Trustee Candidate Questionnaire – Prince George District Teachers Association
- Why are you running to be a trustee in the upcoming municipal election?
Short answer: I believe I can do a good job, in a very important job. Longer answer: after my children’s school was closed in 2010, I realized that what decisions the school board makes actually matters. I got involved, and have found it fascinating, complicated, and important. I want to do my part to make the school system work for all our students, I want to work respectfully with our education partners, and I want people to be able to see and trust the decision-making process.
2. Prior to September 2018, had you ever been to a school board meeting?
Yes. I have regularly been attending school board meetings for about 7 years. I attended and made presentations as a partner group representative (District Parent Advisory Council), and also attended when not serving as chair of DPAC. I have also attended a number of committee meetings, including Policy and Governance, Education Services, Catchment and Capacity Stakeholder Review Advisory Committee, and Expanded Committee of the Whole (Budget). I should note that teachers (and other partner groups) have had some wonderful representatives over the years, committed both to students and to effectively representing their members, and I have been honoured to work with these representatives.
- What do you see the role of Trustee as it relates to the Superintendent of the school district?
The board of trustees is responsible for the district, and sets direction, makes policies, and provides oversight. The board is not involved in the day to day operations. The Superintendent is responsible to the board for managing operations, ensuring policies are followed, and carrying out board decisions, and the board should conduct regular evaluations. It is important to note that the board has responsibility and authority, individual trustees do not have this authority. The board and Superintendent must be able to work together in a professional and respectful manner.
- How will you deal with capacity and catchment issues in Prince George?
I’ve spoken about this many times in the past, and have made a number of presentations to the board, starting in 2011. I think it’s important to base decisions on good data and projections with documented assumptions. It’s also important to be able to make decisions earlier, as when you wait, you need to make more disruptive decisions – and we’d prefer not to be too disruptive in schools! My priorities are to determine solutions for a school that works for the district as a whole (we can’t look at things just school by school), use supportable data, consult with staff and the community and ensure that people have informed opinions, ensure that eventual decisions are educationally sound, have the least possible disruption to our students and our staff, ideally keep families together, and ensure that the entire process is respectful to students, staff, and community.
- If elected, will you speak out publicly about issues which are a direct result of government underfunding or inaction? Please describe what actions you will undertake.
I believe that it is important for the board to speak with a unified voice when it comes to dealing with the government. As such, I would be in favour of board statements and other communications to effectively advocate for increased funding and other actions. It is important for boards to advocate, but to do so in an effective manner.
- Are you aware of the technology concerns of the district, particularly referring to being restricted to one platform and the lack of accessible Wi-Fi? What will you do to address these concerns?
Yes, I am aware of these concerns. I would be very interested in recommendations from the District Technology Advisory Committee. Technology is there to help education and learning; learning should not be held back by technology issues. I have also been concerned by schools having parents funding technology, as this creates have and have-not schools in the district. Additionally, we also need to provide better support to teachers to better use technology in the classroom.
- What are your views on SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) and SOGI 123 in the classrooms of this District?
I fully agree with a recent statement put out by all of BC education partners, stating that school should be “a place where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background.” I’m surprised that this could be considered controversial – we teach our children about various races, cultures and religions without issue, and just like there are a variety of races, cultures and religions, there are a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. I’ve read through the SOGI 123 curricular resources, and support them being used in our classrooms.
- To what extent would you prioritize music and arts education in this district?
I would love to see more money being spent on music and arts education, especially in elementary schools, as I think we have been lacking in this. I’m not certain how to best to do this, and would love to discuss this in more detail.
- In the past few years, this district has had problems in recruiting and retaining specialist teachers, for example in French Immersion, Core French (elementary and secondary), music, and trades. How would you address this issue?
Everywhere has had problems in recruiting and retaining French teachers, due to the country-wide increase in French immersion. Recruitment and retention should be a concern for all of our staff members. I would be in favour of supporting the BCTF recommendations for recruitment, retention, and mentorship with the Ministry of Education. However, most of these recommendations would be out of the direct control of the board, such as shortening of salary grid, student loans, or moving expenses. The board can work to provide more mentorship opportunities and professional development, as well as assistance to principals to ensure good staff relations.
- Last year, the RCMP and the mayor asked that people stay home during inclement weather/snow storms. Our staff and students were expected to show up in these unsafe conditions. Will you support a change to the policy so that schools will close based on the recommendations of the RCMP or city staff during inclement weather? Why or why not?
Yes, I would support a change to the policy, to increase the safety of staff and students. My understanding is that the schools never close during inclement weather because of the risk that students may reach a school only to find it closed, and then be left out in the cold. I believe there are ways to manage this risk, perhaps by keeping a list of staff who live close to a school, who would be able to reach that school without unduly endangering themselves.