Home Education K-12 Education & Schools All school trustees may speak to the media

All school trustees may speak to the media

sd62 board meeting
SD62 Board Meeting on August 29, 2023. [Livestream]

Monday September 4, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC

Education system analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Over the years in the west shore, the Sooke School District (SD62) has become increasingly formalized in their communications with the news media. News releases and formal media events are good to see.

But also over the past several years there has been a misunderstanding among many trustees that they can’t speak directly to the media, that only their board chair can. That is a misunderstanding of the role of an elected official.

mary p brooke, headshot, july 2023
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR, was a trustee candidate in 2022.

When school districts advise their board trustees that only the chair should speak to the media, that might seem strategically prudent (i.e. perhaps less room for error). But it also alludes to disrespect for the skills of trustees to speak about public education in the community and produces a disservice to the community of voters who put those trustees in place to begin with.

This editor was a school trustee candidate in 2022 and was quite surprised to hear a very different view of public education on the community doorsteps than what is heard in official channels at board meetings and media announcements. For that sector of the public to only have a voice once every four years at election time is quite a disservice to the families who are sending their children into K-12 public schools.

back to school, monk, creativity

Trustees may speak to the media:

Yes, a school board trustee must speak publicly in alignment with what a board has decided. But each trustee is an elected official who owes the voters to provide an open ear to listen to concerns among parents and broader community.

This weekend in social media, a long-time education writer (and former school board trustee), Patti Bachus, wrote an excellent treatise on this subject.

patti bacchus, bced
BC education journalist (former school trustee) Patti Bacchus. [Twitter/X]
  • “A back-to-school reminder for BC’s public school trustees: you can and should speak publicly and to the news media regarding decisions made by your board, whether you agree with the decisions or not.”
  • “If you are not the chair or the chair’s designate, make it clear that you are speaking on behalf of yourself only, and that you do not speak on behalf of the board or district.”
  • “I’ve heard from trustees in multiple #bced districts that they are being told by management that they can not speak publicly on board decisions, and that is INCORRECT. Be clear that you are not speaking on behalf of the board and do not misrepresent that board’s decision.”
  • “Superintendents, senior managers and comms depts: Do not tell elected trustees they can’t speak publicly. They are democratically elected officials who have the right to speak publicly on board matters.”
  • “Healthy debate on matters of public interest keeps democracy strong. School systems should be modelling healthy democratic processes, not undermining them. One of the most important things we teach is how to be effective participants in democratic society. Set a good example.”

About the SD62 board:

All but one of the SD62 schools are located in Langford, Colwood, and Sooke. There is one school in Metchosin.

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Voters elect seven trustees to serve on the SD62 Board of Education:

  • Four trustees from the Belmont Zone (voters in Langford, Colwood, Highlands and Metchosin)
  • Three trustees from the Milne’s Landing Zone (voters in Sooke and Juan de Fuca).

The current board has only six trustees, as one seat was left vacant when former board chair Ravi Parmar resigned in July 2023.

sd62, by-election, wordmark, october 14, 2023
SD62 will hold their by-election to fill one vacant seat in the Belmont (westshore) Zone on October 14, 2023.

The current board is led by Amanda Dowhy (chair), Ebony Logins (vice-chair), and second-term trustee Allison Watson — all of those trustees are from the Milne’s Landing (Sooke) side. The three brand-new trustees since the October 2022 election were elected in the west shore Belmont Zone: Cendra Beaton, Russ Chipps and Trudy Spiller.

A trustee by-election will be held in the SD62 Belmont Zone on October 14, 2023 to fill the vacant seat.

sd62 board meeting
SD62 Board Meeting on August 29, 2023. [Livestream]

About the SD62 district:

There are now over 13,000 students in the west shore and Sooke who attend SD62 public schools for K-12 education services.

scott stinson, superintendent
SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson at the Aug 29, 2023 SD62 board meeting. [MS Teams / Livestream]

Running that large operation are the superintendent, three support superintendents, secretary-treasurer, district principals, and many other administrative staff.

The Superintendent is Scott Stinson who will retire at the end of 2023 after five years in the job. The new SD62 Superintendent starting January 1, 2024 will be Paul Block (who is currently the Deputy Superintendent and oversees the Colwood-centric Royal Bay family of schools).

harold cull, randy cobb, fred hibbs, sd62
SD62 at the naming ceremony of the new south Langford elementary school, Aug 14, 2023 (from left): Harold Cull, Secretary-Treasurer; Randy Cobb, Transportation Manager; and Fred Hibbs, Executive Director, Human Resources. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

The long-time SD62 Secretary-Treasurer is Harold Cull. There are two SD62 associate superintendents: Dave Strange (who oversees the Sooke-centric Edward Milne family of schools) and Monica Braniff (who oversees the Langford-centric Belmont family of schools). The manager of strategic communications is Kristen MacGillivray. | See: SD62 Senior Executive

ist main, colwood
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mary p brooke, headshot, july 2023
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR.

Mary P Brooke is the founder, editor and publisher of a series of news publications based on the west shore of south Vancouver Island: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and Island Social Trends (since 2020). The print publications from 2008 to 2020 are permanently archived at the Sooke Region Museum. Mary’s writing is about issues of today’s world through a socioeconomic lens and with a geographical root in the west shore of south Vancouver Island.

Mary P Brooke gives public talks on the current challenges of journalism in a world dominated by social-media. She also gives talks on urban food resilience. | Contact Mary P Brooke to arrange a presentation

Mary Brooke is the proud mother of four (now grown) children who attended schools in SD61 and SD62. She served on elementary school PACS in both Fairfield/Oak Bay and Sooke in the years 1992-1995 and then 2005 to 2007; a resident of Sooke 2007-2017 and now Langford since 2017, Mary P Brooke ran for SD62 school trustee (Belmont Zone) in the October 2022 election cycle.

Mary P Brooke covered the COVID pandemic daily from the end of 2019 through 2021, and into 2022 — including the impacts in public education. She now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery.

Ms Brooke was nominated in 2023 for the Jack Webster Foundation award that recognizes a woman journalist who contributes to her community through journalism.

Ms Brooke wrote and taught the inaugural year of the 36-week Writing for Business and Journalism program at the Western Academy of Photography.