Five candidates are running for three spots in Zone 3 and two candidates are running for one spot in Zone 1. Jaret Thompson (incumbent), Darrell Pasichnyk (incumbent), Jeffery Richert, Bill Snow and Geoff Bough are running in Zone 3 and Tanya Clary and Linda Sewell-Stringer (incumbent) in Zone 1.
Candidates in the other zones were unopposed and therefore selected by acclamation. Zone 2 will be represented by Erin Evans, Zone 3 by Candace Dow and Zone 4 by Ida Campbell.
During the All Candidates Forum at the Legion Wednesday night a number of local residents brought forward issues for all the candidates. One of the biggest topics was classroom size and composition, a major topic during the recent teachers strike.
Current Zone 1 Trustee Linda Sewell-Stringer believes this is complex issue and that it’s even more complex in small and rural communities. Larger School Districts have more flexibility when it comes to moving students if a classroom is over crowded, while District like School District 60 don’t have the same options. Tanya Clary is running against Sewell-Stringer in Zone 1 and believes more work needs to be done to lobby and inform the Provincial Government of the unique issues in our region. Clary has seen classroom sizes balloon during her time in Fort St. John and believes it will only get worse with possible development in the Peace region.
Another hot topic was the Provincial cuts to funding for bussing students. Current Board Chair Jaret Thompson says trustees have been working hard to lobby the government to change the current funding system that has left the District with a $400,000 shortfall in the transportation budget. Incumbent trustee Darrell Pasichnyk says the Province knows there are flaws in the new funding formula, but won’t make any changes. Zone 3 candidate Bill Snow says bussing is an import part of the education system, especially in rural communities and new creative ideas need to be put forward to help fund the current budget.
The other big topic was the need for new schools in Fort St. John. School District 60 has seen constant increases in enrolment each year, while almost every other School District in the Province has seen enrolment dropping. All the candidates agreed more needs to be one to convince the Provincial Government to fund new schools in Fort St. John, including help from parents and the community at large.
An audience member also asked if the candidates were elected, what would they do to change the current school system. Zone 3 candidate Jeffery Richert believes solutions need to come from local dialogue and conversations with all the stakeholders. Bill Snow says the Board needs to work harder at communicating with staff, unions, parents and students. He believes the Board needs to ask for more input from the community.
Your next chance to vote is November 12, during the last advanced polling day. You can vote for Zone 1 at the Peace River Regional District Office in Fort St. John and for Zone 3 at the Pomeroy Sport Centre from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On general election day, you can vote for Zone 1 candidates at the Cecil Lake Community Hall. In Zone 3, you can vote at the Pomeroy Sport Centre, Charlie Lake Elementary School, Wonowon School and Halfway Graham Community Hall. All the polls on election day are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.