Bulkley Valley School District 54 hosted a school trustee candidate forum at the school office last Thursday.
The six candidates running for three positions in Trustee Zone 2 (Smithers/Glentanna/Driftwood) answered questions from the public.
The candidates are incumbent trustee Frank Farrell; small business owner and member of Bulkley Valley Farmers Market board of directors Elsbeth Fielding; former acting chief administrative officer for Town of Smithers Susan Bassett; manger of Buy-Low Foods in Houston Floyd Krishan; Local Supply Co co-owner Jason Krauskopf; and Coast Mountain College eastern regional director Regina Saimoto.
The following questions were asked by members in attendance at the forum. Questions and answers have been condensed for clarity.
A majority of parents in the community are not in favour of the no grade system. What are your thoughts on this?
Feilding: “I like the discussion that comes with the no grade system … But I think in order to help my children in particular move forward they need to have a scale. They need to know where they’re sitting and how they can improve upon where they’re sitting … having three words to describe where they’re at doesn’t really tell them much.”
Krishan: “This might be a great example of the board possibly not doing enough fact finding and reaching out to the community to figure out what their points of view are … Getting the communication out as to why the policy is being suggested might help parents and other stake holders better understand why the board is trying to implement something.”
Krauskopf: “On a personal note I don’t agree with the no grade system of school. I don’t think we’re doing our children any favours in preparing them for the real world.”
Saimoto: “To me the no grade system is an opportunity to show the student where they are in comparison to their personal best rather than where they are in comparison to their peers … I agree we have to prepare our young people for the workforce but do we need to compare them to their cohort or do we need to compare them to own potential?”
Bassett: “I personally like the letter grade system. I like the combination of the actual grade plus comments to substantiate that grade … There’s obviously a good rationale and good thinking behind the change and I’m not aware of what that was.”
Farrell: “As a parent I understand a need to have a letter grade there as a measurement to what student achievement is but above all else a student has to learn and understand what they’ve learned. Sometimes a letter grade doesn’t do that. It just shows a student can learn a test properly.”
What is your opinion on French immersion? How would you make it better? Get it into the high school and address the waiting list issue?
Krishan: “I think it’s a great program. It puts students that much further ahead if they learn two languages or more. How do we make it better: plain and simple, we have to recruit teachers to our district that are French immersion teachers. I think that we need to lay the groundwork now because every small community is doing the exact same thing and I’m sure we have a plan in place to look at that.”
Krauskopf: “Being involved in the French immersion program and talking to teachers that are very involved there really is a shortage of teachers. They just aren’t there and that’s nationally as far as I understand. Maybe there’s a way to woo these French teachers [by] showcasing our community. Sell Smithers and sell the lifestyle.”
Saimoto: “First I would want to find out is their actually student demand at the different grade levels because if you offer French immersion you might not be able to offer something else … So even once you have the demand how do you attract the teachers to the community? I would say marketing our community is the way to go.”
Bassett: “Recruiting and retention is challenging to begin within a small community. It’s all about marketing that community the attributes that you offer that perhaps a larger metropolis doesn’t offer.”
Farrell: “There isn’t enough qualified French immersion teachers and then to add class or divisions with people that don’t have the qualifications you water down the program and it doesn’t help anybody. The biggest thing is we need to get more French immersion teachers trained in universities.”
Feilding: “I strongly believe every child deserves to learn a second language and to learn it effectively. French immersion is an amazing option and we’re lucky that we have it … I actually have a really strong opinion about core French being taught in the English school as well. My son last year was doing French [and] he was given an ipad with an app to learn French and it was really disappointing. I think all kids need to have a little bit more opportunity to get just basic French.”
Many parents regard the SOGI curriculum as abusive as it introduces explicit sexual content into the early years, challenges young children as to their biological gender and ignores the beliefs of their parents. How will you protect young children and their parents from unwanted sexual content?
Note: According to B.C. Ministry of Education the new curriculum focuses on new curriculum includes a focus on valuing diversity and respecting differences. The SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) curriculum does not contain “explicit sexual content into the early years.”
Sexual and reproductive health is specifically covered within the Physical and Health Education curriculum, the Ministry said. Alternative Delivery policy is in place to allow students and their parents/guardians to consult with their school and choose a different means other than regular classroom instruction in this area.
Lesson plans for SOGI education shows that students in kindergarten to Grade 7 are taught about gender identities, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights, familiy diversity and not to use hurtful language such as “that’s so gay.”
For more information on SOGI plans now in B.C. and Alberta, visit www.sogieducation.org.
Krauskopf: “I really don’t know a lot to be able to comment on it but maybe introduce it at an older age. Maybe you don’t have it in elementary schools and introduce it in Grade 9.”
Saimoto: “I think that often when this type of curriculum is being taught it’s not taught to the same [level] to a kindergarten class as it is to Grade 12. I think there’s a bit of spiraling of knowledge and language … I think it is important for us to be tolerant to a diversity of groups. I think it is important to show that there are different sexual orientations just as there is different cultures, different races and different religions.”
Bassett: “The curriculum and the related administrative procedures are really in its infancy so I personally believe we need to let this play out. A chance to challenge or correct, access, refine or redesign these administrative procedures to rectify whatever problems are brought up.”
Farrell: “You’re not teaching calculus to kindergarten students; you’re teaching what kind be taught in terms of inclusion and how people are different to children as they grow older … In a just socitey we learn as you grow people are to be treated fairly and that’s what I think the program is.”
Feilding: “I see it as an inclusive discussion for the little ones. It’s not necessarily explicit sexual content … it’s more accepting that people are different and accepting they choose to look different or be different.”
Krishan: “I think that we can all agree that we want people to be treated fairly. From listening to everyone’s answers perhaps there needs to be more transparency on what the curriculum is. It sounds like a lot of us don’t understand what is being taught at different levels so maybe that would be a good starting point.”
In your opinion how is the school district going to handle new marijuana legislation?
Bassett: “It’s going to be like any other substance that kids are exposed to. There needs to be controls in place to deal with it and deal with it long before it’s in the classroom.”
Farrell: “This will probably be one of the first items on the agenda for next board for policy committee. Probably will reflect the same sort of policies for alcohol and smoking (cigarettes). It will relfective of what is demanded by the community.”
Feilding: “It’s going to have to be dealt with in similar ways to alcohol and tobacco. They have similar limitations, similar rules and similar problems so it’s going to have to be something that is discussed at length to develop an appropriate response.”
Krishan: “I think we need to hit the ground running in terms of reaching out to other districts and making sure we’re getting their ideas … but also making sure we’re forwarding information as much as possible to the communities that we have.”
Krauskopf: “I don’t really see it being any different than dealing with alcohol … Hopefully there is some diversity [on the board] and we bring some good ideas to the table and we do listen to the community and the people and come up with policies that make sense for our specific community.”
Saimoto: “I think it will be one of the most urgent things that the new school board will deal with.”