Timing, it is said, is everything.
Ward 9 trustee and former vice-chair Jo-Ann Davis passed on the opportunity to run for chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in 2011. But this time “just felt right,” and the representative for the St. Paul’s, Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre
ridings was chosen as the new chair on Nov. 28.
“I think it’s an important year, going into an election,” she said in a recent phone interview. “There’s always attention played on what’s happening with the public servants, so it’s a good time to have a steady hand, and I thought it was a good time to put my name forward.”
Davis says one of the major focal points will be in building community partnerships, since financial constraints have been seeing school boards strapped for cash in recent years.
“The answer, with budgetary constraints, isn’t going to be looking for somebody to write you a bigger cheque,” she said. “I think the solutions more and more are going to come from finding educational partners.”
This could be done either through looking in each community for partners at a school level, Davis said, or looking broadly in Toronto for other partners who can be of help board-wide.
“I think we need to be looking at partnerships in order to enhance the learning opportunities for our students,” she added.
Davis, a first-term trustee representing the area since 2010, said community engagement has always been important to her, and she hopes that her new role will serve as another outlet for improving those.
“I think as chair you become a focal point, but I’m going to be making sure that focal point is used for the betterment of the entire board,” she said. “I will, of course, be more aware of the situations in my own local schools.
“That will be top of mind for me as a trustee, but in my role as chair I need to be ensuring that anything we’re looking at benefits our students across the board.”
One strictly local initiative Davis is looking at involves expanding local town hall meetings featuring all locally elected officials to both Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre as well, which is something that’s been happening in St. Paul’s for a couple of years now.
“I think in terms of public engagement it’s a great model, because there are so many issues that aren’t just at one level and where everybody sort of plays a part,” she said. “It provides a real opportunity to have a wholesome, rounded discussion.”
Davis said she hopes her new role will enhance her ability to represent those communities who elected her.
“I will be the advocate for my local communities,” she said. “I hope to continue to be a strong advocate for them and can only be stronger while being chair.”
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