School board trustees are crucial community leaders

I had the pleasure of attending a School District 62 board meeting the other night.

I had the pleasure of attending a School District 62 board meeting the other night.

For this district, with an annual operating budget of about $80 million and a staff of about 1,500, we are talking about a large organization with significant impact not only on its students but on the communities it is located within.

Unlike most other school districts across the province, enrolment is on a strong increase that will continue into the future. In fact a recent facilities plan indicates that even current utilization of SD 62 classrooms far exceeds space.

All the schools in SD 62 are overcrowded and some dangerously so. Belmont secondary in particular needs so much retrofit and seismic upgrading that current plans call for demolishing it rather than spending the millions involved to bring it up to standards.

In other words school boards and administrators deal with issues critical to your child’s health all day, everyday.

Why then do we mostly ignore them? Do you even know who your local school trustees are? Probably not.

Do you pay attention to the fact that trustees get elected reelected or otherwise every three years on the same date at the same time as the municipal elected officials?

The media largely ignores these races as most of the attention goes to mayoral candidates and some local council battles.

However I would argue that school board trustees have a more immediate and longer term impact on the health of our communities’ families than many local councils.

This is especially important for all the infrastructure issues facing the West Shore with its rapid growth — projections for K-12 age growth are a minimum of a 55 per cent increase over the next decade.

In the Sooke School District we elect seven trustees, four from the West Shore area and three from the Sooke area.

These folks work hard on your behalf and you deserve to know what positions they take on what issues and to see if you agree or disagree with those positions.

The point is to simply challenge ourselves to get involved in school board issues wherever we live.

You can follow their websites, pay attention to the administrators blogs, follow the issues and attend a board meeting. They are all public.

Pay attention to your local trustee candidates as they emerge in a few weeks’ time — and when you are voting in the municipal elections on Nov. 19 remember to pay attention to the trustee candidates that you are affecting the quality of your child’s day and life. It’s that important.

Otherwise you don’t get to complain, and folks, it’s also called democracy — it doesn’t work without you.

—Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.


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