Student trustess?

Parskville Qualicum Beach School board debates merit of adding a student to the board table

Whether the local school board will bring student trustees to their table was a topic of debate last week.

Trustee Julie Austin brought forward a motion that the board of education explore with local student groups whether they would be interested in being student trustees. And further, if there is interest, that they adopt the policies and guidelines to make it happen. Ontario has mandated that school boards have student representation, Austin said, and Vancouver school board is running a pilot project to have a student trustee on their board.

But the idea didn’t fly with trustee Barry Kurland.

“To me this is a motion that looks really good on the surface, but I don’t see it really enhancing student achievement or helping the board in its work,” he said. The students wouldn’t have a vote, he said, and couldn’t come to in-camera meetings, and the population of students in Vancouver is far greater than the population of students in this district, he said. There are other opportunities through local Parent Advisory Committees and community forums where it would be more appropriate for students, he added.

Trustee Ross Milligan disagreed with Kurland, and said the trustee’s primary role is advocating for students and having their opinions would be helpful.

Acting superintendent Rollie Koop said he didn’t want to speak for or against the motion but challenged the trustees to ascertain whether asking a student to take time out of their schedule and sit in on the meetings, met their needs.

“Some of us struggle to be here for three hours,” he said.

Austin responded that some of the students in the district are more adult than many adults she knows.

“They have opinions, they have ideas, and they should be heard,” she said.

Chair Lynette Kershaw said she supported the motion but asked Austin to separate it into two motions, the first to see if there was interest, and the second to adopt policy and guidelines to implement the positions. The motion to gauge interest passed with only Kurland voting against, while Eve Flynn was absent.