PORT McNEILL—The four candidates for Port McNeill’s two spots on School District 85’s Board of Trustees had two minutes each to share prepared opening statements at last week’s all-candidates meeting at the local Community Centre.
After that, the challenge began.
After introducing incumbent Werner Manke and fellow candidates David Jack, Rod Sherrell and Lyn Skrlac, moderator Jon Lok opened the floor to questions. After a long pause, Lok joked, nobody wants to go first, eh?
Then a woman stood from her seat, strode purposefully to the microphone and asked, “I’m curious, what was your personal position on the teacher’s strike that finished up in September?”
“Well, no softballs today,” Lok was moved to remark. “Right out of the gate.”
Manke, who lobbied during his current term to get a second trustee for Port McNeill, said he believed the teachers deserved a fair settlement. “We have to make sure our teachers are not only well-paid, but have opportunities to grow professionally,” he said.
Skrlac, a former trustee who is has a lifetime membership in the BC School Trustees Association, disagreed with lumping class size and class composition into a union contract. “I would like to see size and composition put in the hands of the people who work there,” she said. “Not only our teachers, but our staff and board trustees.”
Sherrell, a former director for the Regional District of Mount Waddington, said the main problem was that local school boards and trustees were excluded from the process. “We need to develop some new strategies that bring these questions back to our local school districts, back to our local boards, back to our local schools, teachers, and parents.”
Jack, the only candidate with no elected experience, drew laughter when he said that, as an employee of the BC Parks Service, “I have extensive experience in working with limited budget environments.” He grew disillusioned when the summer dragged on with no negotiations. “That concerns me the kids are being used as pawns in this,” he said. “It was just as important in July there was going to be no school in September as it was when the schools were actually closed, and that’s something that just shouldn’t be acceptable.”
Candidate profiles appeared in the Oct. 30 Gazette. They may be viewed at www.northislandgazette.com.