The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board has undergone some major changes, with five new school board trustees being elected on Saturday.
Mike Murray and Korleen Carreras were both re-elected. All five other trustees will be new.
Murray said that with any new board, trustees will have to get oriented, with each other and plans in place.
He is looking ahead to a “funding formula review” that is currently being undertaken by the provincial government on how money is allocated to the school districts across the province for public education.
“We made some pretty strong arguments to government about things that we felt should change in the funding formula,” Murray said of the former board.
“One of the concerns we had, though, if you didn’t change the overall envelope of funding, all you would be doing is creating winners and losers within the list of 60 school districts in the province.”
He explained that part of the funding formula review is a program called Community Link, a granting system that the government uses to allocate money to the different school districts. But the formula was based on a system created 15 years ago.
“Now, what that meant back in the day was that Vancouver ended up with about twice as much funding per student as a place like Surrey,” Murray said of the funding to support vulnerable students.
“We certainly would want government to recognize that those same needs exist in Surrey,” said Murray, adding that the same is true for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows,” he added.
“Because, in our case, our numbers are almost half of what is allocated per capita in Vancouver in terms of Community Link funding. That means a few hundred thousand dollars to us, it means counselling positions, it means positions of school psychologists, it means all sorts of things that are really important for delivering service for kids.”
Carreras, who is serving a second term, agreed with Murray that new trustees will have to get up to speed quickly because of all the work that has to be done.
“We have our new school coming online next year and it’s a bargaining year and there is lots of work with that. We’ve got some academies and things coming up. We’ll refresh the strategic plan,” Carreras added.
She said dealing with the expansion of schools and building on the facilities plan is some of the work that they will have to get moving on.
Personally, she is excited about continuing her work with arts education, working towards having an arts academy and having more arts specialists in the school system.
“It takes time, but it really is a priority for me,” she said.
New trustees Elaine Yamamoto, Kim Dumore, Colette Trudeau, Pascale Shaw and Katie Sullivan are excited about adding their voices to the new school board.
Yamamoto said she has heard from a number of parents concerns about their children falling behind, so she is looking forward to advocating for more resources for children with special needs to make classrooms better learning environments for all students.
“The schools are under a lot of pressure to help not just the students but their families as a community,” said Yamamoto.
“The bringing in of free community programming that supports the families and the students is a way that we can help our families and therefore take some of the pressure off the classrooms,” Yamamoto explained.
Trudeau wants to start by establishing a relationship with the new board members and talking about their next steps and strategies.
Aboriginal education is an issue near and dear to Trudeau’s heart.
“Definitely addressing the pan-Aboriginal approach that’s been taken and really start looking at how we can do some distinction-based work and making sure that that’s a policy that we have as a school district,” Trudeau said about really taking a look at the different Indigenous groups in the community.
She is looking forward to working towards having specific cultural coordinators in the school district teaching students about different cultures.
“I think it would be really important to have Katzie cultural coordinators and Métis cultural coordinators that really provide, directly from the source, provide that information to our students,” said Trudeau, adding that she ultimately wants to make sure she is a voice for the community as a whole.
“That I am listening to their needs and bringing what issues that are important to them to the table,” she said.
Shaw says she was told numerous times over the past couple of weeks that what school board trustees have to say doesn’t matter, that they can’t change anything.
She told them they do have a voice.
Shaw can’t wait to sit down with the board and discuss how to change the problems that currently exist in the district.
“It’s the safety of the students and the staff hand-in-hand with the fact that we do not have enough help for children who need help at school. And they are totally connected,” she explained.
“I am really hopeful that some of the other people that were elected share my concerns,” she said, adding that she is optimistic that their voices will matter and they will make change.
Dumore felt like she had been on an 11-year job interview working towards the moment of being elected to school board. She said it is going to take a bit of time to figure out her new post out, but she is jumping in.
She is looking ahead to building a bridge between the school district and various community organizations to work as a collaboration.
“It’s just the collaboration piece that I am really excited about. Really working to have a voice of youth at the table with us. I don’t think we should be speaking on behalf of the students that we’re trying to work with. They really need to have a strong voice at the table,” Dumore said.
”We need kids at the table. So, that’s a huge piece for me,” added Dumore.
Sullivan wants to reserve comment until the new board meets.