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School Board Trustee

Atul Temurnikar – Co-Founder and Chairman, Global Schools Foundation (Singapore)

Atul Temurnikar - Co-Founder and Chairman, Global Schools Foundation (Singapore)
About Atul Temurnikar

Atul Temurnikar (@atultemurnikar) is a prominent member of the education industry in ASEAN, North & South Asia & Middle East. Now he serves as co-founding trustee and Executive Chairman of Singapore-based Global Schools Foundation (GSF), a not-for-profit organisation.

Mr Temurnikar is a staunch advocate of high-quality education that transcends socio-economic boundaries from Korea to Japan in the East, to Singapore to Malaysia in ASEAN and India and Middle East. His significant efforts in the education sector include as a member of the Schools Sub-committee of the National Integration Committee (NIC) set up by the Government of Singapore.

Mr Atul participated in recommendation of changes to the Indian Foreign Direct Investment’s (FDI) policies for India’s education sector, which were then implemented in 2013 with special cabinet approval. Many of other suggestions given to India’s former MHRD Minister were seen to have been implemented in the NEP 2020.

On the business community front, Mr Temurnikar is instrumental in bringing big ideas and big minds together from Singapore and India, and serves as the Patron of the Singapore chapter of the Institute of Directors (IOD India).

In the past two decades, Mr Temurnikar has been invited by several forum such as Institute of Directors, Horasis, Expert Guest on XL Podcast with Graham Brown on Leadership and Agile Thinking in Education
Expert Guest on MoneyFM 89.3, a Singapore based radio on the topic of mental health issues.

Achievements : Some of Mr Temurnikar’s key accolades include:

Distinguished Fellow award from the Institute of Directors, India;
The Walter L. Hurd Executive Medal, awarded by the Walter Hurd Foundation USA for demonstrating exceptional adherence to quality within and outside an organization;

Award of social recognition for contribution to SINDA in 2006 by then Dy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, for outstanding efforts in social services for the underprivileged in Singapore.

An eloquent speaker, Mr Temurnikar has delivered motivational speeches on leadership, entrepreneurship, life choices and the importance of education including at the Global Convention of the Institute of Directors in London, among others.

He ventured into the education sector after a 16-year technology stint with highly reputable global organisations such as IBM ASEAN South Asia and HCL Technologies.

Growing up in a middle-class family, Atul was among the top 3 students and ranked 3rd Merit among a million students who attended the Grade 12 exams in 1979 in Maharashtra (India) state board examinations.

Connect with Atul: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

ASEAN, North & South Asia & Middle East

Global Schools Foundation (GSF)

National Integration Committee (NIC)

Indian Foreign Direct Investment’s (FDI)

Institute of Directors (IOD India)

XL Podcast

MoneyFM 89.3

Distinguished Fellow award of the from the IOD India

The Walter L. Hurd Executive Medal

SINDA

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 (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Dducator podcast.

Sam Demma (00:59):

This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Atul Temurnikar. Atul is a prominent member of the educational industry in ASEAN, North and South Asia and the Middle East. Now he serves as co-founding trustee and Executive Chairman of Singapore-based Global Schools Foundation (GSF), a not-for-profit organisation. Atul is a staunch advocate of high quality education that transcends socioeconomic boundaries from Korea to Japan in the east to Singapore, to Malaysia and Asia and India, and the middle east. His significant efforts in the education sector include as a member of the Schools Sub-committee of the National Integration Committee (NIC) set up by the Government of Singapore. His accolades and achievements could be listed for the next 10 minutes. He has done so much for so many young people in the world of education, and I’m so grateful and honored to have him on the podcast here today. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Atul and I look forward to seeing you on the other side. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today I’m joined by a very special guest, Atul. He is situated all the way across the world. <Laugh> We’re recording this before he goes to bed and right after I am waking up. Atul, please introduce yourself and tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Atul Temurnikar (02:34):

So good morning everyone listening on this podcast, my name is Atul Temurnikar, and I’m a co-founder and chairman of a school network based all the way in Singapore.

Sam Demma (02:48):

Tell me a little bit about this school network. What inspired you to start it roughly I believe 20 years ago now, or become a part of it. And what does this network aim to do?

Atul Temurnikar (03:00):

So the school network, when we say we are looking at you know, a combination of a preschool primary school, high schools, and and, and these schools are almost like all in one in one location. And we’ve got about 35 schools in a network. These are spread across 10 countries. We are educating about 70 nationalities of students across our schools. It’s a huge diversity, right? So the schools are essentially providing education to all the expats, as well as local citizens of various countries. And the schools aim to be the, the substantially higher quality education providers in their, in their countries and geographies. And we, we are basically using these as community schools to be able to provide a great value proposition to our stakeholders, meaning our students and parents, so that they can get the highest quality of education at the prices that they’re paying so that they can get much better education for their children. And they can go to wonderful and beautiful universities, including the Ivy league universities and the us and UK and all over the world.

Sam Demma (04:13):

What, what inspires you to work on this project? Like tell me a little bit about your journey from, you know a student yourself to where you are today.

Atul Temurnikar (04:25):

So let me take you back. I would say roughly about 35 years back, you know, I was just, just coming out of my high school and and one of my colleagues and me, we kind of decided that we got a summer break. We had, you know, weeks to go for our results to come in. And we said, why don’t we do some activity? You know, like taking some home Touche tuition for students who are aspiring to be, you know, great students in the, in the high level exams. And we kind of gave a small ad in our, in the local city newspaper. And we say, Hey, we are tutors. And we wanna give you some sort of at institutions during this summer break. And unfortunately nobody turned up, maybe the, the ads are not really visible to anyone, or secondly, could be a possibility that we were not seen very credible and very genuine in our approach.

Atul Temurnikar (05:15):

So that was my first with education. When I had just enrolled myself into an engineering, it’s a very prestigious engineering institution in India, in south Asia. And so I began my journey with education with that first point of failure, where I was willing to offer my tuition services. And incidentally, I scored very high, extremely good performance in my high school. I was ranked fourth in the entire state of Matra. And that helped me kind of build my confidence that, you know, academics is something that, you know, you really have to work hard at it, but at the same time, if you get it right, you can really, really score very big in that, that, so with that kind of a background and fast forward to 20 years back I used to work in a very cozy job in IBM, Singapore based out of Singapore covering the whole of Asia region.

Atul Temurnikar (06:10):

And we were able to primarily provide a, a sort of a feedback from the community to try and understand what issues were going on. So when we were looking at it, we realized that there’s a possibility of providing a affordable education for expats who were relocating around the countries who may be not paid by their MMC companies or organizations for their school fees of their children. And so they used to kind of struggle with the budgets. And so we said, Hey, why don’t we look at something like, which is more affordable and we take it to the community and see how, how, how good it goes. And interestingly, very surprisingly to all of us, we realized that when I say we have a couple of friends, you know, just kind of having coffee together and trying with this idea. And so when I announced this particular school in Singapore, right next to the presidential palace of Singapore, and when we got thousands of people turning up to kind of know more about the school and they came to the open house and they said, well, we really like something, which is great value proposition.

Atul Temurnikar (07:21):

We think you guys can do it, but we don’t see anything here. Right? So they had, we had to build confidence. We had to build track record, and that’s how it got started. It, it was mainly a trigger from the community of what they were asking for. And we said, can we package a product together that meets the requirements with the community, rather than saying, Hey, here’s our school. You gotta pay 50 grand a year and, you know, take it or leave it. So we, we kind of did a reverse approach and we said, let’s price the product first and then go back and construct the cost structures so we can make a successful enterprise out of it. And that’s how it got started.

Sam Demma (07:57):

I love the story. Tell me a little bit more about how they, these schools differ from other schools in the area or, or, or, or what makes them from your perspective and the boards and teams perspective, a higher level of education.

Atul Temurnikar (08:14):

So one of the things that really differentiate us, I mean, there are, there are many things that really add to the whole outcomes driven game as we call it performance driven game. One of the basic things that really works for us is we have created a very strong, fundamental tech layer. I would call it the learning technology layer, which is allowing us to kind of bring all schools into one system, be able to have all systems and procedures automated, the workflow’s automated. So in a way, if I were to give you an example of what that tech layer does, it improves the learning for a child by almost 20 to 25% in terms of how we bring and deliver the education to them, and in terms of how they would’ve got it in other schools. And this is based on some primary statistics that we got from benchmarking institutions.

Atul Temurnikar (09:05):

The second thing we have done is really to make sure that teachers are very efficient so that, you know, they don’t really spend too many hours and minutes in trying to do the same redundant jobs, getting piece of information from one place to the other. So the entire teacher’s communication was actually automated. And the third thing we did was really to look at the quality of our academic excellence, you know, how are we delivering this academic lectures and, you know, the whole program and how do we benchmark with respect to top leading world institutions? And so we initiated the benchmarks. And from there, we realized that our education excellence that we were providing was actually really on par with some of the world’s best educational institutions. And as a result of that one of the benchmarks, very popular one, it’s called the Malcolm ball Ridge benchmark from the us, it’s managed by the ball Ridge foundation and the benchmarks are literally universal in the world.

Atul Temurnikar (10:07):

So we started benchmarking each of a campus with that, and it’s a nine parameter benchmark it’s done by independent assessors. And you got no say no control of what they’re gonna see. They basically evaluate the entire campus based on the academic excellence that we are able to offer on evidence basis. And then they come and do a physical inspection of this. And then they finally say, well, are you world class compliant and watch your score? And if not, then where do you stand? So I think this process of vibration really helps all our school stakeholders to be able to understand where do they stand with respect to a world class institution, like out of a score of let’s say 1000, are they in the band of 800 to 900, or are they below 500 that really gives them a great way of measuring their own academic excellence.

Atul Temurnikar (11:00):

And this is done at a process level system level institution level, and then they can really take the, what we call as opportunities for improvements or offi to be able to take back and then kind of create an action plan and improve your educational services. So it’s, it is bits and pieces of each of these things that we’ve been able to put together. So today, if we go to any country, any new markets, we are able to literally get all these things together and bring in a huge amount of synergy and integration with our school system, through the tech layers and through the various systems and excellence models that we’ve created.

Sam Demma (11:38):

That’s amazing. It sounds like this is something you’re extremely passionate about. What, what is the, the hope, the hope or the goal over the next 20 years with the, with the foundation.

Atul Temurnikar (11:52):

So if I were to simplify the hopes and goals, I would say number one, we would like to expand geographically to new markets. We’ve been predominantly in Asia, Southeast Asia, particularly. So the countries like Korea, Japan which part, which are part of north Asia, we have got Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and middle east United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. And and you know, so these are the countries that, where we are already in, but I think education is pretty universal in nature, right? Every country’s got schools and private schools and public schools and they have their own unique character. So our intention is really to expand to markets such as the west European markets of Spain, Portugal, Italy you know, the France and Switzerland. And, and then of course the UK markets and the north American markets of Canada and north America and USA. So idea is that, you know, now that we’ve got a technology driven educational product, can we take this to these markets? And, or can we work with the schools over there? And can we, how can we bring in the synergy so that those schools can really fire their optimum efficiencies, whether it’s a student or teacher or parents, they can really get the best benefits they can. And, and that was, that is one of the major hopes and aspirations that we have to really take this world class education into the different new markets.

Sam Demma (13:25):

It sounds like education has been a big pursuit for yourself in terms of the engineering background and you know, doing really well in high school, ranking forth in your whole region. What resources have you found or courses have you been through or books, have you read that you found were foundational in your own self education?

Atul Temurnikar (13:51):

So, you know it’s very interesting because, you know, engineering is a stream that really gets your thinking and acting very analytically. Yep. And second thing is I had a, you know, the privilege of doing my master’s in business administration from university of east London. So when you combine the principles of management with the engineering aspects, you can create a very different perspective of an educator because when you start understanding education, exactly what are the underlying layers, what are the challenges and how do we put it together and put the entire learning stack together. Then this is where the engineering and the, the principles of management really come in, principles of management, allow you to really apply the aspects of scale and enterprise growth into the entire ecosystem so that you can look at it more like a independently, you know, self-sustaining organization financially prudent complying with all the best practices in finance.

Atul Temurnikar (14:51):

And at the same time apply the aspects of principles of management for talent development, for leadership, scalability and, and also applying the aspects of engineering to the composition of products. I mean in one of our campuses in Singapore, which is going to be featured very soon on a, one of the, as a documentary on one of the most prestigious channels there is a very, very integrated school bus terminal that deals with 600 vehicles at any point in time. And, and, you know, you talk about 120 buses close to 500 cars and taxis, and it’s almost like a school bus terminal upon which school campuses is situated. And this entire technology that we were able to use to make it simplified so that it doesn’t cause and spill our traffic jams into the neighborhoods. And it was able to bring in efficiencies and transport for our own people, our stakeholders.

Atul Temurnikar (15:50):

So we use the simple concepts of engineering for delivering education within the campus through smart learning ways delivering various aspects of learning again, using technology. And then more importantly to make sure that the whole organization as a campus really functions very efficiently and, and, and something that the people look forward to every day is not a place where you can actually, you feel that, oh, it, it is gonna be a liability for us to kind of go there a difficult day already. I’m getting fatigued in, in the learning aspect and then things don’t work. Right. And imagine going to a school where you feel every day, you are more energetic to get up from your bed and go to the schools instead of, you know, staying back at home. And, and we’ve seen that evidence in our students when they come back, when they were coming back slowly from the post COVID stage, and they were coming to the physical schools and they said, we don’t wanna stay at home.

Atul Temurnikar (16:45):

It’s been too much. We would like to come back to school because that’s where we got friends. That’s where we have all our you know, ecosystems of learning. And we can learn better in schools rather than sitting at home and signing in, into a zoom session. So I think that’s really a testimonial coming in from various students and parents that the technologies that are being used in the schools are working and the school systems, which are being designed not to tax them or burden them. You know, there’s sometimes what happens is schools in their enthusiasm start putting too much of tech layers onto the students. So you got like 10 different systems that you need to log in, something for career, something for lessons and homework, something else to talk to the teacher there, you’ve got WhatsApp channels going on, you know, social media fees going on ly, or Instagram’s coming in, you know kind of disturbing all the students.

Atul Temurnikar (17:36):

But I think that’s what we are trying to do, simplify the entire effort in, in the ecosystem of communications, in, in what you’re trying to learn and make it very easy for, for students to kind of, you know, seamlessly move from one place to the other place, be it virtual, be it offline education. And this is where an institution’s tech background really makes a big difference in the way it can be put together. And this is not available of the shelf. Mind you, we’ve got our own technology company which has close to about 80 software developers working for us fulltime, and they build up bridges and they build the technologies for us so that everything can be managed very coherently seamlessly across and the information and the services cetera can be provided to students in a much more efficient way.

Sam Demma (18:26):

That’s awesome. How did your school’s transition during the COVID 19 pandemic when that all unfolded what, what shifted or had to happen or change in your schools?

Atul Temurnikar (18:39):

So we had a very unique experience in, in case of just when the COVID was about to happen, or let me take you to 2018. So during 2018, we actually implemented a new brand new campus called a smart campus in Singapore. And essentially what it does is it has all elements of technology in the classroom, meaning that you can have hybrid lessons in the classroom. Now, people asked us, why did you do it? Were you like, you know, sounded off that COVID is gonna come. And obviously nobody knew COVID is gonna come, but we implemented those technologies to bring in the, what we call as a student exchange programs so that students can sit in their classrooms exchange a, a sort of a lecture, or, you know, have a joint lecture on some topic with any other classrooms of any other campuses. And when they, with this technology was implemented.

Atul Temurnikar (19:31):

And just about when the COVID happened in the Jan of Feb of 2020, we already had the underlying technology in place. All we had to do was just roll it out to all the users. It was probably pre COVID rolled out to about 20% of the users. And then we overnight within a week I think Japan was the first country that immediately applied to lockdowns. And as soon as we got a lockdown message and we said, everything is closed down, we took just seven days. Our tech team was fabulous. It took seven days implemented the zoom, what we call the zoom webinar sessions across all campuses. And everybody was on virtual, just a maximum a week of kind of interruption. And, and that really gave a huge head start because it meant that the students that did not have any negative impact of the COVID, especially during when many countries were under lockdown and, you know, like every country due to regulations and how the things were evolving were actually bringing in the reversals and lockdowns at a different rate and a different pace. So that helped us. And we were able to make sure that every single student was on virtual, every single teacher was able to provide those tutorials and hold the classrooms without actually missing out on any single period. I think that’s how it really helped us. And the parents did recognize that we were very quick to come back with this virtual concept, and that was very helpful to everyone and highly appreciate it across the communities.

Sam Demma (21:12):

This is amazing roughly how many students are across all the different campuses. Like, do you know some of the numbers around, you know, how many students are involved? I think you said there’s roughly 30 fives, 35 campuses or schools now.

Atul Temurnikar (21:27):

Yeah. 35 campuses. And we’ve got close to about 31,500 students.

Sam Demma (21:33):

Wow. That’s this is awesome. Take me back to year one of, of starting this, did it start with one campus and like, how has the growth continued over the past 20 years?

Atul Temurnikar (21:49):

So when we started with the first campus I think on day one, we probably had just about under 50 students. And, but by the end of first year, we were almost like three 50 to 400 students in the first campus. And at the word of mouth really was extremely beneficial to us because the value proposition was so similarly compelling that the word of mouth really was like a typical social media wildfire. You know, it, it just went around everywhere and we didn’t have to do any marketing. In fact, the first five years of us campus, we were with zero marketing costs and a hundred percent word of mouth. And, and of course, when we started expanding to other countries, again, it was a action of border mouth, as we were being invited to Japan and Malaysia to come and set up campuses because they said, this is great.

Atul Temurnikar (22:38):

You know, we would love to have international education, but we’d love to kind of, you know, get it at the right, right price point. And that was what we were able to deliver. So in a way it was a great experiment that we started and we were able to make sure that it was sustainable. It was not something like a fly by night kind of operator idea that, you know, after two years, just, you just raise your hands and say, sorry, but my idea was different. You know, we can’t run the schools this way. <Laugh> so I think that way it was extremely you know, well planned and well executed. And we had a fantastic team that was doing work on the job on the ground, making sure that, you know, every aspect of these infant stages of every school, you know, the early years of every school, the first two to four years were taken care of with all diligence, as well as making sure that everybody was pretty satisfied with it.

Sam Demma (23:32):

What does a day in the life of a student, on one of these campuses look like, and does it differ at all from other schools? Like I know here in Canada, you know, our schools are quad master based, meaning students will, you know, do four classes per semester. And it, the school is broken down into the school year is broken down into two, like two sections of, of four classes each. Some schools here even do eight courses per semester. I’m curious to know what does the average day look like for a student in one of your school campuses?

Atul Temurnikar (24:12):

So you know, in as opposed to four quads, we have three terms in a year and these are organized obviously by four months each and we offer multiple curriculums. So each curriculum has a different start timing for it. For example, IB starts somewhere around July or August, depending on which country, which campus, and the, the way, if you look at it as a, a day in life of a student is, is basically trying to the students would be basically coming to the schools. And you know, they have these terms and within each terms, they have the monthly units. And then within each monthly units, they have the weekly units. So in a way it would be, you know, the minimum unit would be like a week and during a week, then they would have their plans and academy calendars.

Atul Temurnikar (25:04):

They need to finish up those classes periods. They need to be able to achieve a certain predefined learning outcomes. And then they proceed onto the next week. So it’s almost like a week by week scheduling that goes on, but it takes sure that the students have enough bandwidth and enough kind of know buffer time for them to be able to complete that week’s period and then be able to take off to the next week. So to the students, it is pretty seamless, but actually when the teachers are looking at it, it’s pretty much week by week. And making sure that, you know, you might have some sudden changes and sudden closure of schools because of maybe COVID issues or whatever it is, but then they wanna make sure that, you know, you are completely following the calendar all the way to make sure that you end it on the right times within that month and within those terms.

Atul Temurnikar (25:56):

And, and so there’s a discipline involved to make sure that it works. And also from a student point of view, it’s kind of, I would say a bit more structured in a much more peaceful way so that the students don’t really get P down by too much of workloads. You know, there are different learning spaces that every student has, their speed varies from student to student. So the system allows for everybody to kind of, and we are not a selective school in many of the campuses, or in fact, in all of the campuses, we are not a selective school. So we, we take in students who overcome to us and we make sure that they get the best out of this education and, and they, they can learn incrementally much more than that, what they would’ve learned in any other school in the neighborhood. So that’s one of value prop is to the students and that’s how they experience it.

Sam Demma (26:49):

That’s awesome. It, yeah, it’s, it’s so fascinating and cool to hear about this network of schools, and I hope it continues to expand and ma makes a significant impact, not only in, in Asia, but, you know, con continues the branch into Europe and hopefully in, in north America. It’s yeah, I think it’s really needed. It’s something that’s that that’s making a difference right now. You mentioned one of the schools that will be featured in a little documentary as well. I’m curious to know a little bit more about that.

Atul Temurnikar (27:22):

Yeah. So, you know, we, we operate out of the main headquarters are based out of Singapore and Singapore, as you know, in Asia and in the world, it’s called a smart nation, right? It’s one of those most happening countries in the world you know, great living indexes the best business environments, you know, it’s been tops in many, many areas. And I think one of the things that we think is to really create schools, which are marque schools in terms of the smart aspect of it, and that’s how we created the smart campus. And we took about two years to design it in about three years to construct it. And, and so we completed that in 2018. So the one of the TV channels came to know about this smart campus. And probably they read about it, or they were interested in how smart campuses or some people may call it digital campuses.

Atul Temurnikar (28:23):

But I I’m, I’m referring to smart because use the right amount of technology to deliver the right amount of learning outcomes. And so they picked it up and they reached out to us and they said, well, you have a smart campus in a country called Singapore and your country is known as the smart nation. Would you like to feature your campus on our channel? And we said, yes. Now we had agreed to that pre COVID and fortunately COVID happened. So they let the COVID pass. And then they came back to the post COVID period, and now they will be showing that documentary on the net geo channel, the national geo channel, sometime it would be scheduled from August mid August onwards.

Sam Demma (29:06):

Wow. That’s awesome. It’s that, that’s very exciting when, when you say smart campus and then you use the word digital, is it, is it all a digital experience or do students actually go to this campus?

Atul Temurnikar (29:21):

Yeah. So a simple definition between what a smart is and digital is everything that is smart has to be digital about it. Cool. right now that’s one second thing is why it is smart and not just digital is because it carries a huge amount of analytics mm-hmm <affirmative> and today’s context. You could call it artificial collisions, you could call it you know, data analytics, or we call it simply data analytics, everything that we do, we measure everything that we measure. We know what we are doing, good, what we are doing bad, or what we are doing average. We pick up all the averages and all the things, which we are not doing good, pick it up, feed it back into the system and let everybody improve on it. And that includes student teachers, everybody, including us and me. And that is how we make the system smart.

Atul Temurnikar (30:07):

Every aspect of the functionality of this goal becomes a measurable with performance analytics and to be able to, you know, craft out the necessary strategies to make that whole thing work. So that way it is a smart campus. And when, when this documentary comes out, you will see how every technology has been used in a particular way, whether it is a sports basketball game, right? We use the same technology that NBA Lakers and many of the NBA teams use whether it is soccer. You know, when you are playing games on the court, actually it’s recording the whole game via tokens and via technologies onto computers and servers. And you can play back, replay back the games, and you can see the player performances. Now that is the analytical aspect of the game. And that is extremely important to a child or student, the moment they played a game. So these analytics were not available. If you just play a normal game with the coaches giving you instructions

Atul Temurnikar (31:10):

That would actually mean that the coaches will be, you’ll be relying on the aspect of what the coaches are gonna tell you, but here not only coaches are able to tell you more pinpointed data, but they’re able to tell you, these are your strengths. These are your weaknesses. These are your improvement areas, come and prepare for it. So the next game you can do better than this. So there’s a very clear measurement. So I think not just sports and fine arts in, in academic aspects of the learning everywhere, we use smart technologies and in our technologies really measure everything student wise and make sure that the data we can give it to them is in a performance improvement more. And so therefore every child is more excited to see, okay, tell me, what else can I do teach? Can I, can I do something else different? Tell me where I can improve. So it becomes very, self-driven motivated kind of exercise rather than somebody come and, you know, knocks on your head and says, you know, you’re not good in this. You’re not good in that. And, and probably you’re good for nothing. And then you start this negative aspects of, you know, demotivational theory and, and really that’s not required. So student can see what they need to do. And, and, and these analytical tools are very, very effective in, in making sure it’s a self-motivated improvement.

Sam Demma (32:24):

You’ll have to share the documentary with me when it comes out. I can put a link to it in the featured article that we do on this podcast interview. Cause I, I would love to watch it and I’m sure other educators would as well. If, if someone is listening to this and wants to reach out, ask you a question, connect and have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Atul Temurnikar (32:46):

I think they can get in touch with us on LinkedIn and they can also get in touch with us through our websites or they can email it to me at atul@myglobalschool.org.

Sam Demma (33:00):

Awesome. Atul, thank you so much for taking the time this evening for you to come on the podcast. It means the world to me. The, the work you’re doing is amazing. It’s phenomenal, and I hope it continues to spread. Please keep doing the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Atul Temurnikar (33:16):

Thank you so much. And thanks for having me. It was wonderful talking to you.

Sam Demma (33:21):

Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you or someone, you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the high performing educator awards. Go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022. And I’m hoping you, or someone you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Atul Temurnikar

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

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

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

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):
Right.


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):
Great.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Ron LeClair

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.