Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder
In advance of voting for the 2022 local election, the Sounder reached out to the 12 candidates for trustee of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools.
Candidates were given a limit of 50 words to respond to each question. Some responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. Here are the responses from six of the candidates. Part 2 will be published in a subsequent edition. Note: Faith Mapayi withdrew from the race on Sept. 16.
Why are you running again for school trustee of NLPS?
Tania Brzovic (incumbent)
I’m passionate about public education and I believe my experience will be beneficial for the upcoming term. There are many projects, such as the rejuvenation or replacement of NDSS, that I want to be part of bringing to fruition.
I feel a strong sense of civic duty to participate in the maintenance of this democratic institution, and am naturally drawn to education because of my extensive experience with the system as a student and as an educator.
Greg Keller (incumbent)
I am running for re-election to build upon the successes of the last term. I also seek to support and advocate for the timely implementation of the Long-Range Facilities Plan and the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Action Plan. I am motivated to support students and families across our district.
I have spent the last eight years volunteering my time on the behalf of School District 68 parents. I am ready to use the experience I’ve gained to have a larger impact on the lives of students in this district by becoming a decision-maker rather than just a contributing voice.
Charlene McKay (incumbent)
Student success. As a trustee, I will advocate for decisions that support the increasing trend of SD68’s graduation rates. I am deeply committed to truth and reconciliation, and would like to continue this work. I would also like to continue the advocacy for an NDSS building replacement.
As a parent and a teacher, I have felt a disconnect between the conditions I see in our classrooms and the announcements from our district. Parents and students don’t see adequate staffing and support. District planning must return to the parent-student-teacher intersection because that’s where learning takes place, not in offices.
Naomi Bailey (incumbent)
I’ve had nine months [since the by-election] to learn about the role and responsibilities of the board and I’d like more time to share my skills and strengths. Having been an educator for 25 years in this district, I have the experience and understanding of what is and is not working in the system.
The K-12 school system is integral to supporting a positive, flourishing society. I see relationships that need mending. I want to bring my knowledge, skills and heart to the table to help build better relationships to make this the most accessible and innovative school district in the province.
I believe in public schools and volunteer with the District PAC and committees. I’m on the Syeyutsus Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee, healing, walking together, listening, sharing and learning lessons from the land and waters. I’m dedicated to seeing grad rates climb and to have parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
Bill Robinson (incumbent)
I have a long list of accomplishments achieved by the current board. Perhaps the most impressive is we produced the best graduation rate ever and did it during a pandemic! Our environmental stewardship plan would be second. I am running to ensure that we keep moving in this positive direction.
Short answer is that I was asked one too many times. Long answer is that it seems a natural progression from PAC Chair and the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), and it would be a tremendous honour to continue serving the district, this time as one of Gabriola’s allies.
I want parents/students to know there is someone who is not afraid to question current trends, to represent their interests, and to uphold truth as a school trustee. I promise to directly benefit students and teachers in the district. I promise not to give myself a raise.
If elected, what would be your top priority and how would you address it?
Our top priority must be all matters pertaining to our facilities issues. It’s time to finally get the Ministry of Education to commit to repairing or replacing NDSS. Other issues related to capital projects are air quality, seismic upgrades throughout the district, area standards and capacity issues.
Diversity, accessibility, inclusion. This means reaching out to underserved communities, developing the capacity to handle increased diversity at every point of contact with the school system and a serious attempt at full inclusion of people at the peripheries of the educational community.
My top priority would be school capacity, facilities renewal and seismic mitigation. Almost all of our schools are in need of seismic mitigation and the condition of our buildings is worse than the provincial average.
To address this, I would actively advocate for more provincial major capital funding dollars.
I would like all students to have access to the resources they need to be successful by asking questions and allowing students to have a voice in decision-making. Sometimes this is an easy answer, but it can also be more complex. This starts with communicating what tools are available within our district.
My top priority if re-elected is the replacement of Nanaimo District Secondary School. The current board has made considerable efforts in this area, and I would like the chance to see this advocacy through until we receive a funding announcement from the Ministry of Education.
Staff shortages. This includes making our schools safe workplaces, free of harassment and bullying. We are moving into an unprecedented labour shortage in post-pandemic B.C. Our system needs to equip well-resourced professional teachers who deal directly with their students and families.
Ensuring students have the support they deserve. We need to advocate for more inclusionary support; my focus is educational assistants. We are struggling to retain and hire EAs. We need to provide a living wage through more hours. This will require creative thinking but I believe it can be done.
Targeting grad rates for students who are historically marginalized; resources for an inclusive, accessible education for all, which includes increasing hiring and retention of educational assistants; expanding before and after school care and strengthening collaboration with municipal governments and the RDN to broaden safe walking and public transit routes.
Student safety and well-being. We have a high child poverty rate in this region and many students go to school without a lunch. We also have students sleeping in cars with our current housing crisis. Helping close the gaps for these students with dignity is a big step to student success.
After number one above, I will focus on growing Hidden Heroes presentations to Grade 6 and 10 students. I tell stories about three or four local Hidden Heroes and help students identify life lessons those ordinary people have to teach us and how they might apply one or more personally.
Facilities are reaching their limits. With B.C. coastal islands experiencing such incredible population growth, we need to invest in facilities sooner rather than later and this is done by prioritizing schools such as NDSS. As a former NDSS parent, this is at the top of my list.
I will be taking my salary as trustee and donating it back ($3,000) to students and teachers who need it and who have earned it. I want to see a culture of achievement and reward be developed in School District 68 where students see tangible results of generosity and effort.
NDSS’s student population, which includes Gabriola students, is expected to be over capacity in less than 10 years. Do you consider the teaching of additional grades on Gabriola Island a potentiality, and if so, how would you go about exploring it?
There are two components to this suggestion. First, what does the community want? Second, what does staff see as the opportunities, risks and barriers to pursuing this idea? I’d use our public participation policy to ensure we had meaningful dialogue with the public to guide decision-making.
There are members of the community for whom traveling back and forth from Gabriola Island may preclude them from obtaining their best education. Getting services to this sector of the community close to home is a major plank of my platform.
NDSS is currently facing an immediate capacity concern that we must begin to address immediately. I am open to exploring and evaluating all reasonable options including teaching additional grades on Gabriola Island. As part of exploring options to address capacity, I would support including this as an option for evaluation.
I think that we have to be open to all potential avenues when we are looking at capacity issues. I would be open to having community consultation, combined with management studies to look at all viable options for students.
NDSS is one of the biggest high schools on Vancouver Island. The next elected Board of Education will have to begin investigating all available options on how to relieve the capacity pressures at NDSS as soon as they are elected. Additional grades on Gabriola should be included in these discussions.
Administration has exacerbated NDSS’s ability to serve its traditional catchment by making it a magnet school, drawing in students from across the district. The board must do better at considering creative solutions to serve our students.
We have to consider options that serve our students and the planet, and this may be one of them.
As an administrator at a school that did not have the traditional K-7 grade composition, I know it can work. The best starting point would be to form a committee comprised of district management, community/school stakeholders, teachers and trustees and collect community feedback.
I’m hearing concerns around present and future accessibility to quality education for those living on Gabriola Island. I would listen to the community and work with all partners to plan for the future. If this includes moving additional grades onto the island, then I would work to explore that.
As a regular visitor to Gabriola and having family connections, I’ve been putting my hand up at the district meetings, making sure Gabriola is included. NDSS is one of the top populated high schools on Vancouver Island. This topic needs to be a priority for the district and province.
We have been working hard on the NDSS issue for several years. I have every confidence we will have a new NDSS in less than 10 years. That school will have all the latest bells and whistles and exciting technologies that would never be available in a smaller school.
Yes. Having the opportunity for kids to learn closer to home lessens dependency on energy, which is better for the environment and financially beneficial – not only for parents but also for the district as it lowers the overall cost of renewing NDSS. Expand Gabriola Elementary with NDSS renewal savings.
Yes, I would begin by investigating the availability of land/buildings for SD 68 and from there I would consider the cost of a new building versus retrofitting an existing one for students.
Do you have a campaign website?
Tania Brzovic: www.trusteebrzovic.wordpress.com
Andrew Gasson: www.facebook.com/TrusteeGasson
Greg Keller: www.electgregkeller.com
Leanne Lee: www.electleannelee.ca
Charlene McKay: www.re-electcharlenemckay.ca
Tom Rokeby: www.rokeby.ca
Naomi Bailey: www.electnaomibailey.ca
Chantelle Morvay: www.votemorvay.ca
Leana Pellegrin: www.electleanapellegrin.ca
Bill Robinson : www.electbillrobinson.ca
Mark Robinson: www.markrobinsonfortrustee.ca
Tanner Scott: www.trusteetannerscott.wixsite.com/electtannerscott