The candidates who win a seat at the table for school trustee for School District 23 will be part of the team making the decisions on a $180 million dollar annual budget.
On Monday, the Central Okanagan Teachers Association and the Central Okanagan Parents Advisory Council hosted an all-candidates forum at Hollywood Road Education Services Building for the Kelowna trustee hopefuls.
In Kelowna there are 14 candidates vying for four positions on the seven-member board.
The other three positions are designated for Peachland/Westside, West Kelowna and Lake Country.
Only one Kelowna incumbent is seeking re-election, Rolli Cacchioni.
The other incumbent running again is Moyra Baxter, who is a Peachland/Westside candidate .
The public forum featured a three-minute presentation from each candidate followed by a meet and greet.
The predominant theme of the evening’s speeches was money and the lack thereof within the public education system.
Time and again candidates proposed renewed lobbying of the provincial government for more funding to address the perceived ills of the school system.
Other key themes to emerge during the evening was a focus on improving literacy and numeracy in students, and multiple promises to consult with all stakeholders in the education system.
The reality facing every school board is that the majority of the funds under management directly flow through to staffing costs.
School District 23 is the second largest employer in the Okanagan after Interior Health.
Trustees make decisions with the remaining funds to provide programs based on district and stakeholder priorities.
Those programming decisions make the difference for students with special needs, varied interests and activities.
Literacy, numeracy and graduation rates and diverse curriculum offerings are impacted by the amount and type of programming available.
In the 2010-2011 Completion Rates (defined as the percentage of students graduating with a Dogwood Diploma within six years of first entering Grade 8) the Central Okanagan School District has a graduation rate of 86.2 per cent for non-aboriginal students, seventh highest in the province.
The aboriginal graduation rate is 60.9 per cent which places the district in the top third of districts province-wide, but is well ahead of the overall aboriginal graduate rate average of 54.1 per cent.
They said it…
Some of the comments made by the school trustee candidates at Monday’s forum:
Chris Becenko: “We can only spend what we have and we need to use resources efficiently.”
Joyce Brinkerhoff: “I would be a representative of community priorities and do what is best for the children, even the little things add up.”
Rolli Cacchioni: “I make decisions based on what is happening in the classroom and what is best for the students. Professional services for kids needs to be there.”
Torrie Fonda: Does not want to see students slipping through the cracks.
Chris Gorman: “We have a limited pie, special needs students need to be properly funded and decisions need to be made in the best interest of the students.”
Larry Gray: “You can only work with what you have, but we need to look at all options. Any cuts would need to come from the periphery of the system.”
Val Hristovski: “Fine arts programming and athletics produce well rounded students and there are many students who need that outlet within school.”
Richard Knight: “The first question in decision making is: ‘Is it good for the kids?’ Literacy would be my number one priority and I am cautious of technology in the classroom—it is expensive and hasn’t always lived up to expectations.”
Greg Krasichynsky: “All has been decided for us. We need to look at 21st century initiative, busing, transportation, physical exercise for students and meal programs. We might need to look at property taxes.”
Murli Pendarkaar: “The province does not seem to be placing education high enough, for example transit subsidizes the university, but empty buses all day long cost money. We have a two-tiered education system and a free education system means an equal opportunity to attend. The current fees are the thin edge of the wedge to a two-tiered system.”
Mark Thompson: “Look at middle schools and their administration to see if they are the most efficient way to deliver education. The province has been a bully in the funding process, in a career a teacher earns between $300 to 500,000 more in Alberta and that gap will change teacher quality in B.C.
“We need to reinvent the education system in B.C. There are tough decisions to be made…possibly asset sales and I am prepared to look at the property tax base.”