Theodora Lamb: Let’s put kids first at the Vancouver school board

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      By Theodora Lamb

      A year ago my son was born. A year and eight months ago, I started searching for childcare.

      This is a story so many Vancouver parents know and understand. The search was long, exhausting and dispiriting. I was met with invitations to add my name to the ends of waiting lists with no sense or knowing if I would ever reach the top. There were few affordable public options where my son could take his first steps—both literally and figuratively—into his early childhood education. And yet everywhere in the city, there were large elementary schools, many of which seismically unsafe and operating well below full capacity.

      They were built to be neighbourhood schools and learning hubs. But in this age of inadequate numbers of public daycare spaces, changing Vancouver demographics, and a housing affordability crisis, it meant these schools weren’t always including a whole community of kids.   

      While we searched the city in vain for a public option, the debate around seismic upgrades and the future of many public schools reached a fever pitch at the Vancouver school board table, in the community, and in the media. The provincial government levelled up the pressure and I watched in dismay as communications broke down, staff at the VSB took leave, and the board was fired.  

      Then a new provincial government was elected into office. It was a government that, for the first time in over a decade, pledged concrete action on the issues of childcare, comprehensive kindergarten through grade 12 funding, and the acceleration of seismic upgrades across Metro Vancouver. It was something I could get behind and I started to talk more with the people and communities around me about the sort of school board we wanted to see in the future. 

      We were looking for a board that would put children first. We wanted the next board to ensure teachers were supported so they could focus on the teaching and learning they were known internationally for delivering. And we were hoping the new board could move past the turmoil and antagonism that marked the relationship with the previous B.C. Liberal government. 

      I decided I needed to run, and to run with a party that has a long track record of advocacy for kids. I wanted to work to accelerate the district’s seismic program and take advantage of a critical opportunity to right-size our schools so they could become the learning hubs they were built to be and engage children of all ages. It’s a role I think I’m uniquely tasked to take on. 

      I have four years of governance experience from my service on the Vancity Credit Union board of directors. I also have close to a decade of experience working with diverse communities as an organizer and convener helping find consensus and build bridges when sometimes that just seemed impossible. And I bring an unwavering commitment to supporting public education and the staff and teachers who support our kids. 

      Now is a pivotal moment for Vancouver schools and all those who work to lift up public education in Vancouver. With a new government in Victoria and a reinvigorated seismic program, there’s an exciting opportunity to build new, right-sized schools that are well staffed and inclusive for all children—starting with early childcare education and growing from there on up.

      Theodora Lamb is a community organizer and candidate for Vancouver school board with Vision Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @TheoLamb.