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You’ll need a program to follow the SJA board

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Title: You’ll need a program to follow the SJA board



Wow, St. James-Assiniboia school board is going to be a whole different creature two months from now.


Four incumbents have retired, decades of experience and institutional knowledge are gone just like that — Bruce Alexander, Linda Archer, Peter Carney, Sandra Paterson-Greene.

There are 16 candidates for nine seats, only five of them incumbents. Just what those newcomers would like to do with the division, we’ll soon be finding out.

SJA has always had a reputation for having the city’s lowest school taxes — thanks considerably to a hefty commercial assessment base — though the mill rate has been climbing pretty close to some other city divisions’ mill rates.

SJA has closed a lot of schools as enrolment steadily declines, and there’d be more closed had the province not imposed a moratorium on school closures in 2008. The division has virtually no new housing, and very little turnover from empty nesters to young families.

SJA has clustered special education into a handful of schools, and it’s pumped money into giving each of its high schools a focus and identity — most noticeably the money spent on designating St. James Collegiate as an academy of science and technology.

Elsewhere, weird stuff in Seven Oaks, where one urban ward has eight candidates for four seats, and the other urban ward acclaimed all four incumbents, almost unheard-of within the city.

Two incumbents were acclaimed in one of the wards in Louis Riel.

Relatively small fields in both Pembina Trails and Louis Riel, 14 candidates and eight incumbents each.

It took a while for people to sign up in River East Transcona, but now there are 21 challengers for the eight seats within the city.

Winnipeg SD no longer has its huge fields of candidates that used to see double-digit lists in some wards, drawing 11 newcomers and eight incumbents.

It’s too early to know who all these people are, but we’ll be telling you soon about how we’re going to tell you who these people are.

I’ve noticed over the years that not all that many people try again after losing once. Still, some familiar names here and there, maybe half a dozen candidates who’ve tried before without winning, and some others who’ve held office previously and are back again.

Wayne Ritcher is a rarity, a defeated incumbent, who lost his seat in 2006 and is running again in River East Transcona. Former city councillor Shirley Timm-Rudolph is also running in RET, and I’m trying to recollect how many others have gone from city council to school board, other than George Marshall, an RET incumbent candidate.

Two former school board chairs who retired at previous municipal elections have decided to do the comeback thing, Ric Dela Cruz in Seven Oaks and Scott Johnston in St. James-Assiniboia.

And perennial candidate Bob Wilson is back again. He’s running in Louis Riel, which I believe is his sixth school board campaign in three divisions, his second try in LRSD. Wilson is a one-time MLA removed from office 30 years ago after being convicted on two drug charges, and ever since Wilson has claimed he was wrongfully convicted.

Wilson wrote to me announcing his candidacy this time around. It was a lengthy news release, in which Wilson asked me to send him copies of my education stories for the past 10 years, alleged that another candidate is in a conflict of interest because that candidate has some unspecified dealings with the education system, and alleges that opponents have somehow organized some members of the Catholic church to undermine his previous unsuccessful campaigns.

Here’s a sample paragraph from Wilson’s news release to me: "firner chairman of public accounts during PREMIER LYON government Thrifty Bob knows where the savings , lack of tenders can be addition in a former bitter battle with Law Society over grants which MLA BOB WILSON tried to transfer to Minister of Education still has merit...."

Meanwhile, it’s the smallest field throughout the city since amalgamation in 2002, 96 candidates for 52 seats, plus two incumbent Winnipeg candidates for the three seats in Seine River SD’s Ward 1, which takes in St. Norbert.

Maybe you considered running and didn’t put in your name, maybe something(s) deterred you — how about sharing your reasons for not running?

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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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