SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES: What are the biggest challenges facing the school district?

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the School District in the next few years and how do you propose to address it?

For our final question before the Nov. 19 election, we asked candidates about the biggest issues facing the school district. In their own words, here are their answers. Question:

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the School District in the next few years and how do you propose to address it?

Alan Chell

We are a small school district and I see us facing increased budget pressure over the next few years. There are a number of ways we can address this:

* moving into the new elementary school in September 2012 will enable us to operate one fewer school and save about $300,000 per year. This was the main reason we have worked so hard on obtaining funding support for a new elementary school

* work with the Ministry of Education, City of Revelstoke and the community to find alternate uses for our closed schools so that money is not taken from the classroom to pay for costs of closed buildings

* continue working with the Ministry of Education to maintain funding protection. This was a concept we approached the Ministry with about 10 years ago and has resulted in an extra $1.8 million dollars of support to our district since then.

Bryan Dubasov

There are numerous challenges facing our District: replacing the Superintendent in a few years when she retires; how to manage our four vacant schools; maintaining the tremendous strides made with early learning literacy; and supporting the good will established between the Board, RTA and CUPE. However, the biggest challenge I see facing our District has been, and will continue to be, funding that we receive from the provincial government that allows us to provide programs for our students. It seems that there never is enough money allocated to our district to be used for the education of our students. What do we cut? What do we retain? I have the knowledge and experience to know how to use the funds we receive to best serve the educational needs of our students in School District #19. I will make this a priority and actively lobby Victoria to make this happen

Mauro Morrone

One of the biggest challenges continues to be inadequate funding. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep our budget balanced, without cutting student programs. We have been accomplishing this by dividing up the funding pie into different slices. We need a bigger funding pie. As a board, and through the British Columbia School Trustees Association, we have to continue in our advocacy role and lobby the government for a better funding formula.

The other biggest challenges include the transitioning into both new schools (including the Neighbourhood Learning Centres), dealing with our surplus schools, and joint-use agreements with key stakeholders. We will have to continue to work diligently and collaboratively with all key stakeholders with a well-defined plan.

Jeff Nicholson

The biggest challenge for our district and all others in the province follows from an announcement in a letter dated, Oct. 28, 2011 from the Deputy Minister of Education, James Gorman. He says, ‘‘The Ministry of Education is working closely with all of its education partners to transform British Columbia‘s already world-class education system at all levels.” The main focus is on the education of the individual student whose abilities, talents, aspirations and needs for success in the 21st century, are a priority. The common buzzwords for this are “personalized learning.” At this point, the stage of development of the plan is raising questions and is asking for input. Please refer to the website www.bcedplan.ca for more information and opportunities for feedback.

The Deputy Minister states,”The BC Education Plan was inspired by innovative change already taking place in classrooms across British Columbia…”  To address the challenge locally, there should first be identification of such desired learning approaches already occurring in our own district and then seeking ways to support and enhance them on a wider scale. These supports might range from additional professional development and in-service, to improvements in the application of technology.

Elmer Rorstad

One of the biggest challenges facing the Revelstoke School District is the maintaining and enhancing of programs while facing tight budgets and economic restraint. Most levels of government are reducing budgets and services; it will be a challenge to continue offering the high standards of education being provided in Revelstoke. But that challenge must be met and I will be an advocate for education in Revelstoke by ensuring my decisions will be in the best interests of the students of Revelstoke.

Another challenge for the Revelstoke School District will be in finding quality replacements for staff retiring in the near future. During my 19 years of operating Free Spirit Sports I have conducted numerous interviews in hiring staff.  I believe my business experience will assist the Board in the screening and selection of successful applicants.

Jewelles Smith

I believe we are facing a couple of challenges in the coming months and years, in a sense they are related as they concern our staff and teachers. Although we have experienced a drop in student numbers in recent years, however, we have also experienced a surge in our local birthrate; we need to ensure that we have teachers and staff in place for the coming years. It is important not to be short sighted as our population goes through these changes. In addressing contracts and provincial funding, our board will need to keep this in mind.

We need to ensure that staff to student ratios are reasonable and address situations where classrooms might have unidentified students who require extra support. It is important that there are enough support aids in classrooms so that teachers can do the job of teaching while our education assistants support students with learning difficulties.

Our district also faces upcoming retirements. Several long-term staff and teachers will retire shortly. The board will need to find replacements that bring new energy and ideas to our school district; as well, we need to have people who are committed to staying in our community for the years to come.

Please feel free to contact me via email at jewelles.smith@gmail.com, you can look me up on twitter @jewellessmith, or contact me via my school trustee candidate Facebook page!

Annie Wilson

I believe that the greatest challenge we face is to continue to offer the quality of education that we have achieved to date as a small school district with a substantial surplus of schools. We have recently made a Board submission that is asking for a review of funding formula such as special education funding, transportation supplement and a funding to cover emergent costs. The district has been fortunate over the past six years to receive Funding Protection. Since 2005/2006, Revelstoke has received funding protection grants well in excess of $1,000,000. This has enabled us to provide the quality of education that we have achieved to date. We took steps to reduce operating costs with the addition of a new, energy efficient high school and a consolidated elementary school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2012. This may very well be the last year that a protection grant is made available. New funding formulas must address funding stability to support our school district’s programming already in place. It is very difficult for a small school district to take action to address enrollment declines, new taxes, etc. without a bridging or a buffer grant.

This stability of funding also pertains to the Annual Facility grant. If districts are to ensure that infrastructures are maintained to a high standard, and continue to meet the needs of the school district, funding must be in place to maximize the life of these assets. I see my role as Trustee as an advocate for adequate provincial funding. With adequate funding for the infrastructure we can sustain important programming to provide the quality of education that we need for our children.