As mayor of Harbour Grace, chief development officer for the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation, and now president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLFSC) – Don Coombs has a lot on his plate.
On Thursday, Oct. 25, it was announced that Don Coombs had been acclaimed president of NLFSC, alongside David Hillier of Grand Falls-Windsor, who was elected as vice-president of the federation.
Coombs spoke with The Compass after the announcement on what this new role will entail, and how he plans to manage this, alongside the rest of the endeavours he dedicates his time to:
Question: What are your responsibilities as president, and what do you bring to the table for the NLFSC?
Coombs: Starting off in school councils 20-years ago, I took over the chairpersonship of St. Francis school council, and 10-years ago I took over the chairpersonship of Carbonear Collegiate school council. I got approached about four years ago to put my name forward (for presidency of the federation), and I said no – I just wasn’t ready for that.
Later, I got approached again, and after giving it some thought, I realized we’ve got so many things going on in our schools – the bullying, the bussing, the lack of resources, we all know what the stories are. I truly felt that the NLFSC should represent every parent and every child, and I don’t think we’re strong enough as a body.
We should be having a major, major voice in decisions relating to those things, plus a whole lot more. I see me offering a leadership role, moving us along as an organization to becoming a major player in there with government in terms of education. We represent a lot of people in this province – parents, children, caregivers – so I’d like to see things move forward for us.
Question: What are some of your top priorities, and things you hope to address, as president?
Coombs: One of my primary concerns is how we go about getting more schools involved … I see low participation, low registration, and I see that as a problem. I think I can lead the way to get those numbers up, and get the school councils voting on issues together, and I think we can make that change.
We’re one of the few organizations that represent these big of numbers, and we should have a major voice on every issue within schools in the province.
Bullying is a big one too, of course. We’ve got to find out how to deal with that, and to be honest, it’s never going to be 100 per cent fixed – but it’s important that we address it however we can.
I think some schools have a real lack of resources, a lack of funding, and teacher allocations are not good. Those are the issues, right now, that people are talking about. I just think that every child in the province should have equal opportunities in education.
Question: How do you plan to balance these new responsibilities on top of your roles as mayor of Harbour Grace and chief development officer for the Trinity Conception Health Foundation? Are there any specific challenges you’re anticipating?
Coombs: Well, most importantly, I’ve got a great wife who supports me, and always did. From the early days, she’s always known that these things are a part of my life too.
I’ve got no toys – no skidoos, or quads, or anything like that. My life revolves around organizations, and being able to help in a positive, professional manner.
We can all make a difference, and if we can make a difference in the school system, then that’s just another step for me.
I’m busy because I want to be busy – my job? I have the best job in the world, and I deal with positives every day. My time goes toward the betterment of the community. I’m not going to be here forever, but if I can make a difference, then that’s all I want.”