Name: Jamie Brennan
Legal advocate, Mental Health Law Program, Community Legal Assistance Program (six years). I represent clients at mental health review panel hearings. These persons have been certified under the Mental Health Act and can be detained in hospital or on extended leave. They can challenge this status through a hearing.
Educational counsellor, Disability Services, Malaspina University College (19 years). I worked with students with disabilities to assist them with accommodations, sign-language interpreters and paid student assistants.
Why are you running for school trustee?
I believe strongly in an accessible and effective public education system for every family’s child. Public education can ensure that young people can grow into self-aware and productive citizens. Our society needs to value public education and the role it plays in shaping students’ lives.
What three priorities are important to you and how do you plan to tackle these issues, if elected?
The School District needs to collaborate with other agencies and organizations to address the issue of family poverty in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Currently, 34 per cent of our children begin their schooling unprepared in several social and personal dimensions. In other words, they start from behind. This is unacceptable. We continually talk about this matter; now it is time for real action to improve it.
Lobby and advocate for a more realistic funding formula for public education. Every year, Boards of Education find themselves having to cut programs and services because the ministry does not recognize the fact of increased costs for the provision of educational services. For example, Nanaimo-Ladysmith spends $5 million more on special needs education than it receives from the ministry. This puts great strain on all other areas of our program.
Continue to upgrade our schools, both in terms of the buildings and equipment. We have had to slow our technology improvements due to financial problems. Also, many of our buildings [show] structural aging and decline. Our students deserve to be taught in the safest and best-equiped schools.
How do you plan to work toward a balanced school district budget?
The Board of Education is required by the School Act to submit a balanced budget. This has only been possible by making difficult decisions to cut programs and services. Also, the ministry has provided stop-gap funding through what it terms ‘funding protection.’ First, the ministry needs to fund to meet the real costs of providing education and it needs to develop a strategic funding model that appreciates the needs of districts. In the end, it is the work of trustees to give direction to staff to provide funds first to the classrooms and then outward to other cost centres of the district.
What do you think it takes to be an education leader in Nanaimo-Ladysmith? Describe your leadership or co-working style.
I believe leadership is most effective when it is collaborative and encourages maximum participation from all sectors of the system. Through such engagement, the board can work towards consensus.
I have had many leadership opportunities, serving as board chairman for 6 years and as the president of the Malaspina Faculty Association (now VIUFA) for nine years. I have also chaired the business committee and the education committee.