By Loreth Beswetherick Squamish school trustee Amy Shoup has taken over the helm from Judy Bourhis as Howe Sound School District board chair. On the top of her agenda is seeing the district’s three key capital projects through to fruition this term. Shoup was appointed to her new role at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting, the first after the elections. She was vice chair last term, a position now filled by Whistler trustee Andrée Janyk. The sole newcomer to the board this term is Whistler trustee Alix Nicoll. She fills the spot left vacant by Ele Clarke, who resigned her post last spring when she moved to Kimberley. No by-election was held when Clarke quit because of the imminence of the November 1999 elections. Nicoll joins Shoup, Janyk and Bourhis, Bette Connell, Don Ross and Constance Rulka. The team will participate in a ‘working session’ to be held Jan. 20 and 21. "At that session we will look at what we are doing and really pin down our direction for the next term," said Shoup. "It’s an interesting situation just having one new person on the board. We are trying to bring her up to speed quickly and get her involved in the process as quickly as we can." Shoup said she feels the board will continue with the direction set last term and focus on following through with the district’s three priority capital projects: additions and renovations to Brackendale Secondary, a second elementary school for Whistler and the replacement of Signal Hill elementary in Pemberton. "We will be very happy if we see the completion of these three projects within the this three-year term," said Shoup. She said another issue to which the board would like to devote attention is student achievement and seeing more kids graduating from high school. She said the goal will be to try and be cognisant of each and every student, with a focus on aboriginal needs. The board’s communication strategy, yet to be implemented, will also be one of the main topics on the table at the January working session, said Shoup. The board started developing the plan last term. One of the long-term goals of the communications strategy is to build trust with a target audience that includes the general public, business, labour, municipalities, government, media, MLAs, parents and other partners. According to the draft strategy, released earlier this year, the board recognizes not all news is good news and that a plan needs to be in place to deal with the "big" or "tragic" stories. The goal is to take charge and tell the story first. The strategy is also designed to help change a perception board decisions are made behind closed doors. One of the suggested action plans is to prepare press releases on the general topics of in-camera meetings as well as encourage lively debate at the board table. It was suggested there is nothing wrong with "disagreeing, persuading and expounding" and that the public wants to know "how" a decision was reached. Shoup said the board, which meets in Squamish, will also be holding a couple of their regular monthly meetings in the northern communities. A meeting will likely be held in Whistler in April and one in Pemberton in May. "We want to go out to the communities and hope some people who don’t normally come will be able to attend." The school board is also working on setting up meetings with Pemberton, Whistler, Squamish and SLRD councils. Two years ago the board met with Whistler and Squamish councils but has not had occasion to get together with Pemberton or the SLRD. "We would really like to so that." Shoup said the meeting swill serve to open the lines of communication and identify needs and priorities. She said Squamish council is "very new" and the plan is to meet with that group once they have held their working session. "We hope we can get together with those groups in February or March." The board has, to date, had two meetings with West-Vancouver Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling and is working on setting up another. "We would like to meet with him on a regular basis," Shoup said. Notice of the board’s monthly meetings and agendas will be regularly be posted on their website at www.sd48.bc.ca. The board is also discussing posting the minutes of the meetings.