For the first time in many years, veteran school trustee Bill Turanski is being challenged for his spot at the Vernon School District board table.
Newcomer Robert Lee has thrown his hat into the ring in the hopes of representing Coldstream on the school board.
Lee spent 33 years as a school principal in Nechako Lakes, just outside of Prince George, and has classroom teaching experience from kindergarten to Grade 8.
Lee operates Appletree Childcare, which specializes in preschool and afterschool care at facilities throughout Coldstream and Vernon and serving most district elementary schools.
“I have come full circle:. I can see clearly how preschool transitions to kindergarten and have gained a new appreciation for the excellent preschool and daycare providers in our area,” he said.
Lee said it was the recent busing changes in the district that prompted him to run for trustee.
“So many of our parents were adversely affected,” he said. “A person could question the decision- making that went into going with the 2.4-kilometre walk limit. I would submit it is much easier for a Grade 12 student to walk 2.4 kilometres in the winter than it would be for a kindergarten child. The actual cost of this decision is probably more than what a user fee would have been for a young family when you factor in the extra fuel, time and expenses.”
Lee said the district will have to come up with creative solutions to deal with a declining budget.
“Unfortunately, Victoria has been downloading more and more of a financial burden onto school districts and Vernon is facing a challenge that all districts are dealing with,” he said. “During the last strike, it was clear that one of the major obstacles was class composition. This has been an issue for classroom teachers for many years. I do not believe that simply throwing more money at the problem is the total solution.”
Lee says alternative ideas are needed as the number of special needs and designated students is increasing, not decreasing.
Lee is married with six adult children and seven grandchildren and has served on six different school accreditation teams.
With 21 years of experience as trustee, eight as board chairperson, Turanski hopes to continue the work he has begun on the aboriginal enhancement agreement as well as finally seeing the construction of a new board office to replace the portable that has housed the board for many years.
“I also enjoy being a school trustee and I feel that I have the time, knowledge, experience and work ethic to make a meaningful contribution to this district’s educational system,” he said.
Turanski said the main issue for the board continues to be funding shortages, where the board has been continually required to do more with less.
“Thanks to the efforts of an outstanding management and administrative staff and the commitment of our incredibly dedicated teachers, we have been able to provide our students with an excellent education but at times it has been a struggle and we could do more if the resources and support were available,” said Turanski, who attended Vernon High School and was principal at BX Elementary.
Turanski would also like to see the issue of hungry children, addressed as too many students are coming to school hungry.
“Thanks to the support of some of our churches, local food retailers and Parent Advisory Councils, we are able to provide a breakfast and a lunch in many of our schools,” he said. “It is a situation that we will continue to have to deal with.”
With his experience as a trustee, Turanski always enjoys helping new members of the board with orientation.
“And if I anticipate that some of them might have a problem with a particular issue on our meeting agendas I will e-mail them indicating what they should be focusing on and any protocols that may be related to the issue,” he said.