A new voice for education is needed and local residents have the chance to choose.
There are four candidates vying for a trustee position on the Vernon School Board: Julie Melanson, Christie Tujik, Philipp Gruner and Jenelle Brewer.
Voters in Vernon and electoral areas B (BX-Swan Lake) and C (Silver Star-BX) can choose a candidate Saturday, May 29 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the district office (1401 15th St.).
The chosen trustee will serve the balance of the four-year term, which ends November 2022, which is vacant following the death of Mollie Bono.
“Our trustees are elected to ensure SD22 is a great place to learn and grow and a great place to work,” Vernon District Parent Advisory Council president Gladys Fraser said. “They need skilled hands-on-deck to make that happen.”
The VDPAC with Vernon Teachers Association and CUPE5523 posed candidates with questions in advance of the forum (more answers online at vernonmorningstar.com):
What do you believe to be the pressing issues within our school district?
Brewer: “Increasing demands for schools and educators to be community services and limited funding for these initiatives. Uncertainty around how long the current regulations related to COVID will be in place and the subsequent challenges to budget forecasting as the funding was identified as a one-time grant. Demands on staff have increased stress for everyone as we implement COVID protocols. For some, even just being in the school environment creates stress and anxiety.
“Individual Education Planning (IEP), as more students have additional learning needs identified, the lineup builds for access to assessment and support resources. Cutting wait times for assistance must be a priority. COVID created some additional demands, but mostly it revealed just how much the community and economy rely on schools, and sometimes to be more than it’s designed for. We need to work with the community to make sure that schools can continue to deliver quality education while assisting the community in general, and without creating an unnecessary burden for teachers, administrators and support staff.
“The impact from reduced enrolment from international students both as it relates to budget and educational programs.”
Gruner: “My platform is built around three specific overarching themes and I believe we can build upon these topics: financial oversight, relationships, and transparency. One of my main suggested initiatives is the creation of a financial subcommittee that is tasked to regularly review financial performance, work with administration to collaborate on creating the annual budget and provide meaningful participation into the budget discussion for partner groups and the public.
“The most significant relationship challenge currently lies between the school district and the DPAC. For a variety of reasons, I believe both groups simply misunderstand each others’ intentions, and a new trustee may be in a unique position to try to resolve and/or mediate a solution to the current situation. After speaking with the two primary partner unions within the district, there is a feeling that the communication between the school district and the unions could be improved. I believe information from the school district is available, but it is very difficult to find. Transparency is not just about providing information; it is also about providing information that is easily accessible. I believe there are innovative opportunities to improve accessibility to information within School District 22.”
Melanson: “I believe we need to ensure there is effective communication with stakeholders, including building effective mechanisms to include meaningful participation in board processes, strengthening relationships between the board and their staff groups CUPE5523, VTA and Principals and Vice Principals Association (when staff feel valued and included, they are much more likely to feel that they have a stake in how an organization fulfills its mandate), and developing a district climate action plan (organizations across the province [including other school boards] understand that collectively we have run out of time to analyze this further- it’s time for action).
Tujik: “I believe going forward the school district would be wise to put money aside in the area of mental health related to COVID. I think in the next couple of years we will see the effect the pandemic has had on our children and staff. I also believe the school district may need to revisit some of its other policies to make sure they are up to date. For example, the school district has worked hard over the past few years to update its transportation policy.
“The district budget is always one in which we need to make sure we are doing our best to make sure funds are being implemented in areas of need. I feel the budget process could be more transparent. Where are the funds coming from? Where are they going? If not used, what happens them?”
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