Scia’new First Nations Chief Russ Chipps is excited to build on years of progress with Sooke School District and improve things for all students, after his election as a trustee with SD62.
Chipps won election in the Belmont zone of SD62 with 6,112 votes. He’s been eyeing a seat on the school board for more than a decade, working first with different committees and having run once previously for trustee in 2018.
“I know I’m a First Nations chief. But when I sit down at the table, I referenced children as being my focus. I don’t identify as a nation or a race when I sit down and speak. I understand that it was hard for me to grow up in the school district. I’ve noticed a 360-degree turnaround lately and it’s because of the work that we’ve been doing. It’s been collaborative and inclusive, and I just enjoy working with it. The school district, I think it’s the best district around.”
He’ll be joined by returning board chair Ravi Parmar (8,729), as well as other newcomers: Indigenous author Trudy Spiller (6,247), former Sooke School District parent advisory committee president Cendra Beaton (4,830 votes). From the Milne’s Landing Zone, incumbent Allison Watson (2,274) won re-election. She will be joined by Amanda Dowhy (2,190) and former District of Sooke councillor Ebony Logins (2,105).
Chipps said he hoped to see graduation rates rise among First Nations students after progress had plateaued over the past couple of years. Chipps also said more schools were needed in the district and he’d continue to work on improving inclusivity in the school district, something he says has come a long way in recent years.
“How can you put care in a can and pass it to the next person? You can’t do that – people are just caring more these days, and looking at each other, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, treating each other like equals, that’s what’s happening in the district.”
Parmar said in a previous interview that the new board has “lots of diverse and lived experiences that will form an incredible board for the community.”
“The school district has just changed for the better. We’re not perfect and I don’t know if any district is ever going to be perfect. There’s always going to be some mistakes being made,” said Chipps. “But everybody’s trying to work together these days. It just seems to be different.”