The information on this page was collected for the 2011 Winnipeg Civic By-Election.
Once a person officially registers for the 2014 Winnipeg Election their information will be updated.
Candidate in the 2011 Winnipeg - 1 (2010) School Ward race.
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Why did you decide to run in the 2011 school board election?
I have become progressively more involved in public schools and the school division, first by working for UNICEF in schools, then by belonging to and currently chairing my son's Parent Advisory Council, and most recently I've also been appointed to the Division's French Immersion Advisory Committee.
When the seat became available I didn't want it to be filled by a person who was just interested in it as a stepping stone to larger political office. I wanted the next Trustee to be a parent who cares for the children of the Division, who believes in the power of public education to improve the community, and who feels that the students and teachers in our Division are best served when stewarded by someone who has first hand experience with the way that public schools work, and who has a non-self-serving interest in making them better. In an absence of these qualities in so many of the individuals who run for Trustee positions just to be politicians, I found, as I'm sure that you will, that the person who best personifies them is me, Gerrit Theule.
What experience will you bring to complement your role as school trustee?
As I mentioned in the previous question, I am currently the Chair of my son's Parent Advisory Council at, I believe, the largest elementary school in the Province, Ecole Laura Secord School, where I have led a diverse group of parents in our Division through many difficult challenges over the past two years. Here, I have had the privilege to be involved in the process of re-drawing of our school's boundaries to accommodate an ever-growing student population in limited classroom space, ensuring that all of our parent's concerns were heard. More recently, I acted as the parent representative and liaison when there was a fire at the school last month. Administratively, I have assisted with the boards of two arts organizations as well as having sat on the board of the Don Quixote Housing Co-op. Within the division, my experience goes as far back as being a student representative to the Winnipeg School District's South End Advisory Committee while attending Grant Park High School. My long history in this area and with this Division speak strongly to my commitment and experience in this neighbourhood and to my knowledge and understanding of the issues that the Board faces every day.
What are the major issues you would like to stand for and why did you choose these issues?
I think that parents are crying out to have someone speak for them about the Comprehensive Assessment Program. This ill-planned program takes away valuable teacher time, interrupting learning in our classes and costing vast sums of money when substitutes fill in for them. C.A.P. tells us nothing and doesn't give us any data to act on. Teachers, parents, and taxpayer groups are all standing against this: it's time that someone listened to them.
I would like to see an increase in drug and alcohol awareness programs at school. When looking at it as a safety issue, very few of our students will see a weapon brought into school but virtually all of them will face these kinds of pressures that concern me far more as a parent.
Third, I would like to see our board increase graduation rates by starting to help children as young as is possible. Every study out there tells us that the earlier that we help kids, the more likely they are to graduate and the less crime we will have in this city. Don’t want your car stolen? Elect someone who will follow the research and initiate programs to help kids out early and often.
Is there anything in particular you would like to change in your school division? In your ward?
I think that our School Division needs to be run more on ideas and proven research and less on ideology. When the Division makes decisions based on fear and politics the children, and ultimately society, pay the price.
The Comprehensive Assessment Program would be the first thing that I would like to see eliminated. It costs vast amounts of money and doesn’t tell us anything at all that the teachers don't already know about our students.
I would like to see our teachers have a better method of providing feedback about Division policies since they are, after all, the ones seeing first hand the immediate effects of the decisions made.
I would also make an effort to change the ways in which Trustees interact with their Wards. I would guess that a significant number of people who live in the Ward are unable to name their three Trustees. I would like our Trustees to be more accessible and more accountable to the people whose lives they are affecting on a daily basis.
Do you have any other comments regarding your candidacy?
Only that if you are looking for another Trustee to be an MP in five years time, I'm not it. I will be a Trustee who feels that this position is an important enough one to stick with, and who didn’t get into the process as a result of shopping for a public office. I will be a Trustee whose only vested interest here is in improving things for my children as well as yours: I have no professional affiliation with education and nothing at stake in our public schools besides the best interests of our children. Finally, I have a long history with the Division and this neighbourhood: From elementary school in the Division to Grant Park High School to chairing a Division Parent Advisory Council, from playing and later volunteering for Crescentwood Grizzlies football to meeting my wife for the first time right here on these very streets, I love it here and only want to see this area, and this area's children, thrive. Ask yourself on November 26th if there is anyone else who would be better suited to be your Trustee. I think that you’ll find that I am the best choice. Thank you for reading.
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