The other week I sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in the 2021 Langley School Board Trustee By-Election. The questions were intended to be nonpartisan, important, and focused on the future of Langley’s schools. I deeply appreciate the responses received as it would have taken these candidates serious time to respond. I hope that if you like the responses provided that you’ll share the posts of your favourite candidates. These posts are NOT endorsements of any candidate and the answers have NOT been edited. -Brad Richert
What current issues do you see as most pressing on the board?
While I acknowledge that it will always cost money to improve and increase services in any industry – especially one tied to accelerating population growth in the Township of Langley – many within the political scene seem to have forgotten exactly where this funding comes from.
Taxpayers fund schools, both public and a portion of independent, whether they like it or not. My commitment to these stakeholders, if elected, is to ensure that every last dollar is spent as efficiently as possible.
On top of this, the current members of the school board have written formal letters to the ministry of education requesting more funding.
Langley already gets more than its fair share of provincial education grants – $236,225,289, which is 3.67% of the 2020/21 provincial operating budget (LINK: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/resource-management/k12funding/20-21/20-21-summary-of-grants-january-2021.pdf)
It is important to focus on the fact that the provincial government’s money supply is not endless. There is no money tree…only taxes, which adversely affect all British Columbians.
What are the challenges you foresee arising for the board in the next 18 months and the following term?
The Middle School transition needs to be dealt with. When SD35 decided to transition to a Middle School district they ignored too many variables.
One sitting Trustee even suggested that the different models (K-5 versus K-7, 8-12 versus 9-12, etc.) throughout the district may not be a problem at all. I don’t disagree. As a parent I can appreciate the different options offered in Langley.
But after the school trustees failed to decide on the future of D.W. Poppy Secondary School more than a year ago they left more questions than answers.
The school board must make crucial decisions over the next 18 months regarding the future of Brookswood Secondary, D.W. Poppy Secondary, and Aldergrove Community Secondary – even if the final solution is a way to continue the status quo.
What are your top 3 priorities for the remainder of this term?
1) Fiscal Responsibility: Work with Brian Iseli and his team to ensure the 2021/22 budget stretches every dollar as far as possible.
2) School Choice: This is a multi-dimensional point. We need real choice within the system as a whole, regarding education streams and choice programs, like trades training, but also real choice for parents and students of what school to attend. The catchment system is flawed. If a choice school has a waiting list of dozens of people every year for a decade, I’d say it’s time to expand access that school model.
3) Plan for the Future: Reassess the way we plan for new schools. Obviously the current process is flawed. We need to find out why.
How do you believe the board has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic so far? Do you believe any changes need to be made?
I choose not to grade the sitting school board on COVID-19 adjustments, because it was a lose-lose situation. With the social divisiveness of the political reactions to the virus, there was no way to please everyone.
After a horrific end to the 2019-20 school year, the 2020-21 school year has not had a negative effect on my son’s education. He is happy, healthy, and learning. So I give my thumbs-up.
Personally I’m all for a return to normal as soon as possible, but school trustees need to balance student AND employee physical and mental health. Based on the anecdotes I’ve heard, this year has been as good of a balance as possible.
How do you plan to foster positive relationships with parents & teachers over the remainder of this term?
My intent is that parents will appreciate my message. We want more choices for families within the public school system. Over the last 20 years we have learned that a one-size-fits-all education is not what K-12 students need. We don’t need to give participation ribbons to students. We need students to want to participate!
I anticipate that teachers will appreciate my transparency. Because of provincial laws and orders, many of the compensation pieces are already set in stone before the school district has any input. However, I’ll do my best to attract quality educators, including teachers, support workers, and administrators so that our children get the best Langley can provide.
What sort of responsibility do you believe the board has in the overall community?
Every resident of the community is a stakeholder in the education of Langley youth.
Some residents pay school taxes, others fund it indirectly through other provincial taxes. Either way, it’s hard to get around the fact that each member of the community has a financial stake in how education dollars are spent.
A school trustee has a responsibility to be efficient with those dollars.
A school trustee has a responsibility to foster the creation of the future stewards of Langley. The well-adjusted young people, produced by current education systems, will take over our roles as leaders in the community sooner than we know.
There are just under 1,900 new apartment condo units scheduled to be completed this year in Willoughby alone. The school board currently projects an average of approximately 1 school age child for every 6 condo units – given the recent rise in housing prices, do you believe this is enough? Why or why not?
This is where census statistics, long-term trends, industry data, and common sense need to work together.
A quick internet search will show that, indeed, the 1 school-aged child for 6 condos is in-line with the average for North America.
However, it is important that the Township of Langley, City of Langley, Langley School District, and Ministry of Education are all getting the best figures from the best sources.
Stakeholders such as real estate associations and community advocacy groups need to be involved with the process that will plan for the future construction of new schools, or the re-allocation of funding from one school to another.
My gut says that the ratio should be a little closer to 1 child for 2 condos, but that is before speaking with the aforementioned stakeholders and local statisticians.
What this means is that the School District will need to work with the Township of Langley and Ministry of Education to earmark existing land and existing funding for the expansion of education options for children in not just Willoughby, but also plan for future development of all of Langley’s communities.
Do you or have you had children in the Langley school board system?
Yes. My son is about halfway through his K-12 journey in the public school system. I’ve seen first-hand the effects that a good principal can have on the culture of a school, and community. That experience has also shown me how important it is that real options in education be extended to all Langley families, because there is no one-size-fits-all administrative tactic that will work on every school or community.
Are you planning to run for school board trustee in the 2022 general election ?
If elected this February I would absolutely run again for a school board seat in the fall of 2022.
If I don’t succeed in 2021, I will re-access the electoral climate in autumn of 2022 and make a decision then as to how I can best serve my community.
Why you, why now?
Great twist, Brad, on an otherwise tired question.
It should be ME because I am a unique voice that Langley politics has not seen since Joe Lopushinksy was elected Mayor of Langley City. In a climate that measures itself on diversity it is important that the opinions of the governing bodies are truly diverse.
It should be ME, NOW because I feel that we are at a crossroads for education in our communities.
Public schooling in B.C. was dead-to-rights 20 years ago, but then it began its transformation into a legitimate educational option for all families, including the haves and the have-nots.
We are at a crucial intersection. We need to develop more specialized programs for our youth so they can feel like they really belong at their school of choice. If we can get these students – our children…our future – to invest in their own education stream, then there is no ceiling on what the future of they and our communities will be.
Thank you Alex Joehl for your responses and good luck on the rest of the campaign!
I invite my readers to join us for the “Meet Your Candidates” Live Event at TalkLangley.com on February 17, 2021, 7:00-9:00pm.
The event will be hosted on Facebook Live Stream by former Langley School Board Trustee Candy Ashdown and myself, Brad Richert, with opening remarks by former Langley School Board Chairperson Megan Dykeman, MLA (Langley East). We hope to see you there!
Authorized by, Brad Richert, registered sponsor under LECFA, 123-456-7890