School divisions awash with rookie trustees

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Rookie school trustees — six of whom mounted successful campaigns that took out incumbents, including officials who have served for two decades — have earned more than half of all seats on Winnipeg’s public K-12 boards.

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Rookie school trustees — six of whom mounted successful campaigns that took out incumbents, including officials who have served for two decades — have earned more than half of all seats on Winnipeg’s public K-12 boards.

Fifty-two per cent of the incoming trustees in Winnipeg, River East Transcona, Seven Oaks, Louis Riel, Pembina Trails and St. James-Assiniboia are new.

Newbie Evan Krosney said he felt “excellent” after a long campaign ended with him becoming the first member of Gen Z to be elected to public office in the city.

Lois Brothers is among a group of nominees who mounted well-organized campaigns with similar themes. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We were victorious, but we were also first with the most votes of any trustee in Seven Oaks,” said the 25-year-old, who credited his hardworking team of volunteers who knocked on thousands of doors leading up to election day.

The co-chairman of the Friends of the West Kildonan Library Coalition said he will bring a fresh perspective to the board table, as both a recent high school graduate (Class of 2015) and engaged community member.

Seven Oaks is an outlier, given all but one of its seats were won by incumbents. RETSD is also welcoming back more experienced trustees than rookies, but there will still be three new faces on the governance team.

There is significant turnover in WSD, Pembina Trails, and Louis Riel — which have respective newbie-veteran ratios of: seven to two; six to three; and five to four.

Peter Kotyk, a long-serving leader who was temporarily barred from representing the RETSD board at convocations because he recently breached trustee COVID-19 protocols, was defeated after numerous consecutive wins.

Louis Riel’s Robert Page and Tom Parker, both of whom are retired educators, also lost their longtime seats. While Parker, a school board member since 2002, said his loss in St. Boniface is not “the end of the world,” the 82-year-old admitted he is disappointed because he loved being involved in education issues.

In Manitoba’s most highly populated district, three incumbents — Chris Broughton, Arlene Reid and Linda Schatkowsky — were defeated Wednesday.

The newly elected representative in Ward 2 said she was honoured to have been chosen and thanked Broughton for his years of service. “It’s not an easy job and to stick your neck out and run means you care,” Lois Brothers wrote in a Facebook message.

Brothers is among a group of nominees, including Marilyn Simon, Omar Rahimi, Ann Evangelista, Perla Javate, and Laurie Kozak, who mounted well-organized campaigns that raised eyebrows due to their similar websites and high-quality promotional videos.

Betty Edel, chairwoman of the central Winnipeg board in 2020-21 and 2021-22, would like to see rules around campaign fundraising introduced so there is more transparency in future school board races. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Free Press confirmed Kozak received campaign support via Toronto philanthropist Walter Schroeder, although none of the above contestants disclosed any connection to the generous donor who contributes millions to inner-city schools every year.

Evangelista and Javate have both joined the WSD board.

Following a nail-biting race between Kozak and Betty Edel, chairwoman of the central Winnipeg board in 2020-21 and 2021-22, the latter contestant prevailed.

Edel said she has congratulated all of the incoming trustees and is reflecting on the campaign. It is not lost on the trustee that while her ward has grown in population size since 2018, fewer people turned up to vote in 2022.

“I wasn’t really out in the community as much as I wanted to be (this term, because of COVID-19). I really want to make a concerted effort to be out in the community and to build relationships with people so they know who I am and how I can support them,” Edel said.

The North End leader added she wants to see rules around campaign fundraising introduced so there is more transparency in future school board races.

Neither of the contestants who gained notoriety for repeatedly breaking public health rules throughout the pandemic, Pembina Trails’ Todd McDougall and Patrick Allard in WSD — who ran against Edel and Kozak — came out on top.

The executive director of the Manitoba School Boards Association touted turnover on a cyclical basis because it can refresh institutions, although he said some trustee expertise is valuable because it allows for “stability and continuity”

Josh Watt, executive director of the Manitoba School Boards Association, says one-third of trustees across the province are typically new after an election. (Wayne Glowackie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Josh Watt said one-third of trustees across the province are typically new after an election.

As officials begin their terms, they can expect to engage in discussions around COVID-19 recovery learning, transitions to a provincial teacher bargaining model, and the province’s updated K-12 funding formula, anticipated to be released in early 2023.

“The other question in the longer term is: ‘What will happen with the education property tax?’ Right now, they’ve reduced it by half. We don’t know what the plans might look like for the other half that’s remaining,” Watt added.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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