Election 2014: School trustees looking to continue roles

School District 22: John Armstrong, Kelly Smith and Mollie Bono are seeking re-election

Three incumbent trustees want to remain involved in the Vernon School District.

As one of seven candidates vying for one of four spots representing Vernon and Areas B and C, incumbent  Kelly Smith hopes to be re-elected to continue the work she began three years ago.

“My first term as a school trustee was challenging,” she said.

“The term started with a strike and ended with negotiated contracts in place for nearly all employee groups. There was much to learn and I did my homework.

“With my experience, the relationships that I have established and the knowledge I have gained, I am looking forward to another term and exciting times in our public education system.”

Smith said B.C. school trustees are at a crossroads and said it’s critical that their voice is heard by the provincial government.

“It is very important that we engage our community in the work that trustees do,” she said. “We must seek their input in more creative ways because at this time, there are members of our community who feel that they have not been included.”

And, while decreased funding continues to be an issue, Smith said classroom composition also needs to be addressed.

“There are many special needs that our teachers deal with every day and some of those needs require support from other professionals. In order to ensure that every student has an opportunity to meet their potential, we must find a way to provide that support,” she said.

Smith  is a retired teacher with 33 years of experience.

Incumbent John Armstrong is also seeking re-election after his first three-year term on the board.

“I have personally gained experience and have learned a great deal in my first term as a trustee,” he said. “I believe that our community has invested in me and this is my opportunity to serve them — there is more work to do to improve education in our community.”

In addition to the lack of funding which continues due to declining enrolment, the district is also dealing with the busing issue, said Armstrong.

“Provincially, bus transportation is considered an optional service that school boards may provide if they choose,” he said. “Other than capital grants, this service must come from operations, which in turn has an effect on allocation of funds.

“Without funding, bus transportation could take away from education if further budget decreases occur and the same level  of bus service is expected. A full review of transportation is needed.

“More dialogue needs to continue to identify how to address these concerns; the school district simply does not have funds to increase transportation routes and stops where infrastructure improvements are needed.”

Armstrong is program director for the Vernon Ski Club.

With six years’ experience as a trustee, Mollie Bono is ready for another three-year term and hopes to be given that chance Nov. 15.

“I am running again because there is so much that needs to happen in terms of building relationships within our communities and with the provincial government and I want to be a part of that process,” she said.

“I believe that the main issues facing trustees right now is how do we deal with an inadequate budget. We cannot continue to cut programs that are beneficial to students and our future as a community. We have to look for alternatives to asking/demanding/begging the provincial government for more resources for our schools and classrooms.”

As a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, Bono wants to see an improvement in graduation rates of aboriginal students, although she added that this district is doing well compared to other B.C. districts.

“We are about the same as we were three years ago, however the graduation rate of First Nations students, especially from the Okanagan band, needs improvement,” she said.

As a member of the OKIB and the larger aboriginal community in Vernon, Bono hopes to get involved with the aboriginal education committee.

“I have a lot of insight to offer and can provide some guidance to our district and I am certainly willing and able to do that,” she said.

Also running for trustee in Vernon and Areas B and C are former trustees Steve Connor and Perry Wainwright and newcomers Lisa de Boer and Brenda Giffin.

Coldstream incumbent trustee Bill Turanski is going up against Robert Lee Nov. 15.

 

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