SD 59 trustee candidate responses — Area I (Chetwynd)

School District 59 Electoral Area I (Chetwynd and area) has four candidates vying for the two spots. Both incumbents are seeking re-election. We had a chance to ask each of them a few questions — here are their responses unedited. (Except to note when answers were not received, or to note which answers went with which question, or for formatting).

Becky Borton

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Age: 36
Occupation: Medical Radiographer / Medical Sonographer / Team Lead
Highest level of education: Technical School

Why are you running?

I have 3 children and am passionate about their education. I know I can bring a unique perspective, out of the box thinking and dedication to the role of school trustee.

What is your current relationship with SD 59? If you are not a current trustee, what experience do you have? If you are running for re-election, what experience, including your time on the board, do you feel qualifies you for the position?

My children attend school here in Chetwynd, in our community where both my husband and myself attended school and grew up. I have worked in leadership and team lead roles through my volunteer time and employment.

In your opinion, what is the role of a school trustee?

In a small community you likely would see and do “it all”. Advocacy, positive encouragement and financial stewardship, to name a few. You need to be in touch with you community and hear their journeys, this can then translate into good policy and practice.

Are there any particular issues with provincial education or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they?

I have a child who is a Canadian with Disabilities. This life presents many challenges, and across the province our education system is struggling to accommodate. I have a strong belief that every child has a seat at the table and plan to work hard to make this happen.

Clearly every candidate is pro-education, pro-children, pro-common sense and pro-community. What makes you a different candidate than the others?

When you live the life of an advocate for someone with disabilities you start to see the world differently. You hone skills that allow you to think outside the box and approach difficult situations with compassion, active listening and unique thinking.

One reader notes, regarding rural bus routes, “Many of us live 4 - 5 kms away from the designated bus stops which are usually on highway. This is unacceptable requesting us to drive our children in all kinds of weather to the highway.” They ask, “Are you going to be revisiting the School bus policy?” (In addition to answering yes or no, please elaborate on any thoughts on the matter).

I would encourage any parent with these concerns to come forward and share their experiences and suggestions. There are some questions I would need to answer before I could commit to a simple yes or no. Is our current policy working? Is there a safety concern involved? What alternatives do we have if we wanted to make changes? What are the financial ramifications to any proposed changes?

One reader has noted a troubling increase in single-issue trustee candidates across the province, specifically those with an anti-SOGI (sexual orientations and gender identities) agenda. What are your views on SOGI resources? (For context, there was considerable debate on the SD59 policy of Diversity and Inclusion, particularly on the clause about washrooms for students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.)

I think any time an individual runs for any office with a single a purpose agenda, is a recipe for trouble. Diversity is a cornerstone of our country and as I stated previously, EVERYONE deserves an equal seat at the table. I would expect that any issues or concerns around any individuals inappropriate washroom behaviour would be handled effectively by administration under appropriate policies and guidelines and if needed, the RCMP.

Many parents have noted concerns about the lack of transparency regarding serious situations — in cases ranging from teacher discipline to receiving information about threats to individual students — and in many cases they have perceived a lack of resolution. What will you do as school trustee to ensure transparency and public trust in the school board?

Trust comes from showing that you follow through. At times this can be difficult to do when you work as an elected official and are part of a democratic system, as the majority must rule. I can say that I will always stand for student safety, and advocate for my community. I am an active listener and if there is an issue that you are facing and not receiving resolution to, please do use your school trustees as another avenue to help a resolution be reached.

The school district struggles to find qualified teachers, in particular, but not limited to, for programs like French Immersion and Montessori. As of the last board meeting, SD 59 has teachers on letters of permission (without a teaching certificate) (10.18 FTEs). How do you feel the school district has handled this, and can more be done to recruit teachers?

This is by far one of the most challenging issues that we face not only in the education arena but in other sectors in our region as well. Retention is just as important as recruitment and is sometimes forgotten. What can we do to keep the educators that we have? What supports do they need? Short term solutions like letters of permission are becoming long term solutions and this is a trend I personally am unhappy with. As this issue grows I think an assessment of the situation is needed, perhaps even on a provincial level. You can’t produce certified staff where they simply don’t exist, so a “long range forecast” is overdue. From there, action plans can be developed to try take corrective measures. It is a complex situation and it will likely have an even more complex solution.

What is your stance on the school closure review for Don Titus Montessori that was voted in favour of at the September 19, 2018 board meeting and ultimately the possibility of closing that school for the next school year?

Closing Don Titus means a lot for our community. It means a loss of choice. Loss of choice can mean loss of diversity. It means change and for some this change would have an extremely negative impact on their educational journey. Closing one school has a ripple effect onto our other schools, are these remaining schools and students prepared for that? It is easy to look at numbers and stats and base decisions solely on that. It is harder to assess the things we can’t quantify but in order to make this decision, we must try. This is really going to be the hot topic for this four-year term. I can’t say that I have all the answers, but I am willing to be a voice. 

——

Jessica Fairful

Age:
32
Occupation: Photographer
Highest level of education: College

Why are you running?

I’m running to make a change for the teacher and parents in our school district.

What is your current relationship with SD 59? If you are not a current trustee, what experience do you have? If you are running for re-election, what experience, including your time on the board, do you feel qualifies you for the position?

I’m apart of the PAC, being a a part of the PAC I noticed we need our voices heard, our schools need more than what is happening now. We need someone to stand up and give our concerned, questions etc answers!

In your opinion, what is the role of a school trustee?

Roll of school trustee is someone who voices and gets answers to the questions and concerns brought forward by the parents, teacher and pac.

Are there any particular issues with provincial education or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they?

Reason i’m running is to make changes to the best of my ability for the teacher, parents and children.

Clearly every candidate is pro-education, pro-children, pro-common sense and pro-community. What makes you a different candidate than the others?

I’m not afraid to fight to get what we need for our children and teachers to succeed.

One reader notes, regarding rural bus routes, “Many of us live 4 - 5 kms away from the designated bus stops which are usually on highway. This is unacceptable requesting us to drive our children in all kinds of weather to the highway.” They ask, “Are you going to be revisiting the School bus policy?” (In addition to answering yes or no, please elaborate on any thoughts on the matter).

Yes the school bus policy needs a revision, our children safety should be number one.

One reader has noted a troubling increase in single-issue trustee candidates across the province, specifically those with an anti-SOGI (sexual orientations and gender identities) agenda. What are your views on SOGI resources? (For context, there was considerable debate on the SD59 policy of Diversity and Inclusion, particularly on the clause about washrooms for students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.)

Every student should feel safe, and comfortable.

Many parents have noted concerns about the lack of transparency regarding serious situations — in cases ranging from teacher discipline to receiving information about threats to individual students — and in many cases they have perceived a lack of resolution. What will you do as school trustee to ensure transparency and public trust in the school board? 

[No answer received.] 

The school district struggles to find qualified teachers, in particular, but not limited to, for programs like French Immersion and Montessori. As of the last board meeting, SD 59 has teachers on letters of permission (without a teaching certificate) (10.18 FTEs). How do you feel the school district has handled this, and can more be done to recruit teachers? 

[No answer received.]

What is your stance on the school closure review for Don Titus Montessori that was voted in favour of at the September 19, 2018 board meeting and ultimately the possibility of closing that school for the next school year? 

[No answer received.]

——

Crystal Hillton [incumbent]

Age: 39
Occupation: Finance Clerk
Highest level of education: Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting

Why are you running? 

I am running because I feel like I am not finished, in my first term I had a lot of interactions with parents at the elementary level but not near as much as the high school level, as my own children age, I believe that could change.  I also feel like it would be a disservice to tax payer dollars to not try to complete another term as there is a lot of learning that takes place in the first couple years of being a trustee. 

What is your current relationship with SD 59? If you are not a current trustee, what experience do you have? If you are running for re-election, what experience, including your time on the board, do you feel qualifies you for the position? 

I am currently a trustee representing Chetwynd, and I did not come from an education background, so I have learned a lot over my previous term on the board on the inter-workings of education and the research behind the decisions that the school district makes. My education is in accounting and I believe that has been an asset in reviewing the budgets and knowing which questions to ask.

In your opinion, what is the role of a school trustee? 

The school trustee’s role is to represent the community and act as a liaison between the district and the community. I have done this through attending as many events as I was able over my term, including PAC meetings and school events and making myself accessible to parents and members of the community.  

Are there any particular issues with provincial education or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they? 

I am not running with a mandate or an intention other than to do my best to ensure that student success in all aspects is at the core of every decision that is made. I have learned over the past 4 years that the only thing that I can promise anyone is that I will give the position my 100% effort.

Clearly every candidate is pro-education, pro-children, pro-common sense and pro-community. What makes you a different candidate than the others? 

believe that I have ensured that Chetwynd was well represented at the board table and that the community was considered whenever decisions were made. I think it is important for all areas of our district but maybe more so for the communities of Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge that they have a strong assertive voice representing them, as the senior staff is not driving by our schools every day and not living in our communities. I have followed up with every parent concern that I have received over my term, and although I may not have always been able to reply with the response that they wanted, I always communicated their concerns and ensured they had a voice.

One reader notes, regarding rural bus routes, “Many of us live 4 - 5 kms away from the designated bus stops which are usually on highway. This is unacceptable requesting us to drive our children in all kinds of weather to the highway.” They ask, “Are you going to be revisiting the School bus policy?” (In addition to answering yes or no, please elaborate on any thoughts on the matter). 

The school bus policy was reviewed recently and although I can understand the frustrations for parents of not having bus service come to your driveway, the current policy does state that deviations to the route will be made if there are 1 or more children living 3.2 kms, 2 children up to 4.8 kms away, and so on from the closest bus stop.  In some instances, it is unsafe for the bus and in those cases route deviations cannot be made.  We did review what the ramifications would be if we were to pick up every student at their driveway, and although it may only seem like an extra 10 to 15 minutes on a route, when that is multiplied across the population of our district we end up with ride times that are not acceptable to school age children. 

One reader has noted a troubling increase in single-issue trustee candidates across the province, specifically those with an anti-SOGI (sexual orientations and gender identities) agenda. What are your views on SOGI resources? (For context, there was considerable debate on the SD59 policy of Diversity and Inclusion, particularly on the clause about washrooms for students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.) 

As a district, I think any policy that celebrates diversity and inclusion and makes our schools more welcoming places for students is to be applauded. In my previous term as a trustee I have been able to expand my knowledge and understanding on this subject and my view has changed from thinking that this only impacts a small handful of students, so it may not be as pressing as other issues, to realizing that the very issue is that it only impacts a small handful of students and the isolation those students feel can be crippling. Students who don’t identify as the gender they were born as have a suicide rate that is 7 times higher than the average student population, so if there is anything we can do as trustees to increase their sense of belonging in our schools, I believe we should do it. I do understand parents’ concerns over their own children’s safety and those concerns do need to be considered, we don’t want to isolate one student group by including another. 

Many parents have noted concerns about the lack of transparency regarding serious situations — in cases ranging from teacher discipline to receiving information about threats to individual students — and in many cases they have perceived a lack of resolution. What will you do as school trustee to ensure transparency and public trust in the school board? 

In terms of teacher discipline, I can understand as a parent that after you have taken the time to bring an issue forward you want to follow up and can feel as though the concern hasn’t been dealt with if you don’t know the result. The reality is teachers just like employees in the private sector are entitled to privacy in regard to discipline. As the employer the school district does not have the right to make discipline public knowledge. As a result, the reply to parents only includes information that the matter is being investigated which can leave parents concerned as to whether their issues were taken seriously.  I do believe that student safety is always of primary concern and over the course of my previous term I have felt the district did investigate these matters thoroughly even if they weren’t able to share the findings with the general public due to privacy laws.   

The school district struggles to find qualified teachers, in particular, but not limited to, for programs like French Immersion and Montessori. As of the last board meeting, SD 59 has teachers on letters of permission (without a teaching certificate) (10.18 FTEs). How do you feel the school district has handled this, and can more be done to recruit teachers? 

SD 59 has been working very hard to fill the vacant positions, but unfortunately, they exist across the province.  I do believe that there needs to be additional incentives to encourage teachers to take positions in the north and hopefully that is made possible through the next contract negotiations.  It is common in the private sector for those working in the north to make more than their southern counterparts and I think we need to see that in teaching as well. In the past the communities that are included in our district had very affordable housing but that has changed as well, so we have also lost that as an incentive to move north.  I still believe that the teachers most likely to teach here are the ones who grew up here and I hope that we have enough interest from potential students to expand the AHCOTE program in future years.

What is your stance on the school closure review for Don Titus Montessori that was voted in favour of at the September 19, 2018 board meeting and ultimately the possibility of closing that school for the next school year? 

I stand by the comments I made at the September 19th meeting when I voted against the motion that the closing of a school is the most difficult decision we make as a school board and the timing of this closure review is unfair to the community and newly elected trustees.  I do not believe that a newly elected board will have the experience to make a decision like that in the first few months of their term, especially in the case of a school where enrollment has been growing and there are a lot of variables that need to be considered.  Therefore, due to the timing of the bylaws, and the public consultation process I do not believe that Don Titus Montessori should be closed at the end of this year. 

——

Andrea Smith [incumbent]

Age: 42
Occupation: Registered Massage Therapist
Highest level of education:  Diploma from Westcoast College of Massage Therapy
Born and raised in Chetwynd Area, operate Chetwynd Massage Therapy Clinic for the last 20 yrs. 

Why are you running? 

I am running for school board trustees because I have always been an active volunteer in my  children’s life,President of their preschool, PAC and swim club over the years, and am looking forward to connecting with the parents and students in Chetwynd to continue to be a voice for them on the Board of Education.

What is your current relationship with SD 59? If you are not a current trustee, what experience do you have? If you are running for re-election, what experience, including your time on the board, do you feel qualifies you for the position?

I am currently a trustee in the community of Chetwynd. I am running for re-election because I feel that during the last 4 years I have learned how a board operates, and to understand budgeting and processes.  SD59 always attempts to  put the learning of students at the forefront of all decisions made. I am excited to continue learning the position and to further advocate for student achievement.

In your opinion, what is the role of a school trustee?

A school trustee is in the community connecting with students and parents with a voice to be heard at the school board level. They are your voice when making decisions in a board for student success. I feel that the last 4 years have allowed me to have greater engagement with students teachers and parents in this capacity. 

Are there any particular issues with provincial education or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they?

[No answer received]

Clearly every candidate is pro-education, pro-children, pro-common sense and pro-community. What makes you a different candidate than the others? 

I believe I would be a good candidate because I strongly believe in the education that our students receive and over the last 4 years have advocated strongly for Chetwynd Schools and am happy that the high school is getting a much needed  renovation next year. 

One reader notes, regarding rural bus routes, “Many of us live 4 - 5 kms away from the designated bus stops which are usually on highway. This is unacceptable requesting us to drive our children in all kinds of weather to the highway.” They ask, “Are you going to be revisiting the School bus policy?” (In addition to answering yes or no, please elaborate on any thoughts on the matter).

No I don’t believe we will revisit the transportation policy. The board has made the decisions and policy we currently have after extensive review and consultations. Policy 6070

One reader has noted a troubling increase in single-issue trustee candidates across the province, specifically those with an anti-SOGI (sexual orientations and gender identities) agenda. What are your views on SOGI resources? (For context, there was considerable debate on the SD59 policy of Diversity and Inclusion, particularly on the clause about washrooms for students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.) 

I believe our current policy on SOGI which is policy 4075(in development )is a great policy for all students and had great feedback and review from the public. Our school board speaks as one voice with great collaboration and discussions, another reason I enjoy being on the board.

Many parents have noted concerns about the lack of transparency regarding serious situations — in cases ranging from teacher discipline to receiving information about threats to individual students — and in many cases they have perceived a lack of resolution. What will you do as school trustee to ensure transparency and public trust in the school board? 

I feel that many issues regarding transparency in serious issues are because of privacy laws and or investigations that may be happening outside of the school district. Any serious threat to students is handled by administrators and outside agencies if needed.I believe the school district tries to communicate with affected parties as soon as possible to resolve issues and share information.Policy 2260 Communication with The Public.

The school district struggles to find qualified teachers, in particular, but not limited to, for programs like French Immersion and Montessori. As of the last board meeting, SD 59 has teachers on letters of permission (without a teaching certificate) (10.18 FTEs). How do you feel the school district has handled this, and can more be done to recruit teachers? 

Teacher recruitment and retention continues to be not only a struggle for our district but many others. I think our district has handled this as well as they are able and am thankful that we have teachers in the classroom instead of rolling substitutes. 

What is your stance on the school closure review for Don Titus Montessori that was voted in favour of at the September 19, 2018 board meeting and ultimately the possibility of closing that school for the next school year? 

I voted to delay the Don Titus school review as I believe it will need to happen eventually but not at the current time. I understand that having schools at greater capacity allows schools to run more efficiently and that in the future money would need to be spent on upgrades that could be spent on education. At this time I understand both sides and look forward to community engagement and consultation to see what solutions and ideas may be presented for a best case scenario for students. 

——

reporter@dcdn.ca

 

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