I was raised east of Sault Ste. Marie in the town of Elliot Lake. I have been married to Catherine for the past 39 years and we have three grown children who were raised in the Catholic faith. We have been residents of Sault Ste Marie since 1988.
As a young man, I attended the University of Waterloo (1975), graduated from Sault College (1980) and Laurentian University (1988) having studied while working for the better part of a decade in the mining industry. I attended Northern Michigan University where I completed a Masters degree in Communication Disorders (speech – language pathology) at the age of 34 years.
Over the past few weeks, I have been asked to explain what underlies my commitment to serve as a HSCDSB trustee, if elected, and the issues I would be willing to champion. I decided that a public statement in this format would be the most appropriate response to such inquiries.
I was born into a large Catholic family and raised Catholic. In my development as a human being and a Catholic, I came very early to understand the value of service to family, friends and community. Having said that, I do not profess to be a model Catholic by any measure or definition.
As well as having provided services to many community agencies over the years, much of my working life has been spent in schools and classrooms (Public and Catholic systems) supporting vulnerable children and their families – children who experience special needs due to challenges in the areas of communication and learning. For a short period through the time of school board amalgamations in the late 1990s, I served as the Special Education Coordinator for the Central Algoma Board of Education.
Consequently, I have a keen interest in the area of special education and the supports for children who have special learning needs. Having worked quite extensively for both the Algoma District School Board and the HSCDSB, I believe that I have provided service in the vast majority, if not all Public and Catholic schools across the District of Algoma – Espanola to Hornepayne.
Over the past 18 years, I have worked closely with the two local First Nation communities – Garden River and Batchewana. Most recently, I have been engaged in developing and providing services through the Garden River Jordan’s Principal Initiative – an initiative designed to meet the special needs of First Nations children birth to 19 years.
Although not a qualified teacher, I believe that my extensive experience working within both school systems would be an asset to a sitting school board’s insight into the operational challenges and student needs when considering policy and governance issues.
With regards to transparency, I am of the firm belief that elected officials have a responsibility to the voting public. To that end, public access to a trustee’s voting record only makes good sense in my opinion (with the exception of personnel and human resource issues).
I believe that all schools that comprise the HSCDSB are entitled to equity in their access to services and support, regardless of geographic location.
There has been ongoing concern, in some circles, regarding the 2015 curriculum revision known as the Health and Physical Education (HPE) Curriculum. I have been asked to comment regarding the 2015 revisions. As a parent and grandparent, I do recognize that parents and guardians are the primary educators of their children. I have reviewed most of the 2015 HPE elementary curriculum and some, not all, of the support materials developed by the Catholic community to ensure that this curriculum was being delivered through the lens of Catholic teachings. If the HPE Curriculum (2015 revision) had remained in force (recently re-issued as an Interim Edition based on 2014 curriculum by the current government), I would support it as did the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario in a statement published in February 2015.
As Catholics, we recognize that Catholic education in Ontario, as we currently know it, may well be in peril going forward. With that said, I believe it is critical that the HSCDSB develop strong and active strategies to increase the population of students attending our schools.
Finally, I worked in schools through the late 1990s and early 2000’s. I witnessed the effect that funding shortfalls and cutbacks in personnel, supports and programs had on students and on the educational system in general. I do believe that all those involved in public education in Ontario must be vigilant in the defence of what is right and fair for our most precious resource – our children.
As I am nearing the end of my career as a speech-language pathologist, I see the possibility to sit as an HSCDSB trustee as a special opportunity to continue to serve and contribute to the education system of this community within which I have enjoyed working for so many years.
I do recognize that this statement has been somewhat lengthy; however, I feel that it is necessary that voters understand the positions of those who come before them at election time.
Please consider your choice of candidate for the six HSCDSB trustee positions carefully. I would be honoured to serve the Catholic community in this capacity.
Respectfully, Bill Mansfield