Mollie Bono and Steve Connor take part in the Vernon School District all-candidates forum Tuesday.

Mollie Bono and Steve Connor take part in the Vernon School District all-candidates forum Tuesday.

Election 2014: Education dominates discussion at forum

School District 22: Vernon School District trustees go before the public prior to an election

Busing and funding were two of the hot topics as candidates for school trustee gathered Tuesday.

At the event sponsored by the Vernon Teachers’ Association and the District Parent Advisory Association, the seven candidates for Vernon and two for Coldstream were asked how to help learners be successful.

Vernon candidate Lisa De Boer told the crowd at Vernon Secondary School that the key is to work on the system itself, beginning with funding.

“The teachers do incredible things out there and we need to be student-centric, we can’t just rely on our diagnostic tools, which are great, but we also need to look at how they develop as learners, that qualitative approach,” she said.

For Vernon trustee Steve Connor, student success is always uppermost in his mind.

“And trustees can help by listening to staff, and by putting resources where they are needed,” he said.

Vernon trustee Perry Wainwright said programs like the Vernon Community School are a great example of ways in which this district has expanded beyond the traditional classroom. “I would like to see this program be an example of how we can strengthen relationships between all parties,” he said

Candidates were also asked whether class size and composition language should be included in the teachers’ collective agreement.

Vernon incumbent Kelly Smith said at one time it was in the contract and that there are class size limits in place.

“But composition is the most serious issue,” she said. “As a special ed teacher, I have always juggled class size and special ed students, so I know how difficult it is.”

Trustees were also asked how they would change the funding formula to better meet the needs of all children.

Vernon incumbent Mollie Bono would like to see this district lobby other school districts to find creative ways of dealing with budget shortfalls.

“The budget for anything to do with children is really undervalued in this province, and we need to make the government accountable,” she said.

Coldstream candidate Robert Lee added that the math problem is easy.

“If you don’t have a lot of money, and you divide it, you get less, so we have to keep lobbying the government, but we should be talking directly with our MLA and all Okanagan boards should talk to their MLAs and eventually they will have the ear of the government.”

Coldstream incumbent Bill Turanski said the board has made every effort to get more funding for the district, including meeting with Education Minister Peter Fassbender and MLA Eric Foster.

The recent cuts to district bus routes and implementation of a 2.4-kilometre walk limit brought a variety of suggestions.

“I’m not opposed to busing, but I think a higher priority is for money to be placed in the classrooms,” said Vernon candidate Brenda Giffin.

“But when you take away something, you need to provide something else.

Vernon incumbent John Armstrong said the 2.4-kilometre limit complies with current policy and is quite generous compared to other districts.

“We need to be creative because I don’t see the government giving us mor money,” he said, “so this needs to be locally driven.”