Home Election Tracker BC Municipal 2018 The public needs better opportunities to hear from school trustee candidates

The public needs better opportunities to hear from school trustee candidates

EDITORIAL

October 5, 2018 ~ by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News

Tag-along, little sister? Other than the full opportunity for answering audience questions at the All Candidates Meeting for Juan de Fuca Regional Director race held in Otter Point last weekend, school trustees have had few and minimalistic opportunities to address voters directly. At the Colwood All Candidates event this past week they were each given less than a minute, briefly from the audience. At the Metchosin All Candidates they were given an organized firm-one-minute-each.

Even the usual format of being hosted by the school district’s own parent PAC (aka SPEAC) has become muted. All-trustee debates of the past has this year apparently become an online ‘video brochure’ of candidate statements.

Public education is a fundamental plank to help maintain a democratic society and a civic-minded population. School trustees rub shoulders with municipal leaders (mayors and councils) in many of their governance dealings, and of course respond directly to the Ministry of Education. What’s not important in that? They spend your tax dollars on things like buildings, salaries and school bus transportation. Indirectly through operational decision-making, they influence how curriculum is delivered in the schools and have a strong hand in distribution of resources among and within teaching venues.

Getting to know your school trustee candidates is important for families, the business sector, and the community at large. Decisions by trustees at their board table has a huge impact on family life, future student employability, and societal interface – this affects all of us.

In the west shore, the school district on your ballot in Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Metchosin, Highlands (parts of), View Royal (parts of), and Juan de Fuca is Sooke School District 62 (SD62). If you live in Sooke or Juan de Fuca your candidates are in the Milne’s Landing Zone (3 seats), otherwise your candidates are in the Belmont Zone (4 seats).

SD62 is one of the largest employers on south Vancouver Island. Over 85% of their budget is spent on salaries and benefits, all of it taxpayer dollars. For that reason alone, voters may want to know more about their trustee candidates.

And it’s frequently heard in wanna-be political circles, ‘well if you can’t run for council, then run for school board’, as if it’s the junior committee. Voters should expect the same level of forethought, commitment and expertise from their trustee candidates as they do from their council and mayoral candidates.

Perhaps in the next election cycle (2022) there will be a higher regard for the role of trustee, as reflected in a more high-profile manner to hear the candidates present their platforms. Meet-and-greets are great, but it’s sporadic and doesn’t give you the full spectrum of how a new board might be composed and what direction it might take.

Perhaps it falls to some other organization in the community to take this on as municipalities are busy with their own elections, chambers of commerce focus on the municipalities, and the parent organization might be too close for comfort.

::: This editorial was first published on page 2 in the October 5, 2018 print-PDF issue of West Shore Voice News.