Audrey McKinnon is one of five candidates running in Prince George in the School District 57 byelection, happening on Jan. 15.
The Citizen asked each candidate running in the election to answer the following five questions:
Q: What skills, experience and knowledge do you bring to the table from your professional, volunteer and personal background?
A: I am a professional communicator, a former journalist, an artist, and a parent. My job is to interpret complex information, bring it to its essence, and tell it in a way that meets people where they’re at. I’m also a parent of a child who goes to school in Prince George and I have lived experience of being poor as a parent and knowing the kinds of barriers kids can face in those circumstances. I am skilled at interpreting and communicating information, I know what kinds of questions to ask to provide the oversight required of a School Board, I’m a hard worker, and my heart is in it for the students.
Q: What do you think the most important issue facing School District 57 is, and what would you like to do about it?
A: The most important issue facing School District 57 was laid out in the Special Advisor’s Report released by the BC Ministry of Education this past June. It pointed to discrimination and systemic racism within the Prince George school system. That is further reflected in the learning outcomes of Indigenous students and students with disabilities. While working towards a stronger relationship with local First Nations and responding to other recommendations from the report, I will fully support a financial audit of the School District to provide transparency on the millions of dollars intended to support Indigenous students over the years, as the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and McLeod Lake Indian Band have requested.
Q: Do you support a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school district teachers and staff? Why or why not?
A: I support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for educators and other school staff because the protection of student health and safety is paramount to their education. I believe the decision must be made with proper consultation with the unions, and with teachers and staff, in order to properly understand what barriers some staff and teachers might be facing to getting vaccinated, what the current rate of vaccination is, and how a mandate would fit with existing collective agreements. Additional measures must also be implemented in schools for student safety, including recommended upgrades to ventilation that other school districts have already completed.
Q: Do you support the creation of two additional, dedicated trustee positions for the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and McLeod Lake Indian Band? Why or why not?
A: I do support the creation of two dedicated trustee positions for Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and McLeod Lake Indian Band. Nearly one-third of students in School District 57 are Indigenous. The board should reflect that and these dedicated trustee positions would guarantee that their voices are represented at the table. The work we have cut out for us to ensure every student is receiving the level of education they are entitled to will take collaboration and deeper understanding of many factors. These positions will bring us closer to an equitable education system that is active in its inclusion.
Q: Why are you the best person for the job of school board trustee?
A: I am a critical thinker, an excellent communicator, a leader, and a compassionate person. I work hard and I am not afraid to look a challenge in the face and address it with humility and heart. School District 57 is grappling with overlapping challenges of a constantly evolving pandemic, an ongoing teacher shortage adding to the pressure, and a pervasive problem with discrimination and systemic racism within the school system. These are not easy challenges and I am the person to rise to them. If you want to see transparency, inclusion, and increased mental health in schools, vote Audrey McKinnon on Jan. 15, 2022.