Voters will have another familiar name on the ballot for school trustee this election season.
And if elected for a fourth term as a school trustee, Rachael Lythe wants to continue working to improve student transportation, graduation rates, and mental health in Whistler schools.
Lythe has lived in Whistler most of her life, moving to the resort in 1996, and currently works as a wedding and event planner.
First elected in 2011, she has served three terms (over a span of 11 years) as one of Whistler’s school trustees.
“I feel my experience is important, because we have three long-term trustees not seeking re-election," Lythe said. "So it's important to have continuity and stability on the board."
Lythe currently sits on the Sea to Sky School District's policy, Indigenous education, and finance committees. In addition to her committee work, she serves as the alternate representative for the BC Public School Employers' Association, School Trustees Association, and bargaining committee with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
If re-elected, Lythe said she wants to continue working on the policy committee, especially as the board moves to work on facilities and planning and implementing policies. She noted transportation of students has become more of an issue lately due to a shortage of school bus drivers.
Lythe believes the district needs to look at collaborative models with public transit to ensure that everyone's getting transportation covered.
Additionally, Lythe wants to continue working on implementing the Pathways to Learning education plan that was created in 2012, and pointed to the plan's success at increasing graduation rates, especially among First Nations students. However, she admits there is more work to be done.
“We refreshed [Pathways to Learning] in 2018, and will be engaging in a refresh for the strategic plan in 2024-25,” she said.
“The biggest thing that's come out of the change to programming is student success, because we've really increased our graduation rate, and in particular, our Indigenous graduation rates, to be the highest in the province. So that's a huge achievement.”
Lythe also wants to see progress made in helping students who are struggling with their mental health, noting that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt among many of the students across the district.
“One issue that's come up, especially through COVID, would be mental health, and there has certainly been more awareness made of issues in students in elementary and secondary school. We have to look at it seriously over the next term and what we can do to manage that,” she said.
“I think a lot of schools are focusing on it to help students be more aware of their feelings and why they may be feeling that way. If we don't have mentally well students, they're not going to achieve the results that we want them to achieve.”
SD48 covers an area from Furry Creek to Anderson Lake, with 5,138 students in 15 schools. The district employs 885 staff and has a total budget of $71,844,525 as of 2022.
More information on school trustee elections can be found here.
Whistlerites head to the polls on Oct. 15.