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Adventures in trusteeland

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You’ve really got to wonder about the future of school boards in Manitoba.

My story this week  tells you how Prairie Spirit School Division spent months trying without success to find someone, anyone, to represent the Glenboro-Cypress River area on the school board, even opening it up to the entire division, without finding any takers. Word now is that someone has finally stepped forward.

As the story tells, several other divisions have had adventures trying filling all their seats.

Last fall, more than half the school board seats in Manitoba were either filled by acclamation or had no candidates at all. The latter were filled later by appointment.

Winnipeg had the fewest candidates since amalgamation for the 61 urban seats available in all or part of eight divisions.

Take away the seats in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, and maybe one-quarter of the seats in the rest of Manitoba were contested. Even a place as big as Selkirk acclaimed five of its nine seats.

Then there are the trustees who are bailing after just a few months. Joyce Bateman resigned in Winnipeg School Division to become an MP, and going on four months later, the division has yet to schedule a byelection. Mike Ducharme will have to resign in Louis Riel S.D. if he registers as a candidate in the St. Vital city council byelection. Jim Murray will have to leave Brandon school board if he wins a provincial seat Oct. 4.

Then there’s the curious case of former trustee Daniel Mazier, re-elected last October by acclamation to one of the rural seats in Minnedosa-based Rolling River S.D. He resigned in the spring, and there’ll be a byelection next month.

When I called to find out why he stepped down, Mazier left a voice mail message indicating it was a combination of his job as vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, and of no longer having children in the system. Mazier said that his youngest graduated in June, so he thought he’d give someone else a chance.

OK, so you know in October when you choose to run for office that you’ve got a child in Grade 12 who’ll graduate barely halfway through your first year in office of a four-year term, you know there’s no requirement to have children in public school in order to serve as a school trustee, but then you decide there’s no point in serving if you don’t have kids in school — why would you go and get elected, serve only six or seven months, and then saddle your former constituents with the cost of a byelection?

And I’m keeping my eye on one rural division, where disgruntled residents say that a trustee has bought a condo in Winnipeg and no longer lives in the division that the trustee represents.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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