BY KATHY MCDONALD
December 1st marks one year since I was sworn into office. It seems like just yesterday I was pounding the pavement with my two year old in the stroller. As cliché as this might sound; times really flies. The journey has been quite edifying and exhilarating to say the least. There is nothing like discovering a job that satisfies your passion, getting up every day to do it and feeling that you were born for it. When ashes cole dwag sleep in it; (When ashes are cold a dog/ person will sleep in it). Yes, I did make the best of my situation. It was baptism by fire. Within the first year just about every federation participated in sanctions of some kind; I witnessed several parent strikes which made issues like bussing and boundary changes seem mundane and worked ardently to understand the nuances of my role.
The first order of business was visiting all my schools and introducing myself to the administration and staff. There were Trustee orientation training, Trustee information sessions, symposiums and on the job training. Several social events started popping up in my calendar daily. I remember the words of a wise seasoned Trustee that reminded me that “I will eventually need to be selective in the events I attend or I will burn out”. My second son kept saying “Where are you going again mom?” So juggle I did, with the support of my husband and the proverbial village.
Before I knew it, it was Black History Month and as a storyteller I went to most of my schools and did my best to share the Caribbean/ African culture to the students of the Peel District School Board (PDSB) in wards 3 and 4. By March 1st I was hoarse. There were Open Houses, talk of labor unrest and more meetings. April did not provide the reprieve that I thought it would. With Education week (really weeks as it spans two weeks), Sikh Heritage Month and more labor unrest I was busy. Keep in mind that my day to day activities are not slowing down either. These included, answering emails and phone calls from anxious parents, committee meetings, discipline hearings, extremely long Board meetings as the number of delegations are increasing as the hype over the revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum reached its peak.
May arrived – the dreaded OSSTF strike was here. EFTO’s work to rule followed shortly after that. It seemed like the job sanctions kept coming and before long the only people that were not participating in jobs sanctions were the principals and the vice-principals. Summer, the dog days of summer, while void of committee meetings, was busy with keeping four children engaged and active. When we returned to school in September the labor situation was dire. It was long, the Province and the Federations were trying to get a deal and locally we were trying to do the same. We weathered the storm, repaired most relationships and unified, forged ahead working for the betterment of students. At the PDBS within minutes of OPSEU ratifying their deal the hallways started to sparkle.
Upon reflecting on 2014 the highs; for example, listening to the valedictory speech at the Adult Education Graduation and the lows: for example, holding a terrified mother’s hand as we are filing a missing child report with the police I am filled with a renewed sense of propose. Throughout the year there were; assemblies, awards ceremonies, ribbon cutting as I opened a new school and new businesses; honoring various milestones in the life of school communities; celebrating student successes and employees milestones and my favorite, graduations. Graduations whether its elementary or secondary are always filled with such hope and optimism that one can’t help but be filled with the infectious sense of confidence.
The PDSB 2015 organizational meeting did not produce any changes in our leadership but many other Boards saw major changes. Despite all that we endured as School Boards I am sure that I can speak for most of my colleagues when I say that student success is at the forefront of all we do. Funny how time flies when you’re having fun. Walk Good; Belle Marche!!!