Kitchener-Waterloo·Waterloo Region Votes

In their words: Candidates for Waterloo region public school board trustees give top reasons for running

CBC K-W asked candidates for school board trustee to list their top three reasons for running in this election.
Voters will make their choice on who will serve in the 11 trustee positions with the Waterloo Region District School Board in Monday's municipal election. (David Bajer/CBC)

School board trustee elections take place on Monday.

Of the 11 trustees that make up the board, four are not seeking re-election this fall.

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo asked the candidates in the Waterloo Region District School Board to list their top three reasons for running. The following are their responses in their own words. The responses are in alphabetical order by last name.


There are eight candidates running in Cambridge. The three receiving the most votes will be elected.

The candidates are:

  • Mandi Bond.
  • Linda Brooks.
  • Luxon Burgess.
  • Bill Cody.
  • Jayne Herring.
  • Carla Johnson.
  • Courtney Waterfall.
  • Cindy Watson.

Mandi Bond did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Linda Brooks:

Reason 1: The lack of transparency with the addition of new sexually explicit learning materials that families with more traditional values may not approve of. I want to bring back transparency and welcome all voices.

Reason 2: Children have fallen behind with online learning and school interruptions. Our school board/schools should be fully focused on getting our students competent in the basics: english, math, science etc. 

Reason 3: WRDSB/school has become too political. I'd like to see politics out of the classroom for the betterment of our children. 

Luxon Burgess:

Reason 1: I believe public education is an extremely important part of our democracy and our country. There were very few nominees submitting their name for the position in Cambridge, and I had a desire to step up and represent our community. 

Reason 2: I want to make sure our public education system is a safe place for people of all diverse backgrounds and orientations to learn and grow.

Reason 3: I want to represent the people of Cambridge to the best of my ability. 

Bill Cody did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Jayne Herring:

Reason 1: I am running for re-election as I believe in public education and the benefits of a strong public education system for all. I have a long history of service to my community and if re-elected, I plan to continue to work to support the needs of all of our students. 

Reason 2: I retired in 2017 after 31 years as an employee of the WRDSB. I am pleased to be able to use the knowledge and experience gained during my time with the board, to help me serve our students, their families and our community.

Reason 3: As well as serving as a trustee, I am very involved in my community as a volunteer and community-builder. I have served as chair and/or member on many boards and committees in our community. Last year I had an idea to honour our veterans and I led the amazing team responsible for the Cambridge Poppy Project in Cambridge. 

Carla Johnson:

Reason 1: I have always been a strong advocate for special needs and ensure teachers get adequate training and resources to meet those needs. And I have a spot in my heart for gifted learners. Giftedness is not always a gift.

Reason 2: The WRDSB is leading the province with its exceptional Equity and Inclusion initiative. I want to support and bolster it so that the gap between what is generated at the education centre gets adequately implemented, for students and teachers, by the time it reaches in the classroom.

Reason 3: The WRDSB hasn't had a trustee with classroom experience in over 5 years. I want to ensure teachers are listened to and supported in their roles. Empowered teachers empower students. In 2019 I retired from my teaching career with the WRDSB. I deliberately looked to move onto new and different ventures, but life has led me back to the WRDSB as a trustee candidate. I remain deeply passionate about educating our young people. I know what works and what doesn't work in the classroom. And I know how vital a strong public education system is to our larger community. We all need our schools properly supported and funded.

Courtney Waterfall:

Reason 1: Ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for students and staff.

Reason 2: Ensuring the voices of our most vulnerable and under-represented community members are heard.

Reason 3: To have the board work together effectively for the success and well-being of students and staff

Cindy Watson:

Reason 1: I want to continue to ensure that each and every student is valued, belongs and becomes our primary focus. Students need strong literacy and numeracy skills, mental health supports and gaps in education need to be addressed. Students with disabilities need early intervention and resources that help them succeed. 

Reason 2: Diversity is our strength. I will continue to advocate that all students are deserving of an exemplary education to achieve their goals. Public education means embracing diversity of opinion, and all students, parents, staff and community members' voices are needed to ensure that public education is strengthened, transparent and accountable.

Reason 3: Returning to balanced decision making that includes all voices of students, parents, staff and community members, while promoting parents as partners in education to ensure student success, especially at risk students, and also promoting transparency, accountability and unity within the entire educational system.


There are 17 candidates in Kitchener. The four receiving the most votes will be elected.

The candidates are:

  • Stephen Adaran.
  • Barb Chrysler.
  • Claus Derisma.
  • Julia Dunham.
  • Ahmed Kassad.
  • David Kuhn.
  • Rachel Liley.
  • Christina Meekison.
  • Natasha Miklos.
  • Jeff Musgrave.
  • Maedith Radlein.
  • Mike Ramsay.
  • Natasha Rolleman.
  • Tara Ross.
  • Laurie Tremble.
  • Meena Waseem.
  • Joanne Weston.

Stephen Adaran did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Barb Chrysler:

Reason 1: I felt a sense of responsibility to contribute to finding solutions. As a teacher, lifelong student, parent of grown children, and aunt to children still in the school system, I became concerned about the impact of recent events such as vaccine mandates, lockdowns  and mask use on children, teens, and educators.

Reason 2: There are significant issues that school boards are dealing with, such as bullying, violence, mental health, addiction, age-appropriate library resources, and ensuring that all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. These issues are made more difficult when democratic participation is prohibited.

Reason 3: The graduation rate of the Waterloo District School Board is only 85.9 per cent. This tells me that there were a significant number of students that the academic system was not working for in 2021.

Claus Dérisma:

Reason 1: I'm running because I care. I care about our community and I care about the people in our community. I want our children in the WRDSB to thrive in life so when they travel across country, across North America, across the world and people say things such as how well educated they are, they can be proud to say I got that education in the Region of Waterloo!

Reason 2: I'm running for school board trustee so our students can shine. I want to get back to the fundamentals with a sprinkle of innovation. I want to encourage our students to try and don't give up.

Reason 3: I'm here to show respect, compassion, care, accountability, loyalty and understanding. I'm here to loan an ear or two and a voice for all. I'm here to come up with solutions to issues and problems we have at our schools and school board level.

Julia Dunham:

Reason 1: Equity and diversity, centralized around transgender acceptance and care, has become a paramount issue at WRDSB in 2022. As a transgender mother with a daughter enrolled at WRDSB, I am uniquely positioned to speak in this conversation in a way that few others.

Reason 2: I am able to bridge two encampments that have formed in Waterloo region surrounding the handling of LGBT material. I am sympathetic to the importance of establishing safe spaces for transgender and cisgender students at WRSB, and hold personal experience in the importance for openness on these topics. I also believe that resources can and should be evaluated and that their appropriateness and suitability should be judged based on their own merits. Just because content is LGBT positive does not mean that it is guaranteed to be appropriate or helpful, and a discussion of its suitability within our schools should always be welcomed. I am in support of resources that promote LGBT dignity and acceptance, but remain skeptical of those materials that cross into the domain of the promotion of particular identities, ideologies or positions.

My observation in the past years have been that our schools have increasingly adopted a climate of acceptance that does not provide space for healthy questioning and conversation about how best to provide a safe space for transgender and cisgender individuals alike and I believe having a transgender individual on the board will go great lengths toward balancing this conversation.

Like many others in our community, I have found the lack of transparency from WRDSB in the past year has been concerning. Having previously worked in public sector administration, I've been on the other side and witnessed circumstances where political players restrict information that is not flattering to their objectives. I believe that the citizens of Waterloo Region are entitled to receive every bit of information that can be legally disclosed, and as a trustee I would commit to achieving better mechanisms for board transparency.

Reason 3: Most previous WRDSB trustees have taken their positions on the school board after their children have progressed through the education system, and this has meant that our students have been disproportionately represented by trustees in the latter half of their adult life. I cherish the perspectives of the generation older than me and greatly appreciate the diverse perspective that they bring, but I believe that younger representation is also paramount. As a mother in my thirties, I have the privilege of representing a demography that does not often carry a voice in our school governance.

Ahmed Kassad:

Reason 1: My decision to register my nomination for the school board was born from the need to ensure that parents, such as myself, are more involved and consulted on policies and decisions made within the school system. I think parents' beliefs and values should not be replaced or overruled but should be respected by those in our public board of education. If elected, I will be a voice for all parents

Reason 2: My concerns with transparency on the current board were a big influence on my decision to run. There are disturbing symptoms of a deeply rooted problem in the governance of our education system. I've seen publicly elected trustees being silenced without a reason provided to the parents — read the news reports about Mike Ramsay. I've seen teachers berated and punished for speaking out about about the age appropriateness of highly sexual books available even to elementary students — read the news reports about Carolyn Burjoski. If elected, I will fight for transparency and diversity of opinion within the WRDSB.

Reason 3: I've read the newest policies of our board and I've read the public opinion pieces of our director of education and it seems that a focus on identity has replaced a focus on ensuring all students achieve competency in basics like math, literacy and science. If elected, I will ensure the focus of our board is on building skills that bring future success and better lives for all. 

David Kuhn:

Reason 1: This is my third election as a candidate for trustee — I'm running again because I want to advocate for all students and their families; I want to ensure all of our students are supported and included so that they can succeed in our schools and beyond. I also know the importance of being a strong advocate and having one in your corner. That's what I will be.

Reason 2: Even though individual trustees are elected, they are not parliamentarians. Their roles are different and their goals are different. They need to work together to accomplish things, to oversee and guide the board's direction. I'm running again this election because I'm a team player and I believe that teamwork and communication are essential to ensuring everyone in our public schools has the opportunity to be heard, feel valued, and to succeed.

Reason 3: I want to see improved communication between the board, students, families, staff, and the community at large. We need to listen, and encourage discussion and dialogue between everyone in and connected to our schools.

Rachel Liley did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Christina Meekison did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Natasha Miklos did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Jeff Musgrave:

Reason 1: Our schools should teach students the knowledge and skills they need for success.

Reason 2: Our schools should also teach students to think critically.

Reason 3: And our schools should keep parents informed about what their children are learning. Every child should have the opportunity to develop their unique talents to the fullest. Your child deserves that opportunity, and that's why I am asking for your vote.

Maedith Radlein:

Reason 1: To work for safe schools where every child is validated for who they are.

Reason 2: To work collaboratively to ensure that the funding we're given is optimized. How can we better support teachers in the classroom? Are there other models of allocating resources that would improve student outcomes? 

Reason 3: To encourage parent-educator-student partnership and community at the school level. Let's work together to support our children.

Mike Ramsay:

Reason 1: To re-direct the focus of the board toward student learning and achievement because a majority of the current board has allowed themselves to be distracted from what should be our primary objective: student learning and achievement. We must strike a balance.

Reason 2: To ensure that the board will once more honour the rights of all parents and guardians to express their opinions to the board and be heard fairly and courteously. We need to strike a balance in our relationship with our education partners.

Reason 3: To work to put an end to the divisive identity politics that has been allowed to distract from the work that the board should be focused on. Political indoctrination has no place in our classrooms. We need more balance.

Natasha Rolleman did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Tara Ross: 

Reason 1: We need fresh eyes as school board trustees to ensure that are children's needs are being met and addressed 

Reason 2: I have lived in the community and attended school here, my child is in the integrated arts program at Eastwood. I want to be a voice for the community.

Reason 3: I work in HR and I see daily the disconnect between what is needed, and the skills we provide to students. I want to use my expertise to elevate the discussions around what matters in education.

Laurie Tremble:

Reason 1: Our board just developed and released its new multi-year strategic plan. Trustees were part of the process and are ultimately responsible for the plan. Having participated in the work of developing the plan I would like to be part of the implementation and monitoring of the plan over the next four years. 

Reason 2: As co-chair of the policy working group, I co-led the development of a new policy development and review process. We embedded significant consultation along with use of an equity lens in this new process. As policy development and review is the responsibility of trustees, I look forward to using our new process to ensure our policies reflect the needs of our system and actually lead to our desired outcomes. 

Reason 3: As a member of the French immersion review committee, first as a parent representative and then as a trustee, since its beginnings in 2017, I was pleased to see their recommendations adopted in June. I would like to follow-up on the recommendations to see how the implementation goes, what the results are and to be at the table to bring forward more recommendations to improve the program as needed. 

Meena Waseem:

Reason 1: Student voice and leadership: peer-to-peer communication is powerful, and I can better understand the needs of students today as someone who graduated just four years ago from Cameron Heights High School. I've facilitated workshops in our region's schools for seven years and was a youth partner in the region's first-ever youth wellbeing data collection project. I know our region's young people. 

Reason 2: Staff support and wellbeing: the burnout, staffing shortages, and funding constraints mean staff need trustees who can advocate for and work with them to support our students. I've served on two boards already, have a human resources background, and have implemented robust wellbeing strategies in organizations before. I know budgets, human resources legal matters, and show up for people. 

Accessible two-way communication with families: not every family can afford to come to parent council meetings, not every parent understands the school system, or even speaks enough English to support their child. I have a decade of family engagement experience. I know how to make programs accessible for single parents, parents who don't speak English, parents who have children with disabilities, and so many more. Every candidate will tell you they want to listen to community needs, but people can't tell us anything unless we design accessible communication channels. 

Reason 3: Although I'm the youngest candidate running in this campaign, I have had to grow up very quickly in our public education system. I've advocated for students and families in front of our school board, administration, city council, and various community groups. I know our school system and I stand for equity and accessibility in education. I'm no stranger to challenging the status quo and right now we need young people in our region to help inform decisions about our future. A vote for me is an investment in our youth. 

Joanne Weston:

Reason 1: I am running to prioritize student achievement and supportive schools where all students feel they belong.

Reason 2: I will also work to ensure each and every student has the support they need to graduate.

Reason 3: I will advocate for resources for healthy and safe learning and working environments.


There are 10 candidates running in Waterloo-Wilmot. The three receiving the most votes will be elected.

The candidates are:

  • Cristina Bairos Fernandes.
  • Madan Dheer.
  • Alisa McClurg.
  • Martin Mirt.
  • Scott Piatkowski.
  • Franklin Ramsoomair.
  • George Schmidt.
  • Marie Snyder.
  • Kathleen Woodcock.
  • Wendy Woodhall.

Cristina Bairos Fernandes:

Reason 1: I want to establish trust, truth, and transparency as fundamental values on the board. As a parent of two elementary school children, and a taxpayer I've watched as matters of extreme concern to me — and thousands of other parents— be outright censored by the majority of trustees of the WRDSB and ignored by the Ministry of Education.

I was deflated to realize I had nowhere to turn with my concerns for the quality of education and wellbeing of my children in the classroom. No one was able to take accountably for any of the decisions that were being made. I watched in shock as a majority of members of our board vilified and then punished veteran teacher Carolyn Burjoski for raising valid concerns about sexually explicit materials in our elementary schools.

I witnessed in disbelief as long-time trustee Mike Ramsay was undemocratically removed from the board by a majority of his "colleagues" for, in Mike's words, challenging their radical agenda. Despite calls from Mike for all the details to be made public, our 'leaders' of the Board have refused. And to have no response from the Ministry of Education when requests that our voices also be represented by the thousands who voted for trustee Ramsay be ignored, was telling.

I saw trustee Cindy Watson similarly facing outright hostility for raising the concerns of parents. Like Mike, Cindy heard from her constituents about their children being exposed to highly ideological instruction in WRDSB classrooms. Her motions asking for clarity about what's being taught were overruled and rejected.

This hostility and secrecy must end. I will work for the parents, nurture their trust and ask the hard questions to ensure that the board is held accountable. I want healthy debate and dialogue to guide policy decision-making — the best ideas cannot rise to the top if only one set of opinions is allowed to be spoken.

Why am I running? I've seen there is a problem and, in good conscience, I need to be willing to be part of the solution. I will ensure that for the next four years even contentious issues become grist for formative conversations and collaborative action that in turn builds an education system in which all students excel. With a servant attitude and a desire to lead with integrity, I'm honoured to be the possible catalyst for these changes.

Reason 2: I grew up in the Waterloo Region District School Board and am grateful for the opportunities it provided. I have observed that the school board's priorities have changed over the years, placing less weight on tangible skills and education, and more focus on behavioural training, regulation of speech, and political activism. As the WRDSB focuses on this new moral and political agenda, families they should be serving are forced to look outside of class time to supplement core learning.

Despite loud claims of seeking equity for the vulnerable, the children of socially and economically disadvantaged families are most hurt by our board's more away from educational basics. Our current board policies are increasing, not lessening, the social and economic divide. There's no reason why our school board shouldn't be the best in the world given our infrastructure and funding. In speaking to many of our tremendous educators, many of them feel hamstrung by the mandates of administrators above them. The time they know should be dedicated to teaching core competencies is instead dedicated, by WRDSD mandate, to emphasizing 'irrelevant areas'. Teachers are unable to offer the quality education they know and desire to provide.

If elected, I will have an ear for our educators. They are the experts when it comes to knowing what students in their classrooms need to advance educationally. One of the main elements of my work in healthcare is listening. I listen and work with people to find the solutions they need for the outcome they desire.  As I listen and learn, I want to work to give our educators freedom to focus on proven educational methods during class. And, I want to ensure that they are equipped with the support required to foster the potential of every student. Together let's figure out the best way to build student's skills so they become master of their own successes in their careers, relationships, and overall wellbeing.

Reason 3: I want the very best for our kids. I want every student in the WRDSB to know they are welcome and I'll work to build an atmosphere within the board where every student feels valued. While my hopes in this area are deep and sincere, I hesitate to express these hopes in terms of "inclusivity" or "diversity" or "equity." Unfortunately, those terms, as they are now being used, seem to be very narrowly applied.

Within our own board it is evident that many students and educators are excluded when the current plan or policy claims 'inclusivity.' Diversity, in many cases within our board, has been reduced to labelling of demographics. 'Equity for all' now translates to inequality for some.

Examining how these terms are often promoted and embodied within our board, it's clear they can be misleading. As they are inappropriately applied, they are causing a great deal of harm. As trustee, I will work to expand inclusivity, diversity, and equity to embrace differences in viewpoints and ideas in order to achieve unity rather than conformity. And parents will know what is meant, along with how it translates into the classroom. My vision is a school system where educators teach, parents parent, and students thrive. We get there with open dialogue, conscious minds, and unity despite disagreements. I'm running because our children are relying on us to set the best standards toward the most inviting atmosphere in which they thrive both academically, and socially.

Madan Dheer did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Alisa McClurg did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Martin Mirt:

Reason 1: Respect for all. It seems the focus has moved from lifting all kids up through better skills in basic subjects like math, science and literacy, to the promotion of ideologically driven pet projects of our current board officials. 

Reason 2: I am concerned with the board's lack of tolerance when challenging topics are being addressed. In January, veteran teacher Carolyn Burjoski was insulted and censored by a majority of our current trustees. Carolyn had questioned highly sexualized materials now available to our elementary students. Her voice and her concerns for students in our community was not permitted to be expressed. This has led to court action taken against trustees.

In June, long-time trustee Mike Ramsay was suspended from the trustee board meetings through a motion passed by a majority of his fellow trustees. Mike called for the details to be released. He asked for transparency, so the public could see why his representation of his constituents would no longer have a voice. The board refused to make public the justification for his suspension. Mr Ramsay has had to resort to court action, in his legal filings he shows how his opposition to radical, ideological instruction — being proposed by his colleagues — made his voice, one to be silenced.

Cindy Watson of the current board, put forward a motion on behalf of concerned parents, for details on what was being taught to WRDSB students under the guise of "anti-racism education." Her motion asking for details, being voted down, highlights how the current board is superseding the Ministry of Education. Cindy had heard from parents about radical instruction in our schools that was psychologically harming students as it taught whites are implicitly racist oppressors. The majority of her trustee colleagues voted her motion down.

Reason 3: Focus on Student Achievements. Year after year the test scores for reading and math have been going down in Waterloo region. The annual EQAO testing reports show that. But instead of focusing on getting all our students competent in the basics, our Director of Education has said he wants to focus on "identity" issues… like race and sexual identity.

Scott Piatkowski:

Reason 1: In June, the board of trustees approved a new five-year strategic plan, based on the input of more than 10,000 people — over half of them students. I'm excited by that and want to be involved in its implementation.

Reason 2: I want to ensure that students and staff continue to be safe during the pandemic — which is not over — and equipped with the tools and resources that they need to recover from its impact.

Reason 3: I will continue to work to ensure that equity is at the centre of everything that the WRDSB does. In my first term, we built a new leadership team that finally reflects the diversity of our community. It is important that students from all backgrounds can see themselves as potential leaders.

Franklin Ramsoomair did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

George Schmidt did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Marie Snyder:

Reason 1: We need to prioritize critical thinking and citizenship in all issues.

Reason 2: Our wellness initiatives addressing mental health need to be expanded significantly for students and staff. 

Reason 3: We need continued awareness and open education on public health issues including preventing the transmission of COVID for healthier schools.

Kathleen Woodcock:

Reason 1: Students first — I will continue to put students first through policy development and advocacy initiatives that support student well-being and achievement. As in previous versions, the WRDSB Strategic Plan is in place to ensure school provide a safe learning environment so all students can achieve their full potential.

Reason 2: As we all emerge from the emotional, physical, social stress caused by the pandemic, I will continue to advocate with the Ministry of Education for more mental health supports — funding — for students and staff. 

Reason 3: Additionally, I support initiatives that keep students and staff safe and healthy in our school environments, for example, ventilation improvements.

Wendy Woodhall:

Reason 1: I am running because of my career experience working with students in the areas of teaching, mental health and supporting special needs. I have learned that improving learning situations has to start with understanding the needs of students. It is this understanding and my emphasis on students that is one of the strengths that will be central to all of my work as a trustee.

Reason 2: Trustees focus on student achievement and well being. I bring solid education and experience to the role in both focus areas and I believe it's imperative that trustees understand and have experience working with children directly. I have worked with students my whole career and I have always tried to make their lives better and will continue to do so if elected.

Reason 3: As a previous teacher, presently an education assistant and child and youth worker, my focus is on students feeling safe, secure, successful and happy. Safety and security allow learning to happen in positive ways. A student's sense of well being and success is dependent upon the student's feeling that they belong, they are valued, they are cared about and that educators in their various roles want them to become successful adults. Promoting growth and learning in classrooms is important to me and I will work in various areas to ensure our students are learning while feeling safe, secure and happy at school.

I would like to work toward a united board of trustees, working together for the good of all of our students. Being responsive, open minded, flexible, being able to listen to all people with an open mind and heart are ways I can use my experience and education to further the achievement of students and increase their well being. Disagreement does not have to mean anger, aggression, rigidity or polarization. I would like to ensure student focused discussions, parent conscious decision making and be a facilitator of unity. I believe my role as a child and youth worker has given me skills and knowledge to be able to help connect people with different viewpoints, to find our common ground and remind us of why we are there: to work for students in whatever way we can to help them learn, grow, be happy and successful both during their time in our schools and after they graduate. 


There are four candidates running in Woolwich-Wellesley. One trustee will be elected.

The candidates are:

  • Jen Burkholder.
  • Gerhard Ens.
  • Fred Meissner.
  • Zach Smith.

Jen Burkholder did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Gerhard Ens did not respond to CBC K-W's survey.

Fred Meissner:

Reason 1: I'd like to be a representative who works to focus on and continue to develop inclusive, accessible, and safe classrooms, schools, and communities for all students.

Reason 2: I believe that delivering education is a collaborative process, I want to be part of a team that connects with parents, guardians, and the spectrum of individuals and community groups whose expertise needs to be included in creating an effective educational experience for all students.

Reason 3: I want to continue to affirm the expertise and the generous contributions of time that all teachers and related educational workers bring to the classroom and to their schools, creating the unique environment in which students have the opportunity to learn.

Zachary Smith

Reason 1: To protect children from harmful ideologies including gender and sexual identity ideologies and critical theory. Included in this is to reconcile with persecuted teacher Carolyn Burjoski and silenced board member Mike Ramsay, who have both been vilified by most of the current board for questioning the above ideologies.

Reason 2: To address the decline in student academic achievement, and more broadly help foster a school climate that builds a lifelong love of learning, critical thinking, a fear of God, and good ethics and morals.

Reason 3: To stand against any potential future COVID-related restrictions and mandates that the province may try to force on students and staff of the school board.