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Transparency, budget, and board direction main talking points at trustee candidate forum

Eight out of nine SD57 by-election trustee candidates were on stage at Vanier Hall on Thursday (June 8) answering surprise questions.

The forum lasted nearly two hours and covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from the looming budget deadline, perceived issues the district is facing, SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) policies, and their own personal qualifications for the two open board seats.

Candidates Lucy Duncan, Don Fitzpatrick, Sarah Holland, David Low, Milton Mahoney, Dusty Martin, Shar McCrory, and Bill Price were present on stage and answered each question.

Heather McKenzie was the only candidate not there, My PG Now reached out to her to ask why and has not received a response.

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Each candidate gave a brief introduction of themselves, then was presented with nine surprise questions.

You can find the full recording of the full forum here, the time stamps for each of the questions are listed below.

The questions were (in summary):

  1. Why are you running for this position and why are you qualified (14:50),
  2. What are the limitations and responsibilities of a trustee (24:55),
  3. What is the importance of transparency (36:00),
  4. What is your primary goal if you are elected (45:45),
  5. What does SOGI inclusion in schools look like to you (54:55),
  6. What kind of direction will you give the superintendent to improve recruitment (1:06:15),
  7. What are the top two issues the district is facing (1:15:47),
  8. What should teachers bargain for in the next collective agreement to improve conditions (1:24:17),
  9. What challenges do you foresee in balancing the budget in the next few years (1:33:20).

The following are the candidate’s answers to question four, what is your primary goal if you are elected. The order of responses in this article are the same order they were given at the forum.

Sarah Holland

Oh boy, that’s some question. Yes. My primary goal to achieve, I don’t know if I have a primary goal. I have multiple goals. So the first one is going to have to be governance. I think that there’s a real issue right now with the board and making sure that the board understands the proper processes.

Though they’re all very new at this, they’re not following the policies that they should be following. There’s certain aspects of parliamentary procedure and, in some cases a misunderstanding of their role. After that, one of the really big things is going to be budget. And budget, I think was mentioned a couple times, it’s a big budget and there’s a fairly large hole in it, and that decision needs to be made at the first board meeting following this election, and there’s very little time.

After that, and there’s so many things that could be looked at, but one of the things that I want to look at is catchment and capacity. We are at capacity in several areas of this district, and I think that we need to look at that before some sort of crisis develops.

Milton Mahoney

Bring everybody together. We don’t work together, we’re not going to accomplish anything, and that includes all indigenous nations. Right now you realize that the Metis, 1300 students in our system don’t have a say. That’s wrong. Everybody should have a say.

My goal would be just that. Let’s all get together. Let’s find out what we can make and what we can do to make this school district one of the best again. The politics from Victoria has, actually the former Minister of Education, I get so damn mad about this, single handedly destroyed this school district.

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Talk about the strategic plan. That’s another reason why we’re in the position that we’re in. We all have to be treated equal. We all have to be educated equal. This would be my goal. Let’s have no more division. This all work together.

David Low

Dorothy and I, my wife and I have run a credit counseling agency forever. People come to me when we try to do budgets with them, try to consolidate the debt, eliminate the debt in four years, make them into a prosperous citizen. They say, “my school never taught me anything.” So the first goal is to, is for low income students, low income parents, to be able to access all the grants, which I have a few thousand dollars worth, to get them to have a future so they can go on as post secondary school.

Secondly, to educate the grade 10, 11, 12s on how to manage their money for getting the sakes and not set ’em out in the world that you don’t have a clue what is going on. That, and in school, they need to be helped academically so everybody can succeed.

We are gonna eliminate bullying. That’s gotta go, but mind you, we’ve been doing that for a hundred years. Having quick access to counselors in schools without being stigmatized and being prepared for the real world.

Lucy Duncan

Well, my primary goal has always been mental health for the young people and substance use prevention programs, trauma informed practices and cultural safety and humility, and that we provide services for students like tutoring and counseling.

And one of the goals that I would like to see is that 2 million dollars that is a shortfall on the budget. So, where are people are gonna take this out and who’s, you know that I would like to find solutions around that, that’s important to me.

Dusty Martin

My top priority is to increase collaboration, especially with those communities that are most vulnerable within the school district and connected to it. We must do a lot of networking and trying to put ourselves in their positions that we can.

If we do not take the time to listen to those most effected, if we do not put policy in place to ensure that they are protected, we are leaving everybody out of the narrative.

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So hope, feel. The best way to do that is just to be talking with everybody.

Shar McCrory

My primary goal is to improve on student achievement. And how do we do that? I don’t know by myself, but we’re a big board. We have a lot of people. Part of what we need to do is work on recruitment and retention and take a pulse on how everyone’s doing in our district right now, including the students, including our teachers, our staff, and then move forward together collaboratively.

We need to support students with their academic, social, emotional, cultural, and mental wellness. So how do we do that? We do it together and we do it in an open way.

Bill Price

So my primary directive, I have to say the first one I’ll have, we’ll have to face the budget. It’s not the most important thing that a school board does. But right now it has to be cause we have this month to do it.

Following that, as a lot of these candidates here stated, it’s working to help the student and help the staff, help the teachers, and help the families all come together. We all want to be here to help the kids learn. To help kids grow and we need to create the safe places where they can all do that.

That’s important.

Don Fitzpatrick

Last but not least. All right. So as a trustee, one of my goals would be to make our district more attractive to teachers and to develop and nurture sustainable working relationships within our community. So that’s with our stakeholders, our parents, contractors, anything that may come into contact with our schools. It’s important that we have working relationships with them and our students feel the effects of everything.

So if we have open communication with these groups our students are gonna feel it as well.

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You can read more about the by-election candidates here and here.

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Once again, you can also find the full recording of the forum here.

During the evening, then-candidate Josh Silva announced he would be pulling his name from the race. You can read more about that here, his answer in the forum was omitted from this article.

General voting day is Saturday, June 17.

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