Resident of central Halifax for 30+ years and involved in the public school system for most of that time.
Mother of four kids graduated from or still attending school in the Citadel family.
Chief spokesperson for Saint Mary’s Elementary during the 2008-09 round of school reviews for possible closure.
Participant in Department of Education’s 2009-10 review and revision of the Education Act’s school review policy.
Member and chair of Saint Mary’s Elementary School Advisory Council (SAC) for more than 10 years and PTA prior.
Member of last sitting SAC at Queen Elizabeth High school.
Served two times as a member of Vice-principal Pool Selection Committee for HRSB.
Member of the Joseph Howe Elementary Inner City Education Advisory Committee in the early 1990’s.
Reside on the boundary between Peninsula South and North districts at the Commons.
First-hand experience of supports available to adapt learning to individual needs and personal learning style (adaptations and IPPs).
Experience with creating relationships between Community Services, HRSB, and children in care.
Employed for 30+ years in positions of increasing responsibility from clerical to managerial including: ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists) as Administrative Assistant; CBC TV as Unit Manager for TV News and Current Affairs; and the Lion’s Roar Foundation, a magazine publisher, overseeing its Human Resources and Operations departments.
Why do I want to be an elected school board member?
For as long as I’ve had kids in the school system their school experience has been something to which I’ve devoted a good deal of time and energy: supporting their individual learning, getting acquainted with those in their learning community, and understanding the system within which it all operated. And given that schooling is an item on which $450m. of our provincial and municipal tax dollars get spent, I have a keen interest in seeing that it gets spent well.
Having now completed one full term (2012-16) and offered and been acclaimed for a second (2016-20) I find myself drawn toward two particular areas of interest: equity and governance. The former is about every child getting what they need and the latter, managing our time and energy in a way that sees as much of our work as possible directly benefitting students.
Why I Got Involved in 2012
Continue the work started by the then sitting elected board. The board of the day had gone a good deal to repair a reputation badly damaged by the previous elected board, disbanded by the Minister of Education in 2006. That decision and the events that led to it struck a blow to the public’s opinion of the institution, their faith in it, and its credibility. The board that served from 2008 to 2012 restored it to respectability, working effectively and respectfully with one another and board staff, and made kids and constituents the focal point of their efforts.
Support and, as recommended by Howard Windsor, probe and challenge staff recommendations. In a 2008 report on governance, Mr. Windsor identified “probing and challenging” as central to the role served by elected board members. It is a key function. Through its sole employee, the superintendent, the elected board sets goals for HRSB, develops policy, and provides budget oversight on behalf of the Minister of Education. The board is also meant to be the eyes and ears for making sure, as Windsor pointed out, that all actions of the administration relate directly to goals set by the elected body.
Offer the experience that came from 20 years of working in a variety of volunteer capacities within the system to benefit district families at the board level. The 2012/13 school year marked the twentieth consecutive year that one and then another of my kids had been at Saint Mary’s Elementary. It was an unusual claim to be able to make, an unusually long period of time to be spent in one school without interruption, but I was happy and grateful to be able to make it. I’d enjoyed my time working on behalf of the system at Saint Mary’s and decided to offer my interest, enthusiasm, and thoughts for more of the same at the board level. It’s been an honour and a privilege to do so.
Areas of Interest
Value and Satisfaction for the Money
Our biggest expense within education is salaries, and within that, teachers. They are our most valuable resource, and we need to do all we can to ensure that teachers are doing what they’re trained and hired to do: teach! They are our richness. Much of what goes on in the classroom is beyond the board’s reach; both the Province and the union have a greater say in that matter. But the board can still be the voice of what is required. As a parent, I feel that the amount of time teachers have to spend on testing, data collection, and reporting is excessive. The Province needs to continue to hear this message and adjust its emphasis on accountability accordingly. In a 2012 study by the Canadian Education Association, an overwhelming number of teachers reported that teaching was something they’d wanted to do their entire lives, they are a uniquely motivated group of professionals, and that their motivation for teaching was to make a difference in the lives of kids. It’s hard for them to do this or remain inspired when weighed down by paperwork. The board needs to advocate on behalf of teachers as teachers. It’s not a question of looking for more from our teachers but of engaging them for the purpose for which they were trained. As teachers!
Development: Capital Expenditures
If I had unused space in one part of my house and a shortage of space in another, I’d probably look at moving things around before deciding to build more space. But building more space seems to be what the board and Province are focused on doing: building new capacity and new schools in outlying areas while the availability of unused space continues on the peninsula. Why not look at using that space? Instead of shutting off rooms within the house and adding to the periphery, why not actively promote the availability of that space? Why not encourage migration from areas of high density to low? This has the potential of alleviating space pressures in outlying schools, breathing new life into peninsular schools, and reducing the Province’s need to spend money building schools wherever developers choose to build subdivisions. There are those who would like the chance to bring their kids from a home that is a distance from work to a school that’s closer to where they spend their work day. The board could look at how it might accommodate this. More thorough use of the physical facilities we have already is important before building more.
Leadership Within Schools
Principals are central to the motivation, morale, and inspiration of staff, kids, and the school community. The process by which these appointments happen needs to be looked at with a view to generating wider interest in the role of leader and ensuring that the best leader gets the job. A principal is like the manager of a company. They are the centre around which all else turns. If something’s off with the principal, it’s off for everyone. It’s a uniquely affecting position. The role calls for a solid administrative generalist with an intimate understanding of the teaching experience and educational requirements ~ but above all, it requires someone who understands and embodies the principles of effective leadership. Not every aspiring principal possesses this quality and the current board-sponsored leadership training does not appear to be enough to engender it. The board needs to look at the process that invites, prepares, and appoints principals to make sure schools are given every advantage when assigned a leader.
District 4: The Geography
Every resident of HRM is immediately in two districts: their municipal council district and their school board district. Each has its own numbering system. The constituents of school board District 4 are the residents of municipal District 7, Peninsula South and Downtown, and municipal District 9, Peninsula West and Armdale. There is one school board member for every two municipal districts.
Halifax Regional School Board District 4 includes:
HRM District 7. This municipal district bisects the peninsula from west to east along Cornwallis, Cogswell and Quinpool and then dips south to Jubilee at Oxford. The district encompasses the entire southern end of the peninsula as defined by this east-west dividing line. District schools include:
Halifax Central Junior High (was Cornwallis)
Gorsebrook Junior High
Inglis Street Elementary
LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary
Saint Mary’s Elementary
Sir Charles Tupper Elementary
HRM District 9. This municipal district starts where District 7 leaves off, heading out Oxford Street to Bayers Road and from there over to Connaught and out to the Windsor Street Exchange. It then doubles back along Joseph Howe to Highway 102, going as far out as Northwest Arm Drive and over to Williams Lake Road. The district encompasses the area described by this boundary on three of its sides and the Northwest Arm on its fourth. District schools include:
St. Agnes Junior High
Chebucto Heights Elementary
Cunard Junior High
John W. MacLeod – Fleming Tower Elementary
“Cindy would make a fantastic board member. She is diligent and extremely interested in the well being of HRM schools. She has been very active for many years at Saint Mary’s Elementary School participating in a number of positions. Her experience, dedication and mindfulness make her an excellent choice.” Michele Gerard, former PTA President Saint Mary’s Elementary and owner, Atlantic News
“Cindy Littlefair has a demonstrated record of commitment to strengthening communities. I can cite many examples; however, these are the first two that come to mind: Cindy worked very hard and effectively on our successful campaign to prevent the closure of Saint Mary’s Elementary School. Cindy also took on a leadership role in organizing a memorial service for Raymond Taavel which helped unite and heal diverse communities. Cindy is a caring community activist who works well with groups of people even when they do not agree with her or each other.” Leonard Preyra, MLA, Halifax Citadel-Sable Island
“As the Municipal Representative for District 12, Halifax- Downtown, I have had the great honour of working with Cindy on several occasions including opposing the attempted closure of Saint Mary’s School. Cindy is a well versed individual with a passion for serving the public. I fully endorse her run for the Halifax Regional School Board and wish her well in her future.” Dawn Sloane, HRM Councillor District 12
“Cindy would be an absolutely excellent choice for the HRSB. Her experience, open-mindedness, willingness to work together, respect for all perspectives and roles, as well as her commitment to public education make her just perfect person for such a role.” Shelley Thompson, Saint Mary’s Elementary PTA
“The first time I met Cindy Littlefair, she was manning a fall fair stall at Saint Mary’s elementary, where she was the chair of the school advisory committee for a number of years. As a next-door neighbour of the school, I have got to know her rather well. She has always impressed me as a dedicated volunteer. Her effectiveness is sharpened by her humour and good-natured ability to effectively get on with people. Saint Mary’s had a near-death experience in 2009 and it was during that time that I offered my services as a member of the school board. Voters wisely preferred David Cameron and he has done an excellent job. I am sure Cindy would be a good successor to him. She was particularly effective in leading Saint Mary’s through the closure threat. During that difficult period, she impressed me as a person and a parent who had the depth of character to see the need for the school board to function effectively for the benefit of all students, not just for those at her school. At the same time, she has earned her spurs as a champion of individual schools and their value as precious community institutions that need to be taken care of. She has proved she can do that.” David Bentley, Publisher, allnovascotia.com