Doorstep Postings: Nicole Dason is looking to improve the underfunded Toronto public schools standing in the shadow of York University

This is the seventh in a series of opinion columns on Ontario’s 2022 municipal elections, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

So, why is Nicole Dason, a Jewish banking professional with experience working for TD Securities and CIBC, running for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee in Humber River-Black Creek? 

“It’s true that I don’t live there,” she says. “But I have spent a lot of time working with the current trustee, and I believe that the community deserves the same strong representation as before.”

That current office-holder is TDSB vice-chair Chris Mammoliti, who’s now aiming to retake the Ward 7 City Council seat that his controversy-courting father Giorgio lost four years ago. The elder Mammoliti, who has run under both left and right party banners during his political career, is currently in a four-way race to become the next mayor of Wasaga Beach.  

Dason, a founder of the Banting Park Homeowners Association, is a political newcomer, but she has also cultivated support from all over the political landscape. An alum of the Women In Politics program from the Canadian Jewish Political Action Committee (CJPAC), she has ties to York Centre city councillor James Pasternak, and an endorsement from longtime Liberal MP Judy Sgro.

The ward, which shares a border with York Centre—and includes York University—is apparently struggling with underpopulation in schools. This leads to less funding being available. And that creates a vicious cycle.  

“Unfortunately, there’s a long standing stigma attached to the schools here,” Dason says.

She wants to continue the work of bringing in French immersion programs, which have only recently arrived in the area, as well as other specialty programs and trade schools. 

“There’s definitely an aspect of systemic racism,” she observes. Children who wanted to participate in French immersion would need to travel approximately 45 minutes to Newtonbrook Secondary School, the closest one to offer the program. “That’s definitely not fair.” 

While local advocacy is part of Dason’s campaign, she’s been spending a lot of time getting to know the community, whether attending a garden party for a longtime resident or visiting the site of some of the oldest trees in Ontario. 

“I am keen to see the Emery Park project come to fruition and went to visit the site with much interest,” she says. The First Nations park, which will be located in a local hydro corridor, is supported by the Mississaugas of the Credit, Six Nations, and the Huron Wendat First Nation.

If elected, Dason says she can count on Ward 5 Trustee Alexandra Lulka Rotman as an ally at the TDSB. 

“We need a school board that is not just better funded, but that is inclusive and provides a safe space for everyone,” she says, referencing the ongoing issue of antisemitism at the board. “It’s important to bring decisions at the TDSB back into the community instead of making unilateral decisions.” She also wants to apply her expertise in the banking sector to the TDSB’s ongoing financial issues.

Dason says that her decision to step up and improve the schools had a lot to do with wanting to improve the experience of her two young children, and her upbringing in the Jewish community. Her grandparents, Willy and Ruth Silverberg, were founding members of Beth Emeth Synagogue. And she has fond memories of Hebrew school classes at Beit Rayim Synagogue in Vaughan, Ont. 

“Growing up, I was always told, ‘If you don’t like something, go out and change it.’”  

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.