SD 59 trustee candidate responses — Area III (City of Dawson Creek)

Three candidates are in the running for the City of Dawson Creek's school trustees. Two will be elected. One incumbent is running for re-election, while Richard Powell did not seek another term. 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).

Jennifer Lalonde

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Age: 40
Occupation: Executive Assistant – Lake View Credit Union
Highest Level of Education: [Not answered]

Why are you running?

I am running for a School Trustee in School District 59 because I have a deep passion for my children’s education, a deep love of our communities and a strong voice that wants to represent and advocate for our area. I live with my partner and our 3 children in Rolla and have been there for the past 12 years. As a working mother, I work for our local credit union – Lake View, I live and breathe the values of cooperation and community. My involvement in our community and my experiences in many areas drives my passion to want to be involved. Becoming a Trustee is a position I have considered for many years, I am pleased to stand as a candidate this year in the City of Dawson Creek.

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 have 3 children in SD 59, two in Canalta and one in Dawson Creek Secondary-South Peace Campus. My experiences in SD 59 has consisted of supporting the Rolla Discovery School PAC for 7+ years and my vast experience on many other non-profit groups currently include the Chair of the South Peace Success by 6/Children’s First table for close to 5 years, Vice-Chair for the South Peace Arts Society (DC Art Gallery) for 2 years, and a member of the United Way of Northern BC Community Investment & Impact Committee. I have been involved in many other non-profit boards in our region. I have a fondness for governance and with my experience, knowledge and involvement in our community, I feel I will make a great addition to the School Board.

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

The role of a School Trustee is to most importantly listen to our communities, be involved in the schools and with the parents, help set and guide the strategic direction of the School District, and be an advocate for education and learning for students, teachers and parents.

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

I believe our School Board has been doing a good job, I think the issues of today are challenging and involve thought and sensitivity plus involvement from our parents. Transparency and accountability are key actions for a board to have and values I believe in. I think our SD can improve in areas of communication with our parents and I believe we can improve relationships with our students.

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 my diverse experience in many areas volunteering in our community, remaining involved in many aspects within the region, and understanding that being a trustee, you are one of seven people around a table that shares the same goals. A strong knowledge and understanding of Board governance and what it means to be an excellent team player are my strengths.

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).

One of the most important jobs of being a governance board is to set and review policy. Every policy needs to be reviewed in order to be relevant to today, what worked yesterday, may not work today. Yes, the SD should be reviewing all policies. We live in the beautiful rural North and transportation should be a policy near the top of that review list. 

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 truly believe every child deserves to learn in an environment where they feel safe from bullying, harassment and discrimination of any kind. SOGI resources are available to schools and anyone looking for this information, education around sensitive topics are key. The more we can learn, the better our community and the better our schools can be.

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?

Through talking to folks in our communities, it is apparent to me that the role of a School Trustee is quite unknown. This has ignited a desire in myself to want to change this in our communities. We need to be accountable to our parents, students and communities. This means inviting opinion and really listening and in order to do this, we must attend schools, we must be accessible to the parent and we must accept feedback and then change if needed.

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?

I think that there can always be more work to do in recruiting and retaining professionals in our area, to say we have tried everything doesn’t settle well with me. On the other hand, we have children that deserve to learn and a teaching body is better than the alternative. In the short term, yes I believe the administration has done what they can, I believe our district has more work to do in this area, this will likely require out-of-the-box thinking.

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?

This is a very sensitive topic for our communities, for myself included. I am a parent that had children in the Rolla Discovery School when the school closure announcement came, we had been in the school for 8 years. I also am a big fan of alternate teaching and learning. However I also have a career in finance and banking, therefore I understand business decisions and why. It doesn’t mean the emotion of that decision is any easier. These are very hard decisions and I understand the process the district will undertake to review the possible closure of the school. These reviews are necessary but ultimately the closure of any school is disappointing. 

——

Angelina Schurmann

Age: 37 yrs
Occupation:Homemaker.  Part-time employment as Human Resource Manager at Gear-O-Rama Supply Ltd.
Highest Level of Education:MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding

Why are you running?

Through my involvement with the Ecole Frank Ross (EFR) Parent Advisory Council (PAC) I have been encouraged to see what parents can do when they come together to support their children’s education.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the time served on EFR’s PAC, but feel that I would like to contribute to the educational needs of students on a greater level.  I believe that serving as a School Board Trustee within SD 59 would give me the opportunity to achieve this goal.

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 current relationship with SD 59 consists of the interactions I have had as PAC Chair over the course of the 2017/18 school year, acting as a liaison between our PAC and SD 59.  As well as, my interactions as a parent with school aged children currently enrolled within SD 59.

The experience that I bring to the table is unconventional but valuable.  I have worked for several organizations in varying capacities to invest in the overall well-being and growth of children over the course of the past 14 yrs.  My most applicable experience would be the 6 months that I spent in rural Zambia working for a not-for-profit organization developing preschools and early education programs.  As the project coordinator I networked with government officials and other NGOs (Non-government Organizations) to collaborate on the reduction of the duplication or unnecessary use of valuable resources.  Furthermore, I helped to develop and implement the training of local community members to run these programs, and the acquisition and distribution of the necessary resources.

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

I believe the main role of a school trustee is to know and become an advocate for the academic growth and well-being for all children within the district.  As there are many socio-economic factors that can contribute to, or take away from, a child’s ability to receive a quality education I realize this can be a very complicated task.  The role of a school trustee, therefore, is to educate oneself on what the needs of its school age population are, which socio-economic factors play the most significant part in effecting education locally, what resources are already available and which ones need to be acquired.    

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

My interest to become a School Board Trustee came about through my personal involvement in my own children’s education and seeing what decisions where being made and how.  From that experience my interest has grown in wanting to contribute to the educational development of all students within SD 59.

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

Although I am not personally familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the other candidates that set us apart, I believe that I am a strong candidate for the position of school trustee.  I believe I have gained a lot of experience over the years working with children directly, as well as, indirectly through the training of community leaders and development of community resources in rural Zambia.  This experience taught me important lessons on the value of education, and has given me a greater sense of responsibility towards the well-being and success of future generations.          

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 be in favor of revisiting School Bus Policy 6070, Regulation 6070.1.1a, if it has been demonstrated that students are consistently falling outside of these guidelines, and/or valid safety concerns are being raised for these students well-being.    

Regulation 6070.1

School Bus Transportation – Walk-Limits

1. To/From Bus Stops:  800 meters (1/2 mile)

a) Walking distances shall be calculated as distances walked on publicly maintained roads and shall not include distances walked on private property.

In regards to revisiting Policy 6070.1, Regulation 4, specifically (c) and (d), would also need equal consideration.

4. Transportation services may not be provided in cases where:

c) A bus route extension directly affects the pick-ups and/or the length of the ride time for other students.

d) A bus route extension directly affects operational cost to the district.

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.)

Whenever a parent, guardian, or educator steps forward to express concern for the well-being of any child they are playing an important role in promoting equality and safety for all students.  I believe all members of the general public, including trustee candidates, parents/guardians, and educators should feel comfortable and supported to step forward and advocate for concerns that directly affect any student.

Regarding the context of the question directed towards SOGI resources, more specifically addressing the  “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 the points raised over the initial wording in Policy 4075 (last subsection: Students with Diversities) were relevant concerns to the well-being of all students within SD 59.  One point raised by trustee candidates concerned the safety and privacy of students who generally use traditional washrooms (male/female), and whether these students rights would be jeopardized by the introduction of open access of these traditional washrooms to students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.  A revision to Policy 4075 brought clarity to this particular point with added definitions including those for Gender Identities, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation.  As well as, an added revision to the last subsection of Policy 4075: stating that “Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions will have: Choices for gender specific (traditional) washrooms as well as gender neutral washrooms. Students may choose to use a traditional bathroom based on their lived gender as defined in this policy;” vs the earlier draft of Policy 4075 that stated an individual’s “Right to use whichever washroom they choose including washrooms in schools that do not indicate gender;”. 

I believe the advocacy for a revision to Policy 4075 was a commendable process that included respectful participation from concerned participants every step of the way. 

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?

Working within the parameters of the roles laid out for school board trustees, I look forward to the opportunity to work with educators and parents/guardians to help identify and bridge these gaps that have contributed to a lack of transparency and public trust.  As a member of the school board I will do my best to fully understand the complexity of these issues concerning student safety and discipline, and promote good communication between parents/guardians and educators.  

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?

An ongoing shortage of classroom teachers, as well as teachers teaching on call (TTOC) and specialist, continue to be an issue of concern throughout all of B.C.  This is addressed in a report put out by The Minister’s Task Force in December 2017 On Immediate Recruitment and Retention Challenges.  Although I do not know to what degree SD 59 has evaluated and implemented the immediate and longer-term actions recommended in The Minister’s Task Force report I believe the school district is handling a very difficult situation to the best of their ability.  As the need for classroom teachers, TTOC, and specialists is still present the need to recruit and retain teachers will be an ongoing effort.  Should I successfully obtain the position of school board trustee I look forward to participating in the exploration of seeking new and innovative ideas to attract and recruit teachers to SD 59.

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 believe the vote in favour to begin the closure review was a difficult, but necessary, decision that demonstrated fiscal accountability to the entire district of SD 59.  My observation of this process has been that the current board of trustees demonstrated both a desire to get an accurate picture of the needs of Don Titus Montessori, its students and its responsibility to SD 59 students as a whole.  A closure review will allow for a future board to gain the insight they need to make a decision.

——

Tamara Ziemer (incumbent)          

Age: 37
Occupation: In September I began working with the Nawican Friendship Centre as the Program Coordinator.  I also facilitate courses in the Work Force Training and Continuing Education Department at Northern Lights College.  Most importantly I am a mother, raising two children with my husband Patrick. 
Highest level of education: I have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Northern British Columbia.

Why are you running?  

This will be my 3rdterm running for a seat on the school board and while I have learned so much I know there is still so much to learn.  And I love learning.  This year, 3 of our longest serving Trustees have decided to not seek re-election.  I decided to run this term because I want to help provide consistency in leadership for our board.  If I am re-elected as a trustee I can help new Trustees to learn their role in implementing Ministry of Education mandates in a local context.  My role will be to support new and returning trustees while continuing my own path of lifelong learning. 

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 running for re-election.  I have served on the Northern Interior Branch executive as both Communications Chair and Vice President.  This has helped me to understand the regional context of education in relation to the rest of the province as well as here at home. I have also served as provincial councilor, contributing to the decision-making process of our provincial organization, BCSTA, while ensuring that the needs in our district are represented at a provincial level.  I also advocate for our students as Board Chair, attending provincial meetings to learn and understand Ministry direction while advocating for funding and services that increases access to education (bussing), Learning Services, Aboriginal Education initiatives, Literacy, Numeracy, Dual Credit programs, Second Language programs, and Inquiry Based Learning. 

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

The role of school trustee is to engage with our communities to build and maintain a public education system that reflects local values and priorities.  This is why Trustees run for election in different electoral areas, representing all of the communities our district serves.  We engage in strategic planning and set budgets that that reflect the needs of students and work hard to represent the diversity of communities in our district.   

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

No Particular issues. 

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

I have served on the school board since 2010 and have been involved both regionally and provincially in the BC School Trustee Association, advocating for our students and for public education. 

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).

We revisit the School Bus Policy regularly. Many things cause us to revisit the policy, things like changes in funding, parent requests, and both local and provincial issues.  Bussing has been a regular topic for our board since the provincial funding model was changed about 5 years ago.  We will continue to regularly discuss and review this issue and other issues that affect students access to education. 

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.)

There are many resources to help community members understand why School Districts are implementing policy around sexual orientation and gender identity.  For our district, this policy is centered around safety for students.  The top priority is to develop a policy, which includes public input, that ensures the safety of all students in our schools.

Please reach out to your Trustee representative, now and after the election to discuss this important issue.  In the meantime, here are some resources to help community members understand how and why we are currently developing this policy.

BCCPAC Resources

bccpac.bc.ca

Minister Statement on SOGI Sep 29 . Strong united stand & support for SOGI. Statement released from Min Fleming & K-12 education partners. DPAC Summit Registration Open Sep 26 . Register Now for our annual DPAC Summit Nov 2-3.

SOGI 1 2 3 / British Columbia

bc.sogieducation.org

SOGI 1 2 3 helps BC educators make schools inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.

SOGI 1 2 3

www.sogieducation.org

For Educators. Learn what's happening in your province and download resources. There is a dedicated SOGI 1 2 3 website for educators in each participating province, with resources for creating inclusive policies, learning environments, and lesson plans.

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?

The Teacher Regulation Branch publishes teacher discipline reports annually at the end of each school year, available to the public.  For other situations, we need to respect laws regarding privacy of information while balancing the need for public information regarding student and staff safety. 

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 definitely an issue that school districts are struggling with across the province.  In the North, the struggle may be more prevalent in terms of teacher recruitment and retention.  If elected I will ensure that our district advocates for increased funding to help us recruit and retain qualified teachers to our district.

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?

The potential closure of Don Titus is more complicated than other school closures that I have been involved in.  Previously, a school closure decision has been based on student enrollment.  While the enrollment at Don Titus has been increasing, the capacity of all elementary schools in Chetwynd is far greater than the number of students enrolled in programs.   While I want students to be able to attend their neighborhood schools I also believe it is fiscally irresponsible for the board to continue to fund the maintenance and administration costs of 3 schools when the number of students will occupy 2 schools with room for the student population to grow.  The timing of the proposed closure is undesirable as the Don Titus community has worked hard to raise funds for playground equipment recently installed and has been working hard to increase enrollment in the Montessori program.  My intention is to support the families in Chetwynd through this process as much as possible.  Communication is key and if re-elected I will do my best to listen to and understand the needs of parents and students as we engage in community consultations over the next few months.   This decision has not yet been made.  The board will now begin to engage in public consultations regarding this bylaw and then make a decision that reflects the best interests of all students.

——

reporter@dcdn.ca

© Copyright 2018 Dawson Creek Mirror News

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