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?
Yes. I have been attending board meetings for over four years. Our community is growing, our diversity is expanding, and our SD23 policies are adapting to reflect that. Our board policies, there are over 170, respectfully represent all members of our school community. Strategic goals such as, Inclusive Learning Cultures, Family and Community Engagement and Staff Wellness positively impact our community as a whole. The district’s focus on Truth and Reconciliation while incorporating significant Indigenous learning improves school culture and builds relationships. Our school board is not stagnant. It adapts and changes as needed by listening to members of our community, connecting with partner groups, creating space for students to voice opinions, and engaging in reflective practices. Our board works collaboratively for all through consultation and conversation and develops policy based on needs and values.
In what way, if any, are parents not given the opportunity to play a role in their child’s education?
Our school district fully recommends and appreciates parental involvement. Parents have a critical role in our schools. Volunteer activities, parent/teacher conferences, approved classroom visits, parent advisory councils and district parent advisory councils, emails, phone calls and meetings outside of instructional time are some of the ways that parents can, and are encouraged, to get involved in their child’s education. Even as a single working parent, I have volunteered on field trips, attended every parent/teacher conference, written and responded to emails from teachers, met with administration when I had concerns, attended PAC meetings and supported the entire school body through fundraisers. Even attending school board meetings gives our community, not only parents, an opportunity for involvement. Parents have many opportunities to be involved in their child’s education and teachers, support staff, and administration are flexible and accommodating.
What is the Central Okanagan School District doing well or not doing well to allow our students to become productive adults?
I am constantly impressed with how our district forms relationships with post-secondary partners: Okanagan College, UBCO, the Justice Institute, BCIT, to offer programs that set our high school learners up for success. Within SD23, there are dual credit programs in both trades and academics, a Youth Work in Trades Apprenticeship program, trades sampler programs for construction, culinary arts and power motive and career-life programs to support students as they discover their unique skills and competencies. All of these (and maybe more) are available at various secondary schools in our district. Most programs have subsidized costs along with bursaries and awards students can qualify for. When students are graduating having already started on their chosen career path, our entire community benefits. Our educators and administration make a concerted effort to help learners find a successful path for post-graduation.
What role should our education system play in supporting students facing gender identification issues?
Our schools and learning spaces need to be safe and welcoming for all. Everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity and it’s important that we support all students, not just a select few. Inclusiveness is a topic that I’m passionate about. Having worked with children and families for many years, I understand the importance of social and emotional well-being. In fact, if students can’t feel socially or emotionally supported and safe, then they will struggle to learn. Students spend a lot of time in our school environment and deserve to have a sense of belonging while they are there. Our education system should continue to provide education, language and opportunities for growth at all levels of instruction. It’s upsetting to me that some adults think that sexual orientation and gender identity is a choice. It’s proof that education and professional development is still necessary and important.