With five seats and only six contenders, the race for seats on the School District 81 board of trustees isn’t the hottest one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Like many other districts in the province, student enrolment is down. However, Fort Nelson is in a position where officials anticipate large growth in several industries, which could boost the population rapidly.
The Alaska Highway News requested that each of the candidates submit a platform along with answers to four questions. We don’t have the space to share the answers we received in their entirety, but here is a sampling of the candidates’ answers.
Their responses in full can be viewed at www.alaskahighwaynews.ca.
Eric Ashdown said the money the district has should be used wisely.
“Rather than ‘nice to haves,’ monies need to be spent on educational tools that are up to standard today,” he wrote. He also stated that he would lobby the B.C. Ministry of Education “to get more funds back to the communities that it came from.”
Bill Dolan emphasized his understanding of what challenges the board will face, including the potential financial strain caused by declining student enrolment, as well as the difficulties in recruiting staff for SD 81.
“The main role and responsibility of a trustee is to work with parents and staff to strive for the highest possible quality of education for our children,” he wrote.
Linda Dolen said that her priorities would be early literacy, numeracy and keeping students in school through to graduation.
Faced with the prospect of growing enrolment in Fort Nelson, she responded, “We have space in our schools for more students. When hiring, we look for professionals who will enjoy the lifestyle Fort Nelson offers, so there is continuity for our students.”
Mike Gilbert’s platform emphasized training to keep young people in the community.
“The demand forecast for workers in a range of fields, including trades, medical personnel, and other professionals, indicates that there will be boundless opportunities for those prepared to take advantage of them,” he wrote. “Our kids should not be disadvantaged because they come from a small northern community.”
Yvette Taylor emphasized her experience in the education system. “I have been involved in education for more than 40 years, as a teacher, president of the Teachers' Association, parent and now a grandparent. I have knowledge of how the school district operates and I have the time to devote to this position as I am now retired,” she wrote.
Finally, Doug Tofte emphasized the need for increased government funding.
“I think one of the critical issues facing our district will be the need for a clear commitment to providing certainty in the form of long-term funding capacity to the district,” he wrote. “Committed government levels would allow the board to more effectively plan for the future, especially with concerns of declining enrolment in the district.”
The general election is Nov. 15.