Holland says many issues facing school district

We asked all the School District 57 Board of Education candidates to fill out a questionnaire so you may get to know them a little better. We will be running their answers between now and election day.

Sarah Holland

Why are you running for trustee for School District 57?
Sarah Holland
Sarah Holland

Short answer: I believe I can do a good job, in a very important job. Longer answer: after my children’s school was closed in 2010, I realized that what decisions the school board makes actually matters. I got involved, and have found it fascinating, complicated, and important. I want to do my part to make the school system work for all our students, I want to work respectfully with our education partners, and I want people to be able to see and trust the decision-making process.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing School District 57?

There’s never just one challenge in the school system. There are many important issues facing the Prince George school district, including the capacity of schools, implementation of new curriculum, changes to the funding formula, and the ongoing challenge of providing appropriate support to all our students. Dealing with these challenges requires collaboration, consultation, analysis, dealing with others with respect, using the money we have to our best advantage, and advocating for more funding.

What do you see as the main role of the School District 57 board of trustees?

According to a governance audit of the Vancouver school board in 2016, the primary role of school boards is to make the fundamental choices necessary to reflect the education priorities of the region within the funding envelope set by the provincial government. Managing such budget constraints is the cornerstone of corporate stewardship. Trustees are also supposed to listen to their communities, guide the work of their school district and set plans, policies and the annual budget. The board is not involved in the day to day operations of the district.

Do you support the current sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum in schools? Why or why not?

I fully agree with a recent statement put out by all of B.C. education partners, stating that school should be “a place where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background.” I’m surprised that this could be considered controversial – we teach our children about various races, cultures and religions without issue, and just like there are a variety of races, cultures and religions, there are a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. I’ve read through the SOGI 123 curricular resources, and support them being used in our classrooms.

How will you ensure that rural schools are adequately funded, and represented?

It will be very interesting to see how the new ward system works for representation of the rural schools in Mackenzie, McBride, and Valemount – although trustees are elected from specific areas, trustees are responsible for the district as a whole. No matter where a trustee is from, they should be working to represent all schools – including our rural schools – and working to ensure that all schools are adequately funded. The funding model review may well have an affect on the funding of rural schools.

If you have one pet project you would like to accomplish as a school trustee, what would that be?

Capacity and catchment! I’d like to see a process set out for how we deal with too many students at a school, for both elementary schools and secondary schools. At the moment, for an elementary school, the district simply turns away students. At the secondary school level, while registration can be restricted to catchment only, all students who qualify are entitled to attend a school – no matter if there is space for them or not. We need a more responsive system. It’s also important to be able to make decisions earlier, as when you wait, you need to make more disruptive decisions – and we’d prefer not to be too disruptive in schools! My priorities are to determine solutions for a school that works for the district as a whole (we can’t look at things just school by school), use supportable data, consult with staff and the community and ensure that people have informed opinions, ensure that eventual decisions are educationally sound, have the least possible disruption to our students and our staff, ideally keep families together, and ensure that the entire process is respectful to students, staff, and community.

What do you bring to the board table that no other candidate does?

I bring both my work life and my volunteer life: I’m a financial planner, so I’m experienced with numeric analysis and planning. In my volunteer life, I spent years volunteering at the district level with the district parent advisory council, so I bring that experience of having had a voice at the table – but not a vote.

Recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff is an ongoing issue. What are your thoughts on ways to keep the district properly staffed?

I would be in favour of supporting the BCTF recommendations for recruitment, retention, and mentorship with the Ministry of Education. However, most of these recommendations would be out of the direct control of the board, such as shortening of salary grid, student loans, or moving expenses. The board can work to provide more mentorship opportunities and professional development, as well as assistance to principals to ensure good staff relations.

How will you try to ensure public education funding for School District 57 increases?

I believe that it is important for the board to speak with a unified voice when it comes to dealing with the government. As such, I would be in favour of board statements and other communications to effectively advocate for increased funding and other actions. It is important for boards to advocate, but to do so in an effective manner.

 

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