(News Bulletin file)

New Nanaimo Ladysmith school board will need to get its bearings

Trustee candidates waited till midnight Saturday for election results, but say the wait was worth it

While it was near midnight before Nanaimo Ladysmith school trustee candidates knew municipal election results, some say it was worth the wait.

Officials had warned about a delay due to issues at the polling station at McGirr Elementary School on Saturday and final tallies were made available well after those of other districts, making for a long night for candidates like Jessica Stanley, current North Vancouver district trustee who sought a Nanaimo district seat. She received the most votes with 11,941.

The day after, Stanley said she was exhausted, but honoured.

“It was a long night, a really long night,” said Stanley with a laugh. “It was thrilling. I was shocked. I had never expected to top the polls. I’m really excited about the new board. I think we have a great collection of individuals with a variety of different strengths. I’m just thrilled with the outcome.”

Greg Keller, who will be a first-time trustee, said he’s looking forward to the work ahead.

“This is obviously my first time being in any elected position so I expect there to be a steep learning curve and I expect to be doing a lot of research and reading and leaning on some of the knowledgeable staff that we have in our organization, so that being said I’m up for the challenge and I’m ready,” said Keller.

Stephanie Higginson, an incumbent trustee and board vice-chairwoman, said she had been expecting a late night.

“We had been given notice earlier, a couple of days before that we would have to wait for the very end … we knew Ladysmith (municipality) would be declaring and the city would be declaring, because we’d have to wait for those ones, but then when there was that glitch in Nanaimo, everything was very, very slow. It just felt like ‘Oh my God; this is really slow!’ So it was a long wait and it was tiring,” said Higginson.

With this being her second term, Higginson said she has advice for newer trustees.

“It’s a bit like drinking out of a fire hose at first and [it’s] OK to ask questions,” said Higginson. “Ask people to slow down and just keep asking the questions when you are unsure … I really hope that we create an atmosphere going forward amongst the veterans that really allows for that kind of learning to happen because many of us that are veterans were also new last term and this is very familiar to us, the feeling.

“We’ve tried to use our experience last term to improve on board orientation and really help people be able to get all the information they could possibly need and be successful in the role.”

The three have priorities that would like to start working on.

“The first thing that the board needs to come together and do is come together,” said Stanley. “We need to spend some time learning from each other. I’m very respectful of the fact that the community put these nine people together for a reason and it’s our job to find out, or at least reflect upon, what those reasons were and then how to form a board that has some good working relations where we all come from a place of respect and listening to one another.”

Keller said the board will need to get together as a group to start discussing priorities.

“I know that we have a number of projects that are in the works, understand one of them being the facilities plan update, so looking forward to starting that,” said Keller.

Higginson said the long-term facilities plan is among the first priorities.

“I’d really like to see us work on it in conjunction with our strategic plan,” said Higginson. “I think our strategic plan needs updating and often facilities planning and strategic planning are done separately, but I think that we need to start making our facilities planning about more than just how many seats we need for how many kids. We also need to tie it in to the learning needs of our students and so I look forward to working with the board on that and also [collective bargaining] with teachers is coming up.”

After Stanley, Lisa Marie Barron had the next most votes at 11,143. Tania Brzovic was the highest vote-getter among incumbents with 10,052 votes. The other members of the school board, in order of vote count, are Keller, Higginson, Charlene McKay, Chantel O’Neill, Bill Robinson and Elaine Wilkinson.

Of the candidates who weren’t elected to school board, Marilyn Sullivan was closest. Incumbent Scott Kimler was not re-elected.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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