Pique, Nov. 3, 2011
With 31 candidates running for council and mayor it's easy to overlook the four candidates running for two Whistler school trustee seats in this municipal election. But with 4,200 students, a budget closing in on $40 million and a long list of challenges ranging from budgets to the current job action, it's a serious job.
The candidates for that job include current trustees Chris Vernon-Jarvis, running for his third term, and Christine Buttkus, who was elected for the first time in 2008. The challengers are Riel Cairns and Rachael Lythe, both of whom are involved in the schools.
Chris Vernon-Jarvis said he was running for trustee to continue the work that's he's been immersed in since 2005.
In his last term, one of the big issues was reorganizing schools in Squamish to recognize demographics and the limited ability, particularly of the Squamish high schools, to host programs when the student body was divided into two groups. Starting this year, all Grade 8 and 9 students in Squamish will go to Don Ross Secondary as a designated Middle School, while all Grade 10, 11 and 12 students will attend Howe Sound Secondary.
As well, the board has been conducting a review of bullying policies and procedures, after it was reported in 2010 that older students at Howe Sound Secondary were forcing younger students to fight one another. The Board is also constantly updating schools to new provincial earthquake standards.
But one of the biggest priorities, said Vernon-Jarvis, is maintaining the school district's education plan. Although it's a dry read, Vernon-Jarvis said the plan maps out educational priorities for the district for the next 10 years or longer.
"In the end I have to stress that education is what we're all about and teaching children," he said. The plan was implemented last year, but Vernon-Jarvis said it would be updated with the new superintendent, Lisa McCullough.
And while budget issues are constantly a concern, Vernon-Jarvis said that the district is in better shape than other districts in B.C.
"Thanks to our staff that do a really impressive job, we've lived within our budget for the last six years I've been on the board, and managed to provide education to a level we expect and that we've improved on thanks to having a proper education plan," he said.
"We've improved on our test results on an annual basis, with is important. A lot of school boards never discuss education or results, but every year we get a list of who did what, how many graduated and how many had As and Bs... instead of just hearing the results, now we actually plan how students will be taught and how they will be assessed. And we have regular meetings with our principals to talk about the results, what's good and what could be improved, and every year we see an improvement in graduation results, which is very gratifying."