Friday, November 14, 2014

School Trustees - The citizens' voice

Tomorrow is voting day for school Trustees in British Columbia. Please take the time to cast your ballot, and hopefully you've had a chance to look at some of the candidates. If you aren't familiar with Trustee candidates in your area, I strongly recommend you check out your local teachers' association, as they usually endorse candidates based on a thorough interview process. In the Victoria school District, the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association has endorsed six candidates: Edith Loring-Kuhanga, Deborah Nohr, Diane McNally, Rob Payntor, Jordan Watters and Anne Whiteaker. That's who I'll be voting for.

Voters should also consider "plumping" their vote. This means voting for ONLY those candidates you feel confident about. This increases those candidate's chances of winning. For example, if you want Candidate A to win, but you also vote for Candidate B, then Candidate B might beat Candidate A by a small number of votes and your extra vote helped make that difference. Often you get to vote for 7 or 9 Trustees, but it is really better to vote for the solid candidates you really want. Hopefully they win a majority on the Board.

Municipal elections typically have poor voter turnout, and especially for school Trustee. If you do just one more thing to help get public education advocates into Trustee positions - take five with you to the polls. Your parents, your co-workers, your siblings, your friends. Give them a ring a few hours before the polls close on Saturday to see if they've voted yet.

The teacher's strike this year highlighted the many shortcomings and dangers our public system faces. But without an active community voice and a sustained social movement we will not have the power to effect change. School Trustees who see their role as advocates, rather than mere managers, can be critical partners in such movements. The recent debate on corporate funding in schools and the response from Vancouver Trustees and Trustee candidates is one example. We need to build on this to create citizen based movements to advocate for smaller class, support for students with special needs, adequate funding, an increased schedule for seismic upgrades, proper playground equipment at all schools, new capital funding for growing communities. Tomorrow's vote is step one in this process.