With four of the five-person School District 69 (Qualicum) board of education coming in new after November’s election, current chair Eve Flynn admits it will be a very different board.
Flynn, the only returning member, said some things may change but it is a collective board and she’s confident once the new members get up to speed they will all work together.
“The people have spoken, the OCQE (Oceanside Communities for Quality Education) worked hard and now they’re at the table,” she said of the group that ran against the incumbents.
“There are not going to be easy decisions over the next few years,” she said, highlighting declining enrolment and therefore funding, the ongoing facilities review and community dialogue and the stalled provincial negotiations with the teachers’ union.
“I hope we move forward at a cautious pace and don’t make decisions that we regret later,” Flynn said, adding they will get a better sense of things once they get into the budget process in February.
New trustee Julie Austin said she is excited and happy about the election and she hopes they can keep some of the momentum going to establish better communication between the board and the community.
She said this will be a multi-pronged approach that may include board meetings at the schools and active online forums where the board, staff and wider community can discuss issues.
Ross Milligan similarly said his main priority off the top will be “getting everybody involved in the decision-making process.”
His big picture goal is to create an environment where everybody from teachers to students are happy going to school.
“I go to bed at night thinking about all the things we can be doing,” he said, but he wants the community to help shape a vision before he gets too specific.
Barry Kurland agreed about being more open and said that while he’s pleased to win, he has a realistic sense of the huge job.
“I feel we’ll accomplish a lot but we have to work within the constraints we have, it’s not going to happen in the first week.”
That said, Kurland, who was a teacher for 30 years, said he’s eager to get going and gave the example of tight timelines for proposed new courses, specifically at Kwalikum Secondary. To start a new course next September, they have to be making decisions by the early spring, which is only a couple board meetings away, he said.
Final new trustee, Lynnette Kershaw was similarly cautious about specific goals and said she feels like they’re in no man’s land after the busy campaign but not yet sworn in as trustees, which they will do at their inaugural meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Parksville Forum.
She said priorities will be “looking at how to make the school board model more inclusive,” maybe through restructuring the public question period and online initiatives, as well as finding ways to increase revenue.
She said the fact that four of the five board members have already worked together with the OCQE over the last year is a good sign but stressed they are all still individuals, not a single issue slate.
She said that while it would have been wonderful if the fifth OCQE member had won his seat, it will be valuable to have Flynn with her depth of experience after nine years on the board.