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St. James - Assiniboia: Kirkfield - St. Charles ward

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KIRKFIELD - ST. CHARLES WARD (3 to be elected)

Sandy Lethbridge

1. Are you an incumbent trustee? Have you served or run at other political levels? Are you running for a political party, and if so, which one?

This is my first time running for school trustee. I have never served or run for any political office nor am I running for a political party.

2. Do you have children enrolled in or graduated from this division? Are/were any of your children home-schooled, or enrolled in an independent school?

I have one daughter currently enrolled at John Taylor Collegiate. She also attended Lakewood Elementary and Hedges Middle School.

I personally attended Buchanan Elementary, Hedges Middle School and graduated from John Taylor Collegiate (Class of 1981)

I believe that if I did not have children not in the public school system, I would not have a vested interest in my school division.

3. List five issues which you believe your division’s school board will have to deal with in the next year, and state your position on these issues.

  1. Declining enrollment – St. James School Division has been a good division in maintaining schools saving taxpayers thousands of dollars. Surplus schools have been rented and or sold.
  2. Costs – Government funding has not kept up with government mandated courses.
  3. Curriculum – There is an increased pressure on teachers to deal with new curriculum for example the requirement for grade 11 and 12 physical education.
  4. Building maintenance – The St. James School Division has schools that are old. The division has done an excellent job of maintaining all schools and keeping up with technology for students, which is expensive.
  5. Shift in demographics- The St. James School Division is experiencing a shift in demographics as there are more children entering schools with English as their second language.

4. List your top five capital priorities for your division and which you would favor your board submitting to the province for funding, in descending order of priority.

Maintaining schools and upgrading the existing buildings is where capital money should be spent.

5. What percentage increase in annual salary would be appropriate for teachers in your division? Would you reduce, maintain or increase the number of teachers in your division?

An appropriate increase for teachers in the St. James Assiniboia School Division would be the cost of living. The number of teachers required in the division would be determined by the number of students in the schools.

6. Should the province lift its moratorium on school closings? Is or are there a school or schools in the division which should be reviewed for closure because of low enrolment? Which one(s)?

This is a very hard question to answer as the middle school my daughter was attending at that time (Hedges) was one of two schools slated for amalgamation. It was a very emotional time for all involved including the students, parents, the various committees, teachers, the school trustees and the division as a whole. While we don’t want our taxes to go up we also do not want schools to be running below sustainable capacity.

The constituents of St. James Assiniboia should make these decisions.

7. Would you accept the province’s tax incentive grant and agree to freeze property taxes, even if it meant cutting jobs, services or programs?

The decision should be made based on what is best for the students of St. James Assiniboia School Division at the time of the offer.

8. Would you increase property taxes? If so, what percentage increase is acceptable and for what specific reason(s)?

I am a candidate for school trustee and currently unable to answer that question. All the needs and issues must be discussed prior to a decision. When I am able to sit in these meetings I will be able to answer that question.

9. Do you believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy? Should "failed" students repeat a school year? Should students be docked marks for late assignments?

If a student is unable to meet the requirements for a particular grade, the teacher, principal and the parents should discuss as to whether they feel the student should move ahead. There are a number of students put ahead when they are not ready, which becomes more difficult for the student. I have spoken to parents who felt their children were not ready to move up, but were moved up against the parents’ wishes.

Students are not learning about responsibility and deadlines if they are not required to hand in assignments on time without suffering a mark loss.

10. Do you believe in standardized tests? For what subjects and grades? What proportion of the final mark should they should be worth?

Standardized tests allow our teachers and administrators to gauge if students are being provided the correct course information to be in line with other students in the province or country.

Teresa Pitzel

1. Are you an incumbent trustee? Have you served or run at other political levels? Are you running for a political party, and if so, which one?

I am not an incumbent and I am not running for a political party. I have never previously run for public office.

2. Do you have children enrolled in or graduated from this division? Are/were any of your children home-schooled, or enrolled in an independent school?

I believe that our public school system is very good and that children can obtain a first rate education within our division. However, because of my beliefs, my children graduated from religious schools.

3. List five issues which you believe your division’s school board will have to deal with in the next year, and state your position on these issues.

  1. Personal safety – I feel that a safe environment for students and staff, one free of physical violence, bullying or intimidation, is of paramount importance. All forms of violence impact staff and students. We need to do more to ensure the safety of everyone in our buildings.
  2. Decreased funding – In these days of constant budget tightening, every dollar counts, and tough decisions have to be made. I believe that every choice, and every decision for every dollar spent has to be made with a ‘children first’ mentality.
  3. Insufficient reading materials – Classrooms need to have enough textbooks for students; libraries require current material for pleasure reading and researching.
  4. Buildings/property maintenance - Building and property infrastructure are aging, and resources need to be allocated in order to maintain the highest standards possible.
  5. Computer/smart phones – Students need to have a balanced education, and it’s vital that technology play an active part in it. Not only do students need to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic, they need access to the latest technology in order to be competitive in the real world. That being said, I believe Cell phones need to be removed from the classroom, as the distractions they produce do not lead to an environment that is conducive to learning.

4. List your top five capital priorities for your division and which you would favour your board submitting to the province for funding, in descending order of priority.

  1. Technology upgrades across the division
  2. Badly needed upgrades to our Heating and Air Conditioning systems
  3. Upgrades to our buildings and infrastructure
  4. Parking Lots and pick up/drop off zones improvements
  5. Green Initiatives

5. What percentage increase in annual salary would be appropriate for teachers in your division? Would you reduce, maintain or increase the number of teachers in your division?

Increases for all staff should be in line with the cost of living (Consumer Price Index). We want to be able to attract and retain quality teachers for our children’s education. The number of teachers in our school division should be based strictly on the actual Student to Teacher ratio. This ratio level should be set at a level that ensures each child receives a quality education.

6. Should the province lift its moratorium on school closings? Is or are there a school or schools in the division which should be reviewed for closure because of low enrolment? Which one(s)?

The province should lift this moratorium, as the school divisions, and the citizens who live in them, are in the best position to make these decisions. Any school closure review should not be taken lightly, and I believe that the public needs to be consulted fully, and every avenue explored for possibilities, before any such decision would be made.

7. Would you accept the province’s tax incentive grant and agree to freeze property taxes, even if it meant cutting jobs, services or programs?

I would be against any cuts that jeopardize our children’s education. Cutting jobs, services, and programs, could have an impact on education that would be detrimental to our future generations.

8. Would you increase property taxes? If so, what percentage increase is acceptable and for what specific reason(s)?

As school board trustees, property tax increases are not solely our responsibility. However, I do feel that both the school board and the city need to be committed fully to investing in our children. These kids are our future, and every effort necessary should be undertaken to ensure they have every advantage they need to succeed. If a small increase of 1-2% (either in education or property tax assessment) was ultimately decided to be necessary in order to safeguard this investment, than I would be in favour.

9. Do you believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy? Should "failed" students repeat a school year? Should students be docked marks for late assignments?

I do not believe in the no-fail policy. What incentive does this give a student? A student who fails should repeat the year in early or middle school years. A student in high school should be required to successfully complete all compulsory courses. Students need to acquire sufficient credits to graduate. Any optional courses that may be failed should be replaced with other credit hours.

It is vital that our school system prepare our students for life outside of school. As such, it is important that a proper work ethic is instilled at a young age. We do our children no favours when we allow them to miss deadlines or skip assignments without consequence.

10. Do you believe in standardized tests? For what subjects and grades? What proportion of the final mark should they should be worth?

Yes I do believe in standardized testing as one litmus test of success. I think that exams should be administered in grade 5, as well as throughout grades 8 to12 in the compulsory core subjects. The proportion of the overall grade that exams should be worth is 25% of the final mark.

Bruce Chegus

1. Are you an incumbent trustee? Yes, I am an incumbent trustee. Have you served or run at other political levels? I have not run for office at any other polical level. Are you running for a political party, and if so, which one? I am not running for a polical party.

2. Do you have children enrolled in or graduated from this division? I have one child who is a graduate of the SJS Division.. Are/were any of your children home-schooled, or enrolled in an independent school? No to all.

3. List five issues which you believe your division’s school board will have to deal with in the next year, and state your position on these issues.

  1. Succession planning at the local school level - It will be very important for the Board to work in collaboration with the Division team to ensure the highest quality school administrators are apppointed to replace those who are retirng in the next several years;
  2. Succession planning in senior adminstration ranks at SJS Division office - The Board willl need to paly a major leadership role in ensuring the appropriate succession planing in the Division office is in place for key management roles that may be vacated due to retirements;
  3. Declining enrolment - The Board must continue to take a leadership role is dealing with the dealing with the implications of decling enrolment in the SJS division particularly as it impacts provincial funding since operating costs may not significantly decline even though enrolment may have declined;
  4. Program review - The Board must ensure the core programming at all levels is maintained so student needs are met while being fiscally responsible in its approach to any review of current programs;
  5. School infrastructure review - Schools in the SJS Division are aging as all were built at least 40 years ago. The Board is fortunate to have a capital reserve set aside which is available to assist with capital improvements so appropriate use of this reserrve will need to be considered based on the Divison's long-term plan re capital improvements.

4. List your top five capital priorities for your division and which you would favour your board submitting to the province for funding, in descending order of priority.

  1. Building maintenance includingroof repair,
  2. parking lot repair,
  3. heating/ cooling systems up-grades,
  4. washroom up-dating. The Division is not growing so there are no new buildings being to be built so keeping our current school sites in good repair will be our top priority.
  5. If the moratorium on school closure is lifted this may result in the need for capital improvments to a particular school site arising from the merger of two ro more schools in the SJS Division.

5. What percentage increase in annual salary would be appropriate for teachers in your division? Would you reduce, maintain or increase the number of teachers in your division?

A percentage increase regarding teacher salaries in keeping with annual inflation increases (i.e.CPI) would be appropriate bearing in mind annual provincial funding would be a factor that would need to be considered. The number of teachers in SJS Division should be based on a presribed unit staffing formula. Possible reductions in professional staffing will, for example,be achieved due to teacher retirements.

6. Should the province lift its moratorium on school closings? Is or are there a school or schools in the division which should be reviewed for closure because of low enrolment? Which one(s)?

Yes, the moratorium on school closures shoud be lifted. Prior to the moratorium being implemented, the Board had initiated a review of the Ness and Hedges Middle Schools. The Board would like the opportunity to consider the recommendations of the review which was conducted by a review commitee comprised of parents, teachers and community members from the two schools. The low enrolment at both schools has continued since the school review was completed several years ago.

7. Would you accept the province’s tax incentive grant and agree to freeze property taxes, even if it meant cutting jobs, services or programs?

The tax incentive grant (TIG) is to be considered on a year to year basis based on the size of the grant the Division may qualify for and the amount of expenditures, including possible cuts to services and programs, that would need to be considered in order to qualify for the TIG. Freezing taxes generally would not be an acceptable option since to do so would put SJS Division at risk in future years of having to make a large 'one time' tax increase which would generally not be acceptable to the taxpayers in our community.

8. Would you increase property taxes? If so, what percentage increase is acceptable and for what specific reason(s)?

Property taxes regarding education generally should be increased on a reasonale basis taking into account such factors as inflation and provincial funding specific to the Division. The SJS Division has been advocating for more provincial funding to cover operating costs. To the extent there is a shortfall in provincial funding to cover operating costs for a particular division, it is necessary to increase local taxes accordingly which may not be sustainable in the long term.

9. Do you believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy? Should "failed" students repeat a school year? Should students be docked marks for late assignments?

The 'no-fail' policy has some merit in ensuring students in public schools remain in school to attend their classes amongst their peers. That said, it is important to ensure that assessment practices and differentiated instruction methods are in place so that students who require assistance to improve their school performance receive the appropriate support and attention in the classroom.

10. Do you believe in standardized tests? For what subjects and grades? What proportion of the final mark should they should be worth?

I believe in standaridized tests at the Grade 12 level. The current provincial requirements are appropriate where the results in the standards tests accounting for 30% of the students' final grades. The Grade 3 assessment is not a standarized test but rather is a positive means to assess student performance in numeracy and reading which all would agree are very important skills that need to be assessed in order to identify possible areas for improvement. Middles years students should also be assessed with a focus on key competencies including math, reading and writing.

Replied after deadline:

Eric Holland

1. Are you an incumbent trustee? Have you served or run at other political levels? Are you running for a political party, and if so, which one?

I am not an incumbent Trustee. No, I have not run at other political levels. No, I am not running for any political party.

2. Do you have children enrolled in or graduated from this division? Are/were any of your children home-schooled, or enrolled in an independent school?

Our two children attended and graduated from St. James-Assiniboia School Division schools. Our daughter went on to receive her Bachelor of Nursing degree from the U of M and our son is in his fourth year of studies at the U of W. Neither of our children were home schooled or enrolled in an independent school.

3. List five issues which you believe your division’s school board will have to deal with in the next year, and state your position on these issues.

  1. I realize it is probably sounding repetitive by now, but I believe the Board must continue to press the government to remove the moratorium on school closure.
  2. Continuing to operate schools with enrolments well below capacity but with full staffing and programs will require the Board to become innovative and look within their current budget to find the necessary funds.
  3. A challenge for the Board will be to balance the need to remain within the budget and yet provide our teachers with sufficient increase in pay to remain competitive with other Divisions. We need to have salaries and benefits which the Division can afford, while being sufficient to attract and retain the brightest educators.
  4. The Board will see long term Trustees retiring this year after many years of dedicated service. The challenge will be to continue to operate as an effective Board, while allowing the time necessary for new Trustees to get up to speed on current issues and become contributing members of the Board.
  5. The Board will continue to struggle to meet the financial cost relating to the Department of Education policy of inclusion. Some funding is provided by the Department for special needs students but most often it is not sufficient and School Divisions must come up with funds to cover the shortfall.

4. List your top five capital priorities for your division and which you would favor your board submitting to the province for funding, in descending order of priority.

  1. Like other candidates I feel capital budget money must be allocated to ensure school facilities are maintained and in good repair.
  2. More energy efficient ways of heating, cooling and lighting our schools.
  3. Create safer and more efficient school bus and passenger car loading/unloading zones at schools.
  4. Setting aside funds to upgrade school buildings which will require extensive renovation/expansion at a time when the moratorium on school closure is removed and two schools may merge into one building.
  5. Outdoor recreation space is most often sub-standard. Playing fields are not well maintained and often have depressions and ruts which create an unsafe play area. We need to encourage our young people to become and remain active and therefore our play areas should be levelled and regularly maintained.

5. What percentage increase in annual salary would be appropriate for teachers in your division? Would you reduce, maintain or increase the number of teachers in your division?

Salary increases should at least keep up with the cost of living. Salaries and benefits should not be permitted to fall behind other divisions. This will make it difficult to recruit and retain quality educators. The number of teachers employed by the Division should be tied to enrolment numbers. Should a decrease in the number of teachers become necessary, I would support achieving this through attrition.

6. Should the province lift its moratorium on school closings? Is or are there a school or schools in the division which should be reviewed for closure because of low enrolment? Which one(s)?

Yes, I support ending the moratorium. The cost of operating schools with full staffing and programs while enrolment is far below capacity is draining funds from the Division budget unnecessarily. This of course should only be considered as a last resort and only after consultation with students, parents and the community. The only schools I am aware of which are being considered for amalgamation are Ness and Hedges schools.

7. Would you accept the province’s tax incentive grant and agree to freeze property taxes, even if it meant cutting jobs, services or programs?

I don’t believe we should be looking at ways to cut services and programs to students. If a reduction in teacher positions becomes necessary due to continued decreases in enrolment, I feel that should be achieved through natural attrition. Also, a freeze on hiring additional Division senior managers and support staff should be put in place with an aim to perhaps eliminate some of those positions, again through attrition. Before considering raising taxes I feel the Board should be looking inward to determine how it can work toward balancing the books through reduced spending and other creative ways to raise revenue.

8. Would you increase property taxes? If so, what percentage increase is acceptable and for what specific reason(s)?

Clearly I would prefer that taxes not rise. I believe cost savings can be achieved with a little creative thinking on the part of the Board. If it appears a tax increase is necessary to maintain cutting edge programming and facilities, it should be a small increase in the area of 1%. Our ward has an aging population and seniors living on fixed incomes will find additional taxes difficult.

9. Do you believe in the so-called no-fail, social promotion policy? Should "failed" students repeat a school year? Should students be docked marks for late assignments?

I understand what a no-fail policy is intended to achieve, but I really don’t believe it is preparing our young people to go out into "the real world". When they enter university, college or the workforce, excuses will no longer be made for them and they will be required to perform. If a student is struggling academically, I feel additional assistance should be made available to improve the student’s marks, but if they are still below a passing grade I believe they should be held back. An article on this topic appeared in the Winkler Times and even though it may be simplifying things a bit, I feel it is accurate – "Imagine what would happen if driver education instructors adopted social promotion policies. Suppose all student drivers received their licenses regardless of whether or not they knew how to drive a car or knew the rules of the road. Think of the harm done to the self-esteem of young drivers who failed to pass their driver's exam and were unable to drive at the same time as their peers. Yes, indeed, it would be embarrassing for some adolescents to fail their tests, but, any loss of self-esteem or embarrassment that these adolescents may feel is better than the alternative of having incompetent drivers…Would people be prepared to accept social promotion in driver education programs simply to preserve the self-esteem of adolescents? We think not. Being certain that people learn how to drive safely is more important than their embarrassment, frustration, or self-esteem. Ensuring that they receive a driver's license, regardless of their knowledge or driving ability, would severely undermine the credibility of the license. Why do we expect less from public schools than from driving schools?...Surely, there must be specific ways of knowing that students actually possess the required knowledge and skills at certain levels of proficiency. Allowing students to enter the next grade in school, regardless of their performance, undermines the credibility of the public education system…"

Yes, I feel students should have consequences for missed or late assignments.

10. Do you believe in standardized tests? For what subjects and grades? What proportion of the final mark should they should be worth?

Yes, I support standardized testing in the core subjects. This method of testing assures that students are objectively scored. I feel standardized testing could be beneficial at all three levels of schooling, but to better prepare our students to move on to post secondary education and enable universities and colleges to more accurately and objectively assess students wishing to study there, students in grade 12 and perhaps grade 11 should be tested this way and these marks should represent no less than 25% of the final mark.

Did not respond:

Ted Hull

Cheryl Smukowich

History

Updated on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 12:03 PM CDT: Adds responses for Eric Holland, who responded after the deadline.

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