After serving a single term as a trustee in School District 70, Jane Jones is passing the torch to her daughter, Connie Watts.
Both are members of the Tseshaht First Nation in the Alberni Valley, and both ran in the 2018 municipal election for seats on the school board.
Watts finished with 2,908 votes to earn a seat along with incumbents Larry Ransom, Pam Craig, John Bennie and Rosemarie Buchanan, as well as new trustees Christine Washington and Sandra Leslie (who earned the west coast seat). Jones finished with 1,930 votes.
“I feel super duper,” Jones said, smiling as she and her daughter sat in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) boardroom waiting for results from last two polling stations.
“She thinks I planned it, but really I didn’t,” she said, smiling at her daughter.
Watts laughed. “’Let’s run together,’ she said. Now that I’m in she’s like ‘now I can retire.’”
Watts said she is ready to take on this new role.
“I’m excited. I think there’s lots of change that needs to happen. I think it’s going to be a fantastic new board of trustees—good people to work with. There are things for the kids to do, things for the teachers to do and things to make better environments,” she said.
“It’s amazing. It’s exciting.”
Some of Jones’s former colleagues said they will miss her voice on the board of education.
“It’s a shame that we’re going to be losing Jane Jones,” said incumbent trustee Larry Ransom, who was re-elected to the board. “We’d like to stay in touch and keep her voice alive.”
Jones was the first Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations representative on the board when she was elected in 2014.
“As a First Nations woman, I know that access and inclusion are vital for all students. All students deserve to have a safe and accepting learn environment,” Jones wrote in her 2018 election profile.
Jones had said if elected, she would “work towards better solutions around special needs and First Nations language and cultural curriculum. We need to utilize resources that are being developed in these areas and implement them, “ she added, “for example holistic approaches in learning and the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations.”
Having Watts—also Tseshaht—on the board is important, Ransom said, because it will mean a strong Indigenous voice will continue to be heard.
Maintaining a Nuu-chah-nulth voice on the board “is extremely important,” he said. “When Jane came on board she brought a voice from that community and we’ve been able to build our relationships even stronger than we already have.
“I’m looking forward to working with Connie and with her community. It’s wonderful that they are still a part of our group.”
Watts is well known both in the Alberni Valley as well as further abroad. She is an artist renowned for her public artwork, from a sculpture in front of the BC Hydro building and in downtown Parksville to a memorial piece honouring residential school survivors near the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council building, and countless paintings and other media in public and private galleries around the world.
Watts has two university degrees and some learning from the school of hard knocks: after suffering from a double skull fracture, she lost her ability to read and write, and had to re-learn things that she once took for granted.
“When I was recovering, I turn to education. I earned my second degree in Fine Arts from Emily Carr University. This journey has instilled a deep compassion and understanding for the variety of teaching methods need to reach all students,” she said.
In her election profile, she also said her culture and heritage help guide her.
“I was raised with our First Nations’ values and ways: where great love, support and help surrounded you, so you can reach your true potential,” she said.
“I will work to build respect through information and open communication. I want to ensure the voices of teachers, parents and students are heard in the development and implementation of the growing and changing curriculum.”