By Charlie Senack
Donna Blackburn and Spencer Warren will be returning to their school trustee seats after winning their respective zones by a landslide.
Warren, Barrhaven’s Ottawa Catholic School Board Trustee, is going into his third term with 48 per cent of the vote. He received 3,370 ballots cast under his name.
The OCSB Trustee was up against two other challengers: Greg Hopkins who came in second place with about 29 per cent (1,998 votes), and Nicolas Caravaggio who came in third with 23 per cent (1,589 votes).
“I am humbled by the amount of support I received from the community. I would like to thank all those who supported me during the campaign and who voted for me,” Warren said. “My message throughout the campaign has always been that I believe in a collaborative board where we work with parents and staff to collectively support the best interest of our school community.”
Warren says one of the biggest issues the Ottawa Catholic board will face over the next four years is with overcrowding in schools. The concern has been a long time topic in Barrhaven where seas of portable classrooms sit outside of schools to meet the demand.
While multiple new schools have been approved for Barrhaven, Findlay Creek, and Riverside South, many will be over 100 per cent capacity on the first day they open.
“I have been working hard to get smaller classrooms by advocating for new schools in my zone,” said Warren. “I have successfully advocated for four new schools, one of which has already been opened in Half Moon Bay and the other three will hopefully open in 2024.”
“It’s no secret that St. Joseph’s High School is over populated with students, even though the majority of the classrooms are below 30 students,” he added. “I’m working on a business case to build another high school in Barrhaven to help offset some of the pressures.”
In 2021, Warren brought forward a successful motion to fly the Rainbow Pride flag at all OCSB schools during pride month in June. It was approved by all but one Trustee, Glen Armstrong, who lost his seat to Eugene Milito.
“This is just a stepping stone to help create safe spaces for these types of conversations and support,” Warren said. “This has allowed us to remove barriers when supporting our school community in areas once felt to be ignored.”
Warren wants to spend the next term continuing to focus on basic human rights with diversity, equity and inclusiveness.
Blackburn Wins Fourth Term
In the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Donna Blackburn won her fourth term with almost 46 per cent of the vote, totalling 7,267 ballots cast under her name.
Blackburn was one of three names on the ballot for OCDSB Trustee, with Patricia Kmiec coming in second at 32 per cent (5,160 votes), and Natalie Rowe coming in third place with over 22 per cent (3,627 votes).
“I’m honored and humbled to serve the people of Barrhaven for a fourth term,” Blackburn said. “I’m very grateful to the dozens of people in Barrhaven who helped me with a successful campaign.”
The OCDSB will have seven new trustees around the board room table, and Blackburn said she’s already spoken with many of the fresh faces. With many incumbents not running again, she’s now one of the most senior members on the board.
Over the next four years, Blackburn intends to continue advocating for a stronger relationship between the OCDSB and Ottawa Police.
In June 2021 the board voted to end their long-standing student resource officer program with Police, after some students and parents claimed the program caused harm to the BIPOC and gender-oppressed communities. Earlier this year Blackburn brought forward a motion to reinstate talks after a stabbing occurred at Longfields High School in March, but it was unanimously shot down.
“I made a promise that I’d continue advocating for a positive and productive relationship with the Ottawa Police Service,” Blackburn said. “People were very clear about that at the doors. I think we need to go back to having police officers in the school so there are people to deal with problems. Those officers need to be specifically trained to deal with youth.”
Every time a new board is sworn in, they are in charge of bringing forward a new strategic plan for the next four years. Blackburn said she would like to see more of an emphasis on respecting different pathways students take after graduating high school.
The Barrhaven public board trustee also wants to keep working to address overcrowding in local schools.
‘The next big project we need to get in Barrhaven in the not so distant future is a third high school,” said Blackburn. “When (the new Riverside South) high school opens, that will help some of our issues because we now have the Vimy Bridge. The funding for that has already been approved.”
In the French Catholic board, Chad Mariage lost his trustee seat by around 600 votes.
Claude Lalonde will now represent zone five after taking 63 per cent of the vote with 1,694 ballots cast under his name. Marriage came in second place with 37 per cent of the vote, totalling 1,002 ballots.
All trustees will be sworn in on Nov. 15.