Janet Fraser: Looking back and looking forward at the VSB by-election

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      As a Green trustee candidate in the Vancouver school board (VSB) by-election on October 14 I reflect on the impact public education has had on my life and my family. 

      I look back to my public [state] school education in the U.K. and see how far it has taken me in earning a chemistry PhD, immigrating and working in Vancouver, as well as giving back as a community volunteer. And I look back to my oldest child starting kindergarten 14 years ago and now studying environmental engineering at the University of Northern British Columbia. Public education must create pathways to success for every student no matter who they are, where they live, or how much their parents earn. As a district we must find ways to support students and I’m proud that the only 2015-16 budget amendment was my motion to retain the anti-homophobia mentor position. 

      I look back to becoming a VSB trustee in 2014 knowing that our district would be facing major budget cuts yet I could not imagine that in 2016 I would vote against approving a balanced budget. I knew that even though our board could not stop the cuts I needed to take a stand to let it be known that the cuts would have too great an impact on our students. I look back knowing that I served Vancouver’s students with commitment and integrity. 

      Now as a candidate for re-election I also look forward. I look forward with optimism to an elected board working with a new provincial government that holds public education in high regard and understands the value of investing in our students to create a brighter future for our province. I want to see the elected board work together respectfully and collaboratively, no matter the make-up of the board, on the short and long-term challenges as well as the opportunities for improvement. 

      The VSB is facing classroom challenges with teacher recruitment and retention, in providing supports for students with special needs, in creating safe and welcoming classrooms for every student, and supporting students who live in poverty.

      It is facing facilities challenges with seismically unsafe schools, schools that do not have enough space for all neighbourhood students, cuts to French immersion intake, space for music and arts, and space for adult education programs. 

      And it is facing funding challenges—for teachers’ resources for the new curriculum, for elementary band and strings, for providing office support and education assistants—in fact, for trying to address two decades of cuts. 

      I look forward to continuing our district’s commitment to reconciliation to ensure that Aboriginal students have a sense of belonging and achieve success, and that all students have increased knowledge and appreciation of Aboriginal cultures and contributions. 

      We all look forward to a brighter future for public education in Vancouver and across the province. And in my family I also look forward to my two younger children graduating from high school, and to their and every Vancouver student’s pathways to success built upon their K-12 education.  

      In this by-election Vancouver will vote in nine VSB trustees who must bring stability and confidence to our district that on every school day is entrusted with the care and education of more than 50,000 students. Electing three Green trustees, myself, Estrellita Gonzalez and Judy Zaichkowsky, will bring experience and new ideas, our commitment to work collaboratively and with respect, and to always put students first.

      Janet Fraser has 10 years of experience in PAC leadership. She was first elected in 2014 and is running for reelection as a Green trustee. Follow her on Twitter @janetrfraser.