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Newcomers get a chance as school trustees

Voters opted for several new faces for Nanaimo school board.

Voters opted for several new faces for Nanaimo school board.

Of the nine trustees elected, four of the six incumbents were re-elected and the remaining five are new, although TerryLynn Saunders returns to the board after one term away.

Incumbent Jamie Brennan captured the most votes at 9,958. Following Brennan are Bill Robinson (9,151), Sharon Welch (8,624), TerryLynn Saunders (8,099), Nancy Curley (7,435), Donna Allen (7,405), Dot Neary (7,088), Kim Howland (6,889) and Bill Bard (6,505).

The new board has a mix of experienced trustees and new energy, said Brennan, and he hopes it will be successful at sorting out the district's funding challenges and dealing with surplus and under-utilized facilities.

"It feels good," he said. "I campaigned hard and tried to say what I stood for."

Newcomer Bill Robinson said he's eager to get started and expects a steep learning curve.

The new board has some challenges ahead, such as further developing the facilities plan, cultivating stronger relationships with the province, finding the funding needed to operate the district's programs and services, and bringing the district into the 21st century, said Robinson.

"I have a feeling that this board is going to divide up the tasks that need to be done and work co-operatively," he said.

Incumbent and current school board chairwoman Sharon Welch was surprised two incumbents failed to earn re-election, but believes the new people bring a lot to the table.

The big thing is ensuring trustees don't lose ground on the work already done, said Welch – there are several reports coming forward soon that were ordered by the current board to help trustees make informed decisions, such as the French immersion review and asset management plan.

"We've certainly got lots of information to make good decisions," she said.

Incumbents Nelson Allen and David Murchie will throw in the towel at the end of the month.

In a press release, Allen, who came in last in polling, said he respects the verdict of the voters and is comfortable with his contributions to education in Nanaimo.

David Murchie, a parent of three young children, said he will continue advocating for public education.

"I was going to [school board meetings] before I was elected," he said. "I'm not going away. I'm happy to be a parent."