13 candidates seeking nine seats on Nanaimo school board


A strategic plan with a “made-in-Nanaimo” vision of 21st-century learning was one of Donna Allen’s goals when she ran for school trustee last term and she wants to continue with that work.

“I’m excited about carrying on the work we started with our new superintendent around strategic planning,” she said. “We want to look at different ways to deliver education.”

Allen said trustees worked hard over the past three years to assemble the building blocks of the strategic plan – developing a long-term facilities plan and initiating several reviews, some of which have not yet been seen by the board.

Allen, who has spent her entire working life as an educator in the public system, from education assistant to teacher to counsellor, has been elected to the school board twice and served two years as school board chairwoman.

She is also a member and past-president of Rotary Daybreak, the Canadian Federation of University Women, Probus service club and the Retired Teachers’ Association.

Allen promises to work to increase the district’s graduation rate and to continue to be a strong advocate for the public education system.

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Making Nanaimo school district a more efficient, accountable and transparent organization is one of Nelson Allen’s goals should he be re-elected for his seventh-consecutive term as school trustee.

He believes the establishment of a strategic plan, which will serve as a road map for all future decisions, will not only improve student achievement, but also save the district money.

“We should have one as a board and we don’t,” said Allen. “We don’t because past boards and administrators never got around to doing it.”

Allen, who has been a retail salesman and manager, a teacher and a certified financial planner in the past, said his 18 years of experience on the board could help other trustees move things along.

“I basically regard myself as a change agent,” he said. “With my background I think I can make a positive contribution.”

Allen is excited about some initiatives the current board has worked on over the past three years, such as joint use of the Rotary Bowl, and wants to continue with this work.

Improving graduation rates and increasing funding for special needs students are also key concerns.

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Bill Bard has regularly attended school board meetings for the past 13 years.

An Island resident since 1990, all three of Bard’s children attended Nanaimo schools.

A former businessman in the food industry, he decided to run for school trustee because he wants to see more progress on dealing with the district’s aging facilities and excess space in some schools.

This will be his second time around as a candidate – he also ran for school trustee in 1999.

After more than a dozen years of sitting in on school board meetings, Bard feels he has an advantage over other candidates because he understands the mechanics of how the district works and who does what.

He wants to fight for stronger and more enforceable anti-bullying and homophobia policies – he believes the district should be a safe place to work and learn for all and that these policies could be strengthened – and he wants to see a group of trustees who will co-operate with each other to make decisions and move the district forward.

Bard doesn’t plan on being a quiet person at the table if elected, but he does plan on being co-operative.

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Jamie Brennan wants to be a part of positive changes in Nanaimo school district.

The board has recently commissioned a number of reviews looking at different aspects of district operations and decisions will need to be made on any recommendations stemming from these reports, he said.

Brennan spent 19 years as an educational counsellor at what was then called Malaspina University-College – nine of those as president of the faculty association – and he now works as a mental health advocate for the Community Legal Assistance Society.

He has been a school trustee from 1984-88 and from 2005 to present.

Brennan supported the old facilities plan – to close two secondary schools and build a new, larger one – but trustees have since developed a new plan and he would not revisit the old plan.

Key issues for Brennan include improving labour relations between the district and employee groups; a monetary resolution to a court ruling that invalidated parts of provincial legislation dealing with class size and composition limits; and improvements to the way special education is delivered in the district, along with additional dollars from the province for special needs students.

“We spend $9 million more than we receive in special education funding,” he said.

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Twitter: @electjamie



Nancy Curley believes her years of experience in the labour relations field will assist her as school trustee.

She is a labour relations officer with the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union and a vice-president with the Nanaimo, Duncan and District Labour Council, as well as chairwoman of the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island’s board.

Curley has also worked with the Health Sciences Association and the Tele-communications Workers Union and was involved with parent advisory councils when her two boys were in school.

She feels the current board is divided and as a result did not get all of the work done it needed to. She said her background in labour relations could help move things forward.

School facilities are a big issue for Curley – it doesn’t make sense to her that students are housed in old schools in need of repair that are only half or a third full. She also believes the school funding formulas are antiquated and result in schools not being funded properly and trustees need to advocate for changes.

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Kim Howland has involved herself in the public education system since her two daughters entered school years ago.

She has been on school parent advisory councils, headed up the district parent advisory council and served one term as president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

Howland also ran a daycare out of her house for 12 years.

“I feel my experience and skill set will make me a good trustee,” said Howland. “I’m used to a steep learning curve.”

After her stint with the provincial organization, Howland came to the conclusion that she can make the most difference close to home and with her daughters now graduated and in university, she feels she has the time to involve herself in another formal role in the public education system.

If elected, Howland wants to ensure the board makes decisions based on good information and engaging with the community – especially students, as many have told her they feel left out of the decision-making process even though decisions have major impacts for them.

Howland also wants to focus on building collaboration between all stakeholders.

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Facebook: Elect Kim Howland for School Trustee

Twitter: kh4kids



The quality of education a child receives should be no different, whether that child attends a north-end school or one in Cedar.

Rosmy Jean Louis believes that there are differences in the quality of the education students receive in the district and his goal if elected is to work to change that so that all students, regardless of where they live or parental income, get the same educational opportunities.

His daughter is about to enter the public education system in Cedar, where the family of three lives.

Jean Louis said he would bring to the board an economic perspective – he has taught economics at Vancouver Island University since 2004 and is now chairman of VIU’s economics department.

Jean Louis also taught in Manitoba, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, worked at an insurance company in Haiti, where he grew up, and is chairman of the North Cedar Improvement District’s finance committee.

He believes the school district needs a thorough assessment of the cost and quality of the education provided here and a more comprehensive facilities plan.

“You need to have a clear picture as to where you’re at and where you want to go,” said Jean Louis.

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David Murchie is seeking re-election to the school board for the sake of his kids.

“I have three young children who are going to be in the school system until 2028 and I want to make sure the board makes good, long-term decisions, not short-term political decisions,” he said.

Murchie owns an analyst consulting business and lives in the Wellington area with his wife and three young children.

When he’s not busy with his business or school trustee work – he is finishing up his first term as trustee – or being a parent, he volunteers with the Wellington Community Association.

Murchie wants to help keep the board focused on improving learning conditions in the classroom.

He feels the current board has worked hard to focus its energies on educational outcomes for students, as opposed to the buildings children learn in.

Enrolment is slated to increase in the near future and Murchie wants to protect the district’s resources to ensure that students have adequate space and schools do not have to resort to portables.

Murchie would also like to get more sports and fine arts programs in schools.

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Dot Neary wants to continue on the path the school board has taken over the last three years.

“The present board has set a course and I want to see it stay the course,” she said. “We need to move from vision to action.”

The board has commissioned a set of reviews aimed at improving organizational efficiency, said Neary, with the goal of providing a common vision to move the district forward.

“We should all have a common understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and where we’re going,” she said, adding that even with differing opinions, this vision will help trustees reach consensus on issues.

This is Neary’s first term as school trustee, but not the beginning of her involvement in education issues. She was on the district parent advisory council and involved with parent groups at both McGirr and Dover Bay schools while her two boys were going through school.

What everything comes down to in Nanaimo school district is budget, she said, and once a strategic plan is in place and decisions are being made with reference to this plan, the district will be able to address other issues such as improving the student support services delivery model and enhancing programs for students.

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A former broadcaster and teacher, Bill Robinson is best known in Nanaimo for his community activism, including founding and mentoring the youth Rotary club and creating the Hidden Heroes Education Society.

The Hidden Heroes program teaches students that small things often make a big difference. The program has grown across B.C. and into other provinces and will soon become a part of the Critical Thinking Consortium.

Robinson is running for school trustee to help move the district forward and he is committed to working co-operatively with all members of the school board if elected.

“I bring a strong, moderate voice of reason,” he said. “I am not fighting against anyone. I want to support positive growth.”

He believes that highlighting all of the positive things that are already happening in the district will get people motivated and help them find solutions to problems.

Robinson wants to further develop a long-term facilities plan and believes the district’s excess property could help support kids in the classroom.

He is also interested in getting more technology and self-directed learning programs in schools – the 21st century learning concept intrigues him – and ensuring Aboriginal and special needs students receive adequate support.

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Noah Routley is passionate about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

Routley is a program coordinator with the Canadian Mental Health Association, mid-Island branch, has managed a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and worked as an education assistant for two autistic children in Nanaimo.

His son, who is now in Grade 5, also struggled with a learning disability early in the public school experience and Routley feels that the best advocate for these children is a parent who has personal experience with the challenges of obtaining adequate funding from the system for their children.

“I would love to be a part of making the whole system better,” said Routley. “Special needs students definitely need to be funded adequately.”

Routley believes the district needs a really clear facilities plan, one that addresses unused facilities and properties.

“There’s a lot of buildings sitting empty,” he said.

Routley is committed to working closely with other board members to try to achieve consensus on issues, while ensuring that he listens to what the public has to say.

As a father of two young children in the Nanaimo system, his biggest concern is making sure decisions benefit students.

“It really is about the kids at the end of the day,” said Routley.

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TerryLynn Saunders took a break from school politics to run for a seat on Nanaimo city council last term, but she’s back on the education beat this year.

“Everybody’s been asking me to run,” she said.

Saunders, a former businesswoman who takes international students into her home, was a school trustee between 1993 and 2008.

She didn’t take a break from education altogether over the past three years – Saunders has appeared in front of trustees on a couple of occasions to discuss her views on different board decisions.

She is also a member of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation and president of Literacy Central Vancouver Island.

Saunders’ goal if elected is to make decisions in a timely manner because there are schools in need of upgrades.

She wants to lobby the province to treat Ladysmith separately, as enrolment is growing in this area and the schools are overcrowded compared with elsewhere in the district.

Saunders also wants to upgrade technology in schools and ensure trustees are working well together.

“I think the most important thing a trustee needs to do is look at all the issues and decide what is best for the district as a whole,” she said.

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Sharon Welch has spent the past three years as a school trustee building relationships with other trustees, district staff, parents and external stakeholders.

Welch, who has served as school board chairwoman for the past year, said she has been to every single school in the district in the last three years and sat down with principals, vice-principals, teachers, education assistants and others to identify challenges and successes.

At the heart of her desire to return to the school board is improving the system for students.

“We need to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses,” said Welch. “There is a lot of focus today on literacy and math skills. But at the same time [students] have to have creative outlets as well.”

She wants to protect alternative pathways to graduation and support arts, theatre and sports programs.

Making decisions based on fact rather than emotion and looking for efficiencies in the system is also a priority for her.

Welch said she brings unique experience and background to the table – she has a master’s degree in leadership, was a music school director for 20 years, former coordinator of the downtown Nanaimo Community Policing office and is currently an administrator at a local employment agency.

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