that WRDSB has such a talented Finance team under the leadership of Matthew Gerard – I cannot speak more highly of Matt and his experience, expertise, and knowledge.  However, a key role and priority for the trustees is to approve the budget and I feel as though there are specific skills needed among the board of trustees to ensure that the required level of financial governance is provided to the school board.


I am a CPA-designated accountant.  I am a professor at Conestoga College where I teach business and accounting courses.  I have a skillset in explaining the numbers, making people feel more comfortable with the numbers, and engaging people with the numbers.  I will make it a priority to better engage all trustees in the budget process so that we, as a group, can ask the right questions.  We need to ensure that we maximize the impact of each and every dollar for the benefit of our students.




Brent's Idea #15:  Share the Good News

At trustee meetings, the Communications Department will often share a "Good News Update".  It is always my favourite part of the meeting (a close second is listening to trustees and senior staff sing O Canada in such harmony).  The Good News Update is an uplifting reminder of all the great work being done by WRDSB stakeholders throughout all corners of the Region.


We need to expand on this idea.  Perhaps posting a video of the Goods News Updates online.  Perhaps a weekly online or email newsletter that captures highlights of these Good News events. Perhaps encouraging student journalists or our local dedicated journalists to report and run these stories.  The sky’s the limit!


Just as students can learn from other students, teachers can learn from other teachers, and schools can learn from other schools - a shared Good News Update would be such an effective medium to foster this improvement.  It is easy to get bogged down with negative news from the media and social media and to forget about all the positive happenings in our community and at our local schools – let’s not “hide” the Good News of WRDSB, let’s be proud of our accomplishments and share these with the world.




Brent's Idea #16: Create a centralized database of all WRDSB events 

Back in the spring, the Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) of WRDSB, through its awesome partnership with PCMH (Parents for Children's Mental Health), was looking to identify various school events at which they could set-up shop to provide mental health and parent resources.  This proved to be a rather difficult task.


In short, while each school can maintain its own calendar of events on their own website, the school board’s website is not connected to all the individual schools’ online calendars.  The disadvantage to this limitation is simply related to communication and engagement.  Stakeholders of WRDSB are not aware of what is taking place throughout all corners of the region on any given day.  Selfishly, as an aspiring trustee, who would represent ALL stakeholders of WRDSB throughout the entire region, it would be extremely beneficial to know when and where various events are taking place.  From a parent’s perspective, same thing – for example, if a Kitchener parent was having an urgent crisis with regards to their child’s specific challenges and there was a practical and applicable session being hosted at ANY school within Waterloo Region, they would be there in a heartbeat.  This is the type of timely support that the coordinators of these events would love to provide – and that this centralized database would provide.




Brent's Idea #17:  Create an online directory of volunteer "job postings"

As indicated in a Kitchener Record article posted on July 3rd, “starting in the fall, the board will join most high schools who track community hours online through student website portals. It plans to add a community hours section to its "My Way" online system, which will provide students, parents and teachers access to volunteer hours data.”


It is fantastic news to provide a digital solution to help student track their volunteers hours, which are mandatory for graduation.  However, WRDSB should be doing more to help its students with regards to achieving the mandatory volunteer hours than just "tracking hours".


We need to partner with a reputable community organization, such as the Volunteer Action Centre @volunteerKW to create an online listing of these volunteer opportunities and to send out reminders by email, text, social media to students and parents.  Let’s promote the many, many, many great causes in #KWAwesome that rely on community support and volunteers.  It would be a win-win project as far as I can see.




Brent's Idea #18:  Create an online directory of Scholarships and Awards

Each year, Canadian students miss out on millions of dollars worth of scholarships – many of these awards are not related to or connected with a student’s marks.  Further to Policy 6003 and Procedure 4480, WRDSB should create, perhaps as a community partnership, an online scholarship directory.


This directory would include a listing of scholarships and awards available to our WRDSB students, requirements, and the application procedure.  It could be a one-stop shop for students (and their parents) looking for funding for post-secondary education.  The directory would include all scholarships and awards for which WRDSB has collected funds and also all external scholarships and awards of which the school board is made aware. 


Let’s make it easier for our graduates to find and secure funding for their post-secondary education.




Brent's Idea #19:  Engage, actually engage, the community with regards to policy feedback

There is a love-hate relationship when it comes to policy.  Sometimes we hate the current policy and want to make changes.  We love the opportunity to provide feedback to the current policy.  We hate how we never really know what happens to that policy feedback that we have provided.


First, let's make it easier for the community to provide policy feedback.  All WRDSB policies are listed online (https://www.wrdsb.ca/about-the-wrdsb/policiesprocedures/policies/).  Trustees have a formal schedule of policy review that details what policy will be reviewed and when – and the board provides opportunities for the public to provide policy feedback (through various committees such as PIC, by contacting your trustee directly, etc).  We can do a much better job publishing and promoting this schedule to the community.


However, even when policy feedback is provided by the public, it is never really explained why or why not that feedback was introduced at a meeting and, if it was, why or why not it was incorporated into the policy update.


We owe a courtesy to all engaged community members who provide policy feedback. Trustees need to implement a “policy feedback loop” to communicate reasoning and decisions related to this feedback – it is just common courtesy that will keep these valuable community engagers, well, engaged.




Brent's Idea #20: Leverage the inherent competitive nature of students

Just as there is intra-school competition for athletics and other friendly challenges, such as food drives, I would like to see individual schools set their own targets to reduce electricity and greenhouse gas emissions and then "compete" with other schools in the region.  Involve the students and ask them for their ideas on how their school can improve.  I can see students taking ownership and having great pride in such a competition, which in turn would provide many teachable moments.


My undergraduate degrees are Chemical Engineering (with a focus on Environmental) and Economics.  I am in a unique position to help.  WRDSB has already realized a cost savings of $3 million by reducing electricity consumption over the past 8 years - and that is just the "tip of iceberg".  As trustee, I would ensure that the school board is not complacent, not pleased with cost savings of only $3 million dollars.  Let’s help the school board divert funds back to the classroom.



 

Brent’s Idea #21: Delegations for all

Let’s promote and encourage stakeholders to present at trustee board meetings when there is an important issue at hand. Many are not even aware that this process exists.



Brent’s Idea #22: Partnerships with workforce planning organizations

WRDSB needs to be proactive in filling the labour needs in our region. If there is a trend or opportunity for our future graduates, workforce planning will be able to advise – for the benefit of our students and the entire Region’s economy.



Brent’s Idea #23: Engage the underengaged

I realize that this is a loaded topic. There is no “silver bullet” solution, but one idea that would pay immediate dividends would be for the school board to hire a community engagement specialist, who would be the driving force to match underengaged families and students with the appropriate resources, community organizations, or mentors in the Region.



Brent’s Idea #24: Embrace Hart’s Ladder

Trustees should fully support this model for continuum of engagement. Here is a great resource to refresh or introduce you to Hart’s Ladder for the advancement of family engagement: http://www.pcmh.ca/familyengagementmodel



Brent’s Idea #25: Let’s encourage those who we entrust with our children

We have such amazing teachers, admin, and front-line staff at WRDSB. It is not an easy job. These individuals deserve and need our support. I would advocate for a mechanism where anonymous positive messages of support and thanks can be sent to these staff. Trust me, especially over the past couple months, I know the impact of a well-timed message of encouragement – it is an amazing feeling to know that someone is thinking of you – and rooting for you to succeed.



Brent’s Idea #26: Review fundraising practices

I do not have the answers with regards to the school fundraising conundrum, however, I do know a couple things – we need to provide better resources to school councils for best practices (and related restrictions of fundraising) and we need to do a better job of helping some schools raise funds.



Brent’s Idea #27: Proactively partner with tech

This idea is self-explanatory, as our school board is fortunately located in the tech hub of Canada. However, we need to be opportunistic and take advantage of these local connections, both on the technology and personal level, for the benefit of our students.



Brent’s Idea #28: Get involved in the Smart Cities Challenge

Did you know that Waterloo Region was short-listed as one of five finalists in Canada in the large municipalities category of the Smart Cities Challenge, “a new, competition-based approach that encourages communities to come up with innovative solutions to their most pressing challenge”? Did you know that Challenge Area is “Healthy Children and Youth”?


Why myself and most WRDSB stakeholders are not actually aware of the above is a mystery to me. This screams “WRDSB trustee leadership needed!”


Check out more here: https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/doing-business/smart-waterloo-region.aspx



Brent’s Idea #29: Support efforts to fix schools.

Yes, our schools need upgrades, to say the least. Funding is always the issue, of course. Could the school board and trustees not figure out a way for local volunteers to assist for the greater good of students? I completely understand that I am simplifying the complexities surrounding some of these capital and maintenance issues, but I am confident that with solid leadership we can make an impact.



Brent’s Idea #30: Let’s Continue the PIC Annual Conference

Yes, it is unfortunate that the Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grants have been paused by the provincial government. As past co-chair of PIC, I have first-hand experience of how these grants have undoubtedly provided great benefit throughout WRDSB in the past. The annual PIC parents/caregivers’ conference is one example, but I believe that we can continue this legacy with or without the PRO grant. Trustees should work together to ensure that the “show goes on”, so to speak. The most recent application by PIC actually lends itself to a lower cost, higher impact program – with solid trustee leadership, we can make this happen.




Stay tuned for the rest of Brent's Ideas!  There will be 30 in total, approximately one per school day until the election.  If anything resonates with you, please do not hesitate to volunteer to be part of Brent's campaign team by contacting Brent at the "How Do I Contact Brent?" page.  You can help Brent in many ways:  posting a small election sign on your front lawn, helping to distribute door hangers, passing out business cards to your contacts, or just spreading the good word.