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article imageTDSB Trustee candidate Monica Batac wants to innovate classrooms Special

By Andrew Moran     Feb 7, 2012 in Politics
Toronto - Monica Batac, a classroom teacher that utilizes innovative teaching techniques, is in the race for the TDSB Trustee Ward 20 Scarborough-Agincourt by-election to give students and parents a voice to improve education.
During municipal elections, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee contests usually do not garner much attention from voters or media outlets, but that could change this year as two by-elections are being held in Ward 17 Don Valley East and Ward 20 Scarborough-Agincourt.
Ward 20 voters will have 14 candidates to choose from on Feb. 27, including an exuberant Monica Batac, a classroom teacher who is completing her Master of Teaching degree at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. spoke with Batac to find out what makes her qualified to become a school trustee, understand the importance of such a position, what the TDSB can do to improve education and public awareness of trustee elections.
What is a Trustee?
In an interview conducted two years ago, then mayoral candidate Rob Ford told Digital Journal that people did not understand that they would have to vote for a mayor, city councillor and school trustee on the ballot.
Batac said that she understands the mayor’s viewpoint because she finds that a lot of parents and students are surprised at how much influence a trustee maintains in schools’ various programs and proposals.
“During my weeks of campaigning, I am constantly and proactively engaging with Ward 20 residents to hear their thoughts on how we can work together to help our students succeed,” stated Batac. “I am making it a priority to let parents and students know that if I am elected, I would encourage them to continue sharing their ideas with me.”
She further explained that Trustees have to be both collaborators and mediators at times between communities, TDSB employees, fellow Trustees and Ontario’s Ministry of Education.
Batac, who is conducting research on the best methods to support teachers in their integration of professional learning and technology, has had experience teaching in both the private and public sectors. She also encompasses the experience of working with diverse student populations that coalesces teaching instruction with community culture components.
Stating that she instructs students with creative and innovative teaching techniques, Batac insists that student achievement necessitates support at all levels.
“When it comes to making decisions about school programming and policies that directly affect student learning and support, I think one needs to have a broad & deep understanding of what happens in today’s classrooms,” explained Batac. “Teaching today is very different from ten years ago. I know first-hand how we can improve the ways to support students, teachers, and staff in promoting student success in 2012.”
The focus of her campaign is to provide a voice to students, parents and the community in order to improve education. Putting forth this initiative would require her to listen to all comments, suggestions and concerns. “The best decision making considers all voices and perspectives.”
If elected, Batac, who utilizes social media efficiently to connect with voters and communities, would bring transparency to the TDSB regarding her actions and what transpires in schools. She would also serve as an advocate and educator for both Ward 20 and TDSB.
“Students, parents, teachers, support staff, and community members should influence what we do in our schools and I want to bring the best of our ideas to the Trustee table,” explained Batac.
The Issues
In her numerous discussions with Ward 20 residents, Batac has put together a list of important issues raised by the community. If elected, she has vowed to bring forward these policies and concerns to the TDSB.
- Increase funding to ESL programs
- Study viability of trilingual alternative schools
- Influence the design of more culturally responsive teacher-training programs
- Promote technological responsibility and effective use
- Garner questions and concerns from parents
“In Scarborough-Agincourt, we have a unique set of opportunities to help students achieve success. According to census data, 78% of our community self-identified as first-generation Canadians,” said Batac. “Our community’s concentration of new Canadians is 19% higher than the Toronto average. We have an opportunity to continue improving student achievement by addressing barriers with integrating students into our school system and continuing to focus on language development.”
Batac also noted that it would be a good idea to examine and take lessons from community groups and private schools that meet Ward 20’s ethnic communities’ academic, cultural and linguistic needs.
When asked if the TDSB has made mistakes in the past 10 years or if it is an antiquated system, Batac responded that she feels the system has done excellent work overall and is an “extremely progressive board.”
Batac did, however, say we need to identify the great work currently being conducted in classrooms and how to implement more TDSB policies and guidelines in the classrooms themselves.
Nevertheless, Batac feels the TDSB’s policies have been developed to meet the cultural and diverse needs of its students. She added that there are opportunities to grow and to improve the current system.
“TDSB prioritizes equity, diversity, and inclusion, especially at the classroom level in terms of instruction,” explained Batac. “I hope that in ten years, we have moved forward in that our students’ diversity and strengths are embedded in what we do in our classrooms. Further, I envision that our teachers will be well equipped to meet their needs and include all students who enter the doors of our schools.”
Although Batac would concur that an institution as big as the TDSB would suffer from a “complicated decision-making infrastructure,” she feels it’s important to initiate means for all those involved to voice their opinions.
One idea she feels is crucial to progress at TDSB is social media. Comparing it with city politics, officials listen to the public through different social channels and the TDSB “should be tapping into this.”
“I see it as humanizing and bringing such a big organization back to the classroom level. We need to be in touch with what goes on in our classrooms, how our students are learning, and what we need to do to support them.”
Africentric Schools
In 2009, controversy filled the front-page of Toronto newspapers when the TDSB voted in favour of the first Africentric Alternative School located in the city’s northern part. In November, the Board voted in favour of the second Africentric Alternative School that will open its doors in either 2012 or 2013.
There was both optimism and criticism over these schools. Some argued that it would serve the necessary needs to certain students, while others said it would create segregation.
Batac believes it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it was an initiative to improve student achievement. Citing research suggesting disparity between a student’s culture and the classroom, she believes we should do everything to increase student engagement with the curriculum.
“That may mean we adapt our curriculum to meet the needs of our students,” stated Batac. “If we are seeing the benefits of the Africentric and other alternative schools, we must work to ensure all of our classrooms and schools welcome and incorporate the experiences of our students.”
For more information on this candidate, follow her on Twitter @monicabatac, Like her on Facebook or visit her campaign website.
More about monica batac, TDSB Trustee, Ward 20 ScarboroughAgincourt, Byelection
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