ELECTION 2014: Trustee hopefuls make their pitch to sparse crowd

Educating the public: Huge parent concerns the last two years in the district after board firing not reflected in meeting turnout

'We committed to putting forward a needs budget

Potential debate topics smouldered but were left on the backburner during Thursday’s public meeting of Cowichan School District 79 board of trustee candidates at Cowichan Secondary School’s Quamichan Campus.

The format did not allow for questions to be taken from the public or any debate between candidates. Each of the 17 candidates provided what amounted to a verbal resume of their backgrounds, answered a pre-determined question and summarized why people should vote for them.

All were kept on a short leash to comply with tight time limits.

Despite some hot-button issues surrounding the school district such as the firing of the previous board that led to the appointment of Mike McKay as official trustee for the last two years, a crowd of less than 100 people attended the forum — many of them family members of the candidates.

Ellen Oxman was part of that fired board for not complying with the provincial government’s budget stipulations. She states on her website she will support a balanced budget, but wanted to stir the pot about her reasons for voting for an unbalanced budget previously but obviously realized it wasn’t the time or the place.

She did say, however, that “we went everywhere we could to meet with the community” and “we committed to putting forward a needs budget.”

Oxman is aligned with Deb Foster, Kayla Barrett and Connie Buckner in their campaigns under the banner “Your Voice For Cowichan Public Schools.”

There’s also a group of seven, running under a “Students First” banner, that consists of Keith Chicquen, Rob Hutchins, Barb de Groot, Candace Spilsbury, Joe Thorne, Cathy Schmidt and Joanne de Lure.

The other six candidates running as independents are: Dana Arthurs, Amy Matamba, Roger Chin, Randy Doman, Amrik Prihar and Elizabeth Croft.

“I’m looking forward to working on solutions with whatever team the public votes for,” said Matamba.

The 10 candidates outside the Students First campaigners all vowed to put kids first in their decision-making as well.

Even though there was no opportunity for candidates to challenge statements made by the others, some sneers were visible around the table and a few potshots exchanged.

“I would not like to see a board of seven people who think exactly the same way,” said Oxman.

“We selected a group of people with a diverse skill set but are also independent thinkers,” Chicquen pointed out.

“We are a group of individuals from different backgrounds and beliefs, who have come together because we have the same values and objectives for School District 79,” explained de Lure.

“I joined the Students First team to respect the B.C. Schools Act and pass a balanced budget,” said Hutchins.

To balance or not to balance the budget was a question that still resonated with other candidates.

“I do not support submitting a deficit budget for all sorts of reasons,” said Spilsbury. “We, as a board, cannot be effective if we are fired.”

“As a trustee, I will work hard to focus all the available dollars we can to go into the classroom,” said Doman.

“I’m not content to balance budgets at the expense of students,” said Buckner.

“We need to be fiscally responsible, working hard to balance the budget,” said de Lure. “It is poor management to budget for more money going out than you have coming in.”

Another idea raised around the table dealt with amalgamating school districts, with Foster voicing her opinion.

“I say ‘no’ to amalgamation with Nanaimo School District,” she said, citing the amalgamation with the Lake Cowichan district many years go as an example where some areas were left out of important decision-making.

The idea of Ladysmith leaving the Nanaimo district to join Cowichan is one of Hutchins’ pet projects. Ladysmith residents are angry over recent school closures there and a perception they are neglected by Nanaimo. Hutchins states the shift will also better align the school district with the regional district.

All the candidates bring a wealth of experience in education — be it teaching backgrounds or administration, special needs, arts, previous trustee service, work with parent advisory committees and more — but did not provide much in the way of specifics, if elected, although a few ideas were presented.

“I don’t think the board meetings are enough,”’ said Prihar. “I believe there should be more communication with the parents. We should have round tables on a regular basis.”

Oxman suggested moving open board meetings back to 6:30 p.m. to give more working parents the chance to attend.

None of the candidates downplayed the difficult task that lies ahead for the district to get back on track after the last two years and all vowed to work hard.

“Being a member of a board is not easy and there are a lot of challenges in this district,” said Schmidt.

“With problems, come solutions.”



Just Posted

Ladysmith marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Ontario licensed marijuana producer Aphria has reached an agreement to acquire Ladysmith-based… Continue reading

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

CVRD hikes fire protection requisition limit for rural Ladysmith by 25 per cent

Cowichan Valley Regional District is increasing the annual requisition limit for fire… Continue reading

Ladysmith runner reaches podium on new Pioneer 8K course

Meg Lewis-Schneider with CeeVacs Roadrunners Club sets event record

B.C. boy denied $19,000-per-month drug to ease ‘crippling pain’ for 3rd time

Sooke mom Jillian Lanthier says son Landen Alexa has been forgotten about by Premier John Horgan

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

UPDATE: City of Nanaimo senior manager dismissed

Chief operations officer Brad McRae no longer employed by the city

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Most Read