Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustee candidates include Naomi Bailey, top row left, Tania Brzovic, Andrew Gasson, Greg Keller, Leanne Lee, Charlene McKay, middle row left, Chantelle Morvay, Leana Pellegrin, Bill Robinson, Mark Robinson, Tom Rokeby, bottom row left, and Tanner Scott.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustee candidates include Naomi Bailey, top row left, Tania Brzovic, Andrew Gasson, Greg Keller, Leanne Lee, Charlene McKay, middle row left, Chantelle Morvay, Leana Pellegrin, Bill Robinson, Mark Robinson, Tom Rokeby, bottom row left, and Tanner Scott.

ELECTION 2022: Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustee candidate questionnaires

Twelve candidates are running to be Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools board members

  • Oct. 5, 2022 8:00 a.m.

NAOMI BAILEY

Age 56 – Indigenous education navigator at Vancouver Island University. Previous to my current career I was an educator in many different roles at SD68.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? Securing more classroom support. Any additional funding needs to be directed to teaching and support staff so that we can manage inclusion effectively.

Mental health supports. Examine ways to increase the number of child and youth care workers in our schools as well as increasing counselling time.

Aging facilities. Continue lobbying the government for capital funds to replace an elementary school in Ladysmith and Nanaimo District Secondary School.

Climate change. Put into action the environmental stewardship and sustainability action plan.

Truth and reconciliation. Continue our positive journey together and provide opportunities for school staff to understand the Indigenous ways of knowing, being and learning so they can confidently share it at the classroom level.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? Ensure that all of the stakeholders and departments have the opportunity to share and provide input into what they feel is a priority during budget time. Work to ensure that additional funds are utilized in the classroom. Ensure transparency at all times.

Why should people vote for you? I have a depth of understanding of the education system and 25 years of experience particularly at the school level in both elementary and secondary teaching. I am also skilled at building trust through listening to perspectives and finding a common ground. Most importantly, I am committed to ensuring our students receive the best learning opportunities and this will only happen through collaboration with parents, staff and students.

TANIA BRZOVIC

Age 51 – Advocacy and social services background.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? Recruitment and retention of front-line staff. Advocacy on key issues such as funding inflationary pressures, supporting diverse learners, and mental health supports. Facilities, particularly Nanaimo District Secondary School and the reopening of Rutherford Elementary.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? The budget has to be a collaborative process where dollars are spent toward supporting student achievement, in ways that provide a holistic approach to supporting students. I value input from the public, as well as our official partner groups.

Why should people vote for you? I am an experienced trustee who is a strong advocate for inclusion and serving the unique needs of all students. I truly listen, and I put children at the centre of my decisions.

ANDREW GASSON

Age 39 – Teacher. I’ve taught in Mexico, Northern B.C., and since 2014, Nanaimo and Cowichan districts, as well as in the Stz’uminus community school. I have a master’s degree in special education and heaps of experience dealing with the education system from the perspective of a teacher. I also have three children and have experience with the system from a parental point of view.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? My motto is ‘Inclusion, Access, Diversity.’ This means that I believe the most important things for the board to focus on are those initiatives that bring in, thus reach out to, underserviced populations of learners and their families, such as those experiencing poverty, disability or are excluded for any other reason. We do this by improving access – discovering where artificial barriers to education exist and demolishing them while building capacity amongst our facilities and staff to create more equitable outcomes and improve the diversity of our community.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? Managing the budget means spending with an eye towards sustainability, both in the environmental and in the financial sense. General purpose facilities should be properly maintained, and new facilities should only be built with an eye towards lasting utility. Where necessary, we should not hesitate to spend money on well-planned special-use facilities and staff where those facilities will improve community access.

Why should people vote for you? If you value an education system that works for the entire community and want to defend the system from elements that would shrink or destroy access to education at various levels, I am the person for you.

GREG KELLER

Age 44 – Registered professional land use planner and parent of two.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? If re-elected, I will continue to build on the successes of this past term including the implementation of the long-range facilities plan and the environmental stewardship action plan.

While our graduation rates have been increasing year after year, I recognize that there’s more work to be done to address the needs of the district and strive towards improving student outcomes. I will focus on student success and ensuring that our schools are welcoming, safe, accessible, and healthy learning environments.

Our district faces a significant facilities challenge that requires strong leadership and advocacy. The majority of our facilities are in need of seismic upgrading placing our district at the centre of seismic safety in the province. Many schools are currently over capacity or are projected to be over capacity in the coming years. The age and condition of our buildings is below the provincial average. Finally, Nanaimo District Secondary School and Ladysmith Intermediate School are in desperate need of replacement. If re-elected, I will focus on tackling the district’s facilities through leadership and advocacy.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? While the vast majority of our funding goes to cover fixed costs, as the business committee chair for the last two years, I recognize the opportunities and constraints that we work within. I support spending the dollars we receive today on today’s students, while recognizing the need to plan for and be prepared for what the future may bring.

Why should people vote for you? I offer my experience as an incumbent trustee, a professional skill set as a land use planner, and am a parent with two students in our public school system. I am well-positioned and qualified to address the challenges facing our district.

Finally, I am dedicated to student success and offer a voice of reason for Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Lantzville, Gabriola, Cedar and district students and families.

LEANNE LEE

Age 43 – Mother of two whose professional background is in office management and accounting. Leanne has spent the last four years bringing a parent voice to the table at internal SD68 committees as SD68’s District Parent Advisory Council president.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? She is invested in improving student success with this district and is proud of the work she has been involved in on behalf of the parents of SD68. She believes that every student should have access to the resources they need to be successful, and that their voices need to have a place in decision-making.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? Given the portion of the district’s budget that is available for non-contractual spending, it is extremely important to make strategic decisions, based on school district values, to prioritize spending that supports student success. She believes that in order for students to be the most successful it involves all stakeholders in the education system including students and their parents/caregivers. She will advocate for additional mental health and wellness support to be available within schools as she knows that students need access to these supports. She knows that there are schools that need replacing in the district and will advocate for continued work to happen to bring this to fruition. It will be very important to address the district’s capacity issues with thoughtful solutions that make the most sense for all students.

Why should people vote for you? Leanne is ready to use the experience she has gained through her volunteer work within SD68 to have a greater impact on decisions that have the most impact for student success. She believes that this work is about relationship-building, capacity-building and compassion. She looks forward to continuing her work with SD68 in a decision-making role.

CHARLENE MCKAY

Age 45 – Professionally, I am a self-employed medical transcriptionist. Prior to being elected in 2018, I was also a volunteer in the school district for five years.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? My priorities for the school district are student success, school facility renewals and upgrades, truth and reconciliation, environmental stewardship and good governance. A particular focus of my priorities would be an NDSS replacement. This must continue to be a priority for the next board of education. Accomplishing the goal of a replacement for NDSS will require consistent advocacy from the board and the community to the provincial decision-makers who provide the funding for large capital expenditures.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? I plan to combine my understanding of the contractual obligations for staffing with eight years of experience understanding the school district’s budget and budgeting process. Expenditures for staffing utilize over 90 per cent of the funding the district receives. The remaining amounts must be strategically spent and should be connected to the board’s strategic goals. This ensures long-term stability which benefits all students and employees.

Why should people vote for you? Student success is the foundation of why I am running for re-election. If re-elected, voters can trust the experience I bring to the school board as a four-year board chair and as a previous partner group representative. I believe in collaborative decision-making and drawing together the board as a team who will work hard to ensure our public education system is well supported so students can succeed.

CHANTELLE MORVAY

Age 45 – I am a mom of two school aged kids. I’ve held various positions on PACs and DPACs in three different districts, and have experience in strata property management.

I am currently an invigilator for accessibility services at VIU, project coordinator of inclusive online Minecraft sessions through BCEdAccess, chair and co-founder of ADHD Advocacy Society of B.C., and currently treasurer on the board of directors for BCEdAccess.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? My priorities are to target grad rates for students who are historically marginalized including Indigenous students and students with disabilities. Ensure we are providing what schools and staff need to provide a truly inclusive, accessible education for all. This includes increasing hiring and retention of educational assistants. Work to expand before and after school care in a responsible, community-driven way. I will strengthen collaboration with the surrounding municipal governments and RDN to broaden safe walking and public transit routes.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? This district has a healthy budget and I will make sure that fiscal restraint and increased inflationary costs is balanced with funding successful, equitable, inclusive programs and resources for our educators and students.

Why should people vote for you? I bring a depth of professional advocacy and lived experience to my candidacy for school trustee. I will draw from my diverse experience with different schools, districts and education formats, including disability and vulnerable sector support, spanning more than a decade. My diverse knowledge of non-profit board management, financial and budgetary responsibility, legal and policy framework accountability make me an ideal candidate to serve the school community as school board trustee. I am committed to continuing to build relationships and trust with Indigenous stakeholders, educators, staff and families to make this the most innovative and inclusive school district in the province.

LEANA PELLEGRIN

Age 43 – I am the team lead for Olameter in Nanaimo; we read the gas meters for Fortis. I currently serve on Syeyutsus (walking together) for the school district (formerly truth and reconciliation committee). I am an active director of NYSA and have been for 10 years.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? My priorities are student safety and well-being; this includes a sense of belonging. I would like to see our Indigenous students graduation rates at parity with non-Indigenous students. I would love to see more Hul’q’umi’num language and lessons of this land for all students. Inclusion at the centre, food in bellies so our students can learn. Nanaimo holds B.C.’s second-highest child poverty rate and many of our students go without a breakfast or lunch and the number is climbing.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? The large majority of the budget is contractual salaries; the remainder has to be managed very carefully, making tough decisions that benefit as many students as possible. Weighing out the pros and cons with the board, voting on each item and topic together for the greater good of the students.

Why should people vote for you? I lead with my heart and it’s big. I have been volunteering for many years for at risk youth and advocating for those with less. Students’ well-being and success are very important to me. If we all aren’t doing well, then how well are we doing?

BILL ROBINSON

Former Toronto radio announcer, producer, local newspaper and TV columnist (Hidden Heroes) and motivational speaker.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? I will focus on working with other incumbents who have been re-elected to support the new trustees and continue to build on the many accomplishments of the outgoing board. I will focus on my work with the Syeyutsus reconciliation committee, which I co-chair, and growing two personal projects, The Best Me I Can Be, an elementary program, and a new twist on Hidden Heroes presentations for Grades 6 and 10. With this program, I tell stories of three or four of Nanaimo’s Hidden Heroes – I have 500 to choose from. I then work with the students to identify life lessons we can learn from each of those heroes. With that list on the board, I finish the presentation working with individual students who have chosen one or two lessons they think they could apply in their lives. Student response has been extremely positive.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? I can’t say that budgeting is one of my strengths, but I work hard to understand what is being presented and listen carefully to suggested improvements.

Why should people vote for you? My greatest contribution to the school district has been, and will continue to be, my interest and strengths in support of students, teachers, and other professional educators in our schools.

MARK ROBINSON

Age 47 – Front-line community support worker with Nanaimo Association for Community Living.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? Supporting a common-sense 21st-century facilities plan; enhancing inclusion and acceptance of diversity or socio-economic background without exception and revitalizing support for those students; school safety; augment commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability; more support in the classrooms; continue building strong partnerships with First Nations such as the new co-governing agreement with Snuneymuxw First Nation at Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh; strengthen trade skill opportunities for students so kids can have a head start into the future; invest in those who invest in our students by using effective recruitment and retention policies; after-school care in all our schools district wide so parents can work again and rejoin the workforce which has the residual effect of bolstering the economy; teamwork and collaboration with sleeves rolled up on Day 1 – these are the pillars of success I hope to build.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? Vancouver Island is the fastest-growing region in the province. Nanaimo’s north end, NDSS, and Ladysmith Intermediate require investment in facilities. We don’t need to build Taj Mahals for our kids to go to school, but they do deserve a safe place to learn. Prioritizing safety and functionality over eye-catching architecture is key to saving every dollar earmarked for education. Let the kids do the decorating.

Why should people vote for you? I have been enthusiastically active in our school district for the past seven years as a member of my children’s parent advisory council, president of the PAC, vice-chaired district committees, and now serve on Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s district parent advisory council. I’ve previously served on the board of directors for Volunteer Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Family Court committee, and Nanaimo’s Culture and Heritage Commission. With so many current school trustees not running again, voters should have the opportunity to have a selection of trustees with experience they can count on.

TOM ROKEBY

Age 52 – I taught high school in our district for 20 years, and am now working freelance in live events.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? Re-tooling our district to navigate the current and ongoing labour crisis facing education. Making our schools a welcome place for Indigenous families. Establishing our district as a reliable partner for provincial infrastructure dollars to encourage overdue facility renewal in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? The budget must be managed to maximize its impact on the classroom. Nanaimo-Ladysmith spends too much of its budget on administration. Last year our district had over 1,000 classroom days that the district could not staff appropriately. I will refocus our district resources to the front line, because that’s where learning takes place, not in offices.

Why should people vote for you? I graduated from, taught for and continue to parent two children through Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. My combination of lived and professional experience allows me to see challenges through multiple lenses, fostering a culture of collaboration and long-term vision. I have dedicated my adult life to education in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, and it would be my honour to bring that experience to our decision-making.

TANNER SCOTT

Age 33 – At-risk youth support worker. I studied urban planning, community development, and human geography at the University of Saskatchewan.

What will be your priorities if you are elected? I will be taking my salary as trustee and donating it back to students and teachers who need it and who have earned it ($3K). I want to see a culture of achievement and reward be developed in SD68 where students see tangible results of generosity and effort. Second, I will focus on making sure kids are safe at school, that schools are operational, and that issues relevant to students and parents are heard.

How do you plan to manage the school district budget? Children are worth our investment in them. Thankfully the lockdowns boosted the budget dramatically by lowering operational costs, causing a surplus of funds. Let’s use this money to boost supports for kids in the classroom. Also, let’s fortify our position monetarily by utilizing school properties to generate income and benefit students.

Why should people vote for you? Vote for me because you are concerned about society’s influence on children. Vote for me because you want someone to stand for truth and reason. Vote for me if you think students should be taught how to learn, not what to learn.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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