Ron LeClair – Trustee at the Greater Essex District School Board

Ron LeClair - Trustee at the Greater Essex District School Board
About Ron LeClair

Born and Raised in LaSalle Ontario, Ron (@ron_leclair) attend the University of Windsor where he obtained a BA in Political Science and a certificate in Public Administration. Ron joined the Windsor Police Service in 1991, where he served for 30.5 years. In 2021, Ron retired as an Inspector and then joined the Solicitor Generals’ office as a Police Service Advisor.

In 2014, Ron was elected to the Greater Essex District School Board as Trustee. He continues to serve in that capacity. Ron has worked to improve educational opportunities for students including marginalized populations. Ron also serves as a Director of the Windsor Symphony Board, where he sits as chair of the Education committee. Ron is a candidate in the upcoming Provincial election for the Ontario New Democrats in the Riding of Essex.

Connect with Ron: Email | Twitter

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Resources Mentioned

University of Windsor

Greater Essex District School Board

Windsor Symphony

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:02):
Ron welcome to the high performing educator. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.

Ron LeClair (00:09):
Happy to be here, Sam. My name’s Ron LeClair. I’m the trustee for Greater Essex County District School Board. I represent the town of Lasalle and Amherstburg I’m a retired police officer born and raised in the Lasalle area.

Sam Demma (00:25):
Awesome. And how did you get to the role you’re in today and why?

Ron LeClair (00:33):
Okay, so I attended the university of Windsor nice to be a political science and public administration. From there I joined the wind with them, like I said, for 30 years. At some point in my career I decided that I wanted to get involved in the community in an aspect other than from a policing perspective. And one of my strengths is governance. And so that coupled with the fact that I’m aware of the importance of education and reducing youth criminal activity and recidivism. So I, I decided that I would seek a position on the board and was successful. I’m in my second term I’ve served as a chair and vice chair on several occasions. So that’s, that’s really how I got to where I am.

Sam Demma (01:33):
You said you realized the importance of education to reduce criminal activity in youth. How did you come to that realization and why do you believe education is so important?

Ron LeClair (01:46):
Well, so at one point in my career, I was a a youth criminal investigator. That was my, my sole role with the service. And a lot of the young men, young women that I was seeing, coming into the service that were in trouble were, were struggling in school. They weren’t completing their school. And I mean, there’s lots of, you know, justice studies that kind of indicate that’s the case that education is is the foundation to keep young people out of trouble. But I was able to see it firsthand and I was able to work with some student or some, some of the clientele that you were coming in for various criminal activity and try to assist them in their school setting. So that, that’s where I made that correlation. And then when the opportunity came for me to run for school board, I just thought was a there’s a lot of synchronicity there. Right?

Sam Demma (02:49):
Yeah, absolutely. And what does your role look like today? What are you doing? What are the different projects that are going on behind the scenes?

Ron LeClair (02:57):
Well, so I mean, in my own, my own jurisdiction or my own writing, if you wanna call it that lasal, and Amburg lasal has a brand new school that we constructed that just opened in September. Nice. The legacy trails. It’s a dual tracks, so French immersion in English. It, it, the nice thing about that school is it replaced the school that we closed is prince Andrew. So it’s probably good that we don’t have a school named prince Andrew at this point. You know, given some of the revelations around him. But one of the nice things about the school is it we built it a hundreds seats larger than the current school. Nevertheless, we seem to, to overfill it and there’s a lot of growth here. So we’ll be looking at putting an addition on that school.

Ron LeClair (03:49):
But also in Amburg in the process of, of getting a new high school constructed, it’ll be open in the fall. Went through some challenges in the naming process there. We’re bringing two schools together, Western and general Amherst. They’re both high schools in that area at the moment, but we’re bringing those two schools together and really didn’t wanna see general Amherst name on a building because some of his history in terms of how he handled indigenous people when he was here. So we ended up coming up with the name north star, north star has a lot of very positive symbolism, not only for indigenous people but for the underground railroad, which connected to Amburg the use the north star to guide themself, to Amburg to Canada. But also that, that symbolism of your north star, your guiding, guiding internal compass, right?

Ron LeClair (04:55):
So I’m pretty proud of the fact that the school’s gonna be called north star. So that’s one thing one of the other cool projects two other cool projects, I guess that I’d say I was involved in was I successfully got defibrillators for all of our schools. You know, our schools are used off after hours, a lot of time for gym training and, you know, for you know, various clubs, sport activities. And I mean, from that perspective, there’s adults in those buildings, but it’s not UN uncommon for children to have respiratory issue or sorry cardiac issues. So I was happy to be successful in getting those into our school. And the last thing is in Las Sal, we have a a track, which I was able to get resurface and rebuilt to Olympic standards and actually Melissa Bishop famous Olympian was I used that track for training prior to the last Olympics. So I think I’ve been pretty successful in, in my efforts to you know advocate for my area. But you know, those are bigger projects, but I also advocate on a very micro level on individual issues as they, as they come about.

Sam Demma (06:16):
For an educate or listener who knows absolutely nothing about the process of naming a school. Can you walk us through what that looks like? Even growing up when I was a student, I never thought too deeply about the names of buildings and how complex of a process it would be to choose one. And you being someone who’s went through it, I would love for you to show there some insight.

Ron LeClair (06:39):
Well, sometimes the processes go quite easy legacy Oak trail, which is the school that in lasal, which replaced prince Andrew it really fell in the place quite quickly. Whereas am general Amherst was a little bit more difficult because there’s some people, I mean, there’s a tie into the name of the town, but the processes is laid out in a policy that our board has. So this is our policy. I don’t know how other boards would go about it, but we bring together a, a committee of students from the schools that are involved. Teachers, educators involve parents pub the parent engagement community committees and trustees and members of men. And we follow through a process of what we would think. We get a report from somebody from our admin that provides information on geographical you know circumstances around the area, people from the area et cetera.

Ron LeClair (07:41):
And then the committee just works through the process. What I’ve learned and what my own perspective is is that naming a school after a person is not appropriate, that’s my opinion. Because there are circumstances where you know, hundreds of years later, we find out that somebody’s not necessarily who we thought they were. And that’s the example of Jeffrey Amherst, right. And that it didn’t take a hundred years for us to discover the issues with him, but the school was named and the school was around for a hundred years. Mm that’s. How long this school’s been around you know, there’s circumstances here in ES county where a school was named, not in our board but within two years that name had to be removed because some information came forward. So in my opinion, much better to pick a geographical or symbolic name than naming as school after somebody. I mean, obviously it’s an honor, if somebody gets a, a school or a bridge or a building named after them, I just Don know how appropriate it is for schools.

Sam Demma (08:53):
Absolutely. You mentioned the naming of schools, the building, and bringing to life a new high school in your community are two of the things that you are working on. You also mentioned there are other projects that come on a case by case basis. What are some of those other things that have come up and you and your team have worked on?

Ron LeClair (09:14):
Well, they could be as, as micro as you know, a busing issue. You know, I live so ma you know, the, the geographical requirements is 1.8 kilometers, and they live 1.8, five kilometers, and they’re not denied busing. Sometimes there’s not busing decisions are made for, from a map without understanding the, you know, the traffic and, and the, you know, again, geographical barriers that might impact somebody trying to walk instead of riding on a bus. Simple things like that. Just the other day I had somebody contact me, who’s looking at moving into this area and they wanted to know what school their child would go to if they moved to a specific address. You know, so it’s a wide range. I mean, a lot of our time right now is really spent addressing COVID issues. Like every other person in Canada right now is faced with COVID in some capacity. COVID has been a real challenge because every decision there’s a real divide, you know, some people think kids should be in class. Some people think they shouldn’t be, some people think they should be wearing masks, something people think they should. It’s, it’s just like the vaccine issue. Right. So it’s been a, that’s been real challenging. There’s no real you know, there’s, there’s a real divide in the community as to what is the appropriate steps.

Sam Demma (10:44):
Got it. And do you have any connection to conversations with educators themselves or not so much?

Ron LeClair (10:55):
So not, not so much directly. I mean, I use my social media, so I do hear from people that are, you know, front, front frontward facing, excuse me, frontward facing in the front lines, on the ground, in the schools, hearing those issues. I do communicate with the union a lot or the unions because teachers and support staff have multiple unions. I just recently assisted prior to Christmas, I brought forth the motion that allowed teachers staff to purchase at their own expense and 95 masks. If they felt that’s what they required, because there was there some talk in the community that, you know, we’re moving away from surgical mass to N 90 fives, but the province was very slow in acknowledging that. So in working with the union, I was at successful in bringing that forward.

Ron LeClair (11:54):
And it alleviated some concerns. If, if a teacher really felt that they wanted to wear an N 95 mask and they were prepared to pay for it, why shouldn’t we be allowed or let permit them to do that? Mm. So I was successful in bringing that forward. And I think that that alleviated a lot of concerns. I also think it was pretty it was a very progressive step because we now know that the province is finally supplying at 90 fives to staff and teachers. And so maybe a little progressive cutting edge ahead of the yeah. Proactive. Yep. And I think that’s, that’s been an issue in the province is the lack of being proactive in dealing with the pandemic. We’ve really seen what I call the neglect panic cycle where we don’t hear much bless you. And then suddenly you know, we’re kind of in panic mode and that, I think that’s part of why the people get up so upset is because they’re not provided the appropriate information in advance to say, Hey, this, this is coming right. So

Sam Demma (13:10):
Makes absolute sense. What are you hearing from your on Twitter about what educators are going through right now, or what are some common themes you see coming up online or in conversations?

Ron LeClair (13:25):
Well, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of worry and stress. There’s a lot of unknowns, right? Like, yeah. You know, how, how does, how does which is the predominant variant right now? How does it work? What’s the long term effects? How can I avoid it? You know, I know of circumstances where people who have been pretty isolated somehow managed to, to contract it. You know, you’re, you’re in an environment as a teacher support staff and you’re working with little children, some, you know, some as young as four years old, who, you know, don’t necessarily know how to wear a mask you know, their attention spans are very limited. They’re very hands on. You know, so I give them credit for, for doing the work that they’re doing. They, you know, they’ve done a great job and they’re doing the best they can in the circumstances.

Ron LeClair (14:23):
You know, when we’re in a non and when we’re in an online component that’s a real struggle because I mean, like quite frankly, our teachers weren’t trained or educated to teach in anything, but brick and mortar or environment. And quite frankly, my opinion is online education belongs to, should belong to adults only you know the parent that needs to finish their undergrad degree or whatever. I, I don’t, I don’t understand how there could be an expectation that children in our public school system or even in the Catholic school system are capable of getting a proper education online.

Sam Demma (15:05):
Yeah. It’s definitely a tough barrier one. That’s the forefront of the conversation right now as well. Absolutely. And I appreciate your perspectives. You know, you said, you mentioned at the beginning, one of your interests is in governance. Explain that a little bit more. What about governance is very interesting to you and why do you think governance is important?

Ron LeClair (15:28):
Well, governance governance is absolutely important. It provides the bedrock of, of a solid organization. The governance should be proactive, progressive, and you know, anticipating issues in advance to the best of their ability. Obviously, I, you know, a pandemic ever changing pandemic is not something that any of us ever, ever expected to be trying to govern through. So how did my interest in governance come about? So I was, I was chair of the Windsor police association chair of some political organizations prior to I’m a police officer. I’m I’m a member of the executive for the Windsor symphony orchestra. So I don’t know what really hits one of those things. I don’t know what really attracts me to it, but it’s, it’s really understanding how Robert’s rules work. What, what, what you’re defining role is as, as a member of a board not to slip into operational decisions you know because you have staff that’s responsible for the day to day operations you’re just surpri supposed to provide that overarching support and insurance that, you know, your staff is conducting their work in accordance to what your mandate mission and vision is.

Ron LeClair (17:03):

Sam Demma (17:05):
Absolutely. For an educator who is interested in governance, maybe joining a local education association, maybe one for province or school board, and does not understand what a, what Robert’s rules are. Can you share what that means and what those are?

Ron LeClair (17:24):
Yeah. So Robert’s rules are a set of very complicated set of rules that outline how to on a meeting. Cool. So you know how to set it an agenda. What emotion is, how emotion hits the floor, what D what’s allowed in debate. Generally you, you know, an organization has a set of bylaws and, and is governed by Robert’s rules. So certain motions need two thirds to be successful. Certain motions only need a simple majority you know, how to handle amendments to a motion how to handle amendments to the amendment when they motion. So, and that happens. So yeah, it’s like what, when is a point of order? What happens when the chair is challenged? You know, there’s a lot to learn. I think most people just learn it, you know, after they decide to of delve into some kind of organization, they don’t necessarily, so they generally sit back and watch and learn. Right. for me, it came as part of my education when I was in university and public administration. I just, I just learned that as part of, of my ongoing in terms of specific education organizations that somebody could join. Most of ’em are tied into either employment or union activity or you know the trustees have an association at the Ontario level, right.

Sam Demma (19:08):
And for someone who wanted to get involved, you just simply reach out how did you get involved in the three organizations you’re a part of on the executive side?

Ron LeClair (19:18):
So the school board was obviously a, a, an election held at the same time as the municipal elections. The wind police association was by election by the membership of the Windsor police and the Windsor symphony orchestra. I just indicated that I had some interest in that because they have an education component. And you know, I get, it’s funny, policing led me to education education. I understand the importance of music as a part of your Folsom education, right? So the Windsor symphony orchestra needed somebody to be involved in their education committee.

Sam Demma (20:03):
That’s awesome. Very cool. I think joining an association organization that you’re interested in, whether it’s a voluntary position or something that’s actually paid, whether it’s by interest or by vote and election is a rewarding experience. I, I sit on the board of the Canadian association of professional speakers and are familiar with motions and amendments, and I’m not an expert in it by any means, but like you mentioned, I’m sitting back learning and, and watching, and I’m a are bring as much as I can. And it’s been a very awesome learning experience. And it sounds like it’s also been a cool learning experience for you.

Ron LeClair (20:41):
Yeah, no, I love it. It’s challenging. So, interesting thing is it has led to an opportunity. When I retired from the Windsor police, I joined the inspector of police bank and my role there is as a police advisor. And what I do is I provide governance advice to police services board. So I have a zone in the province of Ontario. And so yesterday, a chair from one of the boards calls me in says, Hey, I’m dealing with this issue. You know, I want to pick your brain. I want your thoughts. And we, we talked through the different scenarios and she was able to come to a solution or a conclusion of how she was gonna handle it in advance. So that’s the kind of things I do. And it, you know, I think one of the things that helped me land that position is all the experience I’ve collected over the course of my, my lifetime.

Sam Demma (21:29):
Absolutely. That’s awesome. I, really enjoy this conversation on governance and learning about the different roles and your experiences going through different organizations and associations. If someone else is listening, wants to reach out, ask you a question about anything we discussed what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Ron LeClair (21:47):
So, my email is ronleclair@me.com. I’m happy to talk to anybody.

Sam Demma (22:00):
Ron. Thank you so much for coming on the show, taking some time to chat about your interests and experiences. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Ron LeClair (22:08):

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