The West Shore Local Hero Awards are back! You can find this year’s special feature in the March 16 edition of the Goldstream Gazette or online under e-editions. Stay tuned for more on each of this year’s honourees, you will also be able to read their stories online at goldstreamgazette.com/tag/local-hero-awards.
For Ravi Parmar, trustee and chair of the Sooke School District Board of Education, a career in public education was a natural step.
Before Parmar graduated from high school, he was already making headlines advocating for change within SD62. Halfway through university, at age 22, he was elected to his current position, making him the youngest school board chair in the province’s history.
He said it’s an honour to serve on a board whose trustees believe in the value of public education.
“Public education is the reason (I am) where I am today. The teachers, the educators and the support staff, they supported me and my family so we could be successful,” Parmar said.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration at the University of Victoria and currently works for the provincial government as a senior ministerial advisor to the minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation.
The majority of Ravi Parmar’s life has been spent in the Sooke School District’s public education system. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to Langford from Victoria. At 16, he helped stage a student walkout at Belmont Secondary School to advocate for the construction of two new high schools. That formative experience of making waves within the system made a big impact on his life.
“I’m a real believer in the value of public education. I’m a real believer in inclusive and diverse education opportunities,” Parmar said.
His belief in a public education system that serves all students, regardless of their abilities or their ethnicities, is a driving principle behind the work he does. Growing up in Langford, Parmar said his family was one of only a few South Asian households when they first arrived. That’s hardly the case anymore, as Langford is one of the fastest-growing communities in the province.
“We’re welcoming people from all over the world. And, so, I’d like to think that brings us a perspective – that importance around diversity and inclusion in our schools,” Parmar said.
“More than ever, I’m passionate about ensuring that student voice and choice is reflected in the decisions we make as a board on important matters of education.”
Though the transition into a leadership role with the school board was relatively natural, the first decade of Parmar’s career hasn’t been all smooth sailing. The pandemic has made schools a political battleground and put teachers on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. When asked what it’s been like to navigate the pandemic from a school board point of view, he acknowledged the challenges but said that above all, he’s grateful for the resilience and determination of the staff, students and families of SD62.
“(I’m) so incredibly proud of the team we have at SD62. And also so incredibly thankful for the families who’ve been incredibly patient as we’ve really had to adapt and change through the pandemic, and introduce new concepts like virtual learning and different ways of doing things.”
He added a special shoutout to the students of SD62 and is awestruck by their adaptability.
“I’m pretty amazed at how resilient our students are. I continue to say I’m surprised, but in a way, I’m not. I think we are going to be looking up to them more and more as leaders in our community.”
Asked what his vision is for SD62 going forward, he said he’s looking forward to putting the new strategic plan they’ve launched into action, and welcoming newcomers to the school district without losing the small-town feel of the West Shore.
“I want to continue to ensure that we’re welcoming families and being as inclusive as we can to ensure that our schools are happy, safe and welcoming places for all,” Parmar said.
“We just have that sense of family and friendship ingrained in everything we do throughout the western region. I’m looking forward to leading our district over a number of years in ensuring we don’t lose that and continuing to be there for all of our family, friends, community, and students in years ahead.”
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