Reducing wait lists for popular programs, improving communication on James Pepa’s priority list [school board]

The following questionnaire was sent to all New Westminster school trustee candidates a little over a week ago. Questions were selected based primarily on comments from readers of Tenth to the Fraser collected via Twitter and Facebook, with a few of my own questions added in. Responses are published in the order they were received. Spelling/grammar are not corrected and candidates’ responses are published unedited.  

James Pepa
James Pepa

1. First, let’s hear a little about you:

  • What’s your name? – James Pepa
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – Yes, two currently and more on the way
  • What do our schools do well? – Our schools and teachers have a done a great job in helping our students excel as we heard at the debate the other night. That students in our district are in the top in many areas across the board.
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – Communication with everyone in the community including PACs, DPAC, Teachers, School Board and others.
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – As well as looking at new programs to offer, we need to strengthen the current programs we offer like reducing wait lists in popular programs by looking at ways to expand them within our district.

2. How do you think schools could improve engagement and communication with parents and the broader community? Select all that apply.

  • Use social media to reach out to parents and the broader community
  • Increase frequency of public consultation opportunities
  • Expand public consultation beyond parents of school aged kids to include those with preschool kids and concerned community members
  • Improve collaboration/trustee involvement with parent advisory councils
  • Do consultations in many neighbourhoods – example: Queensborough, Sapperton, and others not just in the neighbourhoods where the new projects will be built as it affects our whole city.

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Children are our future and we should all be active in their education.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
Allow it. It’s important for students to have choice, and bottled water is healthier than other bottled drinks.

5. Assuming it is possible within our district’s budget, should New Westminster expand programs of choice to include sports academies (hockey school, for instance)?
Definitely – we should always be open to programs of choice because children are different and excel in different areas.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
I will work with the rest of the board and all the stake-holders to ensure the process is always moving forward.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
Keep it open – we need to work with the community to build this schools enrollment. Everyone is looking at the declining rate of enrollment from 66 students to 23 students but many fail to realize that because this school has been put on the chopping block so many times, parents have moved their children to a more stable learning environment like McBride and even out of district. Sapperton is a growing area with many newer residential developments and more on the way so it would be silly to close this school when we know there will be a need for more spaces.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
I think our schools have been doing alot to improve the health of our children. Is there more we can do? Yes, there’s always more you can do. I believe we always need to be open to new ideas and ways.

10. What do you think of the idea of expanding the use of school facilities to act as satellite community centres in neighbourhoods that lack such amenities? (For example, offering recreational programming outside of school hours or offering free space for nonprofit groups to meet, such as residents’ associations)
Great idea – I think the meaning of the term Community School has been lost, we should always encourage all community members or groups to use our facilities as much as they can. This will also help bring community members without children in the schools to feel welcome at our schools and school events. Example: carnivals, concerts and other events.