Former trustee outlines powers and limitations of Board of Education

A good candidate will be firmly focused on students and meeting their varied needs, and have a district-wide perspective

Editor: There will be at least two new faces at the Board of Education table this year and the array of candidates to choose from is quite bewildering. How do you know who will make a good trustee?

The power of the Board of Education is limited. Underfunding for education is a favourite plank for all trustees – a safe, but not definitive one. Advocacy for education should be a “given” for all trustees, but the fact that education is in fierce competition with other ministries, and that the provincial government holds the purse strings is also a “given.” The best a board can do in this area is to have a good working relationship with the party in power.

Where Board of Education trustees have power is in setting educational priorities and allocating limited resources, in the best interest of all students in the district. This includes academic programs, trades programs, job skills, programs for those with special needs and for those who have fallen through the cracks. It means balancing the needs of the fast growing urban parts of the district with the rural areas. It requires creative thinking and wrestling with difficult decisions.

A good candidate for Board of Education will be firmly focused on students and meeting their varied needs, and will have a district-wide perspective. A good trustee will not come to the board with an “agenda,” or beholden to any interest group – parents, staff or other. A good trustee will not come to the board with the interest of a specific geographic area in mind. The current Township/City dichotomy on the board is bad enough without adding to it. A good trustee has to have the courage to make decisions that may not be popular, even at the risk of criticism and potentially losing their position.

Keep in mind that many of the new innovative programs – the middle schools, the Aldergrove middle/high school partnership, the trades programs – not to mention the new schools in Willoughby, came out of a previous board that was not afraid to “think outside the box,” and to make difficult and controversial decisions that were not always well-received. The current board may have “calmed the waters,” but I see little in the way of serious progress. The challenges facing the board today are difficult and will require courageous, independent, thinkers and leaders.

I encourage every one to research the candidates, make up their own mind and vote. For myself, I will support Alison McVeigh and Rod Ross, because I know they have a solid knowledge of the district and have a track record of being able to make difficult decisions when required. I will also support Kristine Ketter, because she has put in hours of volunteer time on PAC/DPAC and community committees, getting to know the district and the community and developing an understanding of the needs of students and their families.

Hattie Hogeterp,

Aldergrove

Editor’s note — Hattie Hogeterp is a former Langley school trustee.