The Revelstoke Board of Education Trustees All Candidate Forum was held at Begbie View Elementary, Tuesday October 9, at 7pm. A crowd of around 50+ people showed to question the candidates.
Each of the eight candidates, three of who are incumbents running for re-election, opened with a three minute introduction.
In contrast to the City Council All Candidates’ Forum, each candidate at this forum was confidence, articulate, and gave a relevant opening. Whether talking about their personal experience, the importance of education, or what challenges the district is confronted with and how they would be able to help, the candidates’ passion in the room was obvious.
Unlike the city councillor candidates, whose questions were screened prior to the presentation, the school trustee candidates took questions from the crowd for the duration of the evening. For each question asked, four of the eight candidates were selected by a draw and given one minute to answer, ensuring the questioning period did not run on too long. It resulted in honest answers, a reasonable time frame and an engaged crowd.
It is worth noting that the city councillor candidates at the forum were Tim Palmer, Gary Sulz, Peter Humphreys, Steven Cross, and Michael Brooks-Hill. School trustee candidate Rick Hodgson was happy to see them, noting that a working relationship between the two groups would be beneficial to the community. He also voiced disappointment that during the city council forum, not a single answer given ever related to supporting the community’s children even in regards to housing, poverty or education.
The following are some of The Revelstoke Current’s observations.
The first question asked candidates (but not incumbents) about what they felt was the largest issue facing public education in Revelstoke. Candidate Alan Polster spoke of class size and the need to support the wide range of children attending school. Candidate Hodgson noted the affordable housing crisis would impact the ability to attract and retain teachers and support staff. Candidate Sarah Zimmer spoke of the need to support all students while continuing to embrace and expand subjects of mental health, environmental practices and the indigenous experience. Candidate Garry Pendergast spoke of students affected by poverty. He noted the schools have made huge progress addressing their needs with breakfast club and hot lunches, the need to ensure the children are emotionally supported. Candidate Janet Lemieux spoke of best utilizing the resources available, including supporting teachers and the new curriculum in addition to ensuring upcoming bargaining is productive.
When asked how the public education system should be funded, incumbent Bill MacFarlane said it should be free for everyone, fully funded by the government and that public funding should not go to private schools.
When asked about how they would engage the community, Polster, Incumbent Alan Chell, Lemieux and Pendergast all answered that participating in community and educational events was key to being accessable.
Questions regarding social media and student anxiety were left with fairly ambiguous answers by all candidates. They mentioned existing policies, open communications, and the importance of counsellors.
When Tim Palmer asked about how the city council and the school trustees could work together, Pendergast, MacFarlane, Hodgson and Lemieux all spoke of creating a long term vision and sharing it with the city. Pendergast noted it would allow them to help fit their visions together, while MacFarlane added that joint issues should be addressed so the two groups can work well together. Hodgson and Lemieux pointed out that the council’s decisions regarding affordability and vacation rental issues would affect students and staff alike. Hodgson said he would request a trustee be at every council meeting.
One question asked if candidates thought education should be deemed an essential service. Zimmer noted that if deemed as such, it would affect teacher and support staff’s ability to strike. She deferred answering further until she had the chance to research the subject. Hodgson, incumbent Rorstad and Lemieux noted that it should not be an essential service, and that trustees needed to support the teachers and their rights to advocate for themselves.
Another question involved whether candidates would revisit having a french immersion school. Polser, Zimmer and Lemieux all answered in the affirmative.
The common theme throughout the evening was that it was important to support teachers and staff while offering an inclusive and welcoming environment for every kind of student.
Truthfully, every candidate was so able to answer the questions in a thoughtful and capable manner, and had relevant experience that would be beneficial to the board. There seemed to be no poor choices.