All candidates running for trustee on the Mission school board support the move to a single high school and will work together, if elected, with parents, students, staff, and the community to develop a model in which students can find success.
On Wednesday night at the Clarke Theatre, about 200 people attended an all-candidates meeting for school board trustees in Mission.
All nine school board hopefuls took part in the forum, organized by the District Parent Advisory Council. Rural school trustee candidate Earl Babich also participated, but incumbent Shelley Carter, who is away on vacation, was absent.
Paul Loyla believes in giving back to the community as much as possible. “It’s critical for education to enhance the experience for everyone involved.”
Many local students entering post-secondary schools have to upgrade courses to get into programs they want, said Kathleen MacKillop, who works as an education coordinator and social development worker for Leq’a:mel Fist Nation.
“I hope with the configuration, we will have courses students need … to get into post secondary and apply for scholarships.”
Incumbents Jim Taylor and Edie Heinrichs talked about a plan to bring in academic and attendance standards to measure student achievement across the district.
Heinrichs stated the standards also apply to students in trade.
“We have to teach and test,” said Taylor, who was pleased to hear the changes made by the current board were being supported . “We need honesty in reporting results to parents and students so they know where they can improve.”
Philip Cooper, a builder who has taught classes in the past, is an “avid supporter” of developing the west side of Stave Lake. He shared his vision for an outdoor school in partnership with the District of Mission.
“I want to focus on work experience for students,” said Cooper.
“Everyone here wants to improve student achievement,” said Scott Young, who has served as DPAC chair for four years. “We’re a little bit weak on community engagement. I want to bring that level up.”
“It is my primary goal to improve communication between the board, parents, and the public,” said Tracy Loffler, owner of Unison Yoga, who has two children attending schools in Mission. “We need to move to … push information out to parents. I have a positive attitude and fresh perspective.”
“Engaging parents is about approachability,” offered Rick McKamey, a past trustee and president of the Council of BC School Districts. “We need to listen to our parents… Trust comes from making ourselves that much more approachable.”
Babich suggested it’s important to know what everybody wants. “When parents demand something, the board should supply it.”
Heinrichs said parent engagement has increased in the last three years, but it will never be 100 per cent.
Trustee candidates talked about ways they could support the French Immersion program, which is seeing a decline in enrolment.
There are many benefits to French Immersion, said incumbent Randy Cairns, who has already served on the board for three terms. “It opens the minds of young students.”
“I fully support the program and we should do what we can to support other cultures that make up our community,” said Cooper.
Heinrichs worried having the French Immersion in two elementary schools is weakening the program. Taylor, who had two daughters go through the program, suggested the new board should look into rebuilding French Immersion in Mission, and didn’t rule out a separate high school for the program.
Young suggested engaging the community for ideas on the issue.
Mission voters will be electing four trustees to the Mission school board on Nov. 15. Voters in the Fraser Valley Regional District will select one rural trustee to be a part of the board.