Last week, candidates aiming for a seat on School District 58’s Board of Education addressed the use of the SOGI 123 program in BC. Along with four mayoral and eighteen council candidates, they form one of the largest pools of candidates the municipality has ever seen. With voters facing a wide variety of choices, the Herald looks to engage candidates and showcase their responses to the community’s question.

This week, the candidates for School Trustee were sent their final question, regarding the district’s budgeting process. Their responses, in random order:

John Chenoweth (incumbent):

“I feel that the process used to ensure our budgeting practices allow for appropriate input from within and outside of the school district allows for the greatest opportunities to support student learning. Much of the budgeting process is staffing and determining where the staff have the greatest impact on the classroom is critical. Stakeholders and rights holders play very important roles in ensuring we are meeting their needs regarding the education of children. As a system, we serve children and their families and as such, every opportunity to have the community participate in the process is welcomed and needed. We need the entirety of our educational community to be active participants in the education of children and I feel that every opportunity is afforded to this. If there are other opportunities, those should be brought forward for consideration.”

Robert Leech: 

“I have been very involved in the budget process in educational financing, as that was a major function of my employment when I was Assistant Superintendent Finance/Administration and Secretary-Treasurer with the City of Grande Prairie Public School Board, and would be pleased to review School District #58 current processes and where I see any possible improvements. I would offer my suggestions, based on my experience if elected. It is important to get feedback from all concerned and search out new funding sources to meet new incentives and programs where applicable.  In education the budget is not based on profit or deficit, but on balancing expenses with income, to meet the support required to provide  children with a good education.”

Gordon Swan (incumbent): 

“I believe SD58’s current budget process adequately addresses the needs of the classroom when combined with the District Strategic Plan and its Enhanced Learning Framework.  The District is required by law to present a balanced budget by June 30th of each year and not a needs based budget.  This process begins in early Spring and includes public presentations to a variety of interested stakeholders that includes representatives from school Parent Advisory Council’s (PAC), teacher and support staff Unions, Principals, First Nations, and members of the public.

Information on District projections for enrolment and funding as well as specific information regarding SD58’s expenses are presented. Stakeholder groups and members of the public are also encouraged to outline their priorities to the Audit & Finance Committee. Budget documents are also posted to the SD58 website and online submissions are also encouraged. After this information is collected, the Audit & Finance Committee meets to go over a draft budget, make changes, and then present to the Board for discussion and adoption.”

Justin Jepsen:

“I believe that SD #58 has done a good job of addressing needs of the classrooms, but there is room for improvement when it comes to making budgetary decisions.  

I think that improvements could be made to the process by first understanding the needs of the district. To have a clear understanding of what needs our classrooms have, meaningful conversations need to happen with our educators. Teachers should be our first stop in trying to understand what the classroom needs; they are the ones who spend each day with our children and in my opinion should be our most trusted voice in this conversation. With a clear understanding of needs, we can make better informed decisions about how to allocate funds. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that our maintenance and support staff do an incredible job of keeping our facilities and programs in top shape. They work tirelessly to come up with creative solutions to improve the day-to-day life of our teachers and students, and their efforts should not go unnoticed.” 


To view the weekly question asked to council and Mayoral candidates, along with all of the Herald’s coverage of this election, view the ‘Civic Elections’ tab on the Herald’s website.

The municipal election will take place on October 15, and will see Merrittonians elect one Mayor, six Councillors, and three School Trustees to a four year term. For more information on the election, visit