Mountain trustee candidate fends off criticisms for ‘hijacking’ ARC forum

News Oct 14, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

An uneventful forum for Mountain public school trustee hopefuls turned testy when a central Mountain candidate found herself on the hot seat for her high-profile role in successfully fighting the closure of Queensdale Elementary School.

Two audience members grilled Ward 7 candidate Dawn Danko for suggesting she would have switched her kids to a Catholic school had Queensdale closed and for helping her husband seize a microphone to temporarily “hijack” a public meeting last fall.

“How can we believe that you will focus on all schools and not just Queensdale?” demanded an Armstrong parent to a smattering of applause from about 40 onlookers at the forum, held at Sherwood high school.

Danko said her priority at the time was to look out for her children’s interests and they weren’t served by an initial plan to send them to Armstrong because it’s not within walking distance.

She acknowledged hijacking the meeting created “some level of animosity,” but said it reflected frustration over an accommodation review process, or ARC, that didn’t provide reasonable answers or failed to even respond to questions.

“Our goal was to try to stop the public meeting so that the ARC process couldn’t finish on the time that was allocated and then we could get a new board of trustees in to change the process,” Danko said, vowing to not vote on Queensdale issues if elected.

“It will be a conflict of interest for me to do any kind of vote that involves that school and so I’m giving up my ability to be involved vocally in my child’s school.”

Danko is facing second-time candidate Marlon Picken and Sarah Warry-Poljanski in the race to replace Lillian Orban, who stepped down after 23 years in office.

School closures dominated the forum, which also included Ward 6 candidates Kathy Archer, Angie Armstrong, Al Miles, Eamon O’Donnell and Tanya Prosser, and Ward 8 incumbent Wes Hicks and challenger Chris Litfin.

Responding to questions provided in advance by host Hamilton-Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations, nearly all vowed to either try to stop future closures or improve the ARC process.

A recurring theme among Ward 6 candidates was the need to improve communication with parents, including by returning calls and visiting schools, something they suggested departing incumbent Laura Peddle didn’t do well.

Litfin, a McMaster University student who lives in Ward 1, cast his relative inexperience as a strength, arguing he has insight on student issues because he only graduated two and a half years ago.

“I’ve been in the trenches, I know what it’s like,” he said.

But Hicks, a trustee for 29 years, said his veteran guidance will be valuable since incumbent departures will see at least seven newcomers after the Oct. 27 vote.

“I think it’s extremely important that you have some experience to make sure that they use the policies and procedures that you have, but also to recognize the new ideas and directions that are coming to the board,” he said.

Mountain trustee candidate fends off criticisms for ‘hijacking’ ARC forum

News Oct 14, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

An uneventful forum for Mountain public school trustee hopefuls turned testy when a central Mountain candidate found herself on the hot seat for her high-profile role in successfully fighting the closure of Queensdale Elementary School.

Two audience members grilled Ward 7 candidate Dawn Danko for suggesting she would have switched her kids to a Catholic school had Queensdale closed and for helping her husband seize a microphone to temporarily “hijack” a public meeting last fall.

“How can we believe that you will focus on all schools and not just Queensdale?” demanded an Armstrong parent to a smattering of applause from about 40 onlookers at the forum, held at Sherwood high school.

Danko said her priority at the time was to look out for her children’s interests and they weren’t served by an initial plan to send them to Armstrong because it’s not within walking distance.

She acknowledged hijacking the meeting created “some level of animosity,” but said it reflected frustration over an accommodation review process, or ARC, that didn’t provide reasonable answers or failed to even respond to questions.

“Our goal was to try to stop the public meeting so that the ARC process couldn’t finish on the time that was allocated and then we could get a new board of trustees in to change the process,” Danko said, vowing to not vote on Queensdale issues if elected.

“It will be a conflict of interest for me to do any kind of vote that involves that school and so I’m giving up my ability to be involved vocally in my child’s school.”

Danko is facing second-time candidate Marlon Picken and Sarah Warry-Poljanski in the race to replace Lillian Orban, who stepped down after 23 years in office.

School closures dominated the forum, which also included Ward 6 candidates Kathy Archer, Angie Armstrong, Al Miles, Eamon O’Donnell and Tanya Prosser, and Ward 8 incumbent Wes Hicks and challenger Chris Litfin.

Responding to questions provided in advance by host Hamilton-Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations, nearly all vowed to either try to stop future closures or improve the ARC process.

A recurring theme among Ward 6 candidates was the need to improve communication with parents, including by returning calls and visiting schools, something they suggested departing incumbent Laura Peddle didn’t do well.

Litfin, a McMaster University student who lives in Ward 1, cast his relative inexperience as a strength, arguing he has insight on student issues because he only graduated two and a half years ago.

“I’ve been in the trenches, I know what it’s like,” he said.

But Hicks, a trustee for 29 years, said his veteran guidance will be valuable since incumbent departures will see at least seven newcomers after the Oct. 27 vote.

“I think it’s extremely important that you have some experience to make sure that they use the policies and procedures that you have, but also to recognize the new ideas and directions that are coming to the board,” he said.

Mountain trustee candidate fends off criticisms for ‘hijacking’ ARC forum

News Oct 14, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

An uneventful forum for Mountain public school trustee hopefuls turned testy when a central Mountain candidate found herself on the hot seat for her high-profile role in successfully fighting the closure of Queensdale Elementary School.

Two audience members grilled Ward 7 candidate Dawn Danko for suggesting she would have switched her kids to a Catholic school had Queensdale closed and for helping her husband seize a microphone to temporarily “hijack” a public meeting last fall.

“How can we believe that you will focus on all schools and not just Queensdale?” demanded an Armstrong parent to a smattering of applause from about 40 onlookers at the forum, held at Sherwood high school.

Danko said her priority at the time was to look out for her children’s interests and they weren’t served by an initial plan to send them to Armstrong because it’s not within walking distance.

She acknowledged hijacking the meeting created “some level of animosity,” but said it reflected frustration over an accommodation review process, or ARC, that didn’t provide reasonable answers or failed to even respond to questions.

“Our goal was to try to stop the public meeting so that the ARC process couldn’t finish on the time that was allocated and then we could get a new board of trustees in to change the process,” Danko said, vowing to not vote on Queensdale issues if elected.

“It will be a conflict of interest for me to do any kind of vote that involves that school and so I’m giving up my ability to be involved vocally in my child’s school.”

Danko is facing second-time candidate Marlon Picken and Sarah Warry-Poljanski in the race to replace Lillian Orban, who stepped down after 23 years in office.

School closures dominated the forum, which also included Ward 6 candidates Kathy Archer, Angie Armstrong, Al Miles, Eamon O’Donnell and Tanya Prosser, and Ward 8 incumbent Wes Hicks and challenger Chris Litfin.

Responding to questions provided in advance by host Hamilton-Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations, nearly all vowed to either try to stop future closures or improve the ARC process.

A recurring theme among Ward 6 candidates was the need to improve communication with parents, including by returning calls and visiting schools, something they suggested departing incumbent Laura Peddle didn’t do well.

Litfin, a McMaster University student who lives in Ward 1, cast his relative inexperience as a strength, arguing he has insight on student issues because he only graduated two and a half years ago.

“I’ve been in the trenches, I know what it’s like,” he said.

But Hicks, a trustee for 29 years, said his veteran guidance will be valuable since incumbent departures will see at least seven newcomers after the Oct. 27 vote.

“I think it’s extremely important that you have some experience to make sure that they use the policies and procedures that you have, but also to recognize the new ideas and directions that are coming to the board,” he said.