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‘Best Board in BC’: diversity and lived experience

Four of seven trustees new to elected politics | Five of seven are women | Board now responsible for K-12 and child care.

sd62 board, inaugural
Newly sworn-in board of trustees of School District 62 (SD62) at their Nov 1, 2022 inaugural board meeting (from left): Ravi Parmar (Chair), Trudy Spiller, Allison Watson, Cendra Beaton, Amanda Dowhy (Vice-Chair), Ebony Logins, Russ Chipps. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]
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Wednesday November 2, 2022 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 1:50 pm]

Editorial insights by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends


Opening to the loud vibration of Indigenous drums, the November 1 inaugural meeting of the School District 62 (Sooke) board of education got underway last night just after 7 pm.

After becoming elected by his peers as board chair, Ravi Parmar said “we will be the best board in the province”. SD62 now has a student population of 12,249 FTE’s and continues to grow through each school year as more families move to the west shore of the Greater Victoria region.

Young leadership:

Parmar, at age 28 still the youngest member of the SD62 board, based his assertion on the diversity and lived experience of the trustees who were elected in the October 15, 2022 election in the region’s west shore (Belmont Zone: Langford, Colwood, Highlands and Metchosin) and Sooke and Juan de Fuca (Milne’s Landing Zone).

There is a great amount of responsibility for a young new board, especially now that the Ministry of Education became the Ministry of Education and Child Care earlier this year. “From birth to post secondary” is the range of impact of public education in BC, as SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson put it at a trustee candidate orientation meeting in recent weeks.

Four of the seven trustees are new to elected politics.

Diversity:

parmar, cull, sd62
Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull (right) congratulates re-elected trustee Ravi Parmar who now serves his sixth term as board chair, Nov 1, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

“We are the most diverse SD62 board in the history of SD62. It’s something we should all be very proud of,” said Parmar, touting that once SD62 reps get to the BCSTA meetings in Vancouver they will see they “are one of the most diverse boards in BC”.

Parmar is pointing out that he is a first-generation newcomer to BC, and that two of the trustees are leaders in the Indigenous community.

Parmar pointed out that the west shore region is welcoming people from “around the world” as the region continues to grow. Most Canadian cities are growing in the same manner as Canada relies on immigration to support labour sector requirements and shore up the continually lowering birth rate.

Arriving at being the new board:

The members of the 2022-2026 School District 62 (Sooke) board of education — as elected on October 15, 2022, are: Cendra Beaton, Russ Chipps, Ravi Parmar and Trudy Spiller (of the Belmont Zone) and Amanda Downy, Ebony Logins, and Allison Watson (of Milne’s Landing Zone). [October 15, 2022 SD62 election results]

Getting to election day, Parmar as an incumbent ran together with Chipps (and one other unsuccessful candidate, Christine Lervold) as his ‘hand picked’ team. Beaton and Spiller were at one point telling people that they (and one other unsuccessful candidate, Mary P Brooke) would be the best pick to fill three of the four Belmont Zone seats. The voting process was challenging enough for busy members of the public, without these unfounded political musings being spun on the campaign trail.

As trustees were being sworn in, they recited a standard oath saying they were unaware of any undue influences on voting.

sd62, school bus, sooke
SD62 school bus on the road in Sooke (Oct 2022). Municipalities and school district aim to work closely on various issues like transportation and land for schools. [Island Social Trends]

Watson was the only incumbent running on the Milne’s Landing Zone side leading up to October 15, reluctant going into the election campaign due to the time commitment as a mother of young children.

“We have Ebony” is the phrase often used about Logins, as she has been in the SD62 employee family for over a decade; she will soon be on maternity leave.

In recent years, Dowhy made a regular presence at board and committee meetings as a parent rep.

Five of the seven trustees are graduates from schools within the district. Five of the seven trustees for 2022-2026 are women.

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Strategic plan:

The new board will “continue building on the momentum of the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan” it was stated in a news release today; the plan offers focus in three areas: learning, engagement and growth.

The capital plan still puts priority on building three new elementary schools (one in each of Colwood, Langford and Sooke) as well as a seismic upgrade to Port Renfrew Elementary. Land has been purchased for the Colwood and Langford elementary schools (with a second high school in Langford also on the drawing board); Sooke has been awaiting a new elementary school in the Sunriver area since around 2008.

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Long-serving chair:

Parmar has now been a trustee for eight years, now in his sixth year as board chair. He pointed out that suddenly now he is one of the longest-serving elected officials among the “mayors and councillors” of the region (incumbent mayors of Langford and Colwood lost their re-election bids on October 15, and the mayor of Metchosin did not seek re-election; most of the new Langford council is new to politics).

It is widely known that when the next provincial election comes up that Parmar is the NDP’s favourite for running in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding (as current Premier/MLA John Horgan has declared he won’t seek re-election in 2024). That makes the appointment of SD62 vice-chair rather key at this point.

Tight at the top:

The organized procession of nominations for top positions on the board unfolded during the 40-minute meeting that was held in the SD62 board room in Langford. Parmar was nominated by Amanda Dowhy, then Dowhy was nominated by the only other returning incumbent, Allison Watson.

Parmar was elected in the Belmont Zone (Langford, Colwood, Highlands and Metchosin) while both Dowhy was elected in the Milne’s Landing Zone and Watson re-elected in Milne’s Landing.

sd62, board, nov 2022
Newly sworn-in board of trustees of School District 62 (SD62) at their Nov 1, 2022 inaugural board meeting (from left): Ravi Parmar (Chair), Trudy Spiller, Allison Watson, Cendra Beaton, Amanda Dowhy (Vice-Chair), Ebony Logins, Russ Chipps. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Watson is now SD62’s rep to the British Columbia School Trustee Association (BCSTA), nominated by newly-elected Cendra Beaton. Newly elected SD62 trustee Ebony Logins (from Milne’s Landing, and a former long-time District of Sooke councillor and SD62 employee) is now the Alternate to BCSTA (also nominated by Beaton).

Heading to the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) are Cendra Beaton (nominated by Watson) with newly-elected Trudy Spiller as the Alternate (nominated by Beaton).

Trustees who take on these additional roles are paid additional stipends as well as having their travel expenses covered, on top of the approximately $19,200 annual stipend (chair and vice-chair are paid over and above that).

Pep talk:

“Elections are tough but governing is tougher,” said Chair Parmar to his fellow trustees, after the swearing in process of trustees one-by-one led by SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull. None of the incoming trustees managed to properly pronounce ‘pecuniary’ [definition: relating to or consisting of money]. That might sound picky, but the text was probably available ahead of time for these educational leaders.

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“Issues and opportunities are before us,” said Parmar after pointing out that this is his sixth term as Chair. The board chair is re-elected each year by the trustees among themselves at a public board meeting.

Parmar also thanked the “public and community leaders” in the room and presumably beyond who will “continue to hold us accountable in our work”.

Audience:

In the room for the festive-tone inaugural event were about 40 people including families of the trustees, former long-time trustees (Bob Phillips and Wendy Hobbs) as well as newly elected Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi and Colwood Councillor Dean Jantzen, newly elected Langford councillors Mary Wagner and Kimberley Guiry as well as Langford Chief Administrative Officer Darren Kiedyk. There were no District of Sooke council members attending.

The event was livestreamed for media who don’t attend these meetings, and for the viewing public online.

scott stinson, harold cull
Presiding over the SD62 inaugural board meeting (from left): SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson and Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull, Nov 1, 2022 at the board office. [Island Social Trends]

Staff & stakeholders:

Also presiding at the inaugural board meeting were SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson, Associate Superintendents Paul Block, Dave Strange and Monica Braniff, Human Resources Executive Director Fred Hibbs, and IT Executive Director Farzaan Nusserwanji.

Strategic communications manager Kristen McGillivray attended.

Refreshments:

The attendees at the event enjoyed catered refreshments. People mingled before and after the formal meeting.

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===== RELATED:

Langford saga: former mayor and ‘defacto’ mayor (October 29, 2022)

Outgoing SD62 board (2018-2022) sticks to its guns on counselling directions (October 25, 2022)

SD62 Superintendent: trades program, RRU collaboration, middle school opening (October 22, 2022)

Five brand new trustees on SD62 board (October 21, 2022)

===== ABOUT THE WRITER:

mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor & Publisher, Island Social Trends

Mary P Brooke has been attending full SD62 board and committee meetings as media since 2014: SD62 news archive by Island Social Trends.

Island Social Trends at islandsocialtrends.ca has published news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island since mid-2020. As an online news portal, Island Social Trends emerged from its predecessor print publications: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020). Journalism is professional and independent.

Ms Brooke holds a B.Sc. in health science and community education, a Certificate in Public Relations, and a certificate in digital marketing. She was awarded the McGeachy Prize in Journalism from the University of Saskatchewan, and wrote the 36-week curriculum in business and journalism for the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria.

Mary is the mother of four grown children who attended schools in SD61, SD62, and SD72. She has provided leadership over the years through her social-change journalism and serving with non-profit groups.

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