Dawn Danko says her bid to become Ward 7’s new public school trustee this fall is inspired by her involvement in the “severely flawed” accommodation review that will close three central Mountain elementary schools next June.
She said although she’s happy her children’s Queensdale school survived the cut, she found staff often provided faulty data or couldn’t answer simple questions.
Apart from fixing those failings, Danko said she’d like any future reviews to require staff to present a range of closure options at the outset, rather than just the minimum of one mandated by the province.
“If you come out with one option, it feels like it’s a done deal,” she said. “It feels like everybody’s working within that one option and you get schools riled up because they’re closing and other ones are like, ‘Ugh, we don’t need to get involved because we’re not closing.’”
Danko said her background – she has a Master’s degree in education, teaches radiation therapy at Mohawk College and runs a commercial photography business with her husband – will make her a strong voice for Ward 7.
She said it will also be useful on 21st Century learning, including the introduction of iPads in grades 4 to 12 over the next five years, a plan she feels requires great care.
The board needs to ensure, for instance, that teachers have the necessary training for blended learning and that the iPads don’t just become a way for students to access social media like Facebook, she said.
“The other risk is that you just end up offloading some of the in-classroom work for students to do independently,” she said. “That works for some students, but for a lot of students, they really need that mentoring in the classroom.”
Danko, 38, joins Mike Patchett, Marlon Picken and Sarah Warry-Poljanski in seeking to replace incumbent Lillian Orban, one of seven trustees not running in the Oct. 27 election.
She said she sees the “massive changeover” as a chance to “revisit the vision for public education in Hamilton.”
This includes working more closely with the city, as Flamborough trustee Karen Turkstra did on school closures in her area, and doing more to ensure the board attracts students who might otherwise go elsewhere, she said.
“I’ve never heard an advertisement for the public school system, and yet I’ve heard it for Catholic, I’ve heard it for French Catholic and French public,” she said.
“There are some small things that we can probably do that just highlight what we bring to the table and what’s great about the public system.”