Meet Your Candidates: Greater Victoria trustee candidates outline priorities

Voters will elect nine trustees for the Greater Victoria School District

Voters will elect nine trustees for the Greater Victoria School District. We asked each candidate what changes they would like to see in the school district and to outline their top three key initiatives. These are their responses.

Nicole Duncan

1. More supports in our classrooms that promote student well-being and achievement.

2. Technology that respects the privacy rights of those that learn and work in our district.

3. Transparent and accountable decision making by the board and proactive engagement with all members of our educational community.

I plan to champion initiatives that encourage adequate supports in the classroom, student well-being and the use of technology that respects the privacy and security of those that learn and work in our district. At the board level I would like to see fewer in camera meetings, timely and fulsome sharing of information and more opportunities for staff, students and parents to participate in decision making. For me this requires the board to actively engage staff, students and parents in meaningful consultation in order to identify issues and find collaborative solutions.

Aidan Elkin

1. Land-Use and Facility Planning

2. Inclusion

3. Stakeholder Engagement

School infrastructure often plays an important role in people’s lives. Not just for students, parents and educational partners, but community members using the facilities as well; a local sports team using school fields, community festivals using school lands, student dance recitals, or simply facilities to adequately facilitate learning, school facilities are important.

Long-term land-use and infrastructure planning will provide students the facilities necessary for optimal learning environments and extra-curricular activities, while also enabling increased community access to educational services and facilities. Part of this includes further developing collaborative win-win partnerships with community organizations to provide diverse learning experiences, supports and opportunities to students, teachers and public. A school boundary review must be prioritized.

Additionally, I firmly believe that facilitating increased school board engagement with education partners, students, parents and community will make for more inclusive and better decision making.

Tom Ferris

I am a former business person with strong links to the community both through Junior Achievement BC and as a past president of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. I was a PAC president at my childrens’ elementary school, Ecole Quadra Elementary. I look forward to lending my experience as a former chair of the Greater Victoria Board of Education the newly elected board. Two priorities for me will be “exemplary governance” and an examination of all aspects of the strategic plan. Math proficiency and success for aboriginal learners are two areas of particular concern for me. I am proud to have served with the previous board and believe there are well-qualified candidates seeking to be elected this year.

Vincent Gornall

1. Optimize the use of school facilities to accommodate diverse community needs.

2. Increase access to high quality before and after school care.

3. Expand opportunities for education around food systems and the natural environment.

When I talk with other parents about the school district, the most common problem I hear that they face is finding before and after school care. The single most important change that the school board can make during this term is to increase access to before and after school care. Since I have been a member of several local neighbourhood associations, I will also bring a unique perspective to the board that emphasizes the importance of using school facilities to accommodate diverse community needs. As a trustee, I will endeavour to ensure that we collaborate with our neighbours and other levels of government to enhance the publicly owned spaces that we share.

Angie Hentze

1. To increase communication and collaboration between trustees and members of the school district – parents, students, teachers, staff, and community members.

2. To find a way to make space available for out-of-school care and early learning that is cost-effective and doesn’t negatively impact the K-12 mandate.

3. Support teachers and staff at the bargaining table, to make sure that Victoria’s excellent class size and composition ratios are maintained.

I would like to see the school boundary lines be updated to reflect the current population. I would like to see fewer portables, and the reopening of closed or underused schools.

Elaine Leonard

1. Equitable distribution of resources to schools and classrooms

2. Smooth boundary review process while ‘right-sizing’ our schools

3. Advocating for a fair and equitable ‘new’ funding formula from the provincial government

I would like to see the board recognize and encourage more meaningful input from the parents in the district. Whether this input comes from the district PAC or from the local PACs, parents are one of our most valuable resources and we should encourage them to support the district in navigating some of the larger issues that the board will be facing over the next four years. We are all there working to support the same children in our schools.

Diane McNally

I support the first SD61 Strategic Plan that guides trustees’ governance and district progress, and will evaluate need for change as the board reviews that plan in 2019. Rather than dramatic changes, the Strategic Plan guides continuous progress toward the goal of increasing success for all students which includes working closely with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations and community Indigenous representatives. Continuing to expand provisions of district mental health support for all students, especially vulnerable students is critical. Given some current misunderstandings re SOGI, increasing support for students who are gender variant is an obvious need. I want to see increased liaison with and co-operation with the six municipalities that SD61 serves. District involvement in early childhood education is an exciting new direction. I will always be a strong advocate for funding from the ministry that supports optimal opportunities for all students, especially those with special needs for support.

Ryan Painter

1. Creation of a recovery school on the south Island, in co-operation with neighbouring school districts, the province, and Island Health

2. Hold town halls in neighbourhoods all over the district to hear from parents of children currently in the school system, but also new parents, children, teenagers, education advocates, and others who care about our education system

3. Ensuring that equity, inclusivity, reconciliation and community are at the heart of how the board operates

As a mental health and anti-stigma activist and advocate, I want to see the school district get much more bold in it’s thinking about how to deals with mental health and addictions issues. We need a fulsome and engaging mental health literacy policy, we need to engage with students who are currently, or have, suffered from mental health and addiction issues to effectively gauge what they need. Fundamentally, we need to change how we view these issues and fully understand the social determinants of mental health and how we as a district can work to alleviate the suffering of our students, in order to promote long-term health.

Rob Paynter

1. Apply the principles of equity and inclusion to deliver effective and appropriate support to our most vulnerable students and eliminate the divide between have and have-not schools.

2. Undertake a detailed review of budget allocations and spending.

3. Provide opportunities for meaningful engagement of students, parents, staff and the community.

There is still considerable work to be done to address the needs of students with special education designations and those still requiring assessments, those challenged by socio-economic circumstances, struggling with mental health issues or facing other concerns. I will continue to advocate for a system where every student feels they belong and has the support to pursue their aspirations. It is my desire to see schools playing a central role in reconciliation efforts with local First Nations. I also believe that we can work more effectively by improving our relationships with communities and other levels of government.

Zul Rajabali

These are the issues that need to be addressed:

1. Insufficient infrastructure – Fixed Buildings, Technology and Extracurricular/Sport activities

2. Inadequate education provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities

3. Disparity in educational standards between schools. There seems to be a lack of will to uplift standards for schools that have student motivation issues.

· Not enough diversity and parental choices

· Not enough investment for teacher training in new technologies

· Not enough dialogue between school boards, teachers, parents and students

I would like to see more:

· Permanent buildings

· Technology that is up to date

· Training for teachers in specialized fields especially for children with disabilities and special needs

· Playgrounds and access to recreational centers

· Dialogue between teachers, parents, students and school boards

Jordan Watters

1. Ensure adequate resources for meaningful inclusion of all students in our schools

2. Update catchment boundaries and (re)open a new elementary school in order to address space pressures

3. Increase before and after school childcare spaces

I am passionate about creating safe, caring, and inclusive communities, and I know the best way to do that is by creating safe, caring, and inclusive schools. When students are unable to be themselves, their learning is deeply impacted. I am committed to creating a school district where each student is empowered to reach their full potential, and where teachers and staff have the tools they need to make that happen. I will stand up for increased funding for public education and improved supports for students. I will strive to make our district a leader in mental wellness supports for students, and work to innovate the promotion of healthy relationships and consent education in our schools.

Ann Whiteaker

1. Equity

2. Inclusion

3. Student Supports

Implementing a district wide strategic plan has propelled SD61 forward toward equity and inclusion across the district. It is time to review the data around these changes, making adjustments where needed that best supports students.

Specifically, we need to review our middle school data with a lens toward student well-being, school and community connectedness as well as academic success. I believe fully supporting the unique needs of this student population during this “awkward” time is fundamental to their future well-being and success as adults. Changes to inclusion practises also need to be reviewed and include parent and educational assistant input.

A meaningful education will look different for each of our students – we need to be able to adapt and be flexible with our inclusion practises to best meet the needs of each student. I also want CUPE 382 back at the board table.

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