Rally raises election profile

Teachers union looks to raise awareness on the candidates for Penticton school trustee

Participants rally in support of teachers to get their messages out to the driving public Wednesday afternoon during the Rally Around Our Schools event on Main Street near Penticton Secondary. The demonstration was organized by the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.

A rally held in Penticton Wednesday drew upwards of 80 people, waving signs at cars passing by Penticton Secondary as they tried to raise awareness that along with the city council elections Saturday, voters will also be selecting trustees for the Okanagan Skaha Board of Education.

“We want people to get out and vote, make informed choices, to know who they are voting for and what the trustee candidates stand for,” said Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union. “We want to put pressure on the government, and we hope trustees can do that, to restore funding of the education system.”

Epp admits that an individual board can’t do much alone, but as a group they should be able to influence governments.

“All local boards can play a key part in this if they join together. I think trustees all around the province need to take control back of the education system, because if they don’t, then I believe their days are numbered,” said Epp, who goes as far as to suggest that the province could do away with local school boards.

The idea of a united front being able to affect change provincially is high on the list for some of the eight candidates running for four Penticton seats on the school board. James Palanio said it is one of the first things he wants to start working on if elected.

“Our enrolment is declining slightly, but we still have fixed costs that we have to pay for. The biggest thing is convincing the minister of education to change that funding model so we can be more accurately funded,” said Palanio. “We have to get the money there so we can educate the kids as best we can.”

Chuck Simonin feels much the same way. He’d like to see a united front also get after the province to settle the ongoing contract negotiations and increase funding to the system, so boards can deal better with issues of class size and composition as well as educational help for special education students, who he feels are being deprived.

“As a single board, SD67 doesn’t have that much clout with the government. One of my mandates would be to get together with as many boards as possible in the province and lobby the government for more educational funding,” said Simonin. “Cutting that short means they are cutting our students short.”

The uncertainty of not having a collective agreement is also a concern for trustee Shelly Clark, the only Penticton incumbent running for re-election.

“There has been no visible progress in contract negotiations thus far. As trustees, in a combined voice, we could ask the government to roll up their sleeves and move forward to bargain in good faith. I would hope individual teachers would put pressure on their union to do the same,” said Clark. “There are projects being left on the back burner and these things cannot be left forever.”

Getting those contract negotiations settled is high on Bruce Johnson’s list. The retired principal said that once the contract is settled, the new board can get to work on maintaining and perhaps restoring relationships in the district.

“We need everybody back working together, on the same page, for the children in our school system,” said Johnson. “You have to make difficult decisions, but more importantly, you have to all work together.”

Many top issues for the potential candidates come back to finances and budgets, which doesn’t come as a surprise for Epp.

“The newly elected board will have finances as the top three issues, in one way or another. And then the list gets really long after that,” said Epp. “I doubt that the newly elected board will have any choice but to move into a budget process for the 2012-13 school year, and that budget process will require them to find further cuts for the school year.”

It’s certainly a priority for Cary Schneiderat, who is concerned about a possible $1.5 million shortfall in the budget for the 2012-13 school year. He intends to delve into that right away.

“That’s the biggest thing. I will start poring over all the budget information, and reports that have been produced recently, like the transportation and facilities studies,” said Schneiderat.

Tracy St. Claire also sees the budget as the issue that links all others. As well as running for trustee, she is a co-ordinator with the early childhood education group Success by Six, and wonders about issues of integrating ECE for younger children into this school system and how it could be funded.

“It would never work if there is no money for it. The earlier you can identify developmental needs, the better you can correct them,” she said. “As budgets everywhere decrease, how can we do more with less. And that’s just one piece of the budget question.”

Kevin Andrews, who was a trustee between 2005-08, plans to work on continuity and co-operation with the many first-time members if he is elected on Saturday.

“The biggest task at hand is making sure students’ needs continue to be met while we deal with the strike process we are in,” said Andrews. “Ultimately, we have to support teachers in some manner to make sure our goal of educating children is met.”

Walter Huebert, the eighth candidate for school board in Penticton, could not be reached for comment.


Just Posted

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Showers to start weekend, sun returning soon

Environment Canada forecasts rain on Saturday and the heat returning next week

UPDATE: Penticton resident’s dog found safe

Nicholas Bozak thanks the public for finding his 17 month old mastiff chow

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

Great horned owls returned to the wild in the South Okanagan

Great horned owls plucked by crows from their nest last April have been released back into the wild

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Olympian brings women empowerment in sports to the Okanagan

Two-time medalist Natalie Spooner joined the Girls Rock the Rink event in Kelowna

Column: Understanding weather patterns a key to a successful garden

Columnist dives into Okanagan urban agriculture

Okanagan school district monitoring McCurdy supportive housing plan debate

Top priority for board of education is to maintain safety integrity of local schools

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read