Almost 50 years of experience and expertise will be absent from the Sooke School District’s board of education following this fall’s municipal election.
Long-serving trustees Bob Phillips and Margot Swinburnson, two of three positions on the board in the Milnes Landing Zone which represent the Sooke region, have made their decisions not to run again.
Both indicated to the Sooke News Mirror in early August that they were leaning in that direction but would wait to see who else was stepping forward for election before making a final determination.
“It was a difficult decision not to run for public office after 23 years,” said Swinburnson, who is completing her seventh term. “There are strong, progressive voices running who have children in our schools, and I believe their voices and abilities will only help move our district forward.”
Considering the many issues, including high growth and the need for new or replacement schools in the Milnes Landing Zone, the board does not need divisive voices at the table, Swinburnson said, although she believes there will be some on the ballot.
“I will always be there as a mentor for trustees, and as an advocate for the best for our kids,” she stressed.
Phillips, who taught in Africa as a volunteer many years ago, first ran in 1984 and elected for the first time in 1996.
“I have always appreciated the value of being an advocate for public education since the 1960s,” he said. “It’s time for some new voices. I’m really encouraged to see some young parents in the community step forward.”
It takes a lot of time and commitment to oversee 12,000 students, 2,000 staff members and a budget of $176 million, he noted.
“We probably have the best Ministry of Education in the world. They have the basis of inclusion and diversity in our curriculum to get it right,” said Phillips, also in his seventh term. “You never know when the things we learn in school will be applied later in our lives.”
Ravi Parmar, chair of the board of education for the Sooke School District, said when he thinks of Swinburnson and Phillips, selfless service comes to mind.
“For many people, when they think of long-term service, people like the Queen and federal and provincial politicians come to mind,” he said.
“When I think of service at the local level, Margot and Bob come to mind. These two remarkable individuals didn’t do it for fame or money because there is none. They did it to serve the community and the thousands and thousands of students who graduated from our district.”