With the closure of four elementary schools in District 69 and the provincial teacher’s strike, the local board of education has been in the spotlight more than usual this year, but what is their usual role? The NEWS asked the candidates.
“The role of the board is to ensure some local control,” said Elaine Young, a former teacher. “Our job is governance, not overstepping management. We have to assume management knows what they are doing and focus on governing the district and improving student achievement. My goal is to work collaboratively to ensure local control over the very small amount of the budget we have control over.”
She said she would spend her first year learning district details about assessment, reading levels, graduation rates and transition and focusing on the current issues.
Asked how much the board should be involved in advocacy and pushing the provincial government on funding or other issues, Young said the BCSTA (provincial trustee organization) “is the proper channel to work through.”
“My role is to use those resources most effectively for students.”
On the other hand, 20-year-old candidate Jacob Gair said he would like to see the board “pressure the government and the population for more resources and funding.”
“The closing of schools was unfortunate but necessary,” said Gair. “I wasn’t a fan of that move, but with the decline in enrolment there’s not much else they could have done. It’s essential that they hold onto those properties for when enrolment is up in the coming years — they also might be a good source of income.”
He said the board needs to find more funding somehow, whether through pressuring the government or appealing to the public, adding that the teachers were on strike for more resources, which they shouldn’t have to be fighting for, that the board is a good forum for that.
Willow Bloomquist, a young mother who ran in the previous election, agreed the board could fight harder.
“The last board made some large moves that were absolutely required to get us off the defensive, we’d been on the defensive for a long time and thats never a strong position.”
She said the board now has a chance to step back and fight for their students.
She said that while the government keeps the board “on a short leash, through the requirement for balanced budgets and the threat of firing the board, I don’t have to sit back and agree.”
She said that while she would still work to manage the resources and balance the budget, “it’s my intention not to kowtow to the government, while providing responsible stewardship for the district I will fight for more.”
“This school board has been developing relationships and finding ways to do more with less from the government,” said long time district parent and volunteer John Hildebrandt, who was quick to point out that as an outsider he’s not up on all the details.
He said that under that increasing pressure the board is “in a good position to continue to think outside the box,” and that they are “known around the province for their forward thinking.”
“There’s been a lot of verbiage around statistics, so one of my priorities will be to see the kids as individuals, not just statistics.”
Julie Austin said “the most important roll of a trustee is being that voice for their community, to make sure the needs of the community are met.”
“We’re supposed to be in a co-governance model with the provincial government but that has stagnated and stumbled quite a bit,” said the only board incumbent having to campaign — Barry Kurland and Eve Flynn were acclaimed.
She said the board “should pressure the government as much as the community needs, that is the roll of trustees, to go out and speak for the community.”
“The province has attempted to cow local boards,” she said explaining individual trustees or boards don’t have much power, “the provincial voice of the boards combined might carry some weight.”
• The District Parent Advisory Council is hosting an all-candidate’s forum for trustees at 7 p.m., Monday, November 3 in the Oceanside Elementary School gym.