Coast Mountains school board trustee candidates attended a forum to answer questions from the public Nov. 3 at Caledonia Senior Secondary school. Left to right is Gary Turner

Special needs budgets dominate trustee forum

SCHOOL district trustees last night debated education issues.

THE PLANNED closure of Thornhill Junior Secondary, money for special needs students and the teachers’ ongoing job action were just a few of the topics fired at school board trustee candidates during a forum last night.

About thirty people came out to the meeting, which was held at Caledonia Senior Secondary school and organized by the district’s parental advisory committee to hear the five Terrace candidates and two Thornhill candidates present their views.

When asked what he will do about the closure of Thornhill Junior, current Thornhill trustee Gary Turner said he is working to prevent it.

I think the whole idea of closing the school was flawed,” he said about the evaluation process used to determine the closure of the school.

When asked how to help the district recover from the current teacher job action, current Terrace trustee Art Erasmus said the issue is not something he thinks will come to an early conclusion.

Hopefully we won’t destroy our relationships in the process,” he said of interaction between teachers and the school district.

Terrace candidate Ian Hayes drew applause from the audience when he spoke of opening up a social media site where parents can bring there concerns right to trustees.

That is key, it is how communication is working now,” he said, explaining that he is on Facebook and Twitter and it is as simple as: question, comment and reply to get conversations going using those formats.

And parental engagement was something that many candidates said is a problem in the district.

“Parents are such a pivotal part to the education system, we need to make sure they are engaged,” said Thornhill candidate Lorrie Gowen noting that the district’s parental advisory committee has struggled to get parents involved.

Erasmus said years ago parents were much more involved in education.

What I dream about doing is where parents work with teachers and kids.” he said. “ Kids learn better when parents are engaged.”

When asked how she will involve First Nation’ parents in education, Terrace candidate Charlotte Guno said she would work to build an environment of respect.

It’s hard for First Nations to come in to the school, because they feel they’re not adequately prepared to sit down and discuss the needs of their child,” she said.

Guno said the board needs to figure out how to include more parents in school activities.

Terrace candidate Roger Leclerc said he thinks the board needs to do more within the community.

Gowen said lack of money for special needs students was a problem when she sat on the board six years ago.

You do the best with what you have, we don’t have enough money, the government needs to do something about that,” she said.

Terrace candidate Hal Stedham said that something has to change when it comes to special needs budgets.

[It’s] criminal and despicable the manner that education is funded in the province,” he said.

Erasmus said the board needs to keep asking for more funding for special needs, and spend the money currently allotted wisely.

There are two Terrace seats up for grabs and one seat from Thornhill. General election day is Nov. 19.