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?
i) First and foremost, the Board’s ability to work together is vital. They need a team player who is willing to listen and collaborate. They need someone who knows the system and who is passionate about education. I see a group of people who are eager to move forward and continue to do the necessary work.
ii) As anxiety levels and mental health issues steadily climb during COVID-19, it is imperative to continue looking for ways to increase the sense of safety and belonging for students and families. While this issue is far more complex than the space afforded to me in a Q&A, I believe that it is essential for families to feel that they can trust the district will protect their children.
Fundamentally, this starts with implementing strict policies against bullying and making sure that victims are seen and heard. I hope to learn from members of the Langley Interagency Network & Youth Engagement Project and look at new and progressive ways that we can combine school resources with community partners to increase safety.
Another piece to this issue is to make sure schools are implementing effective programs that focus on social emotional learning. Students who feel connected and supported have better graduation rates, which lead to better life outcomes.
iii) Lastly, I think it is extremely important that the board takes a proactive approach to building schools. The projections and timelines never seem to match up with the actual needs of the area. Langley is growing steadily and we need our schools to be forward thinking in planning future sites. I realize there are budget constraints, so it would be helpful for the board to continue to look for ways to increase its self-funding efforts.
What are the challenges you foresee arising for the board in the next 18 months and the following term?
Without a doubt, dealing with COVID-19 and staff burnout will be an ongoing issue for the board. Human Resources will need to get creative in order to attract new SEA and teacher graduates, and then work hard on their retention efforts. Working in the system during this pandemic, I can tell you morale and energy is at an all-time low. Looking for ways to increase mental health and well-being for staff, students, and families will be crucial.
If pandemic restrictions continue long term, I foresee substantial staffing shortages in a number of areas. This issue could in turn change the dynamics of collective bargaining, increasing the budget needed for staffing significantly.
Continuing to track COVID-19 and community spread, while getting transparent information out to the community quickly and efficiently will clearly be an issue that will be affecting the board for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the roll out of vaccines and the potential for new COVID-19 variants to be resistant to vaccines are two factors that the board has no control over.
Overcrowded schools and the need for reforms in the area of planning and development will continue to be major issues for at least the next 5 years.
What are your top 3 priorities for the remainder of this term?
1. Safety & Belonging – I will promote programs that support mental health, anti-bullying, anti-racism, equity & equality. This also includes working towards truth and reconciliation.
2. Hiring – I will support the hiring of more teachers and support staff.
3. Responsible Planning – I will support reforming antiquated systems used for projecting growth, so class size and composition requirements are taken into consideration, while leaving room for a margin of error that is able to absorb excess students.
How do you believe the board has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic so far? Do you believe any changes need to be made?
This is a loaded question, as I am not a medical expert. There is a huge discrepancy in the opinions within the community, which makes it impossible to make everyone happy. I think that the best thing the board can do is to follow the advice from Dr. Bonnie Henry and the medical experts, while continuing to promote social distancing, masks in communal spaces, and hand washing. I would support more opportunities for online learning.
How do you plan to foster positive relationships with parents & teachers over the remainder of this term?
One of the qualities that I am proud of is my approachability. I like to make myself accessible and am willing to take the time to talk to people who have concerns or want to celebrate accomplishments. Everyone has a story that is uniquely their own, and I feel privileged when people choose to share a piece of themselves with me.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is making in person events unsafe, so I would do my best to link into a variety of virtual events, such as PAC and DPAC meetings, virtual townhalls, and live stream chats. I will also invite the community to engage with me in phone calls, emails and zoom chats. I look forward to the day when I can get back out into the community and meet new people!
What sort of responsibility do you believe the board has in the overall community?
The board is responsible for making sure its graduates are informed citizens who are ready to be productive members in our community. Reconciliation efforts require people to learn the truth about Canadian history and that until our community is adequately educated in these issues, resistance, anger, and racism will continue to fester. This same sentiment goes for anti-racism and equality issues. Schools are often the birthplace of ideas of tolerance and understanding, and those ideas are vital to the level of acceptance and love that citizens show in their community.
Community cannot succeed without Education.
Education cannot succeed without Community.
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?
Absolutely not. For many young families, condo living is the only affordable choice. Additionally, I have worked in enough schools to know that the projections never seem to reflect the actual number of students who enroll. I am confident in this statement as I have personally been teaching in a portable for the last seven years, and have watched numerous schools have their grand openings with portables already on site.
Do you or have you had children in the Langley school board system?
No, but I am a homegrown candidate who went to school in Brookswood from K-12.
Are you planning to run for school board trustee in the 2022 general election ?
Absolutely, and again in 2026. The school board should not be used as an entry level position into politics. Education is what fuels my soul, and I want to grow and learn with a board who is made up of individuals who are just as passionate about education as me.
Why you, why now?
COVID-19 has drastically changed how education is delivered and having someone who is working in the system and facing the current challenges would be valuable.
In addition to my intimate knowledge of the education system, my personality and demeanour would fit well with the other board members. I am a thoughtful, respectful, kind, and full of ideas and energy. I have a unique blend of experiences, which includes working in Human Resources and as the President of a sizable strata corporation. I am the candidate who you can count on to be transparent and always put children first. I will champion the rights of all students and will advocate hard for those who find themselves without a voice.
And while I may not have the political experiences of some of the other candidates, I’m learning quickly and leading my campaign with an open mind and open heart. And that should count for something.
The board needs someone who can keep their positive momentum going, and I know that person is me.
Thank you Holly Dickinson 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