Questions to Lumby’s school trustee candidates varied, but they all had one thing in common — funding.
Doris Squair, Paula Harned and Mitzi Fortin, who are all seeking Vernon School District seats, participated in a forum at the White Valley Community Centre Wednesday.
They all agreed on the definition of the role of trustees as one of making decisions about how money is spent on staff, facilities and programs to provide the best possible education for all students.
“We are responsible to our public who has hired us to do this job,” said Harned, an incumbent.
Fortin previously served as a trustee for six years and Squair is looking to be elected for the first time. All have, or have had, children in school in Lumby and have been involved as volunteers with parent advisory councils.
The 26 people in attendance at the Vernon Teachers Association forum learned that recess being cancelled, or actually moved to the end of the day with an earlier dismissal time, is not being done in all districts in the province and is being dealt with in different ways in different areas. This can involve hiring extra supervisory staff.
“Why is there supervision in some districts but not in others? Everybody needs a break,” said Squair.
It came back to money with discussion of the proposal for school boards to ask for a return of 15 per cent of teachers’ salaries due to current labour differences and negotiations.
The general response from candidates was that this is a negative move that would do nothing towards resolution and could damage negotiations.
The candidates and audience members talked about the vital need for early intervention for vulnerable children so that they can succeed in school.
“Working with parents, even before their children are in school is the key. We want people to know that there are many ways to help children get ready for school,” said Squair.
Helping children with special needs and those who might need only a little extra help, and early identification of needs also focussed on money.
“With a little bit of money, we have to do a lot of big work. Chronic underfunding is a stressor, trying to meet the needs with very little, it’s torment, it really is,” said a teacher in the audience.
That led to discussion about the needs budget, where school districts present the province with a budget that tells how much money is really needed for the district to function at its best. Some school districts in the province are planning to do this and it was suggested that Vernon do the same.
“With the current underfunding it is important that the provincial government to be aware of what the reality is. More and more is expected but it comes without financial backing,” said Fortin.
Other topics were community use of school facilities, declining enrollment and ways to attract international students, public debate and accountability of board of education policies and decisions and raises for teachers.
The candidates summed up their reasons for running and what they can offer.
“Libraries, learning and literacy. They go together. My promise to you is that I will make every decision for the good of all the students,” said Fortin.
Squair said, ”I’ll give you all. I will represent our schools and work with other team and community members to make our schools successful and our community successful.”
Harned said she wants to be re-elected to finish some projects she has started.
“We need to give every child the resources they need to fulfill the potential and become life-long learners. And we need the parents involvement. I am the only sitting trustee with children attending school in the area and that gives me a unique perspective.”