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Bennett says catchment and capacity main 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.
Tim Bennett
Why are you running for trustee for School District 57?
Tim Bennett is seeking re-election to the School District Board of Education October 20.
Tim Bennett is seeking re-election to the School District Board of Education October 20.

First and foremost, I am passionate about Public Education and believe I still have work to do as a Trustee. I am seeking re-election for a third term on school board because there are some big challenges and opportunities on the horizon for both SD57 and Public Education in BC. I am confident I have the skills, leadership, and experience to support the district and board through these while also advocating for our students, staff and communities. These challenges include addressing the catchment and capacity issues in Prince George schools; advocating for our district and students as the government introduces changes to the education funding formula; supporting our staff through the final implementation of the new curriculum; and as the employer ensure a fair and respectful bargaining process with our teachers and support staff. These are all going to faced by the new board in the next 12 months.

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

One of the biggest issues facing our district right now is catchment and capacity. Our district is growing and we are quickly running out of space in our schools. This will need to be addressed by continuing the consultation started by the Board and looking at options to address the current and projected capacity crunches. These options could include changing catchment areas, trying to add space through the addition of portables and/or finding creative solutions that would not impact the education needs of our students. The first round of consultation regarding Ecole Duchess Park is complete and we learned a lot about what the community is looking for. We need to take some of that feedback and look at some different options presented as well. Before the final decisions are made the board needs to continue consulting with stakeholders, and make sure the process remains transparent.

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

The main role of School District 57 Board of Trustees is to act as elected co-governors of the public education system. We are responsible to set and govern policy, approve and monitor the budget and set the strategic direction of the district. As co-governors we also have a responsibly to hold the government accountable for decisions it makes. We need to ensure that our students and staff are not impacted negatively by decisions made.

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

I fully support the work being done both in our district and across BC in support of our LGBTQ+ students and proud to stand behind the SOGI policy approved by our district in 2014 and then strengthened a couple years later. I fully support an inclusive and safe environment for all our students and staff. SOGI 123 is not curriculum but rather is a resource developed and used in some of our schools. It is a great resource and one that I encourage teachers to look at and use. I will be honest shortly after I was elected in 2011 I was asked about a stand alone policy. At that time I didn’t fully understand the need for one as we had what I believed was comprehensive anti bullying policies. After hearing more of the stories about what was happening myself and a large majority of our board realized we needed to have one developed. I was proud to be chair of Policy and Governance when the policy came to the table for approval. I personally so excited that all of our buildings now have at least one all gender washrooms and will be the norm in all new builds including Kelly Road when it opens in 2020.

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

Right now we are waiting for the government to release the report from the independent panel looking at the current funding formula. The new funding formula may have a big impact rural education funding. When the new funding formula is introduced we need to quickly model it and ensure it does not negatively impact our rural communities. If it does, we need to quickly respond to government. We can’t let the new funding formula impact our communities. The new board will have two rural trustees on the board. This will be a good start to ensure the voices from these communities are at the table. However, we still need to make sure we are representing these schools and communities. We need to revisit the report from the Rural Ad-Hoc Committee on Rural Education (internal committee) and ensure that in progress recommendations are still being looked at.

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

Improve communications between the District and the community. It’s 2018 and our website needs improvement and the district needs a social media presence.

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

I am currently a director with the BC School Trustee Association. I am currently serving my first term and was proudly elected by my fellow trustees. As a director it gives me the ability to advocate for our students and region at a provincial level and have a seat at influential tables. It also gives me the ability to learn firsthand from other districts and bring ideas back to the board table.

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

Last year the district invested money into a plan to recruit teachers to School District 57. This plan included hiring an in house recruitment officer, creation of recruitment materials and strategy to bring teachers from across Canada to our district. This strategy has been quite successful to recruit classroom teachers. We have been able to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court ruling. We still need to grow our TTOC list (Teachers Teaching on Call) to ensure we have coverage when classroom teachers are away. The board has continued this recruitment support in this budget and believe that this will mean more teachers coming to the district. The District now needs to create a similar strategy to recruit EA’s and other support staff to the district.

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

When the new funding formula comes out in early 2019 we need to ensure that it does not negatively impact our district’s funding. We need to be able to quickly model the formula and respond back to government if needed. The district is also in a very good financial position. This past year we were able to invest $800,000 of surplus into the operating budget to create additional supports for students and staff. It is my hope that the Expanded Committee of the Whole for the 2019-2020 budget can look at investing additional surplus dollars back into the district benefiting our students and classrooms.

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