She may have only four years on school board, but if she is reelected, Shelly Clarke will be the most experienced Penticton representative sitting on the board.
“I’ve served one year after a by-election and this is my only full term,” said Clarke. “There is a lot of it that I have enjoyed. The political stuff can get to me at times. But I am learning all the time and I enjoy being part of the education system.”
Clarke is the only Penticton trustee seeking re-election in November. Longtime trustee Larry Little has announced he will not be seeking re-election, while Dave Perry and Tom Siddon, who were both elected to the board last election, have also announced they will not be running.
Clarke was first elected in September 2007, in a by-election to fill the seat left by the death of trustee Pennie Jamieson. It was Jamieson’s example, Clarke said, that first encouraged her to run for election. Saddened by Jamieson’s death, Clarke said she wanted to make sure there was someone on the board who followed Jamieson’s principle of keeping focused on the students.
“She never let the politics and other stuff distract her. She was really focused on the students and the parents and I really respected her,” said Clarke. “If I could do half of what she did, I would be happy.”
Clarke said she has continued that focus on the students, making it her sole focus is to ensure the kids are being educated properly and are able to fulfill their goals.
“I always feel there should be some type of renewal, but we are losing some really good experienced people. It’s kind of sad but it’s kind of invigorating in a way,” she said. “This time around, I am one of the few that has some experience on the board. I don’t care how much you are involved with the school board, when you are not a trustee, you don’t realize what the work entails until you’re actually in there.“
Bruce Johnson may not have held a seat on the board of education before, but he can still offer major experience with the education system.
“I’ve been involved with he school district for 34 years, 17 as a teacher and 17 as a principal,” said Johnson, who has been retired for five years. “I grew up here, born and raised. I think we have a great system going here and I would like to see that continue, and even improve what we’ve got.”
Both as a student and an educator, Johnson’s education experience is woven with that of the Okanagan Skaha School District, especially Princess Margaret Secondary. That was where, as a principal, he finished his career in education, but it was also a school he attended as a student in the ‘60s. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, he was back as teacher, returning a final time as principal in the 2000s, when it became a senior high.
“It was a great career and a great way to finish up,” said Johnson, who said throughout his career, he always made decisions based on what was best for the students. “I am just looking forward to putting back into the system and keeping the good things we’ve got going.”
Johnson is currently president of the South Okanagan Children’s Charity, but he has also worked for 18 years with the Canadian Cancer Society and a nine-year stint with the B.C. Summer and Winter Games.
James Palanio, on the other hand, is comparatively new to the education system. The key to his involvement, he said, was his daughter beginning her school years. She is now in Grade 1 at Wiltse Elementary, where Palanio is helping out by volunteering with the safe arrival and hot lunch programs. The need he saw at the school level got him looking at the whole system.
“I looked at the board and thought, you know, they need more people that have kids in the school system, so we can be a little more connected,“ said Palanio, adding that he will bring a different perspective to the table.
“I want the kids to have the best possible education they can get, that gives them the best opportunities to move forward in life,” he said. “I think I would give the school board a more rounded view of things, since I haven’t been an educator or involved in the education system.”
A realtor, Palanio is currently president of the South Okanagan Real Estate Board, finishing up a term ending on Dec. 31. He’s also a director of the South Okanagan Brain Injury Society and sits on both the Parks and Rec and Community Policing advisory committees.
“I’ve lived here all my life. I know a lot of the history of Penticton,” said Palanio. “I think putting all that together will make me a very valuable asset to the board.”