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Mental health, reconciliation, and gender diversity top of mind for Maple Ridge school board candidate

Karen Redkwich worked for 27 years in the Vancouver school district
Karen Redkwich is running for her first term on school board for Maple Ridge. (Special to The News)

A Maple Ridge school board candidate is advocating for more conversations around post-pandemic mental health, reconciliation, and gender diversity.

Karen Redkwich, recently retired from a 27-year career in the Vancouver school district, said she hopes to be part of the solution in addressing the many issues currently being faced by the public school system.

“Recently COVID forced school districts to look at different ways to support student learning. Unfortunately, it also left behind some residual difficulties that now need to be addressed,” she explained.

“Mental Health issues are on the rise, reconciliation, gender diversity and special needs students as well as increased projected enrolment and long-range facilities plans to accommodate enrolment should be at the forefront of needed conversations. With inflation on the rise all parameters of family life, especially housing and salaries, are being affected. All of these components then affect things like recruitment and retention of qualified teaching staff which ultimately affects student focus, engagement, and learning.

“We need to remember that the generation that is currently enrolled in public schools are the future and investing in our future is crucial,” she said.

Redkwich is the mother of two adult children and a grandmother of a two-year-old toddler.

While raising her own children, she said, she was an active parent volunteer and sat on the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Committee.

She worked as an administrative assistant in both elementary and secondary schools in Vancouver and spent 16 of those years in a inner-city elementary school.

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“There I gained first-hand knowledge of the many obstacles that families and teachers faced – hunger issues, housing problems, student focus and lack of teaching resource materials just to name a few,” she explained.

Her final six years were spent as an employee services divisional advisor where her job was to support the associate superintendent of employee services. She was responsible for all non-union staff positions as well as the principal and vice-principal group. She was also the public recorder for personnel committee meetings that included the trustees and all stakeholder groups.

It was during her work with employee services where she gained experience working alongside the district and senior management team, and she said, she was able to see the processes and obstacles that are inherent when aligning school goals with district direction.

“I feel that this first-hand knowledge will allow me to make rationale decisions while also being able to implement the legal obligations and roles and responsibilities as defined in the School Act and other legislation,” she said.

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When she retired, Redkwich along with her husband of 39 years, moved from Burnaby to Maple Ridge to be closer to their grandchild.

If elected school trustee for Maple Ridge, Redkwich promises to strive to develop a clear understanding of the B.C. School Governance model and how it influences and affects district and school decision-making. She also wants to listen to the input of others.

“I really feel that hearing the voices of the many people who make our schools a valuable learning institution and being aware of the implications that organizational strategies have on others is key to successfully helping the school district move forward in a positive and thriving direction,” noted Redkwich.

The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows Board of Education is made up of five trustees representing Maple Ridge and two trustees representing Pitt Meadows. They are elected every four years at the same time as the mayor and city council for the two municipalities.

The election will be taking place Saturday, Oct. 15.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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