Candidates for School District 6 (SD6) Trustee gathered at McKim on Tuesday evening for a forum before the upcoming election on Saturday.
The event, hosted by the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and MC’d by the Chamber’s Jason Toner, gave candidates the chance to introduce themselves to Kimberley residents and answer questions put forth by the public.
Five candidates are in the running for three spots on the Board of Trustees. Incumbents Mac Campbell, Betty-Lou Barrett and Sandra Smaill are in the running alongside newcomers Ron McRae and Jaret Thompson.
The first question posed (to incumbents) revolved around last year’s Draft Long Term Facility Plan, which included the contentious public discussion of implementing catchment areas in SD6.
The plan included a proposal to change school configuration in Kimberley from the two K to 3 and one 4 to 7 middle school, to three K to 7 schools. The motion was not passed and Kimberley’s schools remain the same.
Mac Campbell was first to answer the question, stating that the entire process was “democracy in action”.
“I was happy to hear from parents and staff on the topic,” said Campbell. “The long term facility plan is a direction from the province and it was important that we had public input on the outcome.”
Smaill agreed, saying she wouldn’t apologize for asking the public for input on a controversial issue.
Barrett says the discussion that took place did so out of necessity.
“The Ministry of Education wanted to see a plan, and it included a lot more, such as staffing, playground equipment etc.,” she said. “Public consultation is just that. Transparency is so important.”
The next question was for the new candidates, McRae and Thompson. Thompson was not present at the forum however, due to previous engagements, and was unable to answer the question in-person.
McRae was asked what he would do differently from the incumbents on the board.
He responded stating that the question is a little difficult to answer, considering it is unclear to him how they would have operated and made decisions, however being an advocate for students is his priority.
“I firmly believe advocating is critical,” said McRae. “Advocating through communication, being fully engaged, conducting research, being articulate, and through collaboration and partnership.
“It is critical to be able to articulate what you hope to achieve and ensure that the needs of all students are met.”
The next question asked was if Trustees are advocates for the entire district. All agreed that they are advocates for all of the schools within the district, and that the needs of one student do not take precedent over another.
Another question revolved around the transportation of students and the challenges faced with bussing. Candidates agreed that bussing needs to be addressed on a yearly, case-by-case basis.
“Things are always changing,” said Barrett.
Smaill agreed, “transportation is not static, it changes all the time. It needs to be looked at and reviewed every year. We will try to manage [bus] runs the best we can under every circumstance.”
Campbell suggested re-opening Blarchmont school as a solution to transportation and child-care, stating that all schools should have pre-K to Grade 3 after school care.
The final question asked was what each candidate’s philosophy of public education is.
McRae says that a contemporary view of quality programs and services that are shared among the community and families is his philosophy.
Barrett says that public education is “just that” and should be a safe, caring, fun and supported environment free of conflict.
“It’s a child’s first step towards becoming a citizen and public education is truly a gift” she said.
Small says that more individualized learning and the value of inclusion are key elements to a contemporary school system and curriculum.
Campbell says that public education is a critical choice, especially at the primary level. He believes that tailoring to the needs of individual students under the B.C. curriculum is essential.