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Education

Newmarket education advocate joins race for trustee

Candidate Shameela Shakeel says more focus is needed on collaboration, relationships, less on ‘individualism and capitalism’

Newmarket resident Shameela Shakeel has advocated in the public education space for years.

Spearheading local groups like York Communities for Public Education, she has spoken out on issues like school violence and pandemic management.

Now, she said it feels right to try to go to a new level and run for Newmarket’s trustee seat on the York Region District School Board.

“I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work already,” she said, adding that she hopes to “step into a trustee role to help the board continue to build on the work they’ve been doing.”

Shakeel registered as a candidate earlier this month, after incumbent Linda Gilbert decided not to run again. She will be running against Pamela McCarthy.

The mother of four has had her kids go through the YRDSB school system, where she said she has served for years as a parent council member.

She said she wants to focus on new things as a trustee.

“What I really want to do is continue to urge people to focus less on individualism and capitalism. It can’t be always, only be about money and competition… Often those are the things that lead to oppression and unhappiness. We’re going to focus more on building and maintaining relationships,” she said. “We have to have real, meaningful dialogue and change and make sure that we’re actually meeting the needs of people.”

The candidate said she has spent plenty of time attending virtual board meetings and hopes to continue working on dismantling anti-Black racism and supporting Indigenous communities.

“Continuing to foster equity, inclusion,” she said. “Promoting strong mental health, helping our most vulnerable students with special needs. That is something really close to my heart.”

With so many who struggled with virtual learning, she said there will also need to be an effort to help bring those students up to speed.

Schools are also working on policies regarding pandemic safety measures. She said she hopes the board will continue to encourage masking, although recognized mandates will not happen unless the government brings it in.

The trustee run comes after a failed bid to be the Newmarket-Aurora Liberal nominee for this year’s provincial election. Shakeel was disqualified for undisclosed reasons, although she said she believed it was due to her outspoken criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

It is not something Shakeel said she would focus on in this campaign.

“I’m just going to stay positive and focused on fighting for public education,” she said. “If people want to engage in meaningful conversations around (international) issues, I’m happy to do so, but I’m not going to engage in negative, toxic conversations.”

Shakeel said she believes in her record and reputation as an education advocate.

“There are enough Newmarket residents who know everything I’ve been doing already,” she said. “People know I’m really passionate about everything related to public education.”

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