BY BILL PHILLIPS
Betty Bekkering says there needs to be more balance on the School District 57 Board of Education.
And she feels she can provide some of that balance. Bekkering, who sat on the board from 2011-2014 announced Wednesday she has decided to run again.
“Four years ago, the strategy of the Teachers’ Federation was to try and put as many retired teachers on boards as they could,” she said. “They lobbied and wooed retired teachers.”
On on the School District 57 board, she points to trustees Tony Cable, Bruce Weibe, and Bob Harris, all retired educators, as the result of that strategy.
“It became almost a one-agenda board for trying to meet the needs of the teachers,” she said. “It always bothered me that the board was not balanced. I have decided to run and try and rectify some of that.”
She said the teachers are happy with the Supreme Court ruling which, basically, reduces class sizes and increases the number of teachers. That doesn’t without challenges, though, says Bekkering.
“There’s still lots of gaps in filling a lot of the employees they need,” she said. “Recruitment is a big thing.”
Bekkering served the one term on the board and was unsuccessful in her re-election bid in 2014. She was the NDP candidate in the Prince George-Peace River riding in the 2008 federal election.
Getting a seat on the board will be a little tougher in Prince George this time around with only five seats in Prince George. Mackenzie and the Robson Valley will elect trustees from those areas.
Bekkering said capacity will be a big issue facing the new board.
“I think we’ve run out of room for French Immersion,” she said. “Recruitment is a really big issue. There’s so many gaps in filling teachers, teacher assistants, teachers on call, education assistants. We’re just not getting the qualified people. There’s some uncertified people being hired for those entry level positions. I’m not sure how right that is, but it needs to come up for discussion.”
She said B.C. teachers are the lowest paid in Canada, which makes is really hard to recruit.
“I think we need wage parity,” she said. “We need wage parity or we can’t recruit.”
Incumbent Trish Bella has announced that she will not seek re-election. Tim Bennett has made it clear he will run again, however other trustees have not yet announced. Newcomer Stephanie Mikalishen-Deol, who works at the YMCA of Northern BC, has announced she will be seeking a seat on the board as well.