A former teacher has earned the majority of votes for a spot on the board of Vernon School District trustees.
Kelly Smith came in with 3,390 votes to earn one of four spots to represent Vernon and Areas B and C during Saturday’s civic election.
She will serve her first three-year term alongside newcomers Tami Ryder and John Armstrong, along with incumbent Mollie Bono.
Smith discovered she had won while celebrating the victory of another candidate.
“I didn’t find out until 10:30 at night, I was at (Vernon City Councillor candidate) Juliette Cunningham’s to celebrate her win,” said Smith. “I was so humbled, I went in to this election because I had heard from this community that the community always goes with the same old, same old, and because Sam (Banducci) didn’t run again, I really think a teacher needs to be on the board.”
When Smith retired after 33 years of teaching, she longed to visit her former colleagues, but also recognized that they were busy in the classroom. She admits that as a trustee, she’s glad to have an excuse to head back into the classroom on official visits.
While it’s a challenging time for trustees — new and experienced — it’s one that Smith looks forward to facing head-on.
“Having been a teacher for so long, I thrive on doing homework, which I did all through the election,” she said, adding that to help new trustees during this steep learning curve, the B.C. School Trustees Association has organized a trustee academy in Vancouver next month, which will also be attended by superintendent Bev Rundell and secretary-treasurer Randy Hoffman.
The district’s cancellation of recess as a result of the teachers’ job action has been a hot topic since the school year began, and Smith said it’s one she hopes to take a look at when the new board meets for the first time.
“I think all four newbies were loud and clear that we had to look at recess, so I think that’s something we need to sit down and revisit.
“I really hope that negotiations (with government) do continue in a respectful fashion. There has never been enough money, but you need to sit down at the table and be respectful of each other.”
Smith wants all stakeholders to know that she is accessible and wants to hear their concerns.
“It’s all about talking to the community, so we need that opportunity to get input; I expect people to e-mail their ideas and their discussions, find out what this community needs.”
Bono said now that she has her first three-year term under her belt, she’s an experienced trustee who is looking forward to working with the new board members.
“The first few years is figuring out how everything works and even though I’ve been part of the education system for almost 30 years, I think I can be more effective this time around,” she said.
Bono said she’s hoping some of the newcomers will bring some fresh ideas to the table, particularly when it comes to funding for the district.
“We haven’t been that creative in looking at finding other sources of revenue and we have relied on the provincial government for the funding, and we need to look elsewhere and we need to do better at lobbying them so there is more money allocated to education in the province.”
For Ryder, the number of newcomers on the board is a sign that voters are ready for a change in leadership.
“I was elated and I felt like real change can happen and I did not feel I could make a difference without the new people who got elected; Kelly is so knowledgeable and is going to be such an asset to the board.”
Ryder looks forward to begin tackling some of the issues that came up during the election campaign.
“I want to learn everything that I can and can’t have control over,” she said. “And whatever I can fight for I will, recess is huge, and I want to work on that one right away.”
Armstrong said he’s looking forward to working effectively at the local level and that means tackling issues important to this district.
“I think the current board worked hard and did the best they could and from what I can sense is that despite their valiant efforts, the parties who voted wanted to get a significant change and picked people who would work closely with them, and communicate with them,” he said. “Certainly recess is at the top of all of our lists, to see if there’s a way we can move forward.”
Smith, Ryder, Armstrong and Bono will be joined by longtime trustee and current board chairman Bill Turanski, representing Coldstream, and former two-term trustee Mitzi Fortin and newcomer Doris Squair, both representing Lumby and Areas D and E.