Sunday, November 13, 2011

An overview of the SD#61 All Candidates Meeting

I have asked various people running in this region to send me something about the election from their view.   David Bratzer is running to be a trustee on SD#61 and send me this overview of the all candidates meeting last week.  Here is what he sent me.

On Wednesday evening, I participated in the all-candidates meeting at Spectrum Community School. This was for trustee candidates in District 61 (Greater Victoria). The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) organized the event. Fifteen of the sixteen trustee candidates attended (Richard Stern was not there).


The questions focused on issues related to the planning, funding and governance of the Greater Victoria School District. The moderator and timekeeper kept everyone on track. All the candidates were polite and the tone was civil.


I’m not going to mention everyone, but here are a few comments about some of the different candidates. These are based on some quick notes so please don’t interpret anything as coming verbatim from a particular candidate:


- Deborah Nohr spoke about her desire for the school board to recreate its working committees. This seems like a valid suggestion. Over the years the number of committees has been reduced and this has resulted in less public participation. For example, in 2010, the trustees voted to shut down the Climate Change committee. They also combined many of the meetings for the Operations and Education committees. These are now held back to back with no fixed start time for the second meeting. Sometimes a parent will have to wait several hours before getting an opportunity to speak with trustees about a particular issue.


- Dave Pitre said that he felt the board had fulfilled its duties regarding provincial advocacy over the past three years. He talked about his forty years of experience in the education system. He also owned up to a minor, inadvertent breach of the district policy against campaigning on school grounds. This impressed me. It is not easy to apologize in public and he did it in a sincere manner.


- Diane McNally stated that she would like to get Mary Ellen Turpell-LaFond more involved in matters related to the education of children. She also suggested that school principals can be a heavy presence in Parent Advisory Council meetings. She felt that a PAC should be able to meet in a school without the principal present. It is worth noting that Diane is endorsed by Citizens for Safe Technology (this group is concerned about the safety of Wi-Fi, cell phones and other wireless devices).


- Edith Loring-Kuhanga spoke about her large family, her experiences as an Aboriginal woman and her work as a Saanich trustee. I don’t have many notes about her comments. However, she recently moderated an all-candidates meeting for the municipal election in Central Saanich. This role is generally offered to someone who is well-respected in the community.


- I also don’t have any specific notes about Peg Orcherton, Bev Horsman and Catherine Alpha’s remarks. They all have strong name recognition in Victoria, particularly in progressive circles. I’ve learned a lot from all three of these women. I’ve been going to school board meetings for the past two years. On several occasions, both Horsman and Catherine Alpha have taken the time to talk to me about the role of a trustee and the dynamics of a school board. I haven’t spoken with Peg Orcherton as much, but listening to her at the board table is always informative.


- Rob Paynter talked about his experiences as a father who has children in the school district. He started his campaign late, but I’ve been impressed with how fast he’s got up to speed. He comes across as the quintessential parent and I think that is why it is so easy for people to connect with him. He is also a digger. He likes to comb through the district web site as well as the Ministry of Education web site, looking for useful statistics and data. It was Rob who alerted me to the abysmal graduation rate for Aboriginal students in this district (47% in 2009/10). http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reports/pdfs/graduation/061.pdf


- Tom Ferris emphasized his passion and support for literature, languages and music. In this election, he appears to be relying largely on the power of incumbency. As the chair of the board, he is routinely quoted in the Times-Colonist and other media outlets. He also has opportunities to attend high-profile events and ceremonies in the district. (http://www.sd61.bc.ca/super/pdf/Minister_Abbott/Vic_High.pdf) This is a legitimate political strategy but it can be frustrating for challengers such as myself.


- Michael McEvoy highlighted his experience as former chair of VCPAC, former chair of the school board and current president of the BC School Trustees Association. He stated that the graduation rates for the district were not good enough, but that they were moving in the right direction. The subject didn’t come up on Wednesday evening, but one area where Michael has done some excellent work is his call for reforms to the Pacific Carbon Trust. (http://www.bcsta.org:8080/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-67591/2011_08-30_Media_Release.pdf)


- David Rand focused on 21st century education. His platform calls for a comprehensive education white paper. He has a strong résumé, particularly when it comes to community service. His best moment of the evening was when he talked about the poor condition of the theatre in which we were all sitting. He described it in a way that made it easy for the audience to understand the impact of chronic underfunding.


This was my first all-candidates meeting. The evening lasted two hours and I learned a lot from my fellow candidates. I emphasized my background as a father, as a police officer and as the husband of an elementary school teacher. I was a little nervous, but at least my night didn’t turn out like this guy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZlGPhntPaU)


It would have been nice to see a few more people in the audience. It’s a difficult time of year because there are so many competing events. VCPAC has organized a second all-candidates meeting for November 15 at Reynolds Secondary. I’ve set up a Facebook event page in hopes of boosting attendance. (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=245011722218774)


In closing, I would like to thank Bernard for his efforts with Victoria Vision. I would not be in the position I’m in now without having followed much of the campaign advice he’s posted over past few years. He should eat well for the next year, because I think every candidate who uses this blog should buy him lunch... myself included!
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