The Merritt Herald sent a short questionnaire to each of the candidates in the upcoming general election and will be publishing their answers on this website in the days leading up to the general vote on Nov. 15. TNRD Area M and N voters will elect one rural school trustee on Nov. 15, 2014. General voting stations will be available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Merritt Civic Centre, the Quilchena Golf Course and at Nicola-Canford Elementary School.

1. What is the role of a school trustee?

To make sure that our children have the opportunity for a good education. What we’re working toward right now is self-directed education that keeps them engaged in learning and wanting to do things. That’s the key thing: it’s all about educating the students. Because we’re on a fixed income – we’re under protected funding – you have to manage your budget because school districts aren’t allowed to run deficits at all. In our district, we’re lucky to have a decent surplus so we can supply what’s needed for different students who have learning disabilities. The key example is a blind student at MSS and we supply one full-time person for her all day at the school. That’s not in the budget; we do that as a school district. We do that just by managing our budget and using some of our surplus.

2. What do you see as top priorities for School District 58?

The top priority is to make sure that the five-year education plan that has just been approved and put in place by the board that we continue to follow that. That was built by the stakeholder group that was asked to put the information and what they wanted to see in our education system. We need to make sure that moves forward. The other thing about a five-year plan is you always review it and adjust it. At least you have a roadmap of where you’re going and what you need to see. If there are any changes or you need to go in a slightly different direction than what’s already in place, then you have the opportunity to do that. That’s very key: making sure that the students have the courses available and the teachers available and keep them engaged in their learning. They want to be happy with what they’re doing at school. We have started self-directed studies at the high school where you can choose courses, it’s not just laid out block by block for you. It’s all about making sure the students have an opportunity to graduate. The other thing we keep working at is 100 per cent graduation from Grade 12. We realize the biggest drop out is in Grade 9 where they don’t come back for Grade 10. That’s an area we look at all the time to see why and how we can improve that. We have the Education Learning Agreement with the five bands and we have the Aboriginal Advisory Council, but that’s to assist the needs for First Nations students. When I talk about students, it’s all of the students and all of the funding that’s available to assist them.

3. What areas of education need to be addressed in Nicola-Similkameen?

The opportunity for any students who aren’t planning to go into a university program, that they have the opportunity to learn more about the trade they want to go into. Now we’re trying to give the students who know they aren’t going to university the opportunity to focus on some of their career opportunities. That’s improving all the time as well. That’s one thing that definitely needs to be addressed. The other thing that we need – and we’re doing it now – is making sure there’s “no child left behind.” That’s an ongoing challenge, to make sure students know their basic reading, writing and arithmetic. This year, the elementary school principals sat down and looked at what they wanted to address in their schools and it was numeracy, so they put a plan together for numeracy. That gets reviewed every three months to make sure they’re accomplishing the goals they had. That’s the first time they’ve done that – before it was all done individually. I’ve been on school board and I’ve spent three years negotiating and dealing with CUPE and the BC Teachers’ Union. Now I have five years of no labour disputes, so it should give everybody the opportunity to get over all of those hassles and actually get into teaching. With the labour settlement, that’s going to be very key in making things a lot smoother.