Windsor·#WEvotes

Meet the people running for the Greater Essex County District School Board

26 people are running to be a Greater Essex County District School Board trustee. Here is a little bit about each one of them.

26 people running for 10 seats

The GECDSB is the English-language public school board serving Windsor and Essex County. (CBC News)

26 people are running for the 10 trustee seats that oversee the Greater Essex County District School Board.

Candidates responded to an email questionnaire from CBC Windsor — answers may have been edited for clarity or because they exceeded the 280 character limit for the final two questions.

Windsor:  Wards 1/2/9 | Wards 3/4/10 | Wards 5/6/7/8
County:  Essex/Kingsville | Lakeshore/Tecumseh | LaSalle/Amherstburg | Leamington/Pelee

Windsor Wards 1/2/9

There are 6 people running for 2 positions.

Patrick Hannon
Email | Website | Facebook
(Patrick Hannon)

Age: 51 in October

Occupation: Construction Surveyor 

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I've been a social advocate for people in Windsor since 1994 starting with a relief mission to Windsor's twin city of Las Vueltas, El Salvador.  I've since been involved with advocating for people, particularly some of our most vulnerable, at all levels of government.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
The under-funding of our education system. Boards shouldn't compete for little to no funding for classroom resources, or building maintenance and improvements for a healthy and safe learning environment. 

Sushil Jain
Email

Age: 50+

Occupation: Research Fellow, Canterbury College, University of Windsor

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Teaching experience, civic engagement, community service, research and publication on education related matters.

What is the single biggest issue in your ward/municipality?
School safety and violence against teachers. There are media reports extensively about shootings in schools but very little is written about violence towards teachers and staff.

Kim McKinley
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Kim McKinley)

Age: (Not answered)

Occupation: Trustee for Wards 1, 2 & 9 and the Chairperson of the Greater Essex County District School Board

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
My most relevant experience is my previous 12 years of experience as a Trustee representing Wards 1, 2 & 9. Since  Dec. 2016 I have been the Chairperson for the GECDSB. In 2005 I received a 'Champion for Education' award from the GECDSB. 

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
The community at large is always the most concerned about possible school closures in their neighborhood. Parent concerns generally include boundary changes for schools, special education & curriculum concerns as well as transportation requests.

Linda Qin*
Candidate submitted profile after original publication date

Email | Website
(Linda Qin)

Age: 47

Occupation: Ph.D candidate in Manufacturing Management

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I have been an associate professor for over 10 years. I am active in community activities. I'm also a mother of two public-school attending children.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
As a parent, I have experienced the frustration when I tried to contact the current school board trustee. I was not respected and answered faithfully. I believe I can do better and improve the education in my wards. Math and science education is my biggest concern.

Jessica Sartori
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Therese Hounsell)

Age: 46

Occupation: Director of Quality Assurance, Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society 

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Jessica Sartori has served as a Trustee since 2014, as well as numerous boards and committees in the Windsor area. She has a PhD in Applied Social Psychology and a professional focus on quality and outcomes of service delivery.  

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
The main issue is always to ensure quality education for every student, focusing on academic outcomes and well-being. This starts with ensuring teachers and parents are supported to help students succeed and includes strong ties to the community.

Shirley-Lyn Watson
Email | Website | Facebook
(Shirley-Lyn Watson)

Age: 48

Occupation: Works at YMCA/ Student at St. Clair College / Educational support and the mother of a child with exceptionalities / Small business owner

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
As a former special ed student at Monarch and Shawnee, I learned that vocational education, which dealt effectively with learning disabilities is very important. The self-esteem of those with exceptionalities is crucial to learning.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
As well as an advocate for special needs pupils, my record includes two years of fighting for safer school/pedestrian crossings. I have been involved in the KeepKarenSafe group, which has been successful in gaining attention to the need for a push-button crossing at Roseland P.S.

Windsor Wards 3/4/10

There are 7 people running for 2 positions.

Omar Chafchak
Email | Facebook
(Omar Chafchak)

Age: 25

Occupation: Insurance Broker

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
In my 5 years in the insurance trade, I have been able to quickly recognize gaps in the industry and implement resolutions to meet the needs of our clients. I have the energy that other candidates do not have and this is due to my ambition, passion and drive to always strive.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Substance abuse in our schools is on the rise and parents and professionals are still unaware. It is stated that 20% of students reported using opioids. Substance abuse and overdoses are increasing nationwide and I believe I am the right candidate to tackle this issue.

Sarah Cipkar
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Sarah Cipkar)

Age: 27

Occupation: Community Development Coordinator at the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative (DWCC)

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I'm actively involved in our schools and community including breakfast programs, advocacy and neighbourhood revitalization projects. I'm a former Student Trustee with GECDSB who is passionate about learning. Lastly, my daughter starts school next year & I want her to succeed!

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Schools are the heart of our community. Wards 3, 4, & 10 need active leadership to advocate for them so that they are protected and invested in. We need equitable programming and supports for families in order to ensure student achievement no matter which schools students attend.

Katrina Elchami
Email | Facebook
(Katrina Elchami)

Age: 52

Occupation: Administrative Assistant; Online Reading Tutor

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Advocate with 20+ years experience and a Business degree. SAC chair 14 years, GECPIC rep/chair, Strive Symposium, South Windsor PARC Chair, Math Task Force, Teacher's Educational Advisory Committee, Prov. Demonstration Schools Rep on Learning Disabilities Reference Group (MoE). 

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Some issues facing our board are keeping core schools open & funding their improvement needs, improving test scores in math & literacy by addressing curriculum changes, assessing the best way to measure learned skills, & making sure that ALL kids have what they need to succeed.

David Ferguson
Email
(David Ferguson)

Age: 50

Occupation: Property Manager

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Served as a member of the Essex Community Living; Heart Care Windsor board and involved with Young Leaders - United Way. I have a compassion for education in life long learning. 

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Enhance mentorship programs to develop life skills, finance, career paths and teach students real world issue outside of textbook academics.

Alan Halberstadt
EmailFacebook | Twitter
(Alan Halberstadt)

Age: 71

Occupation: School Board trustee, Journalist

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
17 years on Windsor City Council, 13 years on public school board

What is the single biggest issue in your ward/municipality?
Protect core public schools from closing. Advocate for one publicly funded school system for each official language.

Beau Helbert​
Email | Facebook
(Beau Helbert)

Age: 33

Occupation: Manager of Retail, Telecom & Technology Pricing

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
For 2.5 years I was a public sector consultant retained by every major municipality in Ontario including Windsor and Essex as well as school boards and hospitals across the province.

What is the single biggest issue in your ward/municipality?
The two biggest challenges facing the school board are proposed funding changes by the new provincial government & the revision of the sex-ed curriculum. I plan to use my financial background to help the school board weather upcoming changes & to collaborate with the province.

Jag Pathak
Email | Website | Facebook
(Jag Pathak)

Age: 60+

Occupation: Professor of Business, University of Windsor

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I am in the business education field as faculty, researcher, and administrator in various governments and institutions globally for the last 38 years.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Protecting the innocence by revamping the sex-ed, abuse and bullying controls, the charter of rights for school children and parents to redress various issues close to the community.

Windsor Wards 5/6/7/8

There are 5 people running for 2 positions.

Cathy Cooke
EmailFacebook | Twitter
(Cathy Cooke)

Age: 56

Occupation: Social Worker, MSW RSW

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I've been working with children, adolescents, & families in a variety of fields, such as criminal justice, child abuse, hospice care, & children's mental health. I'm an advocate, leader and visionary. Goal directed making decisions focused on what is best for the child & family.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
It's important that every student experiences success. I want to see improvement at our schools. Teacher assessment and EQAO assessment of students provides information that needs to be used for school improvement plans. It's all about improvement & working together. 

Laurie Komon
​Email | Facebook
(Laurie Komon)

Age: 62

Occupation: Low Vision Counselor and Consultant, Meditation Instructor, Volunteer at Multicultural Council

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
25 year advocate for special needs kids. CNIB Chair. Founder PS for our Kids. 14 years work eye specialist, made classroom recommendations, worked with 9 school boards. Know different level of service. Know GECDSB does best job - need to ensure this continues.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Concern cuts from Ford government. A trustee must be present at meetings. A trustee must participate, no conflict of interest. A trustee must be accessible to community. Commit to be trusted trustee.

Henry Lau
Email
(Henry Lau)

Age: 53

Occupation: Business Adviser

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Henry is a graduate of Riverside Secondary School and St. Clair College, specialized in manufacturing and management; A father of three children who graduated from Windsor public school and University of Windsor; A successful businessman in manufacturing.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Henry will put students and taxpayers first over special interests and trustee conflicts of interest; advocate for improvements to ward schools; push the board and the province to make the consolidation of Forest Glade Public School with the adjacent Primary Learning Centre.

Cheryl Lovell
EmailFacebook | Twitter
(Cheryl Lovell)

Age: Retired

Occupation: Retired Teacher,  Public School Board Trustee

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Through my experiences, I have developed a unique perspective and ability from which to view education issues: Teacher 35 yrs, Trustee 12 yrs, Elected 8 yrs to the Ontario Public School Board Association, Appointed 7 yrs to the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Ed, and more.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
It is my belief, public education has the ability to transform lives, raise the potential of our children & strengthen the families within our communities. To accomplish this task it is necessary to work towards increased & sustained collaboration among all levels of government.

Gale Simko Hatfield
Email
(Gale Simko Hatfield)

Age: I prefer not to be defined by my age

Occupation: President and Executive Director, Do Good Divas Community Group Inc. 

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
Combination of knowledge, experience and compassion. Served 8 years as chairperson and during additional term as chair I initiated the process to update our mission and vision statement and define a strategic plan to guide our goals, priorities and decision-making.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Greater challenges are arising which will impact students, staff, parents and taxpayers. Curriculum uncertainties, inadequate funding for special needs, lack of professional support for students and teachers, and decreased funds for building renewal.

Essex/Kingsville

There are 2 people running for 1 position.

Julia Burgess
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Julia Burgess)

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired Health & Beauty & Pharmaceutical Sales Manager / Incumbent Trustee for Kingsville-Essex on the GECDSB

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
My proven deep knowledge & leadership that has made a real difference for kids and families. I can address current & emerging local & provincial education issues immediately, such as the effective governance of the build of the south shore K-12 school.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Ensuring the location, design, programs offered & completion of the K-12 school building on the south shore will be a priority this term. We need to fulfil the promise of better facilities & opportunities for improved student academic success, physical and mental well-being.

Sheri Dzudovich
Email
(Sheri Dzudovich)

Age: 44

Occupation: I currently work part time at the Harrow News in Harrow, and am a stay at home mom part time.

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I have been on parent council since 2004, was a member of the ARC for Harrow Public Family of schools, and I was also one of the parents who was on the PARC for the 2015 school year on the decision of the closure of Harrow District High School in 2016.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
The new school in Kingsville that will house JK-12 - when will it finally be built? The sex ed curriculum - will we revert back to the 1995 sex ed, or will we move forward with the 2015, which includes inclusion?

Lakeshore/Tecumseh

There are 3 people running for 1 position.

Connie Buckler
Email | Facebook | Twitter
(Connie Buckler)

Age: 57

Occupation: GECDSB trustee, WSO board, Lakeshore St. Andrews board of elders

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I find service on the board of trustees to be relevant every day. I sit on many committees working every day for every learner attending the GECDSB. My work with SEAC serving our special education population is tremendous at providing learning opportunities of every kind.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
I feel one of the biggest issues pressing in Lakeshore Tecumseh right now is capacity.  We need to press for builds to happen to meet the needs of the number of students coming to this area.  We will also need to find ways to work within the parameters of the new Ford government.

Rebekah Harrison
Email | Website | Facebook
(Rebekah Harrison)

Age: 48

Occupation: Early Childhood Educator, Curriculum Design (freelance), Tutoring/Marketing (freelance)

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
ECE educator, children with disabilities advocate, GECPIC member, Special Ed Co-Chair & STRIVE comm initiatives (GECDSB), mother of 2 children with learning exceptionalities, long-time volunteer at schools & parent council, 15+ years of public service, community organizer.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Tied between school boundary changes for larger schools as populous explodes in Lakeshore and Ministry of Education curriculum changes with the shift in provincial government. 

Alicia Higgison
​​
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Alicia Higgison)

Age: 36

Occupation: Administrative Assistant & Social Media Co-Ordinator, Office of Open Learning, University of Windsor

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
At UWindsor, in the Office of Open Learning, I get to engage with faculty & students, teaching new technology & digital citizenship. Inspiring my 3 daughters in the public school system to invest themselves in their education & their community connects my experience with passion.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
With the current boom in Tecumseh-Lakeshore, GECDSB is investing in new schools & changing boundaries, affecting families & communities. Tecumseh-Lakeshore residents need authentic, approachable, engaged leadership that can connect community needs and growth to board decisions.

LaSalle/Amherstburg 

The candidate for this position has been acclaimed.

Ronald LeClair
​​​​​​Candidate did not reply to CBC questionnaire

Leamington/Pelee

There are 2 people running for 1 position.

Aimee Omstead
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter
(Aimee Omstead)

Age: 42

Occupation: Director & President of Little Hands Kids for a Cause / Full-time mom of 4 / Part-time Office Administrator at Rose City Gymnastics

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I became interested in politics while obtaining my law degree & have been involved at various levels since. My husband & sister both teach, so education is a focus in our lives. I work with students, principals & teachers across W-E county with the organization I co-founded.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Our schools must provide a safe, accessible environment for all students to feel welcome and to learn. Schools must also have the infrastructure and technology necessary to meet the demands of our society and to provide students with a relevant, comprehensive education.

Rae-Anne Scratch
Email | Facebook
(Rae-Anne Scratch)

Age: 47

Occupation: I am a Case Manager working with seniors and persons with different abilities at the South Essex Community Council

What is your most relevant experience for this position?
I have volunteered for 20 years on parent council in various capacities in both the public elementary and secondary school system at 3 different schools. I have sat on community groups such as CUPE Community Agency, Leamington police & United Way Neighbours Helping Neighbours.

What is the single biggest issue in your board?
Potential cuts from government to our current system could jeopardize the quality and environment our children learn in. Every child deserves the same rights, respect and access to a public education. One that is safe where our educators are given the tools they need.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

now