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Candidates for Delta school board share their top issues

The Reporter asked candidates to identify top issues for voters and say how they’ll address them
Fifteen candidates are running to serve on Delta’s school board: (Top row, from left) Nuno Antunes, Erica Beard, Nimmi Daula, Andrea DeWolff and Ammen Dhillon; (middle row, from left) Masako Gooch, Carmen Halpenny, Alisa Horth, Nick Kanakos and Maury Kask; (bottom row, from left) Joe Muego, Bruce Reid, Whitney Saip Dyck, Daniel Tonn and Val Windsor. (submitted photos)

Nearly three dozen candidates are vying for residents’ votes as the race for Delta mayor, council and school board enters the home stretch.

Next Saturday, residents will head to polls to elect a mayor, six city councillors and seven school board trustees to a four-year term in office. Thirty-one candidates — three for mayor, 13 for councillor and 15 for school trustee — are running in this election, a dozen fewer than the 43 who ran for office in 2018 (six for mayor, 20 four councillor and 17 for trustee).

General voting takes place on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. For a list of places to vote, visit

Regardless of who wins, both city council and school board will look very different after the election. Four of the six current councillors — Dan Copeland, Lois Jackson, Jeannie Kanakos and Bruce McDonald — are not seeking re-election. Meanwhile, with Trustee Laura Dixon retiring from politics and current trustees Daniel Boisvert and Jessie Dosanjh pursuing seats on council, it’s guaranteed there will be at least three new school trustees.

To help readers get a better sense of candidates’ priorities, the North Delta Reporter asked each of them to tell us what, in their view, are the (three) biggest issues for Delta voters and how they will address those issues if elected. Candidates for school board trustee were given a limit of 200 words for their responses. Here’s what they had to say…

Nuno Antunes

(ParentsVoice BC)

In 1978, my parents immigrated to Canada and we settled in Vancouver. My wife and I chose Delta as our family home 12 years ago, and it’s here that we’re raising our two beautiful children.

My professional background is extensive, with experience working in retail, construction, hospitality and the private sector.

My aptitude for listening to all sides and my real-world experience across these areas mean I’m well-versed in collaboration and finding solutions. My hope is to contribute my skills to benefit the advancement of all our children.

I’ve volunteered for too many schools events and projects to count, and love coaching soccer and baseball, which I’ve done for the last five years.

As a parent, I’m a huge advocate for fitness, community involvement and open discussion.

I plan to work with my fellow trustees to ensure our children benefit from health and fitness, develop debating skills, build reasoning skills and to provide parents with transparency on curriculum, policies and education material.

As parents, we are all educators and want to work together with our schools, teachers and community for our children’s best learning experience. I want our children to be brave, learn, make decisions, problem solve and lead.

Erica Beard

(Achieving for Delta)

As a lifelong Delta resident, Delta School District parent and trustee, I have a vested interest in the Delta School District. The Achieving for Delta team has committed to ensuring student mental and physical health and well-being, enhancing inclusivity for all students, putting Delta students first, and keeping students safe. I believe these issues are in alignment with the Delta School District’s Vision 2030, a vision I strongly support.

Achieving for Delta school trustee candidates are committing to a plan to keep students safe, in schools and in the community. It is often the students without a strong support network or those experiencing challenges related to mental health, food security and a lack of stable housing who are more vulnerable to having their safety be compromised. Keeping students safe is about creating inclusive environments and support networks to help them focus on education and make positive life choices.

A positive working relationship between the board of trustees, school staff and community partners is vital to ensure student safety and success. I value the ongoing commitment from all education and community partners to maintain student-focused, open and respectful communication, and a shared goal of the ongoing enhancement of the student experience.

Nimmi Daula

(Achieving for Delta)

I work in communications and media and as a radio host, and through this work I have had the chance to hear directly from the community about what is important to them. As a parent of two children who attended Delta public schools, I believe providing the opportunity for parents to engage with the school system is critical to students’ success. I want to strengthen the connection between parents and schools to empower them to support their children’s learning.

My top priorities include excellence in education, better physical and mental health of students, and a safe and inclusive environment for all students. I strongly believe that equity, diversity and inclusion are key components of successful school systems. In addition to sports and physical activities, it is important to foster creativity in children and support their overall health and well-being. I want to help students understand that they are the future of their communities and instill the importance of a sense of service to their fellow citizens.

To ensure the well-being of students, I will prioritize providing a safe and supportive learning environment. I want to foster students’ curiosities and passions and facilitate a stronger connection between them and their community.

Andrea DeWolff

As an independent candidate in the election, the three priorities that I am focused on are:

The immediate need for more resources and supports at the classroom level, specifically the need for more education assistants. The trustees need to ensure the distribution of funds starts at the classroom level, guaranteeing supports and resources are a top budget priority. Educators and students should not bear the brunt of any budget shortfalls. There needs to be transparency with the budget to ensure accountability.

During the four-year term as trustee, I would like to ensure our students feel safe at school. Safe, not being defined by a single action, but instead all encompassing. Ensuring that “safety” includes and is not limited to: bullying, racism, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, drug use and violence. Our students have a fundamental right to feel safe at school.

I would also like to collaborate with the City of Delta to create accessible and safe new playgrounds at our local public schools. Our community is in need of accessible and inclusive new playground equipment and I believe the best way to benefit the community is to create a working partnership with the City of Delta.

Ammen Dhillon

(Achieving for Delta)

I am running for Delta school trustee because I want to give back to the district that fostered the strong foundation upon which my career rests today, and that I’m now entrusting to educate my children. My goal is to see Delta graduates exceed all other districts in their social competency, academic performance and resiliency.

I have worked in the biotech industry as a PhD (UBC) level scientist for 15 years, including working on Dr. Pieter Cullis’ team to hone the technology behind the mRNA COVID vaccine. My work has underscored that solutions are achieved with effective collaboration, planning and innovative thinking. I want to ensure that our education system reflects this and is keeping up with our fast-evolving workforce and social systems.

As a masters-level clinical counsellor specializing in healing trauma and nervous system regulation, I am passionate about mental and physical health literacy in our schools. I will prioritize initiatives that provide children and parents with mental health training and resources, protecting them from anxiety, depression and drug use.

As a Delta Community Foundation board member, I get to appreciate Delta’s incredible diversity, which demands that we make schools safe and inclusive spaces for all students.

Masako Gooch

(Achieving for Delta)

As a mother of three young children, current and future students in the Delta school system, I have a vested interest in advocating for all students in the district. I believe providing a strong foundation is vital to lifelong learning, and that the educators who provide this foundation must also be supported.

My top priorities are advocating to all levels of government for greater supports for teachers and students of all learning abilities, as well as promoting an inclusive atmosphere for learning. School should remain a safe space for all students, regardless of learning needs, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture or socioeconomic background. If elected, I will also ensure greater supports for mental health, physical activity and health literacy for students, as well-being greatly impacts meaningful participation in learning, communication and fostering healthy relationships.

Increasing trustee visibility and collaboration with families and school staff is imperative to creating inclusive school communities, where voices are heard. Student funding, salary and cost of living in the Lower Mainland are main concerns when it comes to recruitment and retainment of teachers. If elected, I will advocate for salaries to keep up with the rising cost of living, as our teachers are invaluable.

Carmen Halpenny

(ParentVoice BC)

I’m an active member of Delta with a long history of community involvement. I’ve served on the parent advisory committee of South Delta Secondary School, volunteered for Basics for Babies, Food On The Corner, Sacred Heart School, and Earthwise Garden.

My family loves to fish our B.C. waters, grow food in our nutrient-rich soil, cook healthy delicious meals, and embrace a lifestyle aligned with the love of our beautiful native land.

I’ve been trained to administer naloxone and I’ve researched B.C.’s fentanyl crisis and how it has affected Delta youth. Naloxone training will be delivered to students in the 2023 school year.

I’m an early childhood educator with 25 years experience, and over that time my concerns about initiatives being pushed into our education system has grown.

My number one priority is to advocate for full transparency and openness within the Delta School District so parents are informed about their children’s progress and what they’re being taught.

It boils down to the question of who should be in control of your child’s education: parents or the state. I believe parents should be in the drivers’ seat, so that’s whose interests I’ll work hard to represent as trustee.

Alisa Horth

(ParentsVoice BC)

I’ve seen enormous changes to schools over the years and, more recently, an aggressive push to alter the education curriculum without parental input or consultation.

This drove me to question the quality of the education being delivered to our children and to demand answers.

I’ve talked to principals, school board trustees and school coordinators, none of whom seemed interested in my concerns. Instead of an open and transparent dialog, I was met with apathy and disinterest.

This led me to run for school trustee so I can help create an environment where parents’ voices will be heard by those who are elected to serve them, as that is the primary responsibility of school trustees.

I’m also concerned about the shift away from the core educational skills that serve as the foundation for all success in life and towards an agenda more suitable for the political arena than our children’s classrooms.

B.C.’s public schools belong to parents and the communities where they’re located, not to labour unions, teachers’ federations and government bureaucrats. I’m running for trustee so I can help our school board remember its primary purpose is to serve parents, not to dictate to them.

Nick Kanakos

(Independents Working for You)

Education has been the focus of my professional life. I was a teacher in Delta for 33 years and trustee for 11 years. Our four children attended Delta school in the English and French programs. I have first-hand experience as a parent, teacher and as a current Delta board trustee. I understand education from the “inside out.” I will continue to work on:

Excellence in Schools: Delta School District has achieved one of the highest graduation and scholastic achievement rates in the province. At the elementary level, Delta students continue to achieve high levels of literacy and numeracy. I will continue this work on improving our students’ overall performance and school experience.

Funding: I have witnessed first-hand the discrepancy between the funding allocated by the Ministry of Education and the needs outlined by the Delta School District. I will advocate for more funds to improve student performance, health and safety, and support for special needs students.

COVID 19: Drawing on our partnership with our parent advisory councils, parents, teachers and support staff, we must continue to provide safe and inclusive schools post COVID. We must bring parents back into the schools, in person, as full partners in the education of their children.

Maury Kask

(Achieving for Delta)

As a Delta resident, candidate for school trustee and a passionate community advocate, I believe a key issue for all voters is to ensure we elect candidates that possess the collective knowledge, skills and experience to effectively lead our city and school board.

I think it’s important for voters to know that boards of education carry many responsibilities and oversee a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars. Our board of education must be made up of a team of professional and competent trustees who believe there is only one taxpayer and are efficient with every dollar spent. The highest value for taxpayers comes when the school board works with all community partners, including mayor and council, on shared priorities that maximize the efficient use of tax dollars to deliver for our students.

Over the next four years, I believe our board of education should be focused on several district priorities, including ensuring that education policies (and funding decisions) place a priority on student outcomes and effectively meet our district’s wide-ranging needs; allocating available resources effectively to support equity and inclusion; ensuring our children can learn in a safe and caring learning environment; and putting the needs of our students first.

Joe Muego

(Achieving for Delta)

I am very proud to have been the official voice of parents in my various roles over 14 years as elementary and secondary PAC chairs, and ultimately the chair of Delta’s DPAC, representing parents of 15,000 students from 31 schools.

I have been committed to making sure that students continue to thrive throughout their years and graduate with options. We can achieve this by supporting teachers and staff in their professional practices, promoting inclusive classrooms so that everyone feels safe, and through continued fiscal responsibility.

One issue of dear importance to me is physical and mental health in schools. My record shows this commitment as I have been on the district Healthy Schools Committee for years as the parent voice. In this committee we initiated discussion and action that made real differences.

The importance of mental health was deeply underscored when I was at the helm of DPAC at the start of the pandemic and undertook the task of a district-wide parents survey to report back to the board and superintendent on parents’ concerns.

As a leading district, it is our responsibility to continue to work with education partners to ensure our work in this area remains progressive and effective.

Bruce Reid

(Independents Working for You)

Delta is one of the best managed districts with the best student outcomes in British Columbia. I am acutely aware that the Delta tradition of high achievement that has been established by past boards has made it possible for future boards to continue providing outstanding educational opportunities for our students. The success of our students remains our number one priority.

We need a greater emphasis on preparation for skilled trades.

We still lag behind other provinces in funding. In fact, in Delta we also receive less per-capita funding than other districts. Certain teaching areas remain difficult to fill.

We need to continue the history of working well with all stakeholder groups, including our Indigenous community, to maintain the co-operative atmosphere which exists in our district.

It would be ideal to hire more janitorial staff to maintain the standards that were established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We need to constantly monitor our inclusive learning model to ensure that all students receive the best education possible.

Because of the stress which is prevalent in our culture, we need to continually seek to promote mental health support.

In conclusion, the main issue is continuation of the good work that former boards have started.

Whitney Saip Dyck

As a mother with two young sons in the public school system, I have had the privilege of seeing first hand the difference that teachers and EAs have made in their lives, and despite our positive experience, I am very aware that many educators within our system lack the necessary support in their classrooms to make Delta the best place to learn for our children.

Increasing allocations to allow for adequate learning supports, improving protection measures and programs for at-risk youth, and providing trustee transparency and accountable spending, are what I believe to be the top priorities for our district.

Delta is a diverse city with many ethnic, religious and cultural minorities represented, and our schools are full of kids who need to feel loved, accepted and safe. Based on experience, Delta teachers are some of the most engaged and inclusive educators anywhere, but we need to ensure that they themselves have the training, resources and support needed to manage a diverse classroom and provide a quality education for our students without being overburdened.

Fresh voices, unbeholden opinions and on-the-ground insights are crucial to the Delta school board if we want to see the real change that is possible.

Daniel Tonn

(ParentsVoice BC)

I’m a long-time Ladner resident, homeowner and heavy-duty mechanic.

Quality education is the most important gift we can give to all children, not just ours. That’s why I sponsor and support the education of two Guatemalan children.

I am deeply concerned about the shift away from the essential building blocks of a successful life and career — reading, writing and mathematics — toward major initiatives around hot-button issues such as sex, race and schools’ response to COVID-19. All of this was done without consultation with parents or local community.

The role of the school trustee is embedded in the name: to be a trusted voice for the community they serve, not powerful labour groups or education bureaucrats.

The primary responsibility for our children’s education lies with parents, not the state. The parents must have input on all decisions affecting their children and their education, and that’s not happening today.

Parents who “dare” ask questions of our trustees are stonewalled and ignored, at best, and mocked and ridiculed by those who claim to support inclusiveness.

When we foster an environment with a foundation of openness and transparency, all the other issues go away because we’re able to resolve them through dialog.

Val Windsor

(Achieving for Delta)

We can all be proud that the Delta School District has one of the highest student achievement rates in B.C. and is widely known as an innovative district, thanks to outstanding leadership and dedicated teachers and staff. But we must always be striving for improvement.

I will work to advocate for a fully-funded public education system so we can meet the unique learning needs of all students. I will work with all levels of government to seek partnerships and funding that enhances our schools and provides high-quality facilities in our community. I will continue to focus on ensuring we have inclusive, safe and welcoming schools for all students by prioritizing resources and supports so every student can achieve their full potential. I will continue to vote for additional funding for EAs, support for classroom teachers and additional specialist educators, and continue to build positive relationships with our parents, students and staff so that the Delta School District is the best place to work and learn.

It’s more important now than ever before to get out to vote for forward-thinking trustee candidates who bring a wide range of experience and community knowledge to ensure success for students well into the future.

Click here to see what candidates for mayor and council had to say.

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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