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Brennan returns to familiar spot as school board chair

White prevails in vote for vice-chair position

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Jessica Brennan is moving up a notch to replace Ward 3 trustee Tim Simmons as chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

Trustees elected the Dundas representative by acclamation on Monday, returning her to the post she held in 2009 and 2010.

In a rare election for the vice-chair position vacated by Brennan – one also usually filled by acclamation – Ward 5’s Todd White prevailed over fellow first-term trustee Alex Johnstone, who represents wards 11 and 12.

Brennan, who stepped in as vice-chair after Stoney Creek trustee Robert Barlow died from a heart attack in May, said her goal is to ensure the board provides “excellent programming, wonderful learning environments for our students.”

The 10-year trustee said although the board faces tough challenges like elementary accommodation reviews to cut 5,000 empty pupil spaces, she hopes pending high school closures have developed good models to ease the transition for affected communities.

“I believe we’re making decisions in a reasoned way, with (a) good process that occasionally needs tweaking to get better, and then we can make good decisions as trustees,” Brennan said.

“We need to have our schools in excellent condition, fabulous learning environments, with the right resources in the building. Half-empty buildings unfortunately give us less resources.”

White, who chairs the board’s policy committee, said trustees have done “enormous work” this term by consolidating high schools, approving a new secondary programming strategy and creating a long-term plan to fix aging schools.

But he said they face several tests in the coming year, including implementing those decisions, contract talks with teachers, improving student math scores and helping communities heal from the loss of schools.

“I commit to absolutely always keeping in mind, no matter which role I play, that students come first and that fairness and equity in this board room is at 100 per cent,” he said.

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