Do you feel school board policies reflect the values of Central Okanagan communities?
I recognize that the school board, like any government institution, is in the difficult position of trying to make families and students from a variety of backgrounds and with different priorities feel heard and represented. School board policies may be spot on for some groups but not for others. There is no way to make everyone happy with every policy. The important thing is for adequate consultation with the school and community and decisions aren’t based on the values of the trustees alone. The school board needs to be transparent about their consultation process and ensure that ALL voices are heard.
In what way, if any, are parents not given the opportunity to play a role in their child’s education?
In my experience many parents will make specific requests for their child, such as class placement. Often requests are not heeded except in exceptional circumstances as it would be too difficult to manage all requests. This can give parents a feeling that decisions are mostly random and not chosen in consideration for what would be in the best interest of each child. As a parent, when a teacher explains the rationale for team-based decisions or invites input from a parents – this is invaluable. Trustees can create a culture of collaboration that will encourage all faculty to do the same. As a parent, I view myself as the primary educator and the school is there to support my student’s learning. In reality, the school makes all the decisions. As a trustee, I want to support parents to play an important role in their child’s education. Education is a collaboration!
What is the Central Okanagan School District doing well or not doing well to allow our students to become productive adults?
I love that in recent years there has been more attention on the psycho-social wellbeing and coping skills. School isn’t just about learning how to succeed academically. To be productive adults, students need to know how to cope with the stressors of life and have strong social skills. Although there is much still to be done, I appreciate that the school district has made significant strides to ensure that safe spaces exist and that there is more awareness of bullying and the prevalence of mental health issues. I hope that our district could ensure that students of all backgrounds feel safe. Also, offering a variety of programs that can help students be set up for success is important. Programs such as French Immersion, trades and arts programs are other ways to support students in becoming productive adults. The development of more “adulting” readiness classes would be hugely beneficial to students.
4) What role should our education system play in supporting students facing gender identification issues?
Our education system needs to support all students that are struggling. Our schools need to teach and expect respectful interactions between all students, faculty and parents. Students struggling with gender identification issues are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. Schools need to be aware of the signs of mental health concerns in their students and be prepared to support the students and their family. Our education system needs to be careful to allow students to explore all the aspects of who they are without making them feel that they need to categorize themselves. Schools need to be a safe place for all.