The dust has settled, the votes have been counted and emerging are two new and two incumbent trustees to the Okanagan-Skaha School District board.
Newcomer Barb Sheppard hasn’t run in an election since she was voted in as academic vice president for Red Deer College 20 years ago. However, she made sure she was well prepared before putting her hat in the ring.
“Before I put my name forward I did a lot of research to make sure that the skills that I’ve acquired and the relationships I’ve built in the community would be a good fit and obviously the voters agreed with me,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard said she was “thrilled” to be voted in on 3,870 votes. She is looking to get her feet wet as trustees head into orientation sessions in the next few weeks.
Former principal Bill Bidlake is new to elections and the board of trustees, but no stranger to the school system.
“Part of my life I’ve always gone to school,” said Bidlake, a former teacher and principal in Penticton Secondary.
He pulled in the most votes in the trustee election with 4,224 votes.
“It was definitely a surprise. I’ve never been in any type of election before,” said Bidlake
Bidlake said he felt “fortunate” to have such support from the community. His familiarity with the inner workings of the school system look to make the transition to trustee a smooth one. With tensions between teachers and trustees high, Bidlake hopes his relationships within the district will help open up communications and lead to progress.
“People talk about having to rebuild after the strike, it’s those relationships that you have. I think they are important. That’s where I think I have something to offer,” he said.
As a returning board member, Shelley Clarke has seen the tension first hand.
“I know the teachers have hard feelings against the trustees themselves,” Clarke said. “Just getting over that hump and the hurt feelings because I know there’s a lot of things teachers aren’t doing right now that they used to do and maybe that’s the new normal.”
Clarke is referring to teachers being involved in extra curricular activities for students.
“It’s going to be us adjusting to the new normal,” she said.
Clarke is also interested to see the implementation of the recent investment in early literacy intervention programs. She hopes these programs will help boost graduation rates and ease the transition for students going into high school.
Bruce Johnson, another returning trustee, is excited about the mix of new and old on the board. He added with the collective wealth of community involvement and knowledge, the board shouldn’t have much difficulty with orientation.
Johnson said it’s time to focus on the positives and look ahead to what’s best for students.
“We’re always looking for new programs and new ways of motivating students,” Johnson said.
“Looking at the big picture I feel with the schools in Summerland and Penticton we’ve got a really good thing going here.”
Linda van Alphen and Julie Planiden, representing Summerland, and Ginny Manning, representing the rural areas, were all elected to the board by acclamation.