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Trustees go to plan B for election

Education stakeholders encouraged to step up at all-candidates meetings

Howe Sound school trustee plans to hold an all-candidates meeting in the district that focuses exclusively on education issues have fizzled.

Instead, the board of school trustees has written an open letter to candidates telling them they are looking for an MLA who supports: public education; accountability for the achievement of all students; adequate, equitable and predictable funding and community based solutions to meet local needs.

"To this end we are planning to attend the all-candidates meetings scheduled for Squamish, May 10 and Whistler, May 5," reads the letter to candidates. "We plan to ask you where you stand on key issues in public education."

The board is also encouraging all local stakeholders in education attend one of the all-candidates meetings and pose their questions.

The B.C. School Trustees Association has been urging school districts throughout the province to host education-specific all-candidates forums in the run-up to the election. In the past school boards have shied away from becoming involved in provincial election campaigns but this time the BCSTA is telling trustees it is their duty to step up as "locally elected representatives responsible for ensuring that community values and interests are reflected in public schools."

The BCSTA went so far as to prepare a detailed how-to package to help trustees organize local forums.

But Whistler trustee Alix Nicoll, who had taken on the role of organizing such an event for the Howe Sound School District, said it fell through due to logistics.

"We looked at the logistics of trying to get a complete forum together plus the fact I was going to be away on vacation and we decided the easiest thing to do, which we have never tried before, is to send an open letter to the candidates." Nicoll said the intent was to buy space in all the local papers to run the letter and encourage other members of the education community to participate in the all-candidates gatherings to be held in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

"We felt this was using our communications plan to its best end but also making sure that everybody in the communities knows we really do think education is incredibly important."

Nicoll said the letter would also go out to the District Parent Advisory Council, the district’s CUPE local and the Howe Sound Teachers’ Association. She said fellow Whistler trustee Andrée Janyk will be updating Whistler PACs and encouraging them to send a representative to the all-candidates meeting with local questions and concerns.

"I think this is the first time we have really pushed to get education on the election agenda," said Nicoll. "We really do feel public education is very important in this election and that it has to be dealt with."