West Vancouver school trustee hopefuls debate

THREE incumbents faced off against three hopefuls as the school trustee candidates took the stage for a debate at the Kay Meek Centre Thursday.

With less than a month until five trustees are chosen in the Nov. 19 election, current trustees Jane Kellett, Cindy Dekker and Dave Stevenson discussed education and administration with candidates Carolyn Broady, Reema Faris and Christine Banham.

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Kellett cited her experience in education at the provincial and municipal level, as well as the accomplishments of the current board.

"Our enrolment continues to increase," she said, noting the downward enrolment trend in the province.

Broady echoed Kellett's high assessment of West Vancouver schools, but said attention must be paid to students who sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

"I especially want to make sure we don't lose sight of the 80 per cent in the middle," she said. "One thing we can do better is create more career counselling at an early age."

On the subject of technology in the classroom, Faris, a teaching assistant at Simon Fraser University, said the board needed to be careful that the new digital learning environment doesn't replace fundamental parts of the existing curriculum.

Dekker lauded the chemistry of current school board. "We work well together," she said, noting the working relationships she's built with community members and different levels of government.

When asked about students from neighbouring communities attending West Vancouver schools, Dekker said it was not a problem.

"All of our children get first dibs," she said.

Stevenson listed his experience and his ability to extract funds from Victoria as his primary qualifications.

Banham called on council to prepare students for the future. "I'm going to ask the administration: What keys are you giving our students?" she said.

Faris and Broady both said they had attended several school board meetings in recent years. Banham said she had not been to a meeting.

"I understand they're not very well attended," she said. Tuition paid by international students has created a revenue stream in West Vancouver, but it's not a stream that can be increased in the near future, according to Kellett.

"I don't think we can increase the number of foreign students we have," she said.

Responding to a question from the audience, Broady stated her support for teachers.

"I do believe they are deserving of a raise," she said. When asked about merging West and North Vancouver school districts, Stevenson replied, "No."

The incumbent described West Vancouver's contract as "lean and family-friendly."

The next school trustees debate is scheduled to take place at Sentinel secondary on Nov. 3, beginning at 7: 30 p.m.

newsroom@nsnews.com

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