The North Delta Reporter sent school trustee candidates a list of six questions to gauge their positions on some of the major issues in the 2018 civic election campaign. We gave candidates a limit of 400 words total to answer. Here’s what Delta Voices candidate Rhiannon Bennett had to say:
(Note, all candidates’ answers have been edited for length, clarity and to conform with Canadian Press style, as required.)
1) Why are you running for school board?
I have spent my career working with children, youth and families and I have seen first-hand the harm that systems of oppression have on people. I found that my work was constantly impeded by poor policies and funding inadequacies. I feel inspired to channel my frustrations into meaningful changes and I chose to start at the school board level, having spent many years working parallel to and inside of the school system. Education was used as a weapon of genocide in Canada and now the education system has a responsibility to work towards decolonization and reconciliation. Public education should be opening doors for everyone.
2) What, in your view, is the job of a school trustee?
Being a trustee is a bit like being the skipper of a big canoe; the staff are the pullers and the superintendent is the bow-person at the front where they lead the crew by setting the pace of the work. The skipper sets the direction and destination of the canoe (towards student success and achievement) while working closely with the bow-person to keep the crew safe by avoiding hazards and obstacles.
3) What are the biggest challenges facing students today and what will you do to help kids to overcome them?
Students today are experiencing far more stress and anxiety than ever before. I plan to continue to support the youth leaders in our district who are coming up with innovative solutions and to help bring those ideas into actions. I will also continue to support teachers and staff to ensure their well-being is also a priority. Healthy and supported staff leads to healthy students.
4) What is missing in our schools (for students as well as staff) and how do you plan to address those shortfalls?
The district needs to continuously address connectedness. Our staff are still recovering from the war on public education and I am working on ensuring all staff feel valued and appreciated. I would like to see changes to our budget consultation process so families, students and staff can see themselves reflected in the budget priorities. When people are included in a meaningful way, they take more ownership of the budget.
5) Many issues that come before the board boil down to a question of money: how/where best to spend the funds allocated to the district by the Ministry of Education. Do you think that the district is adequately funded by the province, and if not, how will you advocate for more money for Delta schools?
The previous provincial government waged a war on public education and there is still a lot of ground to cover to see schools adequately funded. I see myself continuing to put pressure on the government to improve funding through the Ministry of Education and ensuring the BC School Trustee Association elects strong leaders to the executive to use their position to pressure the MoE to ensure our co-governance structure is meaningful. I want to ensure that the new funding formula does not take funding from our district to fund others.
6) Barring additional funds from the province, how can the district best cover budget shortfalls or pay for projects/programs on its wish list?
Current and previous boards have worked hard and made some tough decisions. Board and staff have worked hard together to create plans to address ongoing budget shortfalls. We are doing okay.
The civic election takes place on Saturday, Oct. 20.