New ideas, experience both needed at TDSB, trustee candidates say

'It's probably good if you have a mix of people', U of T political science professor Nelson Wiseman says

Ausma Malik knew she’d made the right choice to run for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee in Ward 10 when news of an expense scandal at the board made headlines in September.

Soon after, Malik and several other first-time TDSB trustee candidates signed the Students First Pledge, which spells out their commitment, if elected on Oct. 27, to publish details of their expenses and their support for an ombudsman to help ensure accountability.

Sometimes it takes people with new energy and fresh eyes to be able to move and change.

—Ausma Malik

Canada’s largest public school board needs to embrace new voices, she said.

“We need much more transparency, accountability and connection to our community in the role of a trustee,” said Malik, a former senior education policy researcher for the province. “And that was missing.

“Sometimes it takes people with new energy and fresh eyes to be able to move and change.”

(Experience) is something that develops through a period of time. … You develop a repertoire of skills that a new person certainly does not have.

—Gerri Gershon

But experience working within the system is also an important factor, said Gerri Gershon, the incumbent TDSB school trustee for Ward 13.

“(Experience) is something that develops through a period of time, working on different issues, being successful and failing in them so you develop a repertoire of skills that a new person certainly does not have,” Gershon said.

Determining the the ideal composition of the board should bot be an either-or proposition, said University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman.

“From a public policy point of view, it’s probably good if you have a mix of people: some with experience on the board and some (who don’t),” Wiseman said, “so that there could be a learning process for the new ones and some fresh ideas for the old ones.”

Being open to new ideas is something Gershon values, she said.

The trustee — first elected to the North York Board of Education in 1985 — recently attended a panel discussion on the future of education at the MaRS Discovery District that included representatives from nine countries. She said she was invigorated by what she heard and was excited to bring these new ideas to her role as TDSB trustee.

Malik agreed institutional memory at the school board is important, but said the TDSB should be led by a group of people with different experiences and expertise. A mix of new and experienced voices, she said, would benefit the board.