St. Claire tops the polls for Penticton trustee

New trustees anxious to get to work with Okanagan Skaha School Board

Tracy St. Claire shares a word with Walter Huebert Saturday night at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre after both were elected as school trustees.

Tracy St. Claire shares a word with Walter Huebert Saturday night at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre after both were elected as school trustees.

They haven’t even got to their inaugural meeting, but there are already many connections between new and old school board members.

Shelly Clarke, one of three trustees returning from the previous board, is looking forward to again working with Walter Huebert, who was also a trustee from 2005-08.

And she’s also worked with Tracy St. Claire, knowing her not only from her work in the community, but also as a fellow parent at Queen’s Park Elementary.

“I think it is going to be a good board. Every person at the table has been involved with education for some time,” said Clarke. “And everyone has a positive attitude about education. They want to do the best thing possible for the kids.”

Clarke said she is relieved the election is over and the board will be getting back to work. This time though, she will be going in as one of the longer-serving members of the board.

“Once the new trustees get up to speed, it will be the job as usual,” said Clarke. “I am hoping they will ask lots of questions and I will give them as much information as possible on how my first years as a trustee went.”

Clarke, along with Ginny Manning and Linda van Alphen, are the only three trustees returning from the previous board, following decisions by Larry Little, Connie Denesiuk, Dave Perry and Tom Siddon to not run again.

Clarke won her seat as one of the four Penticton trustees with 3,624 votes. Tracy St. Claire (4,370), Walter Huebert (3,114) and Bruce Johnson (3,823) will fill the three empty Penticton seats. The other Penticton trustee candidates were Kevin Andrews (2,129 votes), James Palanio (2,085), Cary Schneiderat (1,976) and Chuck Simonin (1,568).

Linda Beaven (1,347) took the vacant Summerland seat, while Linda van Alphen (1,303) retains her position as the other Summerland representative. Ginny Manning, the current school board chair, was acclaimed after no challengers came forward for the rural area trustee seat on the board.

The new trustees have had one short meeting, and Clarke said some of the new members were slightly taken aback by how many meetings there will be.

St. Claire, however, said she was expecting there would be a big time commitment, especially at the beginning when trustees are orienting themselves.

“I thought it might be more,” said St. Claire. “There is always so much to learn when you are joining a board.”

She is also well connected through her work with the United Way and Success by Six, contacts she hopes to make use of during her time as trustee.

“There are usually solutions. You just need to talk to the right person at the right time,” she said. “I really do enjoy collaborating and brainstorming and working in a team environment. That is one thing that attracts me to school board as opposed to other forms of governance.”

Though a new trustee, Johnson is no stranger to either the school board or the education system, having worked closely with many trustees during his time as a principal.

“I really got a taste for what a school trustee can do and the difference you can make to the education system. I am thrilled to be on the other side of the table, even though I am quite familiar with a lot of the functions trustees do,” said Johnson.

That experience meant he was also aware of the workload going in. He says it’s just a series of opportunities for learning.

“I see these meetings and some professional development as an investment in the entire term,” said Johnson. “There is a significant amount of meetings, but I see that as a good thing.”

Johnson shares another connection with Huebert.

“Bruce started his teaching career at Princess Margaret Secondary in a classroom across the hall from me,” said Huebert, adding that he was still teaching at the school when Johnson returned as principal. “We started it together and we finished it together. He was my principal during my last couple of years teaching at Princess Margaret. We coached a girls volleyball team together.”

Like Clarke, Huebert thinks the new board will work well together.

“We all have a few things in common. We would all like to see the government come up with a contract sooner than later,” he said, expressing his desire to see the contract dispute with the teachers’ union settled.

“I agree with the teachers. We need to work hard on class size and composition,” he said. “I try to look at the positive side of things. I see the negative … but you try to make the very best out of every situation there is.”