Differences in style were evident at two all-candidates meetings, with one newcomer and two present school board trustees running for what is now a single spot for Sandspit and Queen Charlotte.
The meetings were held in Sandspit Tuesday and Queen Charlotte Friday, and this report covers both.
Newcomer Christine Martynuik, a Queen Charlotte resident, is adamant that if cuts are necessary, they must be made in administration, not education.
“Look at the administration office. Let’s be real. We have so many people in that office Â… Education is our first priority,” she said.
If elected, she advocates reorganizing the administration into a lean and effective model and hopes to reinstate educational programs previously cut.
The two incumbents, Shirley Hawse of Queen Charlotte and Gail Henry of Sandspit, explained that cuts to administration have been looked at, but it’s not that easy a decision.
The cuts came hard at first, and now with each bit of funding the government gives back, there is a new report required and new restrictions on how to use the money, said Ms Henry.
“Within the last three years, the paperwork has doubled. If we don’t have people in place in administration, everything below doesn’t function,” said Ms Hawse.
Ms Henry and Ms Hawse are looking to the school district task force on long-term planning for long-term solutions. The board has yet to find enough people to sit on this committee and will look further after the election.
“I’m praying the taskforce is the answer,” said Ms Henry.
Audience member Leslie Johnson of Queen Charlotte said she wasn’t surprised when she read the district hadn’t found anyone.
“I chuckled when I read that, because when I looked at the ad, I thought, my God, this is a full-time job. Isn’t that the board’s job with the support of administration? The board has difficult decisions, are they not prepared to make them?”
Ms Martynuik agreed. “Why don’t we have a five-year plan? Every year we are flying by the seat of our pants.”
If she is elected she will be against the task force she said.
Ms Hawse explained the public asked for the taskforce.
“They wanted to be represented and help make decisions,” she said.
Ms Martynuik said no parents had been invited to the stakeholder meetings when the budget was discussed. Evelyn von Almassy said the board should include the students as well.
Duncan White wanted to know when the board would prepare a needs budget to submit to the government.
“We’re down to the bone. We have been for the last couple of years,” he said.
Ms Henry said one board in the province did, that and that district no longer has a board. The government told boards they would be dissolved if their budgets didn’t balance.
“Maybe this is the year to get every district to submit a needs budget. What will they do kick out every board in the province?” said Ms Henry.
The lack of special needs funding was also brought up. One child used to receive four hours a day, now he receives four hours a week, said Ms von Almassy. “What will you do to fix this situation?” she asked.
Ms Martynuik said there have been a lot of excuses at the district level.
“Let’s quit funding excuses and find solutions. I’ve had enough,” she said.
“It’s not an excuse to say there is no money, it’s the truth,” said Ms Henry.
The board has tried many angles to increase the funding she said. The government says its listening, but she doesn’t see it.
Someone brought up the recent talk of the government looking at abolishing local school boards. What did the candidates think?
“If we lost our identity, it would be a disaster,” said Ms Hawse. She added that it is such a new issue, she needs to give it more thought.
Ms Henry and Ms Martynuik both said they thought the new government initiative was to give more responsibilities to boards.
As for concerns in Sandspit, Ms Martynuik, who is running on a platform of getting French immersion in the schools, said maybe Sandspit was the a good place for this imitative.
Ms Henry would like to see an outdoor education program in Sandspit that would attract out-of-area and even foreign students.
All candidates said they would visit schools in both communities and work to represent both communities.
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