Part three of our in-depth election coverage takes a look at our two candidates for School Trustees.
Sherry: Sherry Berringer
Roxanne: Roxanne Gulick
Why are you running for Trustee? What’s your motivation?
Sherry: I am running because I have a strong belief in the public education system in BC and I know there will be a lot of exciting things happening in the next four years that I would like to be a part of, due to the stability achieved in the last round of contract negotiations.
Roxanne: I made the decision to run for trustee, because I believe that a strong voice is needed for our community in regards to our education system. I have three children enrolled in school here in Tumbler Ridge and I want to be sure that they and their peers have the best education we can supply them with.
What’s the single greatest attribute you bring?
Sherry: My greatest attribute I bring to the position is 30 years of education experience.
Roxanne: The single greatest attribute I bring to this position is my ability to communicate. I believe that I have the communication skills necessary to fulfill the requirements of a school trustee. The job of a school trustee is to listen to their community and work at maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. I can be that person.
What is the biggest obstacle you face in doing this job (potential conflict of interests? Personal commitments? A work schedule that means you’d miss all the meetings?)
Sherry: Since I contract all my work and I schedule my hours around my trustee commitments, I don’t have any work obstacles facing me in being a trustee.
Roxanne: The biggest obstacle I face in doing this job is also one of the main reasons I want to do this job. That obstacle, even though it is my biggest strength, is my family. My family will always come first. This means that I will miss a board meeting if I have a very sick child with no adult available to take care of them the day of a board meeting. I am fortunate though that my children are old enough that they do not need full time supervision and this gives me the freedom to do this job.
What’s the biggest challenge facing education in SD 59?
Sherry: The biggest challenge facing education in SD#59 is our transportation issue. The Ministry of Education changed the formula for funding busing in 2013 and it resulted in huge inequalities in money allotted to each of the 60 school districts.
Roxanne: I believe the biggest challenge facing education in SD 59 is funding, or rather the lack of funding. This challenge is ongoing and never ending. The reality is that we need to learn a better way to distribute our funds throughout our diverse communities in our school district. Each community has different needs and challenges and SD 59 needs to do their absolute best in making sure no one gets short changed.
What two things must we get right in education over the next decade?
Sherry: The two things we must get right in education over the next decade are supporting Youth Mental Health issues of addiction, bullying and suicide and increasing Aboriginal graduation.
Roxanne: The two things we absolutely must get right in the next decade are 1) Technology. We need to make sure that our children are educated in both the good and the bad in regards to technology. A person’s digital footprint is something that starts at such a young age and I am not convinced that our education system has done the best it can in educating our children about that, and 2) Our schools need to be a place where each student feels valued and they should be excited about coming to school. Each student is unique and their individual needs are unique. We need to find a balance, a way to meet each student’s needs as much as possible, while preparing them for the real world.
What is the school district getting right? What needs to change?
Sherry: SD 59 is supporting many programs to improve school climate and reading scores. Some examples of these are: The ERASE program focused on preventing bullying and the primary project and reading recovery, which are both aimed at increasing student’s reading levels. One thing that needs to change is the freeze on excluded staff salaries. This causes a huge challenge in recruiting and retaining leaders. Many senior leaders are retiring and fewer people are applying for these positions because of the existing compensation levels.
Roxanne: SD 59 is getting it right by keeping in touch with the diversities in education around the world. They are willing to attempt new ways to educate. Their website shows a variety of programs that the district has embarked on in the recent school years. Communication is an area that I believe our school district can improve on. We need to have more information readily available for parents to access. Each school should have information available on a website or through social media. This information should include current events in the school and contact information.
What are your top three priorities?
Sherry: My top three priorities are: Increasing student engagement and achievement through inquiry-based learning; supporting dual credit programs so students can get a head start in a Trades career; and continuing to support programs that provide a safe, caring and productive place for students to learn.
Roxanne: My top priorities as Tumbler Ridge’s school trustee are: 1) Communication as a whole with our community is my primary goal as school trustee. I would like to be able to do a newsletter of sorts, and have that available either through a website, the newspaper, or social media. 2) I want to make sure that Tumbler Ridge is not forgotten or missed at the board level. I want to be a strong voice for our schools, teachers and students, to be an advocate for our unique needs and concerns here in our community, and 3) Funding is always a priority. There are areas that the board has no control over, it is dictated to our board of education through the province. There are funds that the board does have control over though, and my goal is to be an integral part in deciding how those funds will be used.
What is the role of technology in learning?
Sherry: The computer and other similar devices have virtually eliminated rote learning. The education system is now free to focus on personalized learning which includes quality teaching, flexibility, choice, high standards and learning empowered by technology.
Roxanne: The role of technology in learning is probably one of the biggest benefits and obstacles we face in the coming years. Technology and how it changes is no longer measured in decades or years, it is measured sometimes in days. We need to find a balance. We need to keep our children up to date with technology, yet make sure they never lose the ability to make connections with people face to face.
What can the school district do to contribute to the mental, physical and emotional health of its students?
Roxanne: I believe that SD 59 has a variety of programs that contribute to our student’s mental, physical and emotional health. These issues are ever evolving and these programs need to evolve as the issues do. I know that we currently have anti-bullying programs, self-esteem programs, homework programs, counselling at the schools, and I know our children are exposed to a variety of programs during physical education classes.