Trustee candidates place emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion during forum

The theme was inclusivity at the all-candidate meeting for Revelstoke School Board Trustee candidates hosted at the Revelstoke Secondary School on Oct. 4.

Revelstoke School Board Trustee Candidates at the All-Candidates meeting hosted at the Revelstoke Secondary School and moderated by current school board chair, Bill MacFarlane on Oct. 4, 2022. Candidates from left to right: Alan Chell, Cat Moffat, Tamarin Martin, moderator Bill MacFarlane (standing), Sarah Zimmer, Jodie Allen, Sasha Walsh, and Wendy Rota. Photo: Nora Hughes

The distant sound of a whistle policing a sports game in the nearby gym was a welcoming sound for the 35 audience members gathered at Revelstoke Secondary School for the All Candidate meeting for Revelstoke School Board trustee nominees. The sound is a reminder of the healthy school district Revelstoke fosters and why it’s important to elect officials that will ensure it remains that way on October 15, 2022.

Revelstoke School Board Trustees have many responsibilities contributing to the district’s success. Locally elected representatives are individuals who best understand the community’s unique strengths, challenges and demands. Trustees draft policy and manage the district’s roughly $14 million annual budget that funds staffing, facility expenses and supplies. The board also guides the school district to reflect the community’s priorities, values and expectations.

“I think the school board is even more important than city council,” says meeting moderator Bill MacFarlane. “That’s just my bias, even though I was on city council.”

Of the eight candidates for school board trustee, seven were able to attend the meeting and began with two-minute opening statements. Trustee candidate, Nathan Harrison was not in attendance during the all-candidate meeting.

Around 35 people attended Tuesday night’s All-candidate trustee meeting at Revelstoke Secondary School. Among the audience were city council and mayoral candidates. Photo: Nora Hughes

MacFarlane posed five questions to the candidates, covering topics such as resources candidates used to prepare, student success information, mental health and wellness, budget distribution, and policy development.

School Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Tisdale rang an old-timey school bell if candidates exceeded the allotted presentation time.

The consensus from candidates is that School District 19 has an above-average track record in many areas, including student success, graduation rate, teacher-student ratio, and high levels of student connectedness, where students feel at least two people within the school building care for them.

Most candidates took the event as an opportunity to voice the values most important to them. Almost all candidates mentioned values such as inclusivity, equity, and diversity as critical characteristics they would like to maintain in Revelstoke’s school district.

Highlights

Highlights of Tuesday night’s all-candidate event included two questions from audience members. The first prefaced the question with an acknowledgement of Revelstoke’s excellent teaching staff but noted the lack of diversity among them. The audience member asked candidates what the elected trustees would do to change that.

“I agree that inclusivity and equity are really important…as part of that, our students don’t see that in the staff,” said the audience member. “We don’t see people of colour…Our staff is amazing. They’re not especially diverse. Do you have any ideas around how that could be addressed?”

The candidates’ responses were across the board, with some saying that Revelstoke is becoming increasingly more diverse with the help of other economic sectors such as tourism but that seeing the change in the school systems will take time due to housing and affordability issues. Current trustee up for re-election, Alan Chell, noted that work is being done at a provincial level to rectify this issue.

The second question from the audience was posed by the current Mayor of Revelstoke, Gary Sulz. Mayor Sulz asked the trustee candidates how they could enhance the relationship between city councillors and trustees for the betterment of the community.

Mayor Gary Sulz posed a question about enhancing the relationship between the trustees and city council to better the community during the all-candidates meeting on October 4. Photo: Nora Hughes

Candidates took the opportunity to express a desire to sit down with council members annually and go over areas of commonality. Given that both the board of education and the city council have a duty to the taxpayers and voters of Revelstoke, the candidates unanimously agreed that enhancing the relationship between the elected officials would be beneficial.

The Revelstoke Review live-streamed the event; watch it here:

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Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.