On November 15, when the new Toronto District School Board trustees were sworn in for the 2022-2026 term, the first order of business was the election of the chair and vice-chair. A secret ballot by the 22 trustees chose Leaside’s very own Rachel Chernos Lin, trustee for Ward 11, as the new chair.
During the 2018-2022 term, Rachel numbered many accomplishments. For one, she worked on several important changes to the French Immersion program that affected many Ward 11 families. For example, an Early French Immersion program opened in the Thorncliffe area in September so that children no longer need to be bused to sites outside their neighbourhood.
Rachel adds, “I am proud of my work in building community in Ward 11 through my coffee mornings, meetings with school council chairs, my newsletters and my columns in Leaside Life.” She feels that virtual meetings have worked well for the past few years, but was happy to host her first in-person coffee afternoon in early December at Longo’s Loft. At that meeting, several representatives from parent groups and two superintendents took part in a wide-ranging discussion of topics like school safety and developing stronger community connections.
While Rachel was busy in the past, as chair her workload has increased exponentially. She says that she used to worry about the 24 schools in Ward 11, but now she worries about all 583 schools in the board. And she takes part in more meetings, especially with the senior executive leadership of the TDSB and Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins, other board chairs and the Minister of Education, all of which “help to inform my leadership and perspective as chair.” She is also the main point person for the media. She has stepped back from some of her committee work to enable her to take part in school visits and community events.
Rachel explains that she is still able to focus on Leaside through her “foundation of strong partnerships with local leaders and solid communication with administrators, council chairs and superintendents.” In terms of changes here, she has noticed a shift in Leaside students and families engaging in more reflective learning by tackling Indigenous issues and real-world problems through the curriculum.
One of Rachel’s key priorities is to bring a collaborative approach to the trustees’ decision-making process, a goal that is especially important since half of the trustees are new. She hopes to do this by getting back to in-person meetings and creating opportunities for the team to get to know each other and their diverse wards better. One method is to organize field trips for trustees to visit sites in each ward to gain a better understanding of the system as a whole.
In addition, Rachel is excited to see more in-person connections in schools as they “figure out how to create a new normal after the disruptions of the pandemic.” She hopes to see the events, sports teams and clubs of the fall continue in 2023. But she is concerned about possible provincial budget cuts coming in the spring just when students need additional supports to deal with the continuing challenges of the pandemic.
Rachel’s devotion to education is partially inspired by her three daughters. Her eldest, Chloe, is in the third year of a co-op environmental engineering program; her middle daughter, Greta, is in Grade 12 and busy with university applications; and her youngest, Pippa, is in Grade 9 at LHS.
With such a busy schedule, it seems unlikely the new TDSB chair even has time to make New Year’s resolutions, but in fact, she does have a couple. Rachel hopes to get her personal and work inboxes to “zero unread messages,” and she resolves to take more walks with her dog for “her health and mine.” No doubt those resolutions will help her to cope with the challenges that lie ahead.