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Newly elected Prince George school trustees ready to get to work

Sarah Holland and Shar McCrory were elected to fill the two vacant seats on the SD57 board of education
Sarah Holland (left) and Shar McCrory (right).

Sarah Holland and Shar McCrory, who were elected Saturday night as the two new trustees on the School District No. 57 (SD57) board of education are ready to get to work.

Holland topped the polls with 1,590 votes, followed by McCrory with 1,384 votes according to preliminary polls.

Holland is a former District Parent Advisory Chair (DPAC) and has been on the Library Board and Hart Community Association and McCrory has eight years experience as a trustee for Coast Mountain SD82 in Smithers.

“It's an honor. It's humbling that I came first and I'm looking forward to the work to come,” said Holland.

“One of the things that I'm most looking forward to work on is the relationships within the district that have been damaged recently. We used to be known as a district that had really good working relationships with our partners, with our partner groups, or our stakeholders and I'm not seeing evidence of that at the moment.”

Holland added that rebuilding relationships will be a good starting point.

“We don't always have to agree with our partner groups, with our, with our stakeholders with the right holders. But we always should be respecting people's opinions, respecting the work that our staff does.”

The by-election was prompted by the resignation of trustees Betty Bekkering and Gillian Burnett who described a dysfunction school board following the dismissal of Superintendent Cindy Heitman.

Prince George District Teacher’s Association President (PGDTA) had also recently been critical of the board’s silence on negative public comments regarding SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) in schools and the SD57 DPAC had made calls for greater transparency.

“I would just like to say, thank you to the citizens of Prince George for really turning out,” said McCrory.

“In the last by-election, there were only 1,137 votes total and this by election, I received more than that many votes. It shows that people really do care and it shows that people really want to have input into the board and SD57.”

In total approximately 4,988 people came out to cast a vote in this by-election.

“Looking at those results. I think that they definitely spoke to that people wanted experience with the district, experience with governance in place, and people respected human rights, shall we say,” added Holland.

“I know that there were certainly trustee candidates who I think would have been terrific had it been a general election and had there be more spaces on the board.”

McCrory also thanked everyone who put their names forward to run as a trustee in the election.

The next big task SD57 is facing is to pass a balanced budget with a shortfall of $2.3 million for the 2023/24 school year.

Budget discussions will resume at the districts’ June 27 board meeting, however the timeline is quite tight as both Holland and McCroy may be sworn-in as trustees just prior to that meeting.

“I really want to dig do a deeper dive into the budget, looking at it myself before that meeting, in hopes that I get to be part of that discussion,” said McCrory.

“I don't think we'll be able to have either Shar or I, we'll be able to have a huge amount of impact on the budget choices, quite frankly, given that a balanced budget needs to be sent to Victoria by the end of the month,” added Holland.

The board is required to submit a balanced budget to the Minister of Education and Child Care by June 30, 2023.