School boards elect chairs, vice-chairs

The Welland Tribune - - Front Page - KRIS DUBÉ

Putting stu­dents first is a key pri­or­ity for each new chair of Ni­a­gara’s English school boards.

Both elected by their trus­tee peers in re­cent days, Sue Bar­nett will lead Dis­trict School Board of Ni­a­gara and Frank Fera has been cho­sen chair of Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict Catholic School Board.

Fort Erie-Port Col­borne trus­tee Dave Schaubel will serve as DSBN vice-chair and Fort Erie-Port Col­borne-Wain­fleet trus­tee Dino Si­coli as Ni­a­gara Catholic vice-chair for the next year un­til trustees vote again on both po­si­tions.

Bar­nett, a trus­tee for Wel­land for many years and who was chair in 2015, said the best pos­si­ble ed­u­ca­tion for stu­dents is at the top of her pri­or­ity list.

“We’re pre­par­ing kids for jobs that don’t even ex­ist yet,” she said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day.

Learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments and mak­ing sure ed­u­ca­tors have the re­sources they need to give their class­rooms the best pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing that will be ad­dressed through ad­vanced think­ing, bal­anced bud­gets and school con­di­tions, she said.

“Happy teach­ers mean happy stu­dents,” said Bar­nett, also an ad­vo­cate for spe­cial needs ed­u­ca­tion, an area she says can con­tinue to im­prove through cut­ting ad­min­is­tra­tive costs.

Ag­ing fa­cil­i­ties are not too much of a con­cern for the new chair.

“We’re on top of it. There’s on­go­ing main­te­nance con­stantly,” she said.

By 2025, all three-storey schools with­out el­e­va­tors will need to have one in­stalled — one of them be­ing Ross Pub­lic School.

“That’s right at the top of our list in Wel­land,” she said.

Com­mo­tion caused by out­dated park­ing sit­u­a­tions at many DSBN build­ings is also a mat­ter that needs to be fo­cused on, as many have al­ready seen re­con­fig­u­ra­tions take place. Schools built decades ago were not made for the num­ber of par­ents who elect to pick their chil­dren up at the end of the day, she said.

“Congestion at our schools has been a ma­jor prob­lem,” she added.

No ac­com­mo­da­tion re­views are cur­rently on the agenda for 2019, but one in Wain­fleet did re­cently wrap up fol­low­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion made by the last board — agree­ing to merge Winger and Wil­liam E. Brown pub­lic

schools with St. Elizabeth, a Catholic school, un­der one roof.

The Catholic board has yet to give the pro­ject the green light. Asked if she sees the new board re­open­ing the file, Bar­nett said it’s pos­si­ble, but un­likely.

“Nor­mally, we don’t go back and re­visit it — un­less some­body is re­ally pas­sion­ate about it,” she said.

Frank Fera, a Catholic board trus­tee for Ni­a­gara Falls and Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake since 2000,

who served as vice-chair in 2009, will lead the board of trustees in 2019. En­hanc­ing Catholic­ity and pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with unions that rep­re­sent teach­ers are two main pri­or­i­ties he listed in an in­ter­view.

He feels clear­ing a “rift” with unions will bet­ter serve the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s the stu­dents who give us pur­pose and hope,” he said.

Fa­cil­ity main­te­nance is an is­sue he feels has been ad­dressed

through reg­u­lar main­te­nance and upkeep.

“We’re do­ing OK with our build­ings,” he said.

Asked about the po­ten­tial amal­ga­ma­tion of St. Elizabeth in Wain­fleet with two pub­lic schools, he said the same for­mula with Loretto Catholic and Kate S. Dur­dan in Ni­a­gara Falls has al­ready proven to be ef­fec­tive.

“We have that in place al­ready, and it’s work­ing out quite well,” he said.

Sue Bar­nett

Frank Fera

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