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Helping kids focus of school board trustee hopefuls

All-candidates meeting attracts sparse crowd

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Kids need more than anything to belong and be safe if they're to succeed in school -- after a career in inner-city schools, Myra Laramee knows that all too well.

"Belonging is missing for a lot of young people," Laramee told an all-candidates meeting Thursday night for Winnipeg School Division's Ward 2 held in Wolseley.

Ward 2 of Winnipeg School Division is the central part of WSD, including Wolseley, the West End, Downtown, Point Douglas and the North End.

There are seven candidates for three trustee positions.

Incumbents are Kristine Barr and Anthony Ramos.

Newcomers are Rolf Salfert, Myra Laramee, Cathy Collins, Kenny Moran and Bradley McKay.

Incumbent Cindy Gilroy-Price is running for a city council seat.

There are 50 school board trustee seats in play in Winnipeg in 20 wards in all or parts of seven school divisions. Seven seats in three wards have been filled by acclamation, and the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine has already held its election, which includes four seats in the DSFM urban ward.

There are gangs even in Wolseley, Laramee warned.

A child's mind, body and spirit are affected by what that child sees and hears, said Laramee, a retired nationally honoured aboriginal educator.

"We need more people who can put racism on the table," and deal with what holds children back, she said. "There are too many young people going back to school as adults," who should get their education the first time around, Laramee said.

The meeting Thursday evening appears to be the only all-candidate session scheduled anywhere in the city prior to Wednesday's municipal election.

Only 23 people old enough to vote were in the audience, including organizers from the Wolseley Residents Association and a handful of campaign workers.

Candidates were unfailingly civil, not one breath expended on attacking anyone else, candidates picking up each other's ideas on helping kids and running with them.

Incumbent Kristine Barr repeatedly cited the need to continue improving graduation rates. "What's been missing is strong engagement with community partners" to work with students, she said.

Fellow incumbent Anthony Ramos said role models are crucial -- his role model was Kevin Chief, who works with inner-city children for the University of Winnipeg and is a federal NDP candidate.

Cathy Collins, a rookie candidate who's spent three decades working in the arts community, urged that children need their creativity nurtured and stimulated. Collins adamantly opposes a tax freze, which she said would force service cuts. If a school tax increase bothers you, said Collins, measure the dollars in trips to Starbucks over a year and compare that to what the money achieves in school.

Just-retired teacher Rolf Salfert called for across-the-grades Canadian heritage courses and more teachers to reduce class sizes. The division needs a new high school in the northwest to ease overcrowding at Sisler High School, he said.

Candidate Bradley McKay, who works in security, called for parents and grandparents to volunteer in schools, and said Manitoba should rank its schools in order of some form of student achievement.

Seventh candidate Kenny Moran was working Thursday night.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2010 A6

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