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Klassen: School trustees set the tone for the district

School District 57 needs a board which advocates for improvement, rather than mediocrity, columnist Trudy Klassen says.
The School District 57 administrative offices are located in Prince George.

It goes without saying that the continuing woes at School District 57 need to be resolved for the sake of everyone. It is in everyone’s best interest that our students have good teachers in an excellent learning environment that helps each child toward their highest potential. Administration, from top to bottom has to be laser-focused on improving results for our students, not on politics. It is in everyone’s best interest that our Trustees are able to fulfill their mandate, best summed up in the last paragraph of Policy 2, Appendix A, Context, in the Board’s new policies:

“The Board is charged with the responsibility of providing, for its students and their parents/guardians, an education system organized and operated in their best interests. It exercises this responsibility through setting of clear strategic direction and the wise use of resources.”

The blame of the last number of years where graduation rates have not improved compared to other districts, the revolving door of the superintendent’s office, rests with the trustees elected in 2018 and earlier. (Like the newest City Councillors shouldn’t be blamed for City mismanagement, the newest trustees deserve a break: Rachael Weber from Mackenzie and Milton Mahoney from Prince George weren’t sworn in till after Anita Richardson was fired.)

Going forward, it is true that while we try to solve the low graduation rate, we have to deal with higher costs and fewer services in providing education in the north. However, at the end of the day, we have to make the best of what we have. This is where our Trustees have significant influence:

Trustees set the tone. Tone sets levels of expectation and accountability, of raising the bar, or mediocrity. Tone, or attitude, can mean the difference between success or failure.

Therefore, as the trustee candidates campaign over the next few months, listen to their tone: Are they focused on improving student outcomes? Are they willing to do things differently, for example, by giving gifted students the education they need to soar? Are they willing to give interested teachers some freedom to experiment with using technology to improve and modernize teaching methods? Are they focused on excellence or mediocrity? What do they offer as the best way to get out of the cycle of poverty or marginalization? Do they encourage victimhood or do they focus on the power of a good education as the pathway out?

The last point is made best by the remarkable July 5th letter to Editor by former SD57 teacher Erica McLean who pointed to the problem of teaching discouragement rather than hope and opportunity. Ms. Maclean sums up the concerns leading to her resignation from the public school system: “What happens to our children when we allow them to believe the system is against them or another group?”

It’s a tough world out there, and we need to do everything we can to prepare our children for it. Whether gifted, average, or disadvantaged in some way, our district should be doing the best to improve the opportunities for every one of them. The results won’t be the same for every student, but they should have been given an opportunity for their best life.

Therefore, before you head to the polls, listen to the tone of the candidates. Then in the privacy of the voting booth, vote for the School Board candidates who believe their job is to significantly raise the bar, and are willing to do the hard work to get us there.