The Capital News asked the Kelowna trustees candidates to answer a series of questions about issues facing the Okanagan School District.
Do you feel school board policies reflect the values of Central Okanagan communities?
I believe our school board policies are the community’s window into district operations and overall student performance. It’s through the board that the community gets to oversee the district budget, the hiring of the superintendent, and the way the schools are run (local policies). If the board is doing a good job of engaging the public, confidence improves and so does student achievement. Our six-year Graduation Rate inclusive of Evergreen is 96.9% compared to the provincial average of 90%; and, the Indigenous Graduation Rate is now 83% as compared to the provincial average of 72.5%, are proof that. Although there is room for improvement, we are successfully achieving the district’s strategic goals of which our partner groups and the community provided input. Our school board policies reflect the values of our community and inspires confidence in the community and optimism in the classroom, which leads to improved student achievement.
In what way, if any, are parents not given the opportunity to play a role in their child’s education?
I am a major proponent of parental engagement in their child’s education from every opportunity. As a parent, I have volunteered in the classroom and in the school, been on the executive of their school’s Parent Advisory Council to being the representative to the District PAC (COPAC). I recommend parents to advocate for their children at all levels. At the school board level, I encourage proper, district-wide community consultations and I attend them all. It is important to hear what parents have to say about issues, such as busing, French immersion, catchment reviews, etc. We also have regular on-line “thought exchanges” for parents to contribute their opinions on the budget and other issues that arise. At school board meetings, we have two opportunities for parents to voice their questions, opinions or concerns. It is important for trustees to receive input from parents and is necessary to make sound decisions.
What is the Central Okanagan School District doing well or not doing well to allow our students to become productive adults?
This school district is doing a lot well to allow our students to become productive adults. We have amazing teachers, CEAs and administration that believe in developing habits, skills, and mindsets that build students’ social, emotional, and academic competence. I often see examples of this in schools and at “Inside 23” presentations during public board meetings. At all our schools, staff foster a supportive environment that promotes strong relationships among staff, students, and families which provides a bedrock for learning. As a result, students feel a sense of safety and belonging, so they thrive in school. This district implements meaningful, engaging instructional practices that develop students’ ability to manage their own learning. Our students have opportunities to learn things that matter and are relevant to their lives. Last year alone, the board approved seven school board/authority authorized course proposals that were meaningful courses for our students.
What role should our education system play in supporting students facing gender identification issues?
In our school district, it is important to acknowledge and create an environment in our schools that respects and celebrates our differences in gender identities, sexual orientation and expression. Creating an inclusive culture prevents children and youth from experiencing distress, discrimination, bullying and ultimately negative health outcomes. As a board, we unanimously voted and supported providing teachers the necessary resources to help their students in the classroom with unexpected questions that may arise. SOGI 123 is not a course or curriculum and identifies three steps school districts are required to take to ensure all students feel welcomed and included in our schools: 1) make changes to policies to meet the changes to the B.C. Human Rights Code; 2) create inclusive environments; 3) ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity resources are included when appropriate. It is vital that all students feel welcomed and included in our schools.