News

School board often takes backseat in civic elections

School board chair, Tom Ferris outside the school district office on Boleskine Road. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
School board chair, Tom Ferris outside the school district office on Boleskine Road.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

Public education, done right, is the most important thing society can do to ensure kids have an opportunity to succeed, says the longest serving trustee on the Greater Victoria school board.

Bev Horsman’s reasons for running for school board this Nov. 19, are the same ones that motivated her to first run for a position as trustee in 1986.

At the time, she was president of the Parents’ Group – known today as Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

“I know, from over 25 years, that you have to fight really hard to keep some of the most important programs. I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me and I intend to be there for the kids,” said Horsman, during a lunch break from her day job teaching English as a second language at Camosun College. “I loved it at the time (of her first election) and I still love being on the board.”

A proud moment in her career on the board came in the mid-1990s when Horsman was instrumental in setting up the school lunch program. But times have changed substantially since the days when the board held the power to create new programs according to need, she said.

“Now, after years of restricted budgets and deficits, we find ourselves desperately trying to save all the programs we know the kids need, but, somehow, we are never funded properly.”

The role of the trustee these days, she said, is centred around strongly advocating to government.

“In deficit years, there are always heartbreaking choices to make, but I’ve always felt that I wanted to be at the table when their survival was threatened, so that we could try and keep the essence of what we were trying to do … It’s a part of me now.”

Horsman is impressed with newly declared candidate, David Bratzer, a Victoria police officer and founder of Scientific Victoria. Leading up to this November’s civic elections, Bratzer has been attending board meetings to stay abreast of the issues.

“He’s a guy who’s doing his homework, which is nice to see among candidates,” Horsman said.

Bratzer launched his “schools not prisons” campaign Sept. 15 in recognition of education playing a major factor in determining whether a young person ends up in jail, he explained.

Bratzer has been calling attention to the district’s strategic planning, an issue he’d like to see kept in the forefront of the board’s agenda. Another issue he’d like to bring to the table: updating the district’s policy on substance abuse.

The 34-year-old has been an advocate for criminal justice reform and has publicly spoken out against what he calls a failed the war on drugs.

“I’ve always been very careful to be respectful of my police department and very clear that my opinions don’t reflect those of my police department,” Bratzer said.

“At a certain point, you almost feel like you’re repressing who you are if you can’t talk about your work as a police officer in the community where you live, especially when you feel that the things that you have to say could help the community in the long run.”

Current school board chair Tom Ferris confirmed he intends to seek re-election for another three-year term.

Board vice-chair David Pitre, as well as trustees Jim Holland, Elaine Leonard, Michael McEvoy, Peg Orcherton, Catherine Alpha and John Young also told the News they would seek re-election.

The position of trustee pays $17,424 per year in remuneration, with stipends for the chair and vice-chair coming in at $3,000 and $1,500, respectively.

Public notice for school board trustee nominations has been officially posted on the school district webpage as well as at the district office, 556 Boleskine Rd.

Candidate names, requiring two qualified nominators, will not be accepted until the nomination period begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 4.

All nominations must be submitted to the district offices between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the period ending Oct. 14, or via arrangements made to Thomas Moore, the chief election officer at 250-472-0059.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

2008 numbers

Elected

Peg Orcherton: 16,628 votes

Bev Horsman: 15,360

Elaine Leonard: 14,493

John Young: 13,048

Jim Holland: 12,303

Michael McEvoy: 12,147

Tom Ferris: 11,891

David Pitre: 11,145

Catherine Alpha: 10,828

Other candidates

Mark Walsh: 10,339

Michael Hayes: 9,997

Starla Anderson: 9,213

Tamara Malczewska: 9,142

Samuel Shuler: 4,507

Lance Groseth: 3,816

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