B.C.’s new school trusteesNovember 17, 2014

Author: Webmaster

Here are some highlights from school trustee elections Saturday:


Several well-known parent leaders are now school trustees. Former BCCPAC president Ann Whiteaker topped the polls in Victoria while Surrey DPAC co-president Bob Holmes captured the second most votes in his district. Chuck Denison, also a DPAC president, placed third in Coquitlam as change swept through that district. Nancy Borden, president of the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils in Saanich, also won a board seat as did Sheelah Donahue, a former West Vancouver DPAC chair.  The following DPAC members are also new trustees: Shelley Lawson (Gulf Islands), Shar McCrory (Coast Mountains) and Janet Fraser (Vancouver).


Janet Fraser of the Green Party gets a second mention for her important position on the Vancouver school board. She holds the balance of power with four Vision Vancouver trustees on one side and four Non-Partisan Association (NPA) trustees on the other. There has already been speculation about whether she might replace Vision’s Patti Bacchus as board chair, but those would be big shoes to fill for a novice trustee. (Bacchus topped the polls again this year.) Three other Vancouver incumbents won re-election: Vision’s Mike Lombardi and Allan Wong and NPA’s Fraser Ballantyne.

Veteran trustee Ken Denike was defeated, as was his Vancouver First colleague Sophia Woo. Both were former NPA trustees who were ejected from the party after questioning the district’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy.


Coquitlam voters demonstrated their unhappiness with the way their school board has been operating by electing five newcomers and ousting three incumbents, including long-time chair Melissa Hyndes. Gail Alty, whose candidacy was questioned by some because she resides in Sooke, was also defeated. The re-elected incumbents are Diane Sowden, Judy Shirra and Keith Watkins. A Tri-City News story noted the challenges ahead, stating: “The real story is the number of new trustees who will be facing a huge learning curve in the beginning of their four-year term as they step into the shoes of trustees who have been on the board for many years.”


Three parents who tried to save Cedar secondary school from closure last June are now school trustees. Stephanie Higginson topped the polls, followed by Scott Kimler in second place and Steve Rae coming fourth. Although their fight to save Cedar sparked their interest in school-board politics, Higginson insisted they were not one-issue candidates. “We are seeking trustee seats to fix what’s broken across the district and to make positive change for all students,” she told the Ladysmith Chronicle before the vote. Only two incumbent trustees were re-elected: Jamie Brennan and Bill Robinson.


In Chilliwack school district, for example, all six incumbents were re-elected, to be joined by newcomer Paul McManus. In Rocky Mountain district, eight trustees were re-elected by acclamation and the ninth incumbent, Amber Byklum, defeated her only challenger.


Once again, Cowichan Valley has an elected school board. Seven trustees will replace Mike McKay, the former Surrey superintendent who was installed as an official trustee after the previous board was fired in 2012 for submitting an unbalanced budget. Five of the fired trustees sought re-election but only two were successful: Cathy Schmidt and Candace Spilsbury. Both had opposed the 2012 move but they were in the minority. Two candidates who voted in favour of the unbalanced budget – Ellen Oxman and Deb Foster – were defeated this time round. The new board has five trustees from the Students’ First team and two independents. The four candidates with Your Voice were defeated. The Cowichan News Leader Pictorial says the two teams had divided the school board for years.


Qualicum voters selected Jacob Gair, a 20-year-old college student, as one of three trustees to sit on the five-member board. (The other two were acclaimed.) Gair told the Parksville Qualicum Beach News that his priorities would be more computers in schools and getting a student representative on the school board (as is the case in Vancouver and Sunshine Coast districts). Ravi Parmar, another 20-year-old and a University of Victoria student, won a seat on the Sooke school board


Michael Ewen, the longest-serving trustee in B.C., has retained that status with his re-election to the New Westminster board. A teacher in Surrey, Ewen has been a school trustee for 35 years.


There was a surprise decision in Vernon, where veteran school trustee Bill Turanski was defeated by Robert Lee in the District of Coldstream. Lee, a principal in Nechako Lakes for many years, operates a childcare in the Vernon area. Turanski had been a trustee for 21 years.


Shelley Coburn, who defeated incumbent Candy Ashdown in Langley City, also landed in school board politics via PAC and DPAC involvement. While she was considered a newcomer in the race, the mother of two reminded the Langley Times that she wasn’t new to the community, stating: “My family roots run deep.” That family includes Education Minister Peter Fassbender – a former school trustee and Langley mayor – as she was previously married to his son.

District-by-district results can be found here.

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.

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