Andrew Ault, 26, is a candidate for Algoma District School Board trustee, who believes he brings experienced leadership, fresh insight, a commitment to communication, and a focus on education spending on communities that need it most.
He said, “I think the thing that really separates me, aside from my background and age, is a commitment to consult a wide range of students and parents on issues, vast knowledge of other school boards and programs in the province that address many challenges unique to their areas, and a clear results-orientation towards student success and literacy development.”
His top priorities include ensuring the next 3-year strategic plan “doesn’t sit on the shelf, but directly impacts students” and allocating funding more equitably to communities that need it most. Ault said, “It’s about making sure that every student has the best possible opportunity to succeed. We already have great teachers, and newly renovated libraries at most of our schools to allow STEAM programming and collaboration for our new world. Now is the time to tie everything together, with programming, to improve student outcomes.”
Passionate about education
Andrew Ault is passionate about literacy and science promotion, and has three master’s degrees, including an MA, MBA, and MSc. While working full time in health economics and administration, he is also pursing a PhD in finance from Carleton University.
He jumped at the opportunity to teach part-time as a lecturer at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus, where he commutes to once a week from Elliot Lake. He started teaching college at the age of 22 and has taught about 15 college courses and developed curriculum at a regional college.
Access to education
Despite his impressive academic achievements, he said he did poorly during his first year. “I actually failed my first year but was given a second chance – and one I never forgot.”
A “late bloomer”, Ault is a firm believer in access to education. In Thunder Bay he was involved with non-profits that worked closely with the school boards, children at risk, and literacy partners, to implement innovative programs that address the unique needs of the region.
He said, “Not everyone has the same start in life, but we all have the same desire for a better world. When I am out in the region for work, I often make use of various public libraries so that my data bill isn’t crazy. Along the way, I meet quite the number of young families – some of whom aren’t the wealthiest, but equally committed to their children’s success.”
He feels that there is a lot of opportunity to strengthen elementary and secondary education at ADSB, especially for students in the Elliot Lake region.
Addressing community consultation
If elected, Ault’s first priority would be helping students and teachers with mental health issues arising out of the pandemic. “From COVID-19, rates of anxiety, depression, and overall mental well-being have sincerely worsened; so, my first priority is to work with the community in developing a Mental health Action Plan, something in the works at many other boards across the province.”
Ault also highly suggested a need for “more collaboration and consultation with all members of the community is a concern felt by almost everyone I talk to.”
The ADSB has a budget of over $182 million dollars, much larger than the municipal budget of Elliot Lake. Ault believes that schools in smaller communities need a more equitable share of discretionary funding, programming, and attention. “Parents, students, teachers and residents-at-large, need to be consulted first-hand – including groups of students and teachers who may be less likely to participate in things like PTA meetings. This will allow the Board to better understand barriers to achievement, so that we can address them more accurately.”
Bridging the gaps
The performance of Elliot Lake schools, and indeed many of those in the Algoma District are far below averages on provincial standardized tests. According to the Fraser Institute, Elliot Lake Secondary School for example, ranks in the bottom 10% of high schools in Ontario, while Central Avenue elementary school ranks in the bottom 0.2%, only 19 other elementary schools in Ontario perform worse.
While acknowledging “standardized tests don’t tell the whole story, the extremism clearly tells there is an issue.” Ault aims to focus keenly on improving literacy and science performance, by collaborating with parents, students, and teachers.
As an Alumni of the Board, Ault would like to see examination of the implementation of unique programming models proven elsewhere in the province, like the many unique programs in Northwestern Ontario, as it enters a new Strategic Plan.
“Our new libraries have dedicated STEAM collaboration space, and developing programming is needed to make good use of it. To do that, we need to listen to our community to clearly identify the issues, look at what is going elsewhere, and implement solutions that work.”
He points to the successful robotics program in Sault Ste. Marie, which is supported by many local businesses; as well as programs elsewhere focused on inclusion in science and promotion of literacy, as examples of programs delivered elsewhere that showcase STEAM engagement. Ault said, “It really helps students see a future and be motivated to do well in school. I think the real fruits are seeing higher-post secondary enrollments as a result. He also pointed to other boards implementing after-school programs dedicated to literacy improvement, school transitions and Indigenous inclusion.
Ault said, “These may not be specific programs that would be delivered here per-se, but we need a conversation about program development in general and be as proactive as other boards in developing unique solutions for our unique needs; including something that clearly addresses the gaps in literacy and science comprehension.”
“Overall, success in any public role comes down to being collaborative – and bringing new insight to the problems we see. For me, I’d really want to find out where students and parents see the most pressing gaps, and then look at ways we can address those by looking at what works elsewhere.”
Andrew Ault is running as a candidate for Trustee, Algoma District School Board on October 24th.