Every decision the TDSB makes has a direct impact on the students across the board and the TDSB Student Senate ensures that students have a say in how these decisions are made. The TDSB is geographically divided into four learning centers with Garneau falling under Learning Center 1 (LC1) which had its first meeting for the year on Monday, 30 September 2019. The meeting was held in the school’s library and was open to all students in the LC1 district.
The Student Senate is a group of twenty-four elected students who hold meetings each month in various schools. There, they discuss current issues revolving around students and get their input on important school board matters and convey those messages to a higher level of authority.
About twenty students came to the LC1 meeting, which began at 5:00 pm. The meeting started with a quick introduction of the TDSB student senate through a video and the executive team which included Vice President Evan Woo and Secretary Vipushan Ravi. LC1’s secretary, Jessica Yuan, and co-chairs Bilal Bartaai and Yi Lian, were also present during the meeting.
The executive team of the Student Senate informed the participating students about the initiatives they have planned for the year. They took this opportunity to talk about their annual leadership events to bring the student community together while also teaching them valuable skills. This includes their student leadership day in November, which is open for all TDSB students and an upcoming mental health symposium. They also hold a leadership retreat at Mono Cliffs to provide fifty selected Grade 9 and 10 students with outdoor education experience. The Student Senate is also planning to hold an additional event this year reserved for just the LC1 district, ideas for which were contributed by all participants.
The student participants also had a chance to introduce themselves and everyone was encouraged to join the discussions and input their opinions. The first topic of discussion for this meeting was the increased class sizes brought in by the Ford government and the impact it has on students. Most students agreed that this change has negatively impacted their education and a lot of personal experiences were shared regarding the issue. Not having enough computers in classrooms, fewer options for elective courses, and bad experience with the guidance department were some of the problems students faced due to larger class sizes. When talking about ways to combat this problem, it was suggested that student protests along with student support during teacher rallies could make an impression in front of the government and could be the first step to solving this crisis. The TDSB student senate plans to write a letter to the Director of Education, John Malloy discussing these issues and requesting the board to spend money in more efficient ways that will have a more positive impact on students.
The next topic of discussion was the climate strike that took place in Toronto on Friday, 27 September 2019 at Queens Park to demand action from the government on climate change. Many students attending the LC1 meeting had participated in the strike but most did not have positive reviews for the event. Students believed that the strike wasn’t entirely focused on climate and was poorly executed. There was also confusion amongst the people as there were no clear directions for the march and the performances took too long which was a very frustrating and tiring experience for most attendees. The strike was also promoted as an opportunity to miss school which took away from the pressing issue of climate change and those that truly wanted to fight for action had trouble missing school as most teachers would not cooperate when asked to delay tests. The students also then discussed the small actions TDSB or they as individuals could take to increase awareness and promote a more eco-friendly environment such as local clean-ups and purchasing items that are not harmful to the climate.
“This is my second year on the Student Senate and we have many activities planned for this year. Through these meetings, we really want students to know that their opinions are heard and that they too can have an impact on decisions that affect them,” said Evan Woo, the vice president of the TDSB Student Senate and a Grade 10 student at Garneau.
After the dinner was served at 6 PM, MGCI Student Activity Council (SAC) who were also attending the meeting shared their thoughts and plans regarding their involvement with the Senate. The Senate had also planned a workshop called “The Line” where students were presented with various scenarios regarding their personal experiences or their opinions on certain topics. Students were to step up if that particular question was applicable to them. This workshop gave students the opportunity to better know their peers, their experiences as well as reflect on issues that are not discussed very often. “It was such a great activity. I am so glad I attended this meeting as I got the chance to network with many new students from different schools,” said Mahnoor Irfan, a Grade 11 student at Marc Garneau.
The evening ended with each student sharing something positive about TDSB and giving input on things that they think TDSB could improve upon. In terms of improvement, the Senate plans to have more workshops, in addition to the regular discussions, to give students the opportunity to network and be more engaged. Overall, students had a great time voicing their opinions and were encouraged to attend more meetings in the future to help make a difference within the TDSB and in their community.