Hope trustee candidates for Fraser Cascade School District 78 are all running on platforms of inclusivity which they demonstrated during their candidates meeting on Monday evening (Oct. 1).
In the common room at the Hope Secondary School, in front of an audience of school staff and parents, the four candidates — Pattie Desjardins, Heather Stewin, Lori Izawa, and Linda Kerr —were given two minutes each to answer questions on the issues and concerns facing the school district this year.
The candidates, who were in agreement with each other on the various issues addressed throughout the meeting, were all on board for SOGI — sexual orientation and gender identity — being taught in school.
“It’s a tool for making children feel included, no matter what background they may come from. So, of course I’m not going to be against it. No concern,” said Izawa.
Stewin and Desjardins both agreed with this.
“I do not have any concern over teaching SOGI in schools. I’ve supported it from the beginning and I continue to support it today,” said Stewin.
“My understanding of SOGI is that the tools and resources used for it are all age appropriate. So, I don’t have any concerns whatsoever,” said Desjardins.
Kerr, who also agreed with her fellow candidates, further added that SOGI is already part of B.C.’s schooling.
“I have no concern about it and I think its absolutely a necessity,” said Kerr. “It’s important to note that the Ministry of Education just came out last week to remind people that (it’s) part of the B.C. curriculum. (And) the people who are spearheading the information given to students are aware of the age level and appropriateness of any question that comes up in class.”
Aside from SOGI, candidates were also asked about how they would encourage Indigenous parents to be more involved in their children’s education, increase staff morale, and their thoughts on whether the school board should determine what books are in libraries.
Izawa and Desjardins suggested bringing board meetings to Indigenous communities and parents. Stewins, who is on the Indigenous Education council and the Equity and Action committee, said she would be able to provide support, to parents and children, through those committees. Kerr agreed with Izawa’s and Desjardins’s suggestion and added that they could work with parent advisory councils, as well as invite parents to help in classrooms.
For staff morale, all candidates focused on making sure that school employees felt appreciated. Stewin said that appreciation days, retreats, and mental wellness checks could help with increasing morale, as well as trying to get more money for classrooms. Desjardins said that workshops to help staff with new and growing challenges, as well as retreats, and making sure staff concerns are listened to, could help with morale. Kerr, aside from suggesting workshops, emphasized that letting staff know how valued and appreciated they are on a daily basis can make a difference. Izawa said that working in collaboration with teachers can be one approach, along with working with teacher unions and listening to staff, and understanding the causes of their concerns.
All agreed that choosing books, for libraries, should be left to librarians.
The candidates are vying for three Trustee seats. This is Desjardins’s first year running, with Kerr and Stewin sitting on the current school board. Izawa has run for school trustee at least once before.
Voting takes place on Oct. 15 at Hope Secondary School. Advanced voting, mail ballot voting, and special voting is also available and details can be found at https://hope.ca/local-government-elections.