Eight chasing seat on school board

Candidates look to fill vacancies on Okanagan Skaha board of education

With four out of seven Okanagan Skaha school trustees announcing they won’t be seeking re-election, the board of education is bound to look very different when the newly elected trustees sit down for their inaugural meeting in December.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some familiar faces around the table. Former trustees Kevin Andrews and Walter Huebert filed their papers last week as candidates for the four Penticton trustees on the board, along with Bruce Johnson, James Palanio, Cary Schneiderat, Chuck Simonin and Tracy St. Claire. Trustee Shelley Clarke is the only Penticton incumbent seeking re-election.

All together, eight people will be vying for the four Penticton seats on the Okanagan Skaha school board, while in Summerland, another six candidates are vying for that community’s two seats on the board of education, including incumbent Linda Van Alphen. Board chair Ginny Manning has been re-elected by acclamation as the rural area trustee.

Schneiderat was the first new candidate to declare his intentions. A lawyer and past-president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, Schneiderat said he has the skills needed to join the school board, while having kids in school gives him a stake in the system.

“As a father of two children attending schools in the district, I have firsthand experience and understanding of the challenges facing the students, staff, administration and the board,” said Schneiderat. “I think of myself as a participating parent.”

Investing his personal time is nothing new for Schneiderat, who estimates he has put at least 2000 hours into the chamber of commerce during the five years he has been on that board. Schneiderat said that, combined with his past involvement with a not-for-profit child care centre along with his skill set as a lawyer and advocate, would serve the board well.

Huebert, who served as trustee from 2005 to 2008, said his motives for wanting to return to the board are the same as when he first ran.

“I am concerned about the kids,” he said. “I think the whole education system needs supporters right now.”

Along with previous experience as a trustee, Huebert is also chair of the Okanagan College Penticton campus advisory committee, a director of the B.C. Lung Association as well as a board member of the Okanagan School of the Arts, which is restoring the Shatford Building, previously part of Penticton Secondary.

“I’ve been around, I’ve done just about every kind of work there is,” said Huebert, who is now retired.

“We want Penticton to grow, and I feel I can be of more use in this area than I can as a city councillor,” he continued. “I think one has to have the time, the passion, the energy and the knowledge. You need to have all those working for you to be an effective advocate for students.”

Like Schneiderat, Tracy St. Claire also has two children in the school system.

In addition to managing United Way in the South Okanagan Similkameen, St. Claire co-ordinates the region’s Success By 6 early childhood education program. She has also organized the Seniors Symposium since 2008 and volunteers as a trustee for the Penticton Public Library.

St. Claire is also a trained mediator and negotiator, as well as an active member of the Queen’s Park parent advisory committee.

“At Queen’s Park I saw the benefit of having educational assistants in the classroom, especially where there are a greater number of higher needs children,” said St. Claire.  “I would like to go through the budget in detail and ask the question: Is there anything that we are spending money on that can help our children more by moving those resources into the classroom?”

St. Claire also believes in further opening lines of communication with the school board, including at a personal level through her facebook page and website, www.stclaireforschools.com.