Here We Go Again

By-Election Coming Up June 11

#NewWestVotesWhat’s happening in New Westminster politics has been a great portion of this site’s history. We’ve written all sorts of think pieces, op-eds, event previews and recaps, profiles, and have also hosted all-candidates events. Our comments section has always made for lively discussion, as well.

In the past, we’ve often endorsed certain candidates.

We’ve made the editorial decision that from now on, Tenth to the Fraser will not endorse any particular candidate for any election. True, our editor’s political leanings are not exactly secret, but we just don’t think Tenth to the Fraser, as a business and a team of a few people, needs to make a proclamation about who we think is the right leader.

We do commit to write about what we think is much more important: providing information about how, when, and why to vote, and providing a platform for all candidates to give answers to questions, purchase advertising (so long as they meet our guidelines about suitable advertisements), and have an opportunity to submit pieces about the issues their position might have to cover.

So…. guess what?

There’s a school trustee by-election coming up to replace Mary-Ann Mortensen who resigned in March this year, and that means you are voting for a single person to replace her. Just because it’s only one person doesn’t make it any less important for New West to vote, in fact, it’s almost more important that you do put in the effort. And regardless of whether you have children, trustees work collaboratively to develop policies and lead and represent New Westminster Schools, and ultimately, they work to raise awesome future New Westers who might one day be your neighbour, your employee, or your caregiver.

For a bit more info about what trustees do and why you should care no matter that, check out this article from back in 2011.

The election takes place on June 11. if you can’t make that, then there is also two opportunities for advanced voting: June 1 at City Hall, and again on June 4 at Glenbrook Middle School. All of the date and places are available on the City’s website and all voting opportunities are from 8am to 8pm.

Who’s running? There are two candidates who have filed: Dee Beattie, backed by the District Labour Council, and Mary Lalji, running as an independent. I sent both candidates the same questions, and I’m printing them below exactly as received. Dee got her responses in first, so hers are listed on top. If you’ve got more questions that need answers before you make a decision, get in touch with your candidates and ask them your questions! Their contact info is included below. 

Dee Beattie

Dee Beattie
Dee Beattie

Why should people bother to vote in this upcoming by election? 

I believe that all New Westminster residents are concerned about future generations and want students to get the best quality education possible.  We live in a democracy and I think it is very important to pay attention to all issues that impact our community.  School boards have the ability to make a real difference in the lives of the children and families they serve.

School districts across the province including New Westminster are experiencing serious issue with underfunding and  budget shortfalls.  When this happens, children miss out. By taking the time to vote, community members share their values, vision, and mission for the district.

Besides the high school, which seems to be a given as being the number one issue a new trustee would have to focus on, what are your top issues you’d place a priority on? 

Given the cutbacks and downloading of costs from the provincial government, the New West school district has experienced shortfalls, which has resulted in making tough choices.  Hands are tied for all districts in the province and New West is no different. I want to support the board to continue advocating for increased funding so all children can reach their potential. Whether you are a family of means or a family of limited resources, all children deserve to have their needs met.  I would place my highest priority to work with the current board members and make sure New West is providing the best educational outcomes with the resources available.

Talk to me about childcare and what the role of the school board might be to increase childcare spaces in the City. 

Schools provide a safe and community orientated place to provide child care.  Before and after school care is a valuable resource that can help a family that needs care.  I believe the school board needs to work towards helping families in the community reach the goals needed to raise successful happy productive children. Quality affordable childcare is a nation-wide issue and I will work to support.

Have you had a chance to check out the new curriculum, and what do you think are the highlights and lowlights of it? 

I haven’t looked at the curriculum in depth, but I have heard both frustration and excitement. I would like to point out that it is impossible to provide a quality curriculum without properly funding prep time and professional development for teachers. We can’t ask teachers to fund this from their own pockets.

Do you have any ideas for advocating for more funding for public schools? 

This is the multi-million dollar question.  We need to work to advocate to restore funding levels so that the job of educating our children becomes the highest priority of our provincial elected officials. Collectively the BCSTA needs to continue the work they have started and need to inform parents the consequences of an improperly funded education system.

How will your personal experience and skill set fit in with the existing trustees? 

I offer a very unique perspective of a parent, foster parent, grandparent, education assistant, and a youth at-risk advocate. Special education assistants are often the silent partner in education. When school district budgets are cut, often services such as clerical and janitorial services are cut. Children suffer consequences, schools are not as clean, SEAs not replaced when absent, and clerical workers are asked to complete more in less time.

I also have a good understanding of how families survive with limited income. I understand poverty and how it impacts society.  I know how good school programs operate and I have experienced many successful partnerships working with teachers. I understand classroom composition issues and how the SCC ruling on the BCTF appeal will affect teachers.  I have a lot of empathy towards the pressures put on teachers to deliver quality and diverse education.

I have taken courses in School Board Budgets, Health & Safety, Stress in the Workplace, Human Rights and hold many certificates in Conflict Resolution, Mediation, HR management and Leadership certificates from the JIBC.  I have been a union leader and have no problem tackling hard issues. I am not afraid to speak up, even if I am a minority. I can model ethical practice and courage for the decision making process.

As a School Trustee in New Westminster, my goal will be to work towards  building  positive relationships between families, schools, and communities to engage all students in learning.

 

Mary Lalji

Mary Lalji
Mary Lalji

Why should people bother to vote in this upcoming by election?

The next 12 months is critical for this school district as we move towards a new high school. If we want things to be different we have to do things differently, so I encourage everyone to come out and vote even if you haven’t voted before. People need to be engaged in this process, the only way to have your voice heard is to vote. A strong education system is imperative for a successful community. These kids are our future and we need to invest in them now by building a strong sustainable education system so they can contribute to society.

Besides the high school, which seems to be a given as being the number one issue a new trustee would have to focus on, what are your top issues you’d place a priority on?

  • To provide additional resources for teachers and support staff as they face the challenges of teaching a very diverse and complex group of students
  • To provide an inclusive education system that meets the needs of all our students and educators, regardless of circumstance
  • To provide access to enhanced music programs for all elementary school students in New Westminster
  • To provide a school bus system for students in Queensborough to and from NWSS

Talk to me about childcare and what the role of the school board might be to increase childcare spaces in the City.

There is a shortage of day care providers as much as there is a shortage of space for daycare providers.

School space should be rented out to daycare providers at a cost recovery basis. We shouldn’t be making any money nor losing any money when offering our space.   We have space in some of the schools for licensed daycare operators.

Have you had a chance to check out the new curriculum, and what do you think are the highlights and lowlights of it?

The new curriculum is actually quite complicated. We should be having regular sessions with educators and parents sitting down at roundtables and discussing what the new curriculum will mean for our students and teachers. If it is based on personalized learning, will our teachers and support staff be given the resources, funding and training to fulfill each student’s needs by our provincial government would be a concern for me.

Do you have any ideas for advocating for more funding for public schools?

Besides the “power of the pen”, letters, educating our parents and public for support, we need to build a solid and working relationship with our provincial government in education, Mike Bernier, our Minister of Education. I think my background in promotions will also allow me to come up with some new and creative ways to create awareness and bring attention to this issue, as it relates to our school district.

How will your personal experience and skill set fit in with the existing trustees?

I have met most of the trustees past and present, at various Hyack Football events already and have very good relationships with a couple of them. I’ve also been able to coordinate similar sized and larger groups of volunteers with many different backgrounds, skill sets and motivation levels and bring them to a common goal. In addition, I have spent time on various boards and believe I can accept and thrive in a variety of roles within a group, be it leadership, support, analysis or administrative capacities. In short, I have demonstrated an ability to work with and get along with people that I think can serve me well as I try to bring some new ideas to this experienced group.

 

 

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