EDITORIAL: Don’t undervalue the role of school trustees

Low-profile politicians handle near $100-million budget in Sooke district alone

In the hierarchy of public elections, candidates for school trustee generally fall near the bottom of the recognition scale for most voters.

Around here at least, the people who run for school board are not usually attention-grabbing individuals vowing to make changes to the system or other such promises. They often have kids in the school system, or aren’t far removed from being parents of school-aged children, and so have a good idea of how education funding is filtering into classrooms.

Today school trustees don’t have nearly so much power to change the system, which is pretty much entirely the domain of the provincial government. But local trustees do play a critical role in our communities, which is to ensure the money the district does receive from the province is spent wisely.

The Sooke School District’s operational budget is pushing $100 million. That’s even more reason for us as voters to install people on the board who have a pretty good handle on reading balance sheets, or at least understand the value of cash.

Not only do trustees have to go over their budget with a fine-tooth comb – and figure out where shortfalls will be taken up – they’re in charge of administering it once the province gives the document the green light.

In School District 62, there are some massive projects on the go – the new Belmont High and Royal Bay secondary spring immediately to mind, as does reacting to the fast expansion of Langford’s Happy Valley neighbourhood. That’s not to mention the regular operational decisions trustees are expected to analyze and discuss on a monthly basis.

The workload and expectation level would be enough to drive some people to throw in the towel, but this election saw every sitting trustee run again, despite the additional year of service. While fresh blood can be good for any publicly elected body, the fact all but one incumbent got in means the learning curve won’t be as steep for the new board.

Many eyes will be on lone newcomer Ravi Parmar, a 20-year-old recent Belmont grad, to see what he brings to the table. He may get his eyes opened once he sits down to his first set of reports, but as a young learner, we expect he’ll get in there and roll his sleeves up.