The Greater Victoria School District office. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Greater Victoria School District office. (Black Press Media file photo)

Meet Your Candidates: 30 candidates vying for 9 SD61 trustee positions

Here’s what they had to say

In the Greater Victoria School District (SD61), there are 30 candidates vying for nine school trustee positions. We asked each candidate to outline the most important thing school trustees can do to improve the district. Here are their responses listed alphabetically.

Salvetina Agba

Restoring confidence and trust in the school district is paramount. In our multicultural, diverse community, all parents want a safe and inclusive environment for their children. Many have expressed concerns, with some even resorting to homeschooling because of the distrust they feel with our current system.

Parents should feel secure in the knowledge that their children are getting an education that respects their values. In the spirit of inclusion, no-one should be excluded because of their religious or cultural beliefs.

Families should never be left in the dark for they know best and care most when it comes to their own children!

Natalie M Baillaut

Did not respond.

Cindy Bedi Ralph

Trustees must re-establish relationships and trust around the board table, and with all the district’s rights holders and stakeholders. Whether the loss of trust happened over time, or quickly, the building back will take time, patience, and meaningful engagement. This is paramount for the board to move forward effectively.

Each time the parties feel heard and can see their influence have an impact on decision-making, will be one step closer to rebuilding that trust and relationship. This will strengthen the board’s ability to stay crystal clear on their focus of the students being their number one priority in decision-making.

Esther Callo

Trustees must review policies and regulations to protect access to information for both the board and the public. Currently, SD61 administrative practices lack transparency such that the integrity of board decisions is questionable. For example, neither the board nor the public have had access to the rationale and estimates contained in Project Definition Reports prior to voting on multi-million dollar upgrade projects. These reports are prepared by independent consultants and are submitted to the Ministry of Education to determine funding.

Without access to accurate information, the board cannot protect public interest. The new board must prioritize this basic democratic function.

Angela Carmichael

Trustees must get along and work towards the common goal of providing the absolute best education to every student, regardless of their circumstances.

Put personal egos and agendas aside and start actually listening to rights holders and stakeholders. Most importantly, listen to students who decisions are being made for. A board cannot accomplish the aforementioned with out having mutual respect and common sense when interacting with each other. It is a big job to allocate funds when they are needed. There is no room for archaic beliefs or discrimination.

Let’s get to work fixing the pre-pandemic issues and those that become more apparent during the pandemic.

Sacha Christensen

I’m running to put our students first. Our schools should reflect the change we want to see in our community, and our school board should reflect the community it actually represents.

I’m running to protect the rights of our 2SLGBTQIA+ students, close the graduation gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners, ensure that inclusive education for students with disabilities is a guarantee, and expand supports for mental health and student enrichment.

We need a new perspective on our school board, one that isn’t afraid of frank discussions, and will put our students first.

Matthew Cook

The question of trust is paramount in this election. With the past school board term marred by scandal, the new board will have to go to great lengths to earn back the public’s trust. This will be difficult as the provincial government has, effectively, made the school board handmaidens of austerity, providing them with a budget that will not meet the needs of all.

My pledge is to work with all parties to make the difficult decisions to ensure that our children receive the best possible education, and that no one is left behind.

Mavis E David

Most important to be a trustee is gaining the trust and respect from community.

We are going to be a team and lay the foundation for future generations to share and grow together! Respect all nationalities.

Nicole Duncan

Public education has suffered years of chronic under-funding. In SD61 this has resulted in too few supports in classrooms (especially a shortage of education assistants and other specialist supports and teachers), a significant issue with deferred maintenance and the sale of school land which should be safeguarded to meet the needs of students and families attending public school now and in the future.

To ensure equitable and inclusive supports in the classroom, and adequate capital funding allocations to meet our climate obligations and address deferred maintenance, will require careful financial management and a solutions-oriented Board of Education.

Jennifer Foster

Bringing more joy to the classroom is the most important thing a school trustee can do. To do this, a trustee needs to be in close communication with the teachers, students and parents. A trustee values diverse perspectives and lived experiences in the education system. There is no voice too small.

As a mom to a 3-year-old, I value the little voices. This means an open line of communication that is transparent and forthcoming. Through communication and understanding, a trustee can be informed to support change that brings more joy to teachers, students and parents.

Derek Gagnon

The most important thing school trustees can do to improve the district is relationship building, whether it be hearing the needs of students, teachers and staff, or building upon the relationships with the Four Houses to work towards reconciliation in our schools and provide a better educational experience for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike.

From building the framework via SOGI 123 with the Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSA) and Rainbow Clubs of our schools, to establishing a better relationship with the provincial government to bring in additional much-needed funding, better relationships are the key to all of these issues.

Daphna Gelbart

The most important thing that school trustees can do to improve School District 61 is to work together collaboratively to understand the issues, listen to parents, students, and community members, and make decisions informed by evidence and not personal politics.

Leslie-Anne Goodall

Did not respond.

Karin Kwan

Over the past few years in SD61, we’ve seen racial bias in decision-making, cuts to student services such as support staff and counsellors, music education, and the suspension of 2 publicly elected trustees. The priority of a new Board of Education will be to regain the public’s trust through transparency and diligence.

Trustees will have to work hard to keep an open mind, listen, and actively seek input from students and families, teachers, support staff, the Four Houses, and trustee colleagues to ensure decisions are right for our students. Students should be at the forefront of every decision made.

J. Charles Lamb

School trustees must establish and maintain the Greater Victoria School District’s (GVSD) strategic direction as community leaders and financial stewards. It is essential to work as a team and continuously connect with the community of students and parents to advocate and represent appropriately.

To benefit the GVSD, each trustee needs to make decisions independent of their own agenda. The GVSD school board has the authority to make decisions or to take action – individual trustees in and of themselves do not.

Piers MacDonald

Be boring, be positive. We have some of the best schools in one of the best provinces in one of the best countries in the world. This is due to the hard work of educators, administrators, students, parents and volunteers more so than trustees.

Trustees are there to represent voting stakeholders in the system and I think those voters want to keep doing what makes the school system excellent, not return to some fictional Utopian past, make incremental improvement going forward and avoid drama, strife and distractions.

Emily Mahbobi

The people trustees represent are diverse, and the needs of the district are constantly changing. The most important thing a trustee can do for their district is to keep an open mind and heart; to hear out everyone who wishes to be heard, and to develop their own individual perspective.

To be detached from one’s personal biases and ideas facilitates an opportunity for open consultation and collective learning. If the whole board can achieve this, it stands a chance of making meaningful change.

Diane McNally

The most important thing trustees can do to improve the district: Do everything possible to be sure rights holders and stakeholders (with special attention to parents of students with special needs for support) understand budget proposals and their implications for programs and classrooms; Work to ensure that the Four Houses/rights holders’ representatives (Songhees, Esquimalt, Metis and Urban Indigenous) have been deeply listened to and their input honoured before actions affecting their students are taken.

That means starting immediately with the new board, staff, Victoria Parents’ Advisory Council and the 4 Houses to begin related meetings by November.

Kyle McStravick

The most important thing trustees can do to improve their district is to keep the needs of students central to all decision-making. This means listening to the kids, to parents, and to teachers.

My platform is focused on protecting school music, furthering First Nations reconciliation efforts, and protecting education around sexual orientation and gender identity. But whatever work I undertake as trustee, if elected, I promise to keep students needs at the centre of my decision-making. Let’s leave partisan politics at the door and focus on the kids.

Janice Novotill

I believe it is vital to support the social and emotional wellness of all students and staff and to uphold quality education by ensuring more support in the classroom.

We must have open, honest and authentic communication between parents, teachers and school trustees with no hidden agendas or closed-door meetings. Budget concerns need to be addressed to provide and include academic fundamentals, including enhanced art programs and physical education to ensure intelligent, well-balanced graduates.

I want to give back to my community and work to make sure the next generation of children will be walking into a bright future.

Rob Paynter

I believe the key to supporting improvements in our district is to dispense with ego and actively seek to engage with, and learn from, members of our school community and the communities SD61 serves. We already have exceptional teachers and staff, the board needs to ensure they have the resources necessary to deliver a comprehensive education, including the arts and athletics, in a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment.

I want the district to work more closely with municipalities and agencies to address current and future challenges, including student mental well-being, a growing population and a changing climate.

Roberta A Solvey

Did not respond.

Tyson Strandlund

Increasingly, school trustees are having to make difficult decisions about the allocation of limited funds and what’s going to be cut next. Our communities do not need to accept this. The most urgent necessity for any trustee must be to act as an unapologetically vocal and principled advocate for public education.

Whoever is elected must demand that our schools, families, children and teachers be prioritized by the provincial government, and provided with adequate funding to guarantee an inclusive, safe, healthy, and vibrant learning environment in which future generations can thrive. Public education is a foundation of any democratic society.

Jordan Watters

I am proud to have led the development of key policies that support equity and inclusion in our school district, but much work remains to ensure our schools reflect the diversity of our communities. I will maintain focus on ensuring all students find success and belonging in our schools.

Students will be centered in my decision-making, and I will prioritize our children’s future through climate action. Under my leadership, our district will be guided by a Climate Action Plan with ambitious targets for minimizing our carbon footprint while supporting our students’ engagement through land-based learning, climate literacy, and safe active routes to school.

Ann Whiteaker

Whether it is a decision regarding capital dollars, equitable support for exceptional learners, staffing resources and allocations, pro-d for staff, or family engagement, trustees must keep student outcomes at the centre of each decision.

Listening and learning from rights holders, students, and staff will build relationships that lead to collaboration, creative solutions, and commitment toward initiatives which increase student outcomes. Students achieve greater success when they feel connected to their learning. We need to ensure culturally responsive resources and diverse opportunities within schools and programming which engage students as well as supports when they need it.

Michelle J Wiboltt

Can we establish new independent location for new, non-English/French speakers for one year? Is it fair for our teachers and children to host those who can’t understand English language?

Also, does it “feel” fair that this “new” grouping is getting extraordinary supports such as counselling, private involvement, and teachers/students expected to “pivot” when they never choose?

Furthermore, public schools, vaccinations absolutely! No further discussion required.

Oliver Wu

B.C. school trustees have one primary mandate and that is to improve learning for all students. In order to do this, the trustees must provide opportunities to listen to students, teachers and parents to best serve their needs. They must welcome these stakeholders to be involved in the process and put aside their own personal agendas.

Policy discussions must be open to scrutiny and debate and all parties must act in good faith with patience and tolerance for opposing views. As a trustee, I would set the highest example by adhering to these standards.

Ali Zahra

My wife and I moved to Victoria in 2009, where my kids were born and raised. I watched them go through public school system and through it all learned a lot. I liked some and didn’t like some so I’m hoping to help change and balance. Last year, I joined my son with his classmates and teachers protesting the cut in the music program.

I worked as accountant in different companies, and for the past 15 years I’ve been running my own business. I am hoping to bring the administrative and accounting knowledge I have to help in guiding local policies toward more effective, inclusive and efficient operations.

Sasha Zhang

School trustees are ordinary citizens elected to represent the public. Board decisions and policies must support the vision of improved learning outcomes for all students. No one group should be excluded or elevated, especially based on immutable characteristics.

The board must be held to account to make sure it is following these principles and not straying from its core focus of helping students become productive citizens and achieve their full potential. They must always operate with honesty and integrity, not in their own interests but in those of the families they represent.

Judith Zulu

School trustees must understand their role and listen to the community they serve without bias in a transparent, accountable and responsible manner. Respect and work in collaboration with all stakeholders to help establish the best possible ways to support all those involved.

Make available all other supports, resources and tools needed for all students to have the best possible education and learning environment to ensure children reach their maximum potential. This includes advocating for environments that support diversity, inclusion and equity to reflect the community they serve so all voices are listened to and no one is left out.

Advance voting starts on Oct. 5 with general election day on Oct. 15. For more information on how or where to vote, check out your municipality’s website. You can find election night results, and more coverage in the lead-up, under the election tab at vicnews.com.

READ MORE: 2022 Election Coverage


 

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