The Nanaimo Ladysmith school district vice-chairwoman and B.C. School Trustees Association vice-president will have her name on the ballot again in 2018.
Stephanie Higginson said she’s running again for a spot at the school board table because she believes in public education and says the system still needs strong advocates.
“I believe in the work that we are working towards in the district and the decisions that we’ve made,” said Higginson. “Some of them were very hard decisions, but I think we have a lot to be proud of and I want to continue making thoughtful decisions that I think will benefit our students.”
Schools were closed under the watch of the current board – Woodlands Secondary, Rutherford Elementary and Woodbank Primary schools – which she said were among the hard decisions and the “antithesis of why somebody becomes a school trustee.” Higginson said trustees had to factor in a lot of different information and noted closure decisions were made under a different provincial government, before the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling restoring old class size and composition numbers, and in a time of austerity.
Also, new teaching methods were being implemented during that time.
“When you’re introducing a new curriculum that requires new resources, it requires teachers to have a lot of professional development around it, and that’s what we were hearing from our partners. We’re hearing from parents that there wasn’t enough resources, we’re hearing from teachers that they need more resources and training, that we didn’t receive funding for,” said Higginson. “We had all those messages coming at us and so it was about really focusing as much dollars as we can on our student learning and improving student learning conditions rather than on maintaining buildings.”
Based on preliminary counts, it appears the district will have higher-than-expected student enrolment this year and Higginson said it presents an opportunity to work with all levels of government. She doesn’t rule out re-opening schools if that is the best way.
“One of the things we have to juggle is the provincial government does not give you money for portables,” Higginson said. “So we will have to weigh the cost of purchasing portables versus the cost of re-opening a building … I would like to think that we will make the thoughtful decisions that are necessary and not make reactionary ones.”
Higginson said her position with the BCSTA, which supports school boards in the province, has provided access to information and experts the district normally wouldn’t have.
“It gives me a provincial profile, it benefits our district and it also gives me the ability to see best practices across the province both in governing and operations and it gives me an opportunity to hear from, and have strong relationships with other trustees and other stakeholders – superintendents, secretary-treasurers – across the province to be able to have that kind of information that we can then utilize in our own district,” said Higginson.
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