With clock ticking down to election day, the race for seats on the Okanagan Skaha School Board is drawing to a close.
The public had a chance to ask the six candidates their questions in an open forum format on Oct. 20 at the Community Hall of St. Saviour’s Anglican Church.
The first question asked of the candidates regarded B.C.’s lowest per-student funding ratio in Canada, and what actions the candidates would take to increase government funding.
“I’m aware B.C. has the lowest funding in the country, we also have one of the highest scoring school systems as well,” said newcomer to school board elections, Keith MacIntyre.
MacIntyre said his fluency in professional communication, and connections he has made with multiple government offices, will help ease the process of acquiring more funding.
“The biggest message I’m going to try and push to everybody on both sides is that we have five years to start collaborating and collaborating is going to get more funding for everyone,” MacIntyre said.
The other five candidates echoed the sentiment that it’s never easy to acquire funding with education and health care budgets both in dire need of financial support, and that resolutions need to be made with both school boards and the government to move forward.
“A lot of times you feel like you’re beating a drum that’s never heard,” said candidate Shelley Clarke.
Clarke also said that the school board can help by focusing on local initiatives within the school district to save money.
All of the candidates agreed that lobbying the government was going to be a key component of their strategy if elected.
“Most of the major decisions in dealing with education are made in Victoria, so I think it is a responsibility that we have as a board to lobby that group,” said candidate and former principal Bill Bidlake.
Another question asked of the candidates was how they plan to repair the relationship between the school board trustees and teachers.
“During the strike it was very frustrating to be a member of the school board,” said candidate Bruce Johnson, past chair of the school board.
“It was a long, difficult time and I appreciate that a lot of teachers are still upset,” Johnson said.
Newcomer, and the youngest candidate vying for a spot on the school board, Barb Sheppard said that communicating through issues is one of her strengths gained through her work with many non-profit organizations in the area.
“There’s conflict, budget issues and communication is everything. I think our role as a team is to be out there representing our schools, being at our schools and listening. It will take some time to rebuild that relationship,” Sheppard said.
Another issue raised pertained to issues involving funding and attention for gifted students.
In a school district candidate Teresa Hebert worked in previously, funding for gifted students was cut. She said it’s hard to find a balance when engaging gifted students who feel they either have to work harder, or remain unchallenged.
“I think there are some real challenges in addressing the needs of gifted students. One of the things we need to do is rethink how we think of them,” Hebert said.
Hebert said the term “gifted” should be reconsidered, having a negative connotation of being handed something.
The municipal election is being held on Nov. 15, with advance polls opening on Nov. 5, 6. For more election information visit www.pentictonwesternnews.com/municpalelection.