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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guest Blogger Jake Skinner

Note: The following post is provided as a public service and is not an endorsement of the candidate or the views expressed in the post. Other trustee candidates may request a similar opportunity and, if time and space permit, will be accommodated. Please keep your submissions short, under 500 words if possible. This will be available only for trustee positions which are rarely covered by the established media.

On School Performance, It is Time London Lengthened its Stride
 Jake Skinner Trustee Candidate Wards 7, 8, 9, 10, 13

It is time London woke up to its school performance problem.  In the last five years, London public schools have not improved and compared to neighbouring municipalities ranks worse than one would expect (see Jakeskinner.ca/issues).  In 2013, London elementary schools scored 5.1 out of a possible 10 points on provincial tests and our high schools scored a 6.0.  Recent provincial test results confirm we are not improving or getting worse (see http://www.am980.ca/2014/09/17/27937/).  We can do better,  our children deserve better.  As a candidate for TVDSB Trustee in wards 7, 8, 9, 10, and 13 I have a plan to move education in London forward.

There are a number of important issues facing our board at this time, like the prospect of new school closures; but we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from the task of ensuring high student achievement and well-being.  Nor is it productive to dismiss the value of provincial test results by suggesting they tell only part of the story.  Provincial testing is important and is the measure used across the province to gauge whether our children are gaining the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st Century;  which is increasingly knowledge-based and global in competition.  There is an ancient law which says that we will reap what we sow; our future success depends on the skills we pass on to our children through our education system today, and we must give serious heed to whether we are giving them the skills to succeed or not.  This is why I am calling for us to lengthen our stride when it comes to school performance.

If elected, here is what I plan to do:

1.  Promote strong and effective Principal leadership.   Principals can do this by being firm and purposeful, being collaborative as leaders, exhibiting instructional leadership, monitoring staff performance frequently, and maintaining and recruiting talented staff. 

2.  Promote a pervasive focus on instruction and learning.  This means keeping academics the priority and maximizing learning time.

3.  Promote a safe and positive school climate and culture.  This means creating a shared vision, an orderly and supportive environment, and emphasizing positive reinforcement to build a positive pupil culture.

4.  Create high (and appropriate) expectations for all.  This goes for both staff and students.

5.  Use student achievement data to monitor progress at all levels.  This will be used at the student, classroom, and school levels.

6.  Build effective teaching.  This means maximizing class time, providing a broad, balanced, relevant and stimulating curriculum, and setting high standards for teaching.

7.  Involve parents in productive and appropriate ways.  Parents, teachers, and students form a partnership, not an adversarial relationship.

8.  And above all, I will promote a positive attitude towards student achievement.  It  is vital we dismiss doubt and adopt the unwavering belief that pupils can achieve high standards given sufficient time and high quality support; that teachers can teach to high standards, with the right example, conditions, and help; that our expectations for achievement should be high and that early intervention can rescue students who may not be reaching their potential; and that past failures can be replaced by future success as we learn and grow together.

I am a PhD candidate in local government at Western with a Master's Degree in American Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science.  I am a former Regional Planning Commissioner and homebuilder of ten years.  I am a teacher and most importantly I am a parent.  My wife Vanessa and I are the proud parents of six remarkable children.  I know that we are capable of more and it is time to raise the bar and reach our true potential when it comes to giving our children the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st Century. 

Voters can get in touch with me in these ways:
Website: www.JakeSkinner.ca
Email: info@JakeSkinner.ca
Cell/Text: 226-700-7095
Twitter: @JakeSkinnerPhDc
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JakeSkinner


John Dearness said...

Unfortunately, the bizarre electoral system for the two district school boards is a convoluted dog's breakfast, thanks to changes rammed through by the PC government of Premier Mike Harris in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The school board set-up needs a complete overhaul by the province to make it more comprehensible and relevant. As it is, it's a disgrace to meaningful democracy.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the brave soul who sees through these pan-provincial tests of our school children. I strenuously objected the first year the Harris gov't.foisted these tests on my kids, and told the creator of the mathematics aspect what I thought of it 17 years ago. They discriminated against schools with high numbers of kids from other countries, and whose first language isn't English, and more importantly, put unnecessary stress on them. And two decades later, it's the same damnable biased, useless waste of time and money for some over-simplistic notion that children, and their teachers, are undifferentiated cardboard cutouts . But they're not, are they? Kids and teachers have unique gifts and needs. Reverse American-warped Ontario schooling and give education back to students and teachers.

G. Babbitt said...

There were a lot of platitudes and a plan that oversteps the bounds of what a trustee's power can achieve. The things that concern me is his support for the value of testing and dismissal of those who question that value. Also on his website he cites the Fraser Institute's rankings as a basis for his policies. In a role like trustee I think it is more important to see who the candidate is going to listen to, rather evaluating a long list of diffuse "hurrah" words.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering whether Jake Skinner is ever going to be forthright with the people who have now elected him about why he (his wife) "homeschools" all of his school-age children. He has declined to justify keeping two of the children out of the public school system for alleged medical reasons, and has said only that it is inconvenient to put the other two in the system. I am suspecting quite different reasons ... and I would like to know what curriculum his children are taught.

I'm also wondering whether the London electorate understands that it has elected someone who publicly cheered the candidacy of John McCain and Sarah Palin in the 2008 US election (while he was living, being elected to public office and presumably voting in Nevada):

I wonder also whether they are aware of the depths of his religious fundamentalism (and hostility to the gay and lesbian students in the system), since not many people would recognize his use of the term "same-sex attraction" in one of his election survey responses as the code used by people who promote "conversion therapy" for gay and lesbian adults and youth:

And of course, as G. Babbitt said, I wonder about anyone who uses the dishonest Fraser Institute as a source for policy. (The Fraser Institute study Skinner quoted in his campaign materials compared outcomes between public and private schools, when we all know that private schools can skim the cream while public schools must serve all comers.)

I wonder why no one, in particular the media, saw fit to do the minimal research and to ask for a little daylight on these questions.