In the past three years, we have seen the repercussions of decisions made by a Board of Education and how things like closing a school (or four) can affect the vibrancy of the community, the economy, and the perception of a community, town or city’s health and growth. School boards and local municipalities must work together to promote the robust qualities of their communities.
When I ran for school trustee in 1999, 2002 and 2005, I looked for places to be heard beyond parent groups, many of whom did not want to hear from school trustee candidates for fear of being seen as ‘too political’. Many people I talked to on the street and at other gatherings told me they didn’t vote for any school trustee because, as a voter, they didn’t have kids in school so it wasn’t an issue that affected them.
Once elected, I recall the difficulty our board had trying to raise awareness of what was coming in terms of district-wide retirements of skilled administrators (succession planning) and declining enrolment (threat of school closure) and a variety of other issues (like charging for busing). Even with articles in the paper, press releases, advertisements and announcements it was hard to raise awareness. Time and again, community members without school-age children declared that it wasn’t their issue, so they didn’t want to express an opinion or become involved.
The Board of Education of School District 69 employs more people than any other single business in Parksville, Qualicum and the RDN combined. They handle a taxpayers’ budget of $49 million. They represent taxpayers from Nanoose Bay to Qualicum Bay to Whiskey Creek to Lasqueti Island; the exact same taxpayers as all seven electoral areas combined.
And yet the chair of the Board of Education is not shown on The NEWS’ letters page along with the MP, MLAs, mayors and RDN chair. And candidates for school trustee are not invited to participate in all-candidates meetings. Where can the electorate ask the questions they need to ask of school trustee candidates?
This election, please make your voice heard at the school board table, whether you have children in school or not.
Invite school trustee candidates to your service clubs, your neighbourhood groups and your all-candidates meetings. Ask your questions; they are valid whether you have children in school or not. It really does concern all of us.