IN LOCAL ELECTIONS, school board elections are often country cousins to municipal elections. They happen at the same time, but get significantly less attention.
While the City of Kamloops council candidates attend a host of forums, only one forum has been held so far for the Kamloops school board candidates for Kamloops-Thompson School District 73. That forum took place Tuesday night, and only occurred because it was organized by one of the 10 candidates for the five Kamloops positions, incumbent Kathleen Karpuk.
About 60 people came out for the forum, including eight or 10 council candidates. At the forum, each of the 10 candidates (plus rural trustee candidate Caroline Thompson) had a chance to give opening statements and then answer questions from the floor.
It is not clear why there is less interest in the school board elections. While the City of Kamloops has a budget of over $184 million, and over 700 employees, School District 73 has a budget of nearly $200 million and over 2,000 employees. So in terms of both personnel and money, the school district surpasses the city.
It might be because so much is dictated by legislation and contracts that are outside the control of the board. The School District certainly makes controversial decisions, such as eliminating the two-week spring break last year, and closing a multitude of schools, most recently Stuart Wood.
So what was it the 10 candidates had to say?
Cooluris, who has children in local schools, wanted the “best opportunities possible” because “it’s hard out there,” and a very competitive world.
O’Fee, whose children went through the system, talked about stewardship of resources, and building a bridge to Thompson Rivers University, where he works.
Cavers felt vision was lacking on the board, and there was need for the “bar to go up a lot.”
Wade, a trustee for 10 years as well as chair of the board, wants to implement the recently adopted five-year plan, and to press the provincial government for capital funding.
Jensen wanted creative solutions for kids, and got some of the only laughter of the night, when he stated kids were more important than potholes.
Small, who has completed one term as a trustee, wanted to improve the image of the board.
Klossner wants to protect the ”public” in public schools, as well as meet with all the stakeholders.
Schill reminded the audience that the school district served both rural and urban areas. She advocated developing a plan to increase speech therapists and special education teachers.
Grieve wanted to use her background as a mental health worker and in school sports to be an advocate. She was the only candidate to mention fine arts in her opening statement.
Karpuk, a trustee for 10 years, talked about the Starfish backpack program, providing food to kids in need, and advocated for supports for schools in low income neighborhoods to address hungry kids, lack of technology, and supports for refugee families.
In the opening statements, nothing was said by any trustees about schools of choice, French immersion, or sports academies. No mention was made by any of them about school libraries. There was no talk about students no longer able to take “courtesy” buses.
The biggest promise was more collaboration, and lobbying the provincial government harder. Which is probably wise, although I was hoping for a few more playgrounds and improved sports fields as well.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.