ELECTION 2011: School trustee candidates make their pitch
The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils asked the 16 candidates vying for seats as Greater Victoria school district trustees, “What potential improvements to the education system are you most passionate about and what specific actions would you undertake to implement them if you are elected?”
Here are their responses, edited for length. Candidate Jim Holland did not respond.
- Catherine Alpha*
- David Bratzer
- Tom Ferris*
- Bev Horsman*
- Elaine Leonard*
- Edith Loring-Kuhanga
- Michael McEvoy*
- Diane Mcnally
- Deborah Nohr
- Peg Orcherton*
- Rob Paynter
- David Pitre*
- David Rand
- Richard Stern
- John Young*
Incumbents denoted by *
I am most passionate about funding for students with special needs that meets the real cost of giving these children equitable access to a quality education. Bev Horsman and I moved a motion that set up the needs budget committee of the board. Part of the work being done by this committee is to advocate for funding to fully support the learning of students with special needs. I work with these students and I know the challenges they face every day.
I am passionate about evidence-based student drug education. Unfortunately, the district policy on substance abuse is so old it still references the Narcotics Control Act (a federal law that was repealed in the mid-1990s). Students are getting suspended based on a law that does not exist anymore. Updating the district policy on substance abuse may be one of the best ways to improve student health and safety.
The most important improvement to the K-12 education system is in the area of improvements to literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to Grade 3. More support in the classroom is needed where there is a great diversity of learning needs. The board needs to continue to emphasize the importance of success for our early learners when meeting with the minister, with ministry staff, with parent groups and with fellow trustees around the province.
I’m passionate about many changes. I would like to see more support for children with special needs so they have an equal opportunity to succeed. I intend to advocate for full funding for the outcome of the teachers’ contract. I would like to work on the establishment of a co-op education agreement between our aboriginal education department and Camosun’s Access Aboriginal Education and Community Connections department to help improve the grad rate.
Everyone associated with the public school system agrees on one thing: the funding formula needs a drastic overhaul. In order to optimize the learning for all students, supports need to be in place each and every day. We need stable funding we can count on to improve our methods and delivery. The board has started a dialogue with the province about how we see the new funding model being developed. I would like to be at the table to continue that discussion.
I believe we need to fix the funding formula as it is not working. This includes the formula for students with special needs. We need to address class size and composition since it affects all students in the classroom. Aboriginal students continue to face racism, low expectations and low graduation rates. I have already started discussions with aboriginal parents and will continue to meet with them to determine how we can improve attitudes and retention.
Our graduation rates are good but not nearly good enough. We are not realizing the talent and potential of too many students. My passion as school trustee is to engage more students in learning by broadening their choices. We have excellent sports academies, serving the passions of many children that keep them connected to school. We could widen this approach to encompass more technically focused programs that take our career prep programs to a higher level.
I want to see Reading Recovery continue and be implemented in every K-5 school. I want a return to previous funding levels for the learning needs of students, as well as a return to specific funding for students identified as learning-disabled in any way. Parents and school staff need a detailed line-by-line budget for every school, and need details of staffing for students with special needs. I want more teachers and education assistants, and fewer iPads.
Certainly the underfunding of public education is the very first priority. I will commit on a variety of fronts to raise public awareness about the impact of underfunding for every child and the absolute necessity of changing the funding formulas. Re-engaging parents and the public with trustees in a respectful manner is another top priority. It is only possible to do our best creative problem-solving in the context of a positive, respectful engaging, discussion with one another.
I am passionate about the needs of all of our students. Proper resources are necessary in classrooms on a full-time basis in order that each and every one of our children have the opportunity to maximize their opportunities. It has been a longtime dream of mine that every child has an individualized education program as they are all special. While I recognize this as a costly endeavour I believe it will pay off for society in the long term.
For me any issue in the education system must be viewed through the lens of students’ needs. The most glaring issue facing our public school system is chronic underfunding combined with downloading of costs and the imposition of new charges. As your trustee I will be tireless in pursuing a provincial budget allocation based upon a ground-up needs assessment that begins with determining the resources needed to support student success.
I have very strong beliefs about the way we work with one another. I seek the opportunity for collaboration, solution oriented work and peaceful problem solving. I believe trust is a fundamental element. I believe the government must engage trustees as partners in the governance of the public school system. I will urge our board to take advantage of our proximity to the legislature and continue the dialogue with the education minister.
I really believe the time has come in B.C. for a “white paper” on education. I will pursue and advocate this until the Minister of Education agrees, or gets sick of looking at me.
I am most passionate about education funding. It seems to me discriminatory practices, including class size and composition regulations, are stop-gap measures to compensate for a lack of adequate human resources. We would not be arguing over how many students with designations were in each classroom if the resources were there. My primary goal will be to advocate more professional educators in schools, and more accessible training for instructors.
I would eliminate the use of the letter grade F, indicating failure, from the entire system. There is no satifactory explanation, or definition, of what the letter grade F means. According to existing regulations, the letter grade F means a mark of less than 50 per cent, which means failure. There is no logic in this type of marking system that does not distinguish the subtle differences between student knowledge at the pass level (50 per cent), and the fail level (49 per cent).