PAN trustee candidate questions

The Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education (PAN) is a non-partisan grassroots collective of parents and community members who share a commitment to public education.
They are encouraging all Vancouver citizens to vote in the October 14th school board by-election and believe it’s important to learn about ALL the candidates to make an informed choice; not just about their platforms and experience, but who they are and how they plan to effect change.
To support voters they have asked all trustee candidates to answer 6 questions – my answers are posted here along with a link to all the candidates’ answers.

What skills would you bring to a trustee position and why should Vancouverites vote for you as an individual (leaving aside party affiliation)?

In my two years as a trustee I showed my commitment and integrity.  As well as attending VSB board and committee meetings I visited my 14 liaison schools, often several times, as well as many other schools, and was an active trustee liaison for DPAC and my three City advisory committees, Vancouver Food Policy Advisory Council, (VFPC), Active Transport Policy Council (ATPC), and the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee (UAPAC).  I met with stakeholder groups and individuals, either reaching out or as requested.
I worked respectfully with everyone, students, parents, trustees and staff, and spoke clearly about my role and views on VSB issues through my blog, Twitter, in the media and personal communication.
I will continue to work hard and work respectfully on behalf of Vancouver’s students.

If elected, how will you promote an atmosphere of collaboration with advisor Dianne Turner, senior staff, and Board members from other political parties?

It is the individual responsibility of trustees to demonstrate their leadership for our district and, especially at this time, working respectfully and collaboratively is essential to bringing stability and confidence to our district systems that support the 50,000 students we care for every school day.
I will work with the expectation that everyone is focusing on student success, respect other’s opinions, even if I don’t agree with them, and do my best to find points of consensus, and not court adversity or seek to score partisan political points

As an elected trustee, how would you envision the role of parent input with respect to decision making?

Parents are co-educators with their students’ teachers and schools so it is essential that both individual parents and parents’ organizations, for example PACs and DPAC, are involved with decision making.  As I trustee I value our district’s commitment to engaging with parents, as with all stakeholders, through consultation and especially through our committee system.  I value parent input, recognizing that with a diverse parent body there can be diverse views and opinions, and it is always a factor in my decision making.  I appreciate that parents use their own time and resources to work on behalf of students but it is essential their voice is heard.

Explain your perspective on how the Board should work going forward with the provincial Ministry of Education.

There is much hope and optimism for public education with the election of a new provincial government.  In media reports and presentations I see that the Ministry of Education under the new government is reaching out to its stakeholders and I am pleased there is a more positive tone for consultation and discussion.   I am optimistic that our elected Board will establish a good working relationship with the Ministry so that we can effectively communicate our concerns and requests and work together to improve BC’s public education and also address Vancouver specific issues.

What is your view on how the Board should work going forward with the City of Vancouver (i.e. in addressing the intertwined issues of densification and available school space)?

School boards are stuck in the middle of the sandwich – here in Vancouver the City has dramatically increased density in some neighbourhoods yet the Province will not build new or expanded schools to match the increased student numbers.  I am concerned that City Council does not fully understand the impact of their decisions on the many families in walkable neighbourhoods but who not only have to travel to a distant school and but often have the additional challenge of finding quality, affordable childcare.

I believe the City and the School Board should work together to amplify the request to the Province to build adequate school spaces in every Vancouver neighbourhood.  As a first step I would propose a joint briefing for the Mayor, Councillors and Trustees so there is a common understanding of how many neighbourhoods and families are impacted by inadequate school spaces, and of how deeply families are impacted.

What do you see as the top three most urgent and important issues facing the Vancouver School Board, and how do you plan to address these?

I see three broad areas that each have key elements but are also intertwined.

  1. Bringing stability and confidence to our district. There are six hundred new employees, most senior management positions are in flux, there are challenges with implementing the hard won restoration of the teachers’ collective agreements, and trustees need to ensure a safe and respectful workplace.
    It will be the elected trustees’ responsibility to provide effective leadership to ensure our district can work together to address these challenges, as well as embrace the opportunities they present, and to ensure a culture of respect.  And finally, our board must live up to our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
  2. Effective use of school space. Our district has had to rapidly adapt to the space requirements for the restoration of the teachers’ collective agreement, we still have more than fifty seismically unsafe schools, there are schools that cannot accept all in catchment students and many families struggle to find childcare.  As the province controls capital funds and decisions we need to work with the Ministry of Education to implement a long term plan, not just school by school approval, so that every student can attend a safe school in their neighbourhood and that the schools themselves can become community hubs.
  3. Stable, adequate and predictable funding. Trustees make many decisions about governance and policy in their districts but in many, many instances what can be offered to students is limited by the provincial funding.  The resources in a school cannot be dependent on parents’ ability to fundraise for essentials.  As a trustee I want to know that teachers have resources to teach the new curriculum, that special needs students have appropriate support, that music and art programs thrive, that adult learners can access the courses they need, the immigrant families have support, that our schools keep pace with using technology to enhance student learning – the list goes on but the level of provincial funding is essential to providing equitable access to education for all students.

All candidates’ answers to the 6 PAN questions:  

PAN website: