Name: Stephanie Higginson
Occupation/background: Former secondary school teacher with MA in Educational Studies, community advocate, stay at home parent, small farm owner.
Why are you running for trustee?
There are a lot of things that our school district is doing right. However, my experience interacting with our board as a parent and community advocate has identified areas in our district where we have opportunities to make positive change for our students. With my background in education, my analytical skills as a researcher and my experience as a community advocate, I want to create exciting learning opportunities for our students.
What three priorities are important to you and how do you plan to tackle these issues, if elected?
Alter the current budget planning process to include stakeholders in the process. We simply cannot keep cutting support workers and teachers. We need fresh eyes on the budget so we can keep students at the centre of every decision made.
Work to build collaborative and meaningful relationships with the various stakeholders in district by developing a strategic approach to stakeholder engagement.
Complete a review of the facilities renewal plan. The plan is flawed and it is costing our district millions of dollars. Over 50 per cent of elementary aged students in Ladysmith are now bused out of their community. Ladysmith Secondary is overcrowded with Grade 7s in the high school while there are three empty classrooms at Ladysmith Intermediate. École North Oyster is still waiting for necessary renovations related to student safety. Cedar Elementary renovations are costing more than double the estimate and the school will house half as many students as forecast. That is twice as much money for half as many students. Every school that has been touched by this plan has been negatively impacted. The next round of closures under this plan are in the north end. We need to make sure that does not become a district-wide problem.
How do you plan to work toward a balanced school district budget?
Cuts can longer be made to student services and programs. Savings need to be in areas that do not directly impact classroom learning for our students. We need to look at the budget from a top-down view. There are opportunities for savings in the management ranks. Reduce trustees from nine to seven. Work with all stakeholders when completing the budget review to have fresh eyes and a full understanding of each cut being made.
What do you think it takes to be an education leader in Nanaimo-Ladysmith? Describe your leadership or co-working style.
I think you need to have a strong understanding of the issues facing our district going into this job. You also need to have demonstrated an ability to build relationships with all the stakeholders in the district. Over the course of the past 18 months of advocating for change, I have developed strong working relationships with many of the stakeholder groups in this district.
My leadership style is one of collaboration and mutual respect for all parties involved. With my background in mediation, I am able to work rationally with others, even if I don’t always agree with them.