Meet Your Candidates: Sooke School Board trustee candidates highlight their concerns

Need for more schools, resources top of the list

Voters in SD62 will elect seven trustees for the district with four coming from the West Shore and three coming from Sooke and Port Renfrew. We asked each candidate what changes they would like to see in the school district. These are their responses.

Belmont Zone (4):

Cendra Beaton

The changes I foresee are to continue to build on our successes and address our greatest challenge: growth. As the fastest growing district in B.C., we have a lot of work to do to get the proper facilities, resources, staffing, and supports in place to meet the needs of our communities.

Additionally, we have to upgrade our aging facilities and ensure they are seismic proofed. We must do this in a way that will continue to allow both our public education programs to be fruitful and supported equitably, English and French Immersion.

All our students deserve a safe and inclusive environment while receiving a quality education. I also look forward to growing our understanding and knowledge together of our Indigenous perspective towards a true Truth and Reconciliation. We have done a great job and our district is a leader on many levels, but we must always try to be better tomorrow then we are today. Through collaboration and consistent advocacy, we can make a positive difference together for our kids and families, staff and schools.

Bob Beckett

An education today is not just about academics, it is about giving our children the best possible experience they can have while in our schools, so that they may succeed in all aspects of life – personal, post secondary education, and work force.

I believe that keeping pace with the growth in our communities, coupled with current financial restraints and ensuring that we have appropriate resources including both staff and physical resources is our number one challenge.

That said, and given the hard work of staff, teachers, administration and board trustees to date, my focus would be to work on developing relationships that create and foster positive synergy with all stakeholders, both internal and external that result in tangible, innovative, and collaborative outcomes for everyone involved in the education of our children.

Russ Chipps

I’ve always been active as a Chief and community member in our local school district. I have supported the trustees and superintendent in their efforts to enhance education for all students. I have been to graduations, school events, in classrooms, and have heard the voice of the students. As an advocate, I can only suggest changes. As a trustee, I will have the opportunity to implement positive classroom space and find ways to build new schools, rather than continue on the track of using more and more portables for our expanding student population. Our students need to know they are valued, and students, teacher and all other staff should be able to study in well-built planned educations facilities, rather than being out in the elements, trudging through the mud and the rain to get to and from class.

Wendy Hobbs

I would like to see more students engaging in areas of interest which will allow for more meaningful learning. This will allow students more opportunity to be successful. Improve on class size and class composition for teachers and student success. Increase services for student achievement. Provide a more inclusive school environment to address the needs of all students which will cultivate a sense of well-being and safety. We need to develop strategies with all government agencies to address mental health issues. I would like to see more specialized teachers and make sure all teachers have adequate resources to instruct students in the importance of digital literacy. I would also like to see more initiatives that increase a greater sense of community with stakeholders throughout the district. And of course the main change I would like to happen is the government to fully fund for staffing and resources and capital money for new schools so we can plan the future of the school district.

Ravi Parmar

This last term the SD62 board of education adopted its first strategic plan. This document was built by the board of education and its partner groups and shares the vision and the work we need to do to make SD62 schools into the safe, inclusive and innovative spaces for our students. An area of the strategic plan that I will prioritize if re-elected is growth.

SD62 is the fastest growing school district per capita in B.C. We need to build schools to accommodate our rapidly growing community. As board chair, I have sat across from the premier and minister of education and successfully made a case for capital investments in SD62. If re-elected, I will continue to provide a strong voice to convince the provincial government to make capital investments for new schools in our community. I will also provide the proper oversight to ensure those new schools are built on time and on budget.

Dianna Seaton

SD62 is known for our exponential growth, innovation and leadership. Changes I would like to make include increasing the momentum to build new schools, and acquiring land for the future, as per our long-range facilities plan. Also, to broaden the implementation of our strategic plan that guides every aspect of our district, to develop informed, literate and resilient citizens through engagement in a safe, respectful, responsive learning community.

During the past term I have worked with an extraordinary team in SD62 who have developed a culture that is positive, respectful, collaborative and productive. I am very proud of the many evidence based, innovative and enriching programs, such as nature kindergarten and the wellness centre at Belmont, that have been successfully introduced.

I look forward to using the knowledge and experience I have gained as a trustee since 2005, to meet the diverse and future needs of our students.

Blair Sloane

Wellness is essential for student success. To learn, students must feel safe, wanted, welcomed, nourished, hydrated, rested and free from distractions.

Anxiety in the classroom is rampant. Untreated, it cripples, isolates, depresses, demotivates, and puts the student at risk to explore unhealthy choices and behaviours. Developing a wellness lifestyle will encourage academic success and will promote resistance to substance abuse.

We need to press our government for more funding. Inclusive education is a wonderful education model to be implemented. It will fulfill the mandate of diversity and freedom. But inclusive education will require more classrooms (not portables), more learning materials, well-stocked libraries, more educators (teachers and educational assistants), counsellors, support staff, social workers, therapists, nurses and doctors.

An inclusive, diverse school is what all students of SD62 deserve. I support our students, their diversity, and inclusion. It is worth repeating: wellness is essential for student success. Imagine our classrooms illuminated by the inner light of its learners.

Trudy Spiller

1. One of the fastest growing school districts in B.C.: actively advocate to the ministry of education for more capital, teachers and other supports.

2. Class size and composition: ask senior leadership to regularly report out on class size and composition to ensure classrooms are in compliance with the collective agreement.

3. Students with special needs: advocate for extra supports for students but staff as well.

Milnes Landing Zone (3):

Bob Phillips

1. As the fastest growing district in B.C., we must have the immediate funding to build multiple new schools. Our growth rate is over 350 students per year.

2. The new student funding formula must work for growing districts like SD62, must provide additional money for special needs students and fully fund our collective agreements.

3. We must negotiate a new contract for our teachers that addresses student learning and teacher working conditions and provides teacher compensation comparable to Alberta and Ontario.

4. The province must work with school districts and municipalities to develop sound funded emergency preparedness plans for our schools.

Neil Poirier

1. Creating safe, inclusive and respectful school environments that inspire learning.

2. Ensure teachers and students have the support, resources and learning opportunities to improve student achievement for all students.

3. Advocate for capital funding to address aging district facilities and for the construction of new schools to address the rapid student population growth.

As stated in my platform objectives the changes needed are basically, more facilities. We are growing at an incredible rate, have purchase property throughout the western communities and Sooke and are awaiting capital funds to build.

However, our growth has not been confined to student population. The board, in the last few terms, has created a strategic plan, created a new committee structure and with the turnover of our executive staff due to retirement is looking forward to a pretty busy next term.

Britt Santowski

I see every day how technology is rapidly changing our world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and what comes next, for all their good, can transport a child into profound misery. Bullying is no longer left at school. It follows them into their homes, into their bedrooms. Online sextortion like that experienced by Amanda Todd is very real. Data breaches happen regularly, each one bigger than the last. These, identity theft, and reputation management are all things we never had to deal with growing up. Technology will change everything: jobs, the workplace, the classroom, and interactions at all levels. This is all new, and I hope to be the constant reminder that this exponential change is upon us. My other concerns include an increased success rate for French Immersion, the incorporation of Indigenous history throughout the curriculum, and school facilities keeping pace with SD62’s rapid growth.

Margot Swinburnson

Our district is going through immense changes.

Pressure points I see?

• Facilities – due to growth in both our zones, we will need new or replaced schools including a new middle and high school. These involve significant financial investments by the provincial government.

• Upgrading our facilities – to meet that changes in education and technology. Schools need to be regularly upgraded, no matter which zone or area they are in.

• We have an urgent need to increase the numbers of education assistants to keep all our kids safe.

• A change I would like to see – and am working towards – is to create a one-stop, comprehensive, low threshold assessment and support for children and families that may be experiencing mental health or wellness issues.

As a trustee for seven terms, over 19 years, I bring the experience and knowledge to the table in order to help effect positive change.

Allison Watson

Emergency preparedness – PAC committees are wondering why they are paying for emergency supplies and it shouldn’t be their burden to bear, it should be the province’s.

Infrastructure and building capacity are pressing issues. As a trustee, I will ensure that the profile of Sooke’s needs are proactively highlighted and are equally prioritized with the West Shore’s when proposals are put forward.

I want to prioritize the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, by fostering a relevant, welcoming space for Indigenous students.

Parents, students and teachers want to be heard and engaged in the decision-making processes. My plan is to establish a schedule to regularly connect with community stakeholders to carry out the mandate of a trustee and better represent Sooke’s diverse needs.

Municipal electionSD62

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