Ward 9 and 10 race heats up as Mountain mom joins three-way contest
Jeff Beattie’s bid to become Stoney Creek’s new public school trustee continues a family tradition of sorts.
His dad, Stewart, served on the former Wentworth County school board from 1982 to 1994, while his granddad, George Smith, was a trustee in the 1960s.
“It was influential, as I was growing up, to see what they were doing and how much they enjoyed it,” said Beattie, 38, whose mom, Georgina, also served on Stoney Creek council for a term. “That definitely plays into my wanting to do it.”
The Orchard Park Secondary School grad, who runs his family’s Winona Gardens nursery, is one of three candidates registered for the Oct. 27 trustee election.
He joins Binbrook resident Greg Sinasac, who signed up in March, and central Mountain parent Stefanie Shiels, who registered Aug. 20.
Incumbent Shirley Glauser, an Ancaster resident appointed to fill the vacancy left by the sudden death of Robert Barlow last year, isn’t running.
“I think it’s important that somebody from Stoney Creek represents Stoney Creek,” said Beattie, two of whose four children attend Winona Elementary School.
“I think I know what parents are going through on a day-to-day basis, both the successes and failures, and I think I can appreciate from a parent’s perspective how important the education of our children is but also how complicated it can be,” he said.
“I definitely want to help make things less complicated wherever I can.”
Shiels, 41, said she’s running in Stoney Creek because it’s scheduled to undergo a school-closure study, or ARC, and she’s gained valuable insight from her involvement in a central Mountain review that will shutter three elementary schools there next June.
Collegiate Avenue, Eastdale, Green Acres, Memorial, Mountain View and R.L. Hyslop schools are set for a similar ARC next fall to address some 240 empty seats.
“I feel I have a big contribution to make in how that ARC happens and in reducing the impact and how many schools have to close,” said Shiels, who worked with other parents to fend off an initial staff proposal to close Queensdale, the school her three children attend.
“The ARC process is very, very difficult and a newly elected trustee without any real ARC experience could very easily be overwhelmed by all the events that will be taking place.”
An assistant manager at Costco, Shiels said school closures are being driven by several factors, including the use of inaccurate capacity and enrolment data she believes results in the board getting less provincial funding than it should.
“I don’t believe we’ve done enough to make sure all of the data is accurate to make sure the decisions are actually necessary,” she said, calling closures “a last resort.”
Beattie said he will fight to keep schools open, but if that’s not possible “we need to end up with something better.”
“We’ll need school renewal, we need newer buildings, new infrastructure, because some of the schools, they’re 60, 70 years old and we could definitely use some physical improvements to the educational environment,” he said. “Maybe this is the opportunity to do that.”
Sinasac, who was recently endorsed by the Hamilton District Labour Council, told the Stoney Creek News in April that he entered the race because he’s unhappy with the push for school closures.
The St. Jean de Brebeuf grad and general contractor said he’d like to focus on winning students back to the system to help fill some of the 5,000-plus empty seats that are driving ARCs.
“I can’t guarantee all of those spaces (would be filled), but definitely I believe the actions of the school board currently have led to families and students leaving the public school system,” he said.
“The other big way to keep the schools open is to negotiate with the Ministry of Education for a funding policy that respects and that leads to renovations and upkeep of current neighbourhood schools.”