The Fifth Avenue Senior’s Activity Centre housed a packed crowd Oct. 12 for a school trustee candidates forum, seeing nearly all of the candidates for the five trustee positions within School District 83 attend to discuss their views on education and plans for the district should they be elected. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

North Okanagan-Shuswap trustee hopefuls state stance on education

Retired teachers association holds forum for School District 83 board candidates

Prospective trustees for School District #83 laid out their claim to the position Oct. 12 during an all-candidates forum in Salmon Arm at the Fifth Avenue Senior’s Activity Centre.

During the forum hosted by the Shuswap and District Retired Teachers’ Association, each of the candidates present had the chance to answer a selection of questions prepared by school stakeholder groups such as the teachers association and parent advisory councils.

Questions asked included why the candidates were running for the position of trustee, what education means to them and how they plan to balance the needs of their region with the needs of the entire school district.

Nine of 10 candidates vying for the two Salmon Arm seats attended the forum, along with two candidates running for one seat for Electoral Area 2, which includes Sicamous. Marcel Bedard, running for a Salmon Arm position, was unable to attend due to prior obligations.

A common thread from all candidates regarding the question of balancing regional needs with those of the school district was to focus on gathering input from stakeholder groups, and to encourage those groups to come forward with concerns whenever they arise. 

Related: Getting to know the school trustee candidates in Salmon Arm

Marianne VanBuskirk suggested, “Our geographical region is unique, and we need to make those outlying regions feel included. That means rotating school board meetings so they feel more heard in the district.”

Jenny Vachon said, “We need to engage with the parents who will eventually be running for the role of trustee themselves, by listening to everyone in a team approach.”

Dale Townsend asserted that, “While the board of trustees has significant authority, the individual trustee has almost none. I would visit the schools, because consultation, I believe, is best seen by being present with those groups.”

Terry-Mae Sinclair said, “I would like to understand where the gaps are and why, I don’t think there should ever be an ‘us or them’ situation. Communicating with all parties involved is imperative.”

Dan Shields suggested a change may be in order for how the district is represented at the trustee level. He said, “I don’t like the way our board is represented, I don’t like that 10 people are running for two spots; I think the five best people should be elected to represent the entire district. And I don’t think it’s that hard for most of us to go to other communities to visit the outlying schools.”

Jordan Ross commented, “Proactive communication is crucial. You have to have strong leadership and consensus, and take that decision as a board and move it forward.”

Lawren Richards stated, “We have North Shuswap kids being bused to Salmon Arm; that should tell us that regional concerns are the concern of the district. I also plan to be an advocate for changing the provincial funding model to better reflect the reality of this district.”

Donald Podlubny said, “I will make myself available to parent advisory councils, and I want to be available when you want me available and not be imposing. Every concern is a district concern…, we have to make decisions based on what gets the maximum benefits.”

Amanda Krebs remarked, “We have to listen to all perspectives and concerns. We have to make hard decisions and take the whole district into account. We want to be actively listening to people from Sorrento to Armstrong, we have to make sure the partner group table stays active.”

Related: Meet School District 83 trustee candidates at Friday forum in Salmon Arm

On the topic of what education means in the school district, Krebs said it means “safe, inclusive learning for everyone… to support students, focus on universal design and instill motivation and confidence.”

Podlubny remarked, “To me, education is about providing the opportunity of a well-rounded curriculum. We have the resources to put it together. And we have to give support to teachers and staff at schools so they can go about educating and providing opportunities.

“Education is about understanding your personal best, and each of us has our personal best. Values cannot come about until we work as a community to support the education system, the district has to reinvent itself to lead,” said candidate Richards.

Ross said, “How we taught now compared to how we taught before is very different. It’s important to recognize moving forward that the end result is we want our kids to be better educated.”

Shields said, “Education is not all about the ‘three R’s,’ for me I come at it a little bit different. I want to make sure resources are there and staffing is in place so if a child is funded they get resources to work with.”

Candidate Sinclair said, “I believe education is to provide programs and support to meet the needs of all children… it is respect and belonging and confidence, education has changed and we need to change with it.

Townsend remarked, “After 45 years in the classroom I still have no answer to that question, but I believe it is that magical process that occurs when you have a group of students and a committed adult who can provide the materials and understanding for them to transform into citizens.”

Vachon said, “Education to me is when I see people growing. It isn’t something that is just K to 12, it is something I want to see people yearn for so they can develop into sustainable people.

VanBuskirk said, “It means giving instruction in a variety of ways. As educators we all work hard to do this, we are helping our youth develop critical thinking skills.”

Related: Trustee recommends reducing school board to five members

The two candidates from electoral area two, covering Enderby, Sicamous and parts of the North Okanagan, Fred Busch and Quentin Bruns, were also present at the forum.

Busch said, “Certainly it is important to come away from school confident in the ‘three R’s’ but also the social skills you develop. Something we have to instill in students is some sense of honour and tolerance for other points of view.”

Bruns remarked, “Education is giving all kids an equal opportunity to be successful. Whether that be academics or in the trades, I think we have to look at all sectors of society.”

Regarding the question of balancing the needs of their region with the needs of the entire school district, Bruns, from electoral area two, said: “I think trust has really been eroded in this district, and one of our jobs is to rebuild that trust. We have done well in some areas and I would like to continue with that… I am going to lobby heard for my area and be the advocate for the parents that voted for me, but when I get to the board table and they say we hear your concerns but for the good of the district we have to go this path, if that is the wisdom of the board I will go along with that.”

Busch, also from electoral area two, remarked, “I think first of all we have to make certain we know what our local groups want… The old board had trouble letting go of their personal fiefdoms and going along with what would be good for the district. We have to think locally and act globally.”

Voting day is this Saturday, Oct. 20.


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