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Grade 7 students participate in class at East Alternative School of Toronto (E.A.S.T.) in Toronto in 2011. E.A.ST. is an alternative school promoting social justice, equity and compassion. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Grade 7 students participate in class at East Alternative School of Toronto (E.A.S.T.) in Toronto in 2011. E.A.ST. is an alternative school promoting social justice, equity and compassion. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Education

For Toronto's rookie school trustees, a learning curve Add to ...

There will be two new faces in the boardroom on Tuesday evening when the Toronto District School Board meets for the first time since its recent by-election. For the rookie trustees who filled vacancies left after October's provincial election, the meeting comes as the calm before the storm. With a projected $85-million shortfall, teacher contract negotiations and deep cuts to education funding coming, the TDSB has a tough year ahead. The Globe’s Kate Hammer talked with the new trustees about some of the more contentious issues.

More related to this story

Harout Manougian

Ward 17, Don Valley East

Age: 25

Occupation: Electrical engineer for Hydro One

Boutique schools: Mr. Manougian supports the TDSB’s move to build more specialized programs, including sports and music academies, single-gender schools and an Africentric high school.

“I’m pro more choice for parents,” he said. “I think this plays especially well in places where there’s under-enrolment of children.”

Bullying: He believes one of the reasons his parents decided to enroll him in private school as a child was because of the bullying they had experienced in the public school system as young Armenian immigrants.

The key to ending bullying, Mr. Manougian says, is educating students about the role bystanders can play in protecting and stepping up for their peers.

School closings: Shuttering and selling off school buildings isn’t a good way for the TDSB to save money, according to Mr. Manougian.

“I don’t support selling off school properties,” he said. “I see that as a shortsighted solution because the population of Toronto is growing every year, especially through immigration.”

Budget: The TDSB is facing a projected $85-million shortfall this year and Mr. Manougian says he’ll have to acquaint himself more with the board’s finances before he has any ideas how to balance the books.

Though he said the board could probably have saved some money on the $430,000 by-election in which he won his seat.

“It is unfortunate that the vote turnout at the school board level was so low,” he said. “Maybe [there could have been]a smaller number of polls.”

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Sam Sotiropoulos

Ward 20, Scarborough-Agincourt

Age: 42

Occupation: Business owner and IT specialist

Boutique schools: Unlike his predecessor, the new trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt doesn’t support specialized programs. He believes that they take pressure off the mainstream system to provide a holistic education.

“I don’t believe in segregating students based on cultural background, ethnicity or gender,” he said.

Bullying: Mr. Sotiropoulos believes that parents need to be more involved in stopping bullying.

“Rather than try to be more creative in the way we punish kids, we need to go directly to parents in these situations,” he said. “I think most of the time the parents aren’t aware of what their children are up to, quite frankly.”

School closings: The two new trustees agree on this issue.

“I’m dead set against the idea of closing and selling school properties,” said Mr. Sotiropoulos.

Budget: Here too, Mr. Sotiropoulos is in sync with Mr. Manougian. Both new trustees said they needed time to review the board’s finances before they could suggest ways to make up the projected budget shortfall.

He raised concerns, though, that taxpayers didn’t get their money’s worth in the recent by-election.

“I heard many reports of voters not receiving voters cards,” he said.

Editor's Note: Sam Sotiropoulos is a Toronto school board trustee. His surname was misspelled in an earlier version of this article, which has been corrected.

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