New student voices at TDSB meeting

Hamima Fattah, left, and Sammy Al Rubaie speaks to the board during their first TDSB meeting on Wed, Oct. 25.
Hamima Fattah, left, and Sammy Al Rubaie speak to the board of trustees during their first TDSB meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 28. (Kelsey Cheng///Toronto Observer)

For student trustees Hamima Fattah and Sammy Al Rubaie, attending the first school board meeting was about bridging communication between the student body and school trustees.

The pair attended their first Toronto District School Board meeting on Oct. 28 at the board headquarters, 5050 Yonge St.

“I hope to represent the voice of all TDSB students at the board,” Al Rubaie said. “I hope throughout the year I can stay in contact with students and trustees.”

Speaking to the board, they introduced two projects the student body is currently working on: a provincial-wide student summit for mental health to be held next February in Ottawa; and STAMP (Students Taking Action Materializing Potential), which is an initiative that follows the participatory budget for students to apply and access additional funding from TDSB.

“This functions like a grant,” Al Rubaie said. “For example, if students wanted to start a robotics club at school, they can apply for this funding to do that.”

Students would have to submit formal proposals for the budget and results will be voted on by students. Both projects are currently still under the planning process, but Al Rubaie hopes to finalize the application process by December and have the first $50,000 distributed to students by March next year.

“There’s a lot of talk about students not having the programs they want,” Al Rubaie said. “There are a lot of things they wanted to do but there’s not enough funding.”

Shams Mehdi goes to Leaside High School in East York, and is also the vice-chairperson of “Student SuperCouncil,” a council that represents Toronto students from grades 8-12. He said the monthly board meeting is important to all students.

“Students should be informed on what topics are going on in their board,” he said. “Especially if they have a concern or complaint. Coming to the board meeting is a great way to get students interested in the issues that are arising in the school board.”

SuperCouncil executives meet one week prior to every TDSB meeting, for student trustees to compile reports to present to the board.

“Civics and career, as well as severe weather policies were a big issue before,” Mehdi said. “They were all addressed through student trustees bringing them up in previous board meetings.”

Ward 13 Don Valley West trustee Gerri Gershon said parents always come to her about everything from policy budgets to the recent controversial sex education curriculum. But she said she enjoys talking to students the most.

“I love hearing from the kids,” Gershon said. “I talk to them about their career paths; sometimes I’ll get a complaint against a teacher, and I teach them about the democratic process in civics class.”

The board also voted on a “scaled-down” version of a byelection to replace trustee and former chair Shaun Chen. Chen was elected as Member of Parliament for Scarborough North during the recent federal election.

The byelection is expected to cost $250,000, and will be held on Jan. 25.