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Quesnel – meet your School District 28 trustee candidates

Get to know the eight candidates vying for seven spots on the SD28 board of education

As part of the Observer’s election coverage, we asked the eight candidates for School District 28 trustee to answer three questions, to help the public get to know them.Here are their answers.

Trustee candidate David Chapman. Submitted photo

David Chapman

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “I have had both the privilege and pleasure to have been given the opportunity to be a school trustee for four terms.

“This works out to a total of 13 years on the Quesnel Board of Education. This past year, I was elected as the board vice chairperson. Being retired after working 31 years for the City of Quesnel, I have both the time and energy, and will continue to be both effective and results-oriented as an elected school board trustee.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “Some things that I would like to change or address is to continue to lobby the provincial government to provide consistent and reliable funding to ensure all students have the same opportunities to be successful.”

What do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “Without a doubt, the most important issue for students in SD28 is to secure the funding to build a new junior school on the Maple Drive site.

”Our students and staff have worked in facilities that are both old and decrepit for far too long. We simply need more up to date space to meet the needs of all concerned. Our community deserves nothing less.”

Trustee candidate Wendy Clement. Submitted photo

Wendy Clement

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “As a current school board trustee, I enter the election knowing what is expected of me. I have spent my entire life in the education system. Born the daughter of an English teacher, I also followed in the steps of my father and became an educator and administrator. I have worked in all levels of education. I believe that the number one priority of a school board trustee is to serve the local school board’s interest, which invariably comes right back to the child. Since the mid-19th century, schools have operated beneath the tenet of English Common Law. Every decision made by our local school board must take place under the cloak of in-loco-parentis, which is Latin for “in the place of the parent.” The school board’s role and, in turn, the role of every trustee, is to raise a well-rounded student. Considering a child will spend 12 years under the direct supervision of our school systems, we must operate our schools in a firm, loving, supportive manner, much like any loving parent would do, hence the term in-loco-parentis. With all of this in mind, every decision and policy made must be done with the child’s best interest in mind. The school board and its trustees, the teachers, the principals, the janitors and the bus drivers are in place to directly meet the needs of the children and to make a positive impact on their lives.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “We need to think beyond money. We need to focus on the relationships that exist within our schools’ walls. What truly exists and needs to be applauded are the abstract resources we have… the teachers, support workers, the principals who strive each and every day to make valuable connections with our students. Our principals and school staff alike are worth their weight in gold. The newest fancy-schmancy curriculum or computer program will not produce the same effect as that one teacher with an outstretched hand saying, ‘Hey, I care about you. I know you can do better. Let me help you.’ This is what we must invest in. Everyone knows that teachers do not go into the profession of teaching for the money. The good ones do it for the love of the kids… These are the ones we must find, applaud, and say ‘thank-you’ to. This is where we must begin to cultivate.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “There are several issues facing Quesnel today that need to be addressed. As our enrollment continues to decline, we are faced with a chronically underfunded budget from our government. Tied into this, teachers are being expected to do more and more with less and less. Children are coming through our doors with a multitude of stressors that children of past decades did not have to carry. We are expected to be teachers, parents, role models, disciplinarians, coaches, mentors, counsellors, etcetera. The list goes on and on. Gone are the days when a family would sit down around the supper table discussing the day’s events. Many families now need a two-person income just to survive. Consequently, more and more time is needed away from the home. Today’s society has nothing in place to guide our youth, so the role of today’s educational system has become so much more important. If our society still expects our education system to produce well-rounded individuals who can successfully navigate the uncharted waters of adulthood, then it has become even more imperative that the role that public education plays be protected and properly funded by our government.”

Trustee candidate Tony Goulet. Melanie Law photo

Tony Goulet

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “I have been a trustee for the past 15 years. I was board chair for one year, which has given me the ability to understand the bigger picture, the ‘provincial picture,’ when it come to the education of our children. I have chaired various committees and sat with trustees from around the province, with the ability to listen and to be able to understand the common theme, in how to make our children global citizens. I am the current chairperson for the Northern Interior Branch (NIB), which is made up from the districts in the North, part of the British Columbia School Trustee Association (BCSTA). I have to two boys in the system, one who is graduating this year, all in the public education system. I will always advocate for public education! I am a graduate of the public education system and what I learned over the years, is that change needs to happen. I will always advocate for a system of inclusion and respect for all kids.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “We have aging facilities within SD28 – Quesnel. As a collective, we need to make sure we have the facilities to provide children with the best educational opportunities we can. As a collective, we need to make sure new facilities are on the agenda with this current government. The curriculum is change and being more student focused. We need to make sure all children are engaging, and be inclusive in what they are learning. I thing a conversation around how electronics and social media are changing the way information is shared is required. We also need to think about how this can play into a students learning, without the distraction.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “Receiving a public education in which students want to learn at their own pace. They need to be engaged in what they are learning, as a public education system it needs to focus on the students interest, which will engage them. We need a more hands-on approach to learning, meaning being outside the classroom. There still needs to be the classroom setting, but we need to include pieces of hands-on learning. The internet/social media/ handheld devices are changing how kids interact, there needs to be a piece on embarrassing the social media, and how to understand what role this plays in their education.”

Trustee candidate Gloria Jackson. Submitted photo

Gloria Jackson

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “Education is one of the most important things we can do for every child. I have been a school trustee in the Quesnel school district for the past 13 years. I am proud to be a member of the Lhtako Dené Nation. It has been a rewarding experience for me to be the board chair for the past two years. In this last term, I spent two years as a director for the BC School Trustees Association. The knowledge that I gained from being a provincial director was immense and helped me grow as a trustee.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “I look forward to continuing to advocate for a replacement school for Quesnel Junior. Our district and community are deserving of a new school that can offer personalized learning in a building that has the capacity to serve student and staff needs.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “One of the most important things for students in SD28 is individual student success. We need to continue to give students the opportunities to achieve their personal best. I am a hardworking, dedicated Trustee and I would appreciate your support in the upcoming election.”

Trustee candidate Julie-Anne Runge. Submitted photo

Julie-Anne Runge

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “As an experienced, honest, questioning, engaged (locally, regionally, and provincially), and knowledgeable candidate, I would love to continue being a great trustee.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “I believe we need to keep a close eye on recruitment and retention and support local training of staff as the shortage of teachers, support workers, CUPE members, and others will continue to be an issue for Quesnel. We need to continue seeking funding for upgrades to not only our middle school, but also many of our aging infrastructure; continue to support the new curriculum… both as a district and through seeking provincial support for proper implementation; and continue to advocate for a diverse education system that supports trades, academics, and the arts.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “All of the above are important and all really require adequate funding and provincial support. As a rural community, it is vitally important to offer our students a vibrant and progressive public education system. Although my wish-list for a strong public education system is long, I know that many of the decisions are ultimately out of the hands of trustees… that being said, I would love to be able to say that I was an instrumental member of the team that was able to get adequate and safe facilities and resources for all stakeholders (students, teachers, support staff, etc.) and at a minimum a new junior high school for our students.”

Trustee candidate Roland Sawatsky. Melanie Law photo

Roland Sawatsky

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “Two years ago, the school board decided to close several schools in the Quesnel district. One was Kersley Elementary. I chaired a team (Friends of Kersley School) which actively disputed this decision. The team co-ordinated letter writing, research and gathering information, picketing and attending school board meetings. The result of our work was the creation of the Rural School Fund. It was created to assist the school boards provincially with the higher costs of maintaining rural schools. That year, at least nine rural schools slated for closure across the province were kept open, including Parkland and Kersley Elementary Schools. As an owner of a small business, I manage budgets and work with our staff as a team member. I have experience dealing with the public. My time in college and university earned me an Associate of Arts in Human Services and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I was employed as a registered nurse for 22 years. One of the skills I learned was to prioritize and organize my work. It taught me to work as a team member in highly stressful situations. I worked for about 17 years in the Office of the Superintendant of Motor Vehicles (RoadSafetyBC) as a case manager. My duties included medical fitness for driving for the province. I also had discussions regarding drivers with MLAs, the Office of the Ombudsperson, Human Rights, lawyers and many other key partner groups.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “Rural schools have different needs and supports than urban schools. This needs to be recognized. As we were working to keep our school open, all of our letter writing, research, picketing and meetings demonstrated one thing seriously missing: it was the lack of representation for rural schools. We had no voice. We had points and concerns,but we felt no one was listening. We felt helpless. I want to ensure there is a voice for rural schools.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “A concern of mine has always been for all students to obtain a quality education that matches the employment opportunities in the real world. Another concern is that the schools are a safe place to learn in and attend.”

Trustee candidate Howie Schonke. Melanie Law photo

Howie Schonke

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee?

“I have served two terms and I’m now looking for a third term, so I have the experience. I have lived in Quesnel all of my life and have worked with the the school district for 30 years, and have worked with kids all of my life.

“I think that qualifies me to be school trustee again.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected?

“I don’t know if I would change too much. We operate a very efficient system right now, but there are always improvements needed. I would like to see that all kids are treated fairly and equally.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28?

“I think bullying is an issue that needs to be improved, and I would like to see the students in our district have the same opportunities as the rest of the province.

“The other big thing we are worried about is that the kids are comfortable at the current Quesnel Junior School location, and that we get a new school for them in the future.”

Trustee candidate Cyril Tobin. Submitted photo

Cyril Tobin

What experience and/or personal traits make you a good candidate for trustee? “First, I learned much about education by failing out of high school at a young age. In hindsight, I can only blame myself for the lifestyle choices I made at the time. As an experienced educator, it really did help me realize that schools have a responsibility to offer a standard of care for all students. At 21 I enrolled in university for one reason, to play basketball. I learned the power of sport. I believe in healthy competition with an equal emphasis on healthy and competition. I did manage to obtain three university degrees from three different universities. Many Quesnel residents will remember that I was a school principal for 25 years in Quesnel. In addition, I worked for seven years in Northern Manitoba in primarily Cree and Métis communities, one year in Japan teaching English and 2.5 years in China as a school principal. All told, I’ve discovered the meaning of life six different times now. I’ve learned that the meaning of life is a deeply personal construct and that schools have a responsibility in helping students to understand themselves. I bred three of my own underwhelming children and now have seven prize grandchildren that are or will be attending Quesnel public schools. I have won lobster fights in Cape Breton, a family cliff-diving competition on Cortez Island, and a spelling bee in Grade 2. And as recently as last week, I have spoken with Elvis.”

What are some things you would like to change or address if elected? “I worked in SD28 for 25 years as a school principal. I was proud to be an SD28 employee. I am not running to become a school trustee because SD28 needs to be ‘fixed.’ I am running for election because I look forward to being part of the future and the challenge of making our schools relevant as families, workplaces and societies change at an incredible pace. It appears staffing, teacher recruitment and retention has become a real issue. SD28 has made an intelligent move to hire retired teachers to help mentor TTOC (substitute teachers). This is because they are forced, in short-term situations, to put uncertified teachers in classrooms. Quesnel needs to attract and retain fully certified teachers. A few years ago, as part of my work for SD28, I toured a number of middle and high schools in the Lower Mainland. I returned to Quesnel with the stark realization that the physical facilities of Quesnel schools don’t compare to the Lower Mainland. The BC Ministry extracts the riches from our mines and forests. It is time schools in Quesnel received their share of new construction. Some of the high schools in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and points south are amazing facilities. Our kids deserve the same.”

What is do you think is the most important or pressing issue for students in SD28? “It is a bit of an understatement to say that technology, parenting and society are changing at an incredible pace. Schools must constantly change to continue to be relevant. The only constant in society and schools is change, and we must always be looking to provide meaningful, worthwhile opportunities for students. Technology is adding a ton of stress to parenting. Kids want to be constantly connecting with each other, gaming, watching videos, etc. Technology is ‘hooking’ our kids into a lifestyle that we know is not ideal. I like the behavioural term self-regulation. As kids mature, parents and schools must shift more and more responsibility to our youth so that as 15 to 18-year-olds they can enjoy technology and not have technology interfere with healthy life choices. If I had the answer to this challenge, I would happily share it with the parents of Quesnel. The best I can offer is that I feel the frustration of parents and I hope to join the conversation as a school board trustee. Vote for me, because I really do care.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about how and where to vote in municipal election

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