Ottawa

New OCDSB trustees vow to fight against sex-ed policy

Three newly elected trustees for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are vowing to use their positions to speak out against changes made by the Progressive Conservatives to Ontario's sex-ed curriculum.

Trustee says board policy could shield teachers who go off-curriculum

From left to right, Lyra Evans, Wendy Hough and Jennifer Jennekens were all elected for the first time on Oct. 22, 2018, to sit as Ottawa Carleton District School Board trustees. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Three newly elected trustees for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are vowing to use their positions to speak out against changes made by the Progressive Conservatives to Ontario's sex-ed curriculum.

Lyra Evans, Wendy Hough, and Jennifer Jennekens are all new faces around the English public school board's table.

Hough was elected Monday in Zone 4, which maps onto Bay ward — where outgoing trustee Theresa Kavanagh was just elected to city council.

Jennekens was chosen by voters in the Gloucester-South Nepean and Osgoode wards to represent Zone 7.

Evans was elected as OCDSB trustee in Zone 9, which covers the Rideau-Vanier and Capital wards, after an after unsuccessful run for the NDP in the provincial election.

She too is replacing a trustee-turned-councillor in Shawn Menard, who was elected in Capital ward.

'Scared for their jobs'

Evans told CBC Radio's All In A Day that Premier Doug Ford's curriculum changes represented "the number one issue" she heard at people's doorsteps.

Ford has ordered that Ontario's elementary students be taught an interim curriculum mostly from 1998, which does not cover issues like gender identity and sexual orientation.

The government has warned there will be consequences for teachers who use the modernized version the Liberals introduced in 2015, creating an online feedback form that's been derided by the province's teacher federation as a "snitch line."

Evans said that's left many teachers "scared for their jobs."

"Having a board policy that protects people who choose to teach the updated version would give them the security — if they chose to teach it — to relieve their fear," Evans said.

Lyra Evans won in Zone 9,-- Capital / Rideau-Vanier, Wendy Hough won in Zone 4, so that's Bay Ward, Jennifer Jennekens won in Zone 7, so that's schools in Osgoode, Gloucester and South Nepean. 12:07

Hough, whose campaign material included a promise that students get the "education of tomorrow, not of yesterday," echoed those concerns.

"We do need the content from that curriculum in those classrooms," she told All In A Day host Alan Neal.

"Those teachers should not feel that they are in any way jeopardizing their careers by teaching that curriculum."

Hough suggested that the board was "far enough removed from the Toronto scene" that it could come up with its own approach to protect teachers who felt the updated curriculum was necessary.

Jennekens also said she was in favour of the 2015 curriculum, which covers issues like consent, calling it a "hot topic" on the campaign.

Doug Ford has ordered that Ontario's elementary students be taught an interim curriculum mostly from 1998, which does not cover issues like gender identity and sexual orientation. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

$1B budget

OCDSB trustees will handle about $1 billion of Ottawa's tax dollars, which will be spent on initiatives such as hiring teachers, funding special education programs, transporting students and both building and repairing schools.

The OCDSB currently has a $700 million backlog of maintenance projects that need to be funded to keep its schools in good repair.

The new trustees could also be staring down a teacher shortage.

Jennekens said she would be advocating for provincial funding for a new high school in Riverside South, calling it the "fastest growing area in Ottawa."

Hough also declared that her top priorities included making Zone 4 schools "much more inclusive," while Evans, who is transgender, said the mostly-white OCDSB board would need to "take particular care" to involve all of Ottawa's communities.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated the board needed $70 million in maintenance work. In fact, the backlog is about $700 million.
    Oct 24, 2018 10:05 AM ET