The school board team led by incumbent Ken Clarkson was able to take the two vacant seats at the table, but was not strong enough to unseat an incumbent.
All five incumbents who stood for re-election were returned to office, but in Maple Ridge, it was newcomer Lisa Beare who topped the polls with 6,433 votes, more than board chairman Mike Murray, who was second with 6,317 votes.
Clarkson, a former board chair, entered this campaign with a team of three newcomers, called the Voice Team. They campaigned on more open board debates and decision making, and a more inclusive committee structure. The team was endorsed by the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association and district CUPE employees, giving it a solid block of voters.
The Voice team’s goal was to have four members elected, so it could enact its agenda. It got three – in addition to Beare and Clarkson, Korleen Carreras was elected in one of the two Pitt Meadows seats.
Voice member Cherie Delainey came close to unseating senior trustee Dave Rempel, as she got 5,532 votes to Rempel’s 5,719.
At the end of this new term, Rempel will have been a trustee for 22 years.
The turnover on the board this year came about only because trustees Sarah Nelson and Kathy Marshall chose not to run.
Incumbents Susan Carr in Maple Ridge and Eleanor Palis in Pitt Meadows were also returned to office.
The election – with Beare’s poll-topping numbers and other newcomers performing well – left Murray with the impression that the incumbents’ hold on their seat may not be as secure in future elections.
“The numbers between all of the candidates were pretty close, I have to say,” said Murray.
Despite a tough campaign, he believes the trustees will come together to form a productive board, and said they all generally campaigned on the same issues.
“There’s a lot more common ground than there is difference,” he said.
He has worked well with Clarkson in the past, and has also served on the arts council with newcomer Carreras, said Murray.
Murray said the top issue is advocating for more funding from the provincial government.
“We’re really strapped.”
Clarkson said voters should expect to see more slates and teams in future elections.
“You get the spread your resources and share the costs,” he said. “You’re able to communicate effectively.”
As a voter, he poured over information on 26 individual municipal council candidates in Maple Ridge to try and choose between them. The platform set out by a team, or slate, makes it easier for voters to make decisions, he said.
“Teams are going to become far more prevalent in the future,” Clarkson predicted. “I’d love it if this was still small-town Mayberry, but it isn’t.”
Whether Murray retains his position as chairman will be determined by his school board colleagues. The trustees nominate one another to stand for the chair and vice-chair positions, and then vote by secret ballot.
Clarkson said he would be surprised if Murray was not returned as chair.