TCDSB trustee on a 2021 to remember

By Sean Delaney

We sat down with Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustee Ida Li Preti this month and asked her for her thoughts on the year about to come to a close, and the 2022 that lies ahead of us.

EVV: Tell us your thoughts as the year comes to a close?

LP: I’m excited we were able to keep the schools open until Christmas. We had some hiccups along the way but we worked very hard because in-person learning is essential to a students’ success.

EVV: And your thoughts on 2021?

LP: For me, the highlights were working with Humber River Hospital on the northwest vaccination team, working with the Black Creek Health Centre, Sick Kids, the Toronto Board of Health and really being part of the vaccination team. Not just as part of the school board but volunteering at clinics and trying to assess where we needed clinics, especially once we started vaccines for 12 plus. We’ve now had over 40 clinics with schools in Humber River Black Creek and we are going to continue doing them. And I’ve worked very closely with trustee Christopher Mammoliti from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), which I’m very proud of. We need to build bridges and break barriers, even post-pandemic. I am sure these relationships will keep growing and I’m very proud of that. The only way to overcome is to build these relationships and foster them.

EVV: Do you have a particular achievement from the team that stands out?

LP: The northwest vaccination team is one of the only teams vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds during the school day. We began sending home consent forms, so that we can vaccinate students in a safe environment in school, during school hours. It’s been a very positive experience, and something being looked at by the city as a whole now.

Another one that is really big, that I’m very proud of is the TCDSB in 2021, this is the first year we recognized and celebrated pride month. It was one of the best moments of 2021 for me. Breaking down these barriers and making sure we respect all people, all persons, is so important. Harvey Milk once said, it takes no compromise to give people their rights.

It was a contentious issue with our board, but we voted as a board to ensure in 2021 we recognize pride month and will continue to recognize it. I will always fight for human dignity.

The third big thing for me is that we partnered up with YAAACE (Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education), and that is a youth organization that brings education and sports together for students from all over Humber River Black Creek.

They’re bringing together spots and education after school hours.

EVV: Can you talk about the work your staff and education employees have had to do this year?

LP: We have seen gaps in learning, and those have been exasperated by COVID-19. Our staff has done an incredible job of trying to identify those gaps and work with the students who have been quite impacted by the last two years now. There is no one size fits all. We need to work on a case-by-case basis with the students because no two children are the same. The children are all at a different pace and we really need to understand how to identify and target children not at the same level as typically would have been in typical school year. Virtual learning has created these gaps, and now, we are working hard to close them, but do it in a way that benefits students. We cannot address equity unless we prioritize access to education in the community, so we are trying to identify where these areas are and put programming in place for these students.

EVV: The pandemic must have made this part time trustee position a full time job?

LP: Yes, truthfully, it’s been like that the whole term. Going in, all the boards were faced with one of the most significant budget cuts in modern history, then we had a strike, and then we had a global pandemic. It’s definitely been all hands-on deck, and I have had to take a leave of absence from my work. But it’s ok. You want to ensure that when a parent, school or vaccination team reaches out to you, that you’re available, and not just to be there, but to be present, so you can give groups the time they deserve.

EVV: And do you have a message for the readers heading into 2022?

LP: My hope for this year is to keep our schools open, to ensure no rock is unturned to ensure these kids are in school safely. Because there is nowhere else they should be. Face-to-face learning is so important, even the social impacts of not being there face-to-face, they need to be in school.

We celebrate a different virtue every month at the TCDSB, and December’s virtue is charity.

We believe charity begins at home. So, let’s be charitable to each other, pause and reflect on all we have, and pause and reflect on those no longer with us.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best for you and your loved ones in the new year.