School trustee hopefuls took part in a lively and well-run all candidates meeting on Nov. 3, in the AESS library.
All six candidates turned out and asked a variety of in-depth questions relating to student needs, teaching obstacles, funding, program delivery and the recent strike action. The meeting drew a much smaller crowd than the two municipal debates, with only about 20 people in the audience.
On Saturday, voters in Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs will have a chance to vote for three trustees to represent this area. Running are two incumbents, Rose Tustian and Ron Johnstone; one previous trustee, Marilyn Warren; and three new hopefuls, Leah Ochoa, Cindy Ferguson and Fiona Delcourt.
The incumbents were asked what they did to stay informed during the recent strike action. Tustian said she did her best to stay up to date and worked to relay information from the board level.
“I feel we supported our teachers very well during the strike” she said. Tustian also noted that both the government and the teachers had good points to argue during the lockout and strike.
Johnstone reiterated that the board’s relationship to the teachers is very important.
“It’s tough to see teachers on the picket lines and students not in their classrooms,” he said. “We support teachers every day and the relationship we have with them is very important.”
He said the board
The newer candidates were asked if they’ve read the school board’s budget online, and to explain their understanding of it.
Delcourt, who has 16 years experience on the District Parent Advisory Council as a a parent rep, chairperson and secretary, said she’s well aware of the board’s budget, and its intent.
“It supports the strategic plan which is what it’s there to do,” she said.
Ochoa has been combing through documents over the last month, she said, in an effort to learn more about the role she hopes to step into.
“I’m going to be honest, I don’t quite understand it all but I’m not afraid to ask questions,” she said.
Ferguson also has a long school-based volunteer resume, including work on the PAC, DPAC and school planning councils. She said she’s noticed a pattern of fiscal responsibility, and is aware of how cuts to funding affect children in school.
On the question of how to support special needs, Warren said that teachers need to either be supported with instruction on how to teach special needs, or given support by way of more SEAs in the classroom.
Delcourt noted that it’s really a “policy and budget” item, and that the “unique ways” people with special needs learn need to be taken into account.
Johnstone said the board needs to support new ways of supporting kids with special needs, such as they’ve done at Kent elementary school with ‘self-regulating strategies and tools’ like lower lighting and quieter classrooms.
In their closing comments, the candidates had a chance to underline why they were running.
Ferguson said “we’re all here because we care.”
For Ochoa, who became visibly emotional at times during her answers, running means doing something difficult, in spite of whatever the outcome will be.
“Maybe I’m going to fail, but I’m going to try anyway,” she said.
Johnstone said he feels “students are leaving here well prepared,” after graduation.
The school board all candidates meeting was hosted by DPAC and the Fraser Cascade Teachers Association. Another meeting was held in the Hope area for the candidates in that area. In total, the Fraser Cascade school board comprises seven trustees.
For more on the candidates, their profiles and to read over a previously published question and answer, visit us online at www.agassizharrisonobserver.com and click on the Election 2014 tab.