Name: Dot Neary
Why are you running for school trustee?
Driven by a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, I get great satisfaction from my work as a trustee, despite the difficult challenges. I am passionate about improving the learning and life chances of students. Important foundational work has been done this term, including the development of a strategic policy governance model and, through extensive consultation across all school communities, the development of a strategic plan and a plan for facilities, both in the early stages of implementation. I am committed to advancing this vitally important work.
What three priorities are important to you and how do you plan to tackle these issues, if elected?
The continuous improvement of student learning is always a top priority; it is the focus of the board’s vision, plans and goals. The district’s Achievement Contract, a comprehensive document, lays out student achievement results, district goals for improvement and what is being done towards reaching those goals. The board monitors and assesses progress towards achieving those goals, adjusting district goals and plans, as needed.
See response to the next question.
In common with many other organizations the district is experiencing the impact of the demographic shift, as more senior employees are opting to retire, so the implementation of a succession plan for the replacement of key personnel leaving the district is a priority.
How do you plan to work toward a balanced school district budget?
A $3.5 million budget shortfall is forecast for 2015-16, which means reducing costs and/or increasing revenues. Adding to rising cost pressures beyond the board’s control, 2015-16 is the last year the district will receive funding protection. Applying surplus monies towards balancing the budget mitigates the extent of required cuts, however, it’s a one-time device that cannot be sustained long term. The best strategies create permanent budget changes and, while progress has been made towards this objective, the board needs to continue to find enduring efficiencies at every level of the organization that are realistic and sustainable.
Balancing the budget when expenses exceed revenues is a painful and distressing process for everyone involved. Budget planning should be an ongoing process aimed at aligning budget allocations with the district’s strategic goals and priorities, which are based on the district vision and core values. Communication and consultation with stakeholders, early and often, is vital to building understanding, if not universal acceptance, of budgetary decisions.
What do you think it takes to be an education leader in Nanaimo? Describe your leadership or co-working style.
It takes courage; conviction; compassion; collaboration. A sense of humour and a thick skin also help. Good governance and strong leadership often mean having to make very difficult decisions in tough times, but always with a vision for better times. I take a frank, open-minded approach, listening carefully and respectfully, striving for wisdom and balance in my decisions, always aware that I represent every student’s interests in SD68. I make a conscious effort to cultivate positive relationships with everyone and I believe that I have eight allies on the board. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree on any given issue or question, we are united in working towards a common purpose, student success. Antagonism is not helpful or productive.