Fraser Cascade School District 78’s newest trustees are looking forward to focusing on inclusivity and making students feel welcomed this term.
The 2022 municipal election brought on a whirlwind of change across the province as new council members and mayors were elected. This was especially true for many school districts, including district 78 when the election results yielded an all female school board — another first for Hope, who recently elected their first female majority council.
“I’m excited for the challenge,” says Pattie Desjardins. “The first couple years is to promote inclusiveness. And I think it’s also all about [promoting] anti-bullying and all that kind of stuff. It’s important. And mental health with kids, it’s always important with kids too. Even though [people may not] think about it that way. They [may think] kids should just be carefree. But a lot of kids aren’t. So, it’s always important.”
The new school board will officially be sworn in on Nov. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the Fraser Cascade District of Education office. For this term, the seven elected school board trustees are incumbent Heather Stewin, incumbent Linda Kerr, Pattie Desjardins, Wendy Clark, Andrea Hensen, incumbent Wendy Coleman-Lawley, and Cathy Speth. Clark, Hensen, and Coleman-Lawley represent the Agassiz-Harrison area, Speth represents the Canyon Electoral Area, and Stewin, Desjardins, and Kerr represent the Hope area.
All of the Hope area school trustee-elects say they are looking forward to working with their new colleagues and are excited for the challenges ahead. All of them also agree that continuing to make the school district inclusive for all — regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious background, class, etc — is important. In fact, during the month leading up to the election, all of the Hope candidates, including candidate Lori Izawa, ran on a platform that supported SOGI.
“What I really like, about what is happening, is the focus on Indigenous education and on inclusive education,” says Stewin. “It’s already moving in that direction with some of the committees that we have, and the participation from our Indigenous partners. And that whole inclusive format, that’s coming forward. So, it’s really exciting for me to see those things come forward and be focused on.”
Aside from inclusion, another issue that Kerr hopes to address is the recruitment and retention of school staff, especially teachers. Kerr says she feels that the school district has done a good job, so far, in maintaining an atmosphere or work environment that is respectful and open. However, she says she also understands how that might not be enough to keep staff — especially in today’s economy, with rising prices for food, gas, and rent.
“They’re all really, really, good people and we don’t want to lose any of them,” says Kerr. “We want to hang on to all of them as much as we can and for as long as we can.”
In total, nine candidates ran for school board, with the following results: Pattie Desjardins (953 votes), Linda Kerr (944 votes), Heather Stewin (890 votes), Wendy Clark (756 votes), Andrea Hensen (734 votes), Hope area candidate Lori Izawa (641 votes), Wendy Coleman-Lawley (637 votes), and Marilyn Warren (522 votes). Cathy Speth won her seat on the board by acclamation.
READ MORE: First time ever for female council majority