The Kelowna Capital News offered the opportunity to express their views on some public education issues facing the Central Okanagan School District.
We asked the candidates to limit their answers to 100 words to each question.
The questions asked of each candidate were as follows:
1) What do you feel are the critical issues facing Central Okanagan Public Schools and how would you want to address them?
2) The school district has an official policy of supporting a dual track school policy. Which option do you feel is better for educating students – single or dual track schools?
3) How do you feel about current school initiatives that reach out to and support students who identify themselves as LGBQT+?
4) The school district philosophy as reflected by the ministry of education provincial curriculum is to encourage students to be critical thinkers. Do you think the school district should do more to help students navigate and consume information readily accessible on social media?
The answers from each of the candidates is as follows:
1) The current board is doing well. Our challenges?
Managing COVID recovery – seeing everything open back up –yet perhaps keeping some things that ‘worked well’ this year.
Looking for ways to acknowledge the tremendous job teachers and admin staff did/does in keeping students feeling connected,
Growing confusion on how to mutually respond to each other respectfully.
Growing enrollment and school space limitations leading to feelings of have and have-not schools. We’re at the mercy of the provincial government in funding new builds and replacements.
Encouraging money management skills. Too many young adults are drowning in debt.
2) I can be convinced either way as both have advantages and also concerns. I lean toward a dual-track to help keep kids in their neighbourhood, but I do think it warrants a fuller discussion.
3) I think this school district has some excellent initiatives which support LGBQT+ students and we need more!
All students, regardless of their current gender identification, need to feel safe at school. I believe we can accomplish that through respectful inclusion, open dialogue without personal attack, and ongoing support of each individual.
4) Absolutely. How to accomplish that is the $100 question! It seems that the push in society these days is to teach ‘what’ to think and not ‘how’ to think. We are too often reduced to ‘sound bytes’ of differing opinions (each ‘backed by science’ and/or anecdotal experience). Quality education thoughtfully examines and re-examines information – looking for the author’s bias and one’s own biased assumptions, and holds it all ‘lightly’ while being open to what fits ongoing reality.
1) Urgent infrastructure needs. There is shortage of space in the school district due to inadequate long-term planning. First priority is to replace old schools for safety and equity/accessibility.
Inclusive classrooms: All students need to feel included and represented, particularly LGBT2Q+ and BIPOC youth, and people with disabilities.
Supporting school staff: School staff are the foundation of our entire system. We must assist staff in the post-pandemic transition and to address critical staff shortages.
Developing critical thinkers: In this era of disinformation, we must guide students to become critical thinkers, life-long learners and well-rounded citizens.
2) The French Immersion program is popular and can provide students the opportunity for greater cultural awareness and language skills. But it is already difficult to find adequate school space and trained teachers for this program, and it could be even harder, along with necessary transportation requirements, if the district separated the French and English programs into single-track schools.
I would also be open to exploring other possible programs that might be easier to resource.
3) I think these initiatives are essential to give LGBT2Q+ students a place where they know they are safe. SOGI 123 is an important resource; it provides policies and materials to increase the diversity of the curriculum, and helps students see themselves represented and feel safe and included.
I trust teachers to make informed, compassionate and careful choices that will be in the best interest of all the kids they teach. Diversity clubs also provide a welcoming and supportive community among peers.
4) Our public education system should produce critical thinkers who can evaluate information and make informed, evidence-based decisions. Problem-solving approaches in STEM classes can play a key role.
I strongly support SD23’s program called “Digital Equity,” to ensure that all students have fair and affordable access to technology at school and at home, along with the skills, training and accessibility to use it safely and effectively.
Educators also need training. General skills should be emphasized that can be applied in future technology.
1) There needs to be more opportunities for students across the district for drama, arts, sports, music and choir. Understanding that students all learn differently we need to recognize and nurture each and every child, through whatever sparks their interests.
Also, the overcrowding and maintenance issues on existing schools. With a child at Rutland Middle School, I understand that structure needs to be addressed.
I would fight and advocate for RMS to be rebuilt. The district is spending too much funds on maintaining existing portables, when that money should be allocated to rebuilding existing schools.
2) Having four kids in the French Immersion dual track system, I appreciate having the option for a second language. My children needed the extra challenge, and thrive on a more difficult curriculum.
I know they enjoy having friends in both English and French, and the school has done an excellent job in making both languages to become a big happy family.
I do believe that the district needs to acquire more French-speaking teachers, but the district has done a great job at making it feel all inclusive at dual track schools. There needs to be more options after elementary for kids in all areas to continue their French language without having to travel across town to get there.
3) SD23 implemented SOGI(sexual orientation and gender identity) a few years ago to help bring education and health to students from K-12.
They have come together with local LGBTQ+ community leaders at The Bridge and The Foundry, also the Etcetera Youth Group that is part of the Kelowna Pride Society, to give links and resources to students and staff to help give the tools to teach and learn at all ages.
I believe that giving the proper tools is invaluable to all children.
4) Showing our children that all information is just a click away is great. We need them to know and understand that not everything they read and see is real, and they need to use their critical thinking skills to understand and analyze everything and coming up with their own ideologies to decide what to believe.
In today’s day and age of technology we have to embrace our new way of life, and teach all students to be creative and critical thinkers.
1) I have cited several issues that are cause for concern. These can be viewed on my website votemr.p.com and on Facebook.
Issue: Special Needs Designation is an extremely high bar: Both myself as an educator and my wife as an educational assistant (EA) saw this first hand in the classroom. When a designation has been approved, the student is provided with an EA. Unfortunately, within that same class there are other students who have not been designated but are struggling.
Now, the EA usually divides her time between her assigned student and the others that are struggling. A recent phone conversation with a parent of a designated student spoke of his own child’s experience, stating that “the EA was working with several other students thus reducing the time his child was receiving one on one.”
This parent sympathized with the students that needed help; however, the help was coming at his child’s expense. As it stands now, the high criteria for special needs designation only serves as smoke and mirrors to exclude students that are truly in need of support. This must be changed.
2) I am probably the only candidate that has actually taught French Immersion within a SD 23 dual track school. There was cohesion among staff members and the students and has been a tried-and-true method of delivery at SD 23 for 30-plus years. In side-by-side research studies, the edge goes to dual track.
As an aside, the KSS French Immersion overcrowding and the angst that some of the proposed solutions have generated, will require true consultation and doing what is the least disruptive to the students. As a trustee, I look forward to being part of the consultative process and reaching a workable solution.
3) In the words of Noble Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu: “An inclusive, good quality education, is a foundation for a dynamic and equitable society.” One of the largest problems from an interpersonal perspective is intolerance which breeds hatred when unchallenged.
We have seen all too often the consequences of intolerance when it targets LGBQT+ leading to their marginalization, feelings of being less than and violence. Our district has had in place the ministry of education mandated programs to attempt to raise the level of consciousness regarding the societal need for full inclusiveness free of antiquated prejudices. In my opinion, these programs are being delivered in a very sensitive and open manner.
4) To date, the education ministry has focused on the importance of students acquiring the skill sets to be critical thinkers. To this end, our district has over the past few years put in place the Life Long Learner Program.
Students are given the tools to analyze, research and vet various types of source materials and to know the difference between empirical evidence or subjective opinion being peddled as fact.
Going forward, the abundance of social media platforms that deny scientific proof and promote outright fabrications, necessitate the need to reinforce and augment these Life Long Learner programs.
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