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MEET THE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES: Shannon Freeman

Freeman is running to represent Prince George in the School District 57 byelection, happening Jan. 15
Shannon Freeman
Shannon Freeman is running in the School District 57 byelection happening on Jan. 15.

Shannon Freeman 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 have nearly two decades of experience as an educator at the elementary, junior high school, and post-secondary school. Currently, I am an associate professor at UNBC. I am a life-long learner who values the importance of fostering a love for learning early on in the development of our children. I have sat on regional, provincial, national, and international boards. This includes serving on the Prince George Hospice Society for six years, my current role as vice-president of the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association, my past roles as the vice-president of the Western North-Western Regional Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, as the student president of the Canadian Association of Gerontology’s Student Connection and as my past role as the vice president of the International Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology’s Coalition of Student Organizations. I have experience managing overseeing staff, large budgets, applying and securing funding resources, prioritizing and allocating finite resources


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 we should be addressing as a school board is the safety and support of our students. This includes addressing systemic racism and need to take active steps to foster a culturally safe and supportive learning environment for all children  As a mother of 3 bi-racial children our family has experienced first-hand racism which is systemic in SD 57. We can no longer stand and wait for someone to act in the future. The time for change is now and I am passionate about investing my time, expertise, and efforts to help enhance our SD to be culturally safe and supportive for all children.
This also includes addressing COVID-19 policies and procedures, making sure our decisions are based on the most up to date information available and that they align with provincial health orders. I have taught epidemiology at UNBC for years. Epidemiology focuses on finding the distribution (number and patterns) and determinants (causes and risk factors) of health related states and events at the population or community level. These skills are really useful when wading through the latest evidence surrounding COVID-19. As a leader with these skills, I will bring to the school board an approach to examining the evidence with an informed and critical lens. We need to be sure that our school board continues to take the necessary steps which promote safety but also balance the diverse learning needs of our students in a way that minimizes risk


Q: Do you support a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school district teachers and staff? Why or why not?


A: I support an evidence-based approach to decision making based on the best scientific evidence that is available at the time.  I support following the public health measures and guidance from Northern Health as well as our provincial leaders in health.  While there is currently no mandate from the provincial government, there are guidelines that have been created by the Ministry of Health specifically for school boards to inform development of in their K-12 Sector guidelines for vaccination policy. While school boards may decide whether or not to implement a vaccine policy as a workplace health and safety measure the ministry emphasized the importance of allowing the time for consultation with local partners in order that the process is transparent. Further they provided roadmap for school boards on creating a vaccine policy. Therefore, before making a decision to support or not support a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandate, I need to know more about how the SD 57 has consulted with our local partners and staff and critically reflect on the information that has been gathered. Keeping our students safe in a learning environment which meets their needs is necessary. I feel we need to be leaders in creating a safe learning environment for our students at all levels but that this needs to be done using the best available information that we have and in recognition that as we learn more about COVID-19 and its variants the evidence will grow and may require that we pivot and adjust our policies and procedures.  


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: Yes, I support the allocation of these dedicated trustee positions to be reflective of our communities and student population, especially as over 30 per cent of students in SD57 are Indigenous.  To create a culture of acceptance which values all voices the composition of board trustees need to be reflective of and connected to the students, family, and communities that the school board serves.  We all have a duty to listen and learn more about the views of our Indigenous leaders and members of our community. These dedicated trustee positions would be a positive step forward towards this. We need to look deeper into the diversity of representation in decision-making for education at all levels. In viewing the composition of the school board and other levels of leadership across SD 57, it is important that the composition reflects the diversity of our student population. 

 

Q: Why are you the best person for the job of school board trustee?


A:  I have the experience, I listen, and am deeply rooted in this community. I’m an educator, believe in collaborative problem solving, and am connected in the community as a mother of three wonderful children. I take an evidence based approach to addressing and prioritizing issues.  I am action oriented and truly motivated to support our school district to become leaders in education for all children.