Leading up to the school board trustee election on October 16, 2day FM posed two questions to the candidates running for the Grande Prairie Public School District board. Their responses are listed in alphabetical order and are unedited. They have not been fact checked and 2day FM is not responsible for any errors or inaccuracies.

Q: Why are you running to be a board trustee and why should residents vote for you?

Tim Burnham

A: I want to put students first with quality education, effective communication and strong local advocacy. But, what does that mean?

First, I believe it is important that the School Board make all of its decisions with the view of what is best for the students and their education. There are many factors that can be looked at when making a decision. Student’s should be the most important one.

Second, I believe that education is very important, and that all students in the Grande Prairie Public School district are entitled to a quality education. A quality education not only includes the basics of numeracy and literacy, but also engages the students, helps them understand these concepts in the broader view of their lives and communities and engages students so that they become lifelong learners, which in turn will set them up for success in their future endeavors.

Third, I believe that to achieve this the School Board and its members need to effectively communicate. To achieve its goals for the students the School Board will be required to effectively communicate with the students, the parents, the teachers, the non-teaching staff members, the administration, local and provincial government and the community. Effective communication will involve listening to the concerns of the students and others as well as keeping them informed of the work and decisions the School Board has made. Having Board members who are skilled in communication can be very helpful in this regard.

Fourth, I believe that it is important for the School Board to be a strong local advocate for public education in Grande Prairie. There are only so many resources available to schools in the Province. It will take consistent and effective advocacy on behalf of Grande Prairie students to ensure that our districts needs are met now and in the future. The Grande Prairie Public School District is not the largest in the Province, and we are not always top of mind for the politicians in Edmonton and Calgary. The School Board will need to find ways to continually advocate for our students and schools here so that they are not forgotten.

Lastly, there are many issues that the School Board Trustees will be asked to deal with, and some can be quite divisive. It is important to me that the School Board take a balanced approach towards all issues so that the students’ education is not overshadowed by a narrow view on a few issues. My legal background and mediation experience will assist me in understanding issues from all sides and then find ways to build consensus and make decisions in the best interest of the students.

JoAnn Cazakoff

A: Serving as a Trustee is not much different that any other municipal or provincial elected official . As a health care professional for the last fifteen years the call to serve is deeply engrained and the purpose of being a helpful contributing member of my community . We are all engaged in some way to make Grande Prairie a great place to live whether you coach a sports team , volunteer at a fundraising event or donate to the local food back .My call to duty is to be the voice and advocate for public education .

Lesley Craig

A: The reason I am running to be a Public School Board Trustee is because I believe in the importance of quality education for every student. Grande Prairie has such a young and vibrant demographic – we have more children under 5 years old than we do citizens over 65 yrs! That’s a big responsibility to ensure that we are managing our education funds and resources in the best possible way to serve our community. I feel that the GP Public School Board has done a great job in managing this City’s growth over the years and I would like the opportunity to be there to help foster improvement in our system- and fulfill the mission statement “Every Student Succeeds”. I want to see manageable class sizes, available support staff for teachers, and nutritional programs where they are needed by students as a priority for the Public School Board.

Residents should vote for me because I have the business and financial background to help manage the Public School Board like a business, a big heart to care about how the policy decisions will affect the students, parents, and teachers, and a tremendous amount of experience working with policy governance boards to be able to get right to work without a lot of extra training! I would work hard to keep channels of communication open between our stakeholders (students and teachers) and the Public School Board so that we are always making the best decision for all students!

Sarah Dennis

A: I am running for School board to try to make a change. I believe schools should be a well-rounded place to learn, and a safe place to learn for all students. I am wanting to make sure key programs stay in school, like the arts, music and sports. These programs are vital to schools, and allow students to learn to work on teams, and learn dedication. I am also a big supporter of GSA’s in schools. All students deserve a place where they can talk and be themselves without judgement.

Lynn Driedger

A: I want to be a trustee so I can join a group of like-minded people who will encourage and build up our hard-working academic team and provide the tools needed to help bring our students to their full potential. To accomplish this I believe in a high-standard of academics, communication, student and parent participation, and collective accountability.

I am here as an advocate parents and want to ensure that they are heard and honoured in the decisions we make and the policies to follow. I would like to work towards an improved relationship between students, teachers and parents, building mutual respect and invested participation.

Teachers are passionate, dedicated and gifted in providing such a critical service to our children, families and community. I want to ensure that they get the utmost support, appreciation and encouragement that we can offer as a board and as a community. I am old school when it comes to education being a privilege, respecting your teachers and working hard for good outcomes.

In the classroom I believe in getting back to basic and providing a stable and trustworthy curriculum, not a “let’s try it out and see’ approach to the detriment of our kids. I will be an advocate on issues such as reduced class sizes, an increase in teacher aides, support for special needs, teacher retention and accountability.

Schools of choice are such an asset to Grande Prairie from French Immersion to Schools of Faith, Sports Academies to Homeschooling and everything in between. They all bring something unique and valuable to our community.

People should vote for me if they believe in what I stand for. In developing my perspective on an issue, assisting in developing policy and how I conduct myself will be filtered through the ideals I hold close to guide me which are compassion, integrity, morality, honesty and encouragement.

Steve Harvel

A: There are several reasons why I’ve put my name forward to be a Public School Board Trustee. After 35 years as an educator I feel I have the experience and the time to put into advocating for public education. Educating our youth is the most powerful tool we have to ensure our growth as a community. Public education is the great equalizer for our youth. It gives them the opportunity to be knowledgeable and opens doors for them to attain their goals. Knowledge is like a gold mine: the more you have, the richer you are.

I want to be in a position to help our District grow by supporting our students, staff and parents. I would like to be an effective liaison between our district and the community of Grande Prairie. What is good for our community is also good for our school district.

Voters who are looking for a candidate who is enthusiastic, experienced, trustworthy and willing to give the time to address the challenges that will face us in the next few years, should consider me for public school board trustee.

Brenda Howard

A: I am running to be a board trustee because I have a passion for education. The most important thing we can give our children is a good education. I think residents should vote for me because I have already had my six children go through this school system. I am raising 4 grandchildren who are still in the system. I also have 2 other grandchildren in the school system and so I definitely want the system to be great. I have a vested interest in making sure that the Grande Prairie Public School District continues to get better, not just for my grandchildren, but for all the children.

Paulette Kurylo

A: I have a deep commitment to public education for I believe it is central to the development and maintenance of a strong, productive and inclusive society. That means I wish to ensure that the policies and procedures of our District schools provide the best educational opportunities possible for our students, represent the wishes of our parents, and assist our staff in fulfilling their desire and obligation to teach well. I have studied and worked in Grande Prairie for most of my life and I have seen our School District grow significantly in the number of schools needed to provide for our children, as well as the variety of learning opportunities offered by the District. As a Public School Trustee for over 20 years, acting as Vice-Chair and member of a wide variety of committees, I take pride in what the District has accomplished, and I believe that I have developed the knowledge and experience necessary to help guide our District forward to even greater success. “Putting Children First” has been my pledge throughout my service as a Trustee and it remains so today. I hope that on October 16, you will vote to Re-elect Paulette Kurylo, Public School Trustee

John Lehners

A: Education has played an important role in my life. Born and raised in Grande Prairie, I have seen our District through a child’s eyes, through a parent’s eyes and now through the lens of a business minded citizen. Education is the heart of a community and a measure of its success and its future. As such, I hope to continue to serve the people of our City in improving our education system. For sixteen years I have had the pleasure of serving the Grande Prairie Public School District as a Trustee. For six years I have acted as Chair. During that time we have done great things and I couldn’t be prouder of the work that was done.

My heart has always been in the community. I have been active in numerous community endeavors to try and give back more than I have received. My governance beyond the School Board has run the spectrum, from the Chair of the Swanavon Parent Council to a Director on the Alberta Health Services Board. I have been the President of both the local Wapiti Men’s Fastball League and the Swan City Rotary Club. In the sporting world, I was the VP of Special Events for the Royal Bank Cup and was an active hockey coach and referee.

As an engineer, as well as an Alberta Land Surveyor, I am fortunate to be an owner of Design Works Engineering and Inspections. My business life has given me the gift of networking in the community, managing a business and understanding what motivates people to exceed as a team. Also, my present role on the Board, allows me the opportunity to balance the continuity of past successes, while still seeing the possibilities for the future. Combining all these experiences and experience, I hope this will afford me your vote on October 16th .

Rob Martin

A: I am running for school board trustee because I feel I have qualities and connections with in the community that will help shape education in Grande Prairie. I care about children, I am extremely grateful for my two wonderful kids and the opportunities they have. However, I see the struggles that some of their peer’s face, I have heard from friends who have children who are struggling and I want to do everything I can to help those kids succeed. When I see kids, who are faced with really difficult situations through no fault of their own, I can’t help but feel empathy for them and want to lessen those instances. I am a great listener, very approachable and believe parents will have an easy time communicating with me. I believe I can provide leadership, direction and positive change for our district board. I have been a life long resident in Grande Prairie, being involved in many community organizations, currently with minor soccer. I love coaching kids as there is no better feeling than watching a child succeed after hard work and determination and see the satisfaction on their faces. I attended public school and both of my children aged 11 and 9 are currently enrolled in Public Education. With my children being enrolled I have a vested interest to work for all children in the Public-School District. You can vote for me with confidence that I will always strive and work to do what’s best for our children and teachers to further education in our district. I believe in building relationships and collaboration and with my background I want to look for ways we can work with the other school boards to see if we can find efficiencies and build partnerships. I will continue to work at the local and provincial levels to lobby for funding and support to properly support our students and teachers. I want to be your voice for our children’s future.

Joan Nellis

A: I am running because I believe I can make a difference. I am a parent of a child in the GPPSD, an engaged volunteer at my daughter’s school and an active community member. As a business owner, I understand financial issues, I can make tough decisions and I know how to work with a team. I have board experience and am open to new ideas. Residents should vote for me because I am committed, eager and prepared to be an effective advocate for local students, parents and teachers.

Andre Ouelette

A: I am running because I have an interest in what is happening in the public school system. I believe children are our community’s future, Grande Prairie is important to me and want to play a role in the success of our children.

I feel there should be a diverse group of people on the board that have the best interest of the students, teachers, and parents in mind.

Lon Rubie

A: I decided to enter this election precisely because of falling student grades, the attack on parental rights and the stated objective of the provincial gov’t. to make our children ” Agents of Change”.

Lon will be a valued school trustee. Her interest in education, family and financial accountability will be valued to all on the school board team. She is also very approachable when parents have concerns they would like to take to the board. Vote Lon Rubie. ( copied from a post to my Vote Lon Rubie Public School Trustee Facebook page)

Charlene Ungstad

A: I am running for Public School Trustee because I have spent my entire adult life devoted to providing students with quality education and believe that as a trustee I would continue to be an asset on the Grande Prairie Public School Board in continuing that focus. In serving education, I have worn many hats so am able to see issues and opportunities from multiple perspectives. I have taught both elementary and junior high. I have served on Alberta Education curriculum committees. I received a provincial Excellence in Teaching award in 1999. After 27 years with the Grande Prairie Public School District, I retired from my position as a principal last June.

While my children were young, I was a “stay at home mom”. However, I continued to support education in the parent role. I volunteered in the classrooms both at Hillside and Crystal Park School. I served on the Crystal Park (Parent) School Council. At that time, I also did private tutoring with struggling students and adults.

I believe that my multiples experiences and perspectives would allow me to serve community interests on the Public School Board in an experienced, informed manner.

Q: What issue is most important to you in this election?

Tim Burnham

A: The most important issue for me is to ensure that the school board take a balanced approach to the issues that come before the board, bearing in mind that the students best interests are the primary concern for all decisions.

JoAnn Cazakoff

A: 1.Communication : Educational leadership spending quality time engaging parents and students on the how and why decision’s are made in schools . Communication is vital and usually its the issue when conversation and relationships break down.

2. Provide programs of choice: second language , schools of faith sports programs , arts/music programs

4.Transportation: how do we safety and fiscally responsibly transport students to and from school this also includes walking biking and car pool initiatives

5.Create a culture of trust and inclusion: In my experience kids are really good at this . Most kids I talk to and meet are very compassionate and care about the issues happening in the world and their school community . Kids generally tend to be more accepting of people when someone is different than them . Adults could learn good lessons from kids on being more inclusive .

Find me on Facebook Cazakoff for Trustee or email me with any comments or questions joann.cazakoff@gppsd.ab.ca

Lesley Craig

A: This is not a campaign run based on big change. We have a wonderful Board of Trustees that have served us well over the past 4 years – and recent changes have increased the size of GP Public School Board from 5 to 7 Trustee positions. It is very important that we fill these positions with Trustees that care about the success of each and every student in our system! We need Trustees that have the experience to advocate for our students on a local and provincial level. Open dialogue with the government bodies that control our funding is vital to ensure that we can continue to improve our programs for students. And we need Trustees that will be diligent and impartial when faced with the issues and make the best decisions for the entire Public School Board.

Sarah Dennis

A: Budget cuts is one of the big topics this election. With budget cuts happening all over the province, we may need to find other sources to fund programs, and we may need to we work budgets to make sure we can keep our schools growing and prospering.

Lynn Driedger

A: It’s difficult for me to choose one particular item to raise able the rest as I feel many topics are so important. Many things are changing and changing quickly. With this in mind I have decided to talk about building a deeper community within education. If we can do this, we can work through all topics together. Building a stronger relationship between all who are involved such as parents, teachers, students, the board and the provincial government, as well as many others. I feel this is accomplishable through listening well, good communication, hard work, participation and accountability. A few things I would like to see more of are student councils being developed and having representation at school council meetings to hear from the student body. parents joining in the conversation at council meetings as well, giving feedback and suggestions, and for all parties to actively support and encourage our teachers, parents and students. I believe that such a supportive environment and taking these steps sends a message ultimately to the students, but also to others who work hard for our students, that they are appreciated, doing well, and that we are here for each other to come along side and help along the way.

Steve Harvel

A: There are many issues facing our school district and education in general over the next few years. Society is ever changing and with it the education system must change to address the challenges that we will be facing.

There is no single issue that prevails over another. Our job as trustees is to continuously and responsively represent our large and diverse school community. Within this community, that which is a priority to some people may not be a priority to others. We currently face challenges such as funding for adequate supports for inclusive education, improving success for our indigenous students, improving access to mental health services, fair and equitable funding for student bussing and support for extracurricular activities. I will work with the other members of the board to ensure that these and any other emerging issues are addressed effectively and fairly.

I’d like to see greater access for our high school students for work experience with our business community. We need to look into financial literacy for our high schools students and greater access to dual credit programs with higher education. As always our goal is to guide our students toward graduation.

Brenda Howard

A: Right now, I believe one of the most important issues in this election is to monitor the curriculum redesign that the government is working on. I want the curriculum to teach our students what they need to know to be able to support themselves in the future. Also, there is an ongoing issue of safety for our children. Not just for this election. We are always working to ensure that all students are safe and feel welcomed in our schools.

Paulette Kurylo

A: I believe that elected Trustees will need to be ready to face what could be a difficult if not volatile term of office. Our School District has recently embarked on a new course with the hiring of a new superintendent of schools and an expansion of Board membership from 5 to 7. Establishing a good working relationship and common goals within that group dynamic will be very important. The District has recently received approval for and will soon begin discussions on, the design and building of a new Composite High School. One which I would hope will continue and perhaps expand upon the comprehensive trades development component presently offered at the Comp, along with the traditional high academic study streams. And we, like all Districts in the province are facing more and more pressures to address and facilitate a number of sensitive social issues within our schools. Issues such as gender rights and equality, LGBTQ and Indiginous rights and education are just a few. This will all need to be done while we work with government in the development of a new provincial curriculum, and in a political climate that continues to struggle with economic recession. The Grande Prairie Public School Board of Trustees will need to be clear in defining its goals, development of policy and the monitoring and evaluation of its programs. That involves listening to parents, staff and community and a great deal of hard work on the part of Trustees. I am willing to do that work and believe that I have the experience necessary to accomplish our District mission that “All Children Succeed”. I hope that on October 16, you will vote to Re-Elect Paulette Kurylo, Public School Trustee.

John Lehners

A: The issues in education are constantly evolving, so I find it is most effective to have a comprehensive strategy that is strong enough to deal with the many prevailing issues that arise. In the upcoming term I would hope to accomplish the following strategies to consistently deal with the many concerns that may arise:

1. First and foremost, continue to foster an environment of continuous improvement where staff and students are
excited about reaching their highest potential.
2. Ensuring we continue to seek opportunities outside our school hours to accommodate parental needs for before
and after school care.
3. Providing choice in our system so that our students can be engaged and encouraged through their passions.
4. Creating great community opportunities in the planning of the new Composite High School, and neighbouring
schools, in a possible education campus or CKC lite.
4. Managing District finances so that we have the flexibility to seize opportunities when they arise.
5. Ensure accountability of programs and dollars so that we can create a definitive answer to the question, “Are we a better District now than we were in the past.”

Rob Martin

A: I am not running on one single issue. I am running to continue to work for our students, teachers, and parents. I want to continue the work of past and current school boards. It is important to me that we continue our work to provide a safe environment for all children to learn. We continue to lobby the Provincial government to give us the tools to provide policies that protect and make all children feel safe. We continue to work with community partners to provide, our breakfast snack program and expand this program to all schools in our district. To collaborate and build partnerships with our other school districts and the City of Grande Prairie to find ways we can work together to be more efficient in transportation for all our children in the region. Funding continues to be a challenge for all school boards, by finding ways to be more efficient we can use the money saved for more teachers and teacher aids to keep class sizes manageable for a more successful learning environment. October 16th get out and vote, get engaged and understand who you are supporting and why.

Joan Nellis

A: The most important consideration in this election should be finding the right people to lead our district. Our community needs open minded, hard working people with relevant skills to make decisions​ for the success of all. We need a team of trustees who represent the values and beliefs of the families in our district, without personal agendas. We need leaders who have proven that they can act ethically, professionally and for the benefit of the students of the GPPSD.

Andre Ouelette

A: Being a local business owner for over 30 years, and I can bring that experience and knowledge to our Public School Board. Being born and raised in Grande Prairie, I am invested in our community, and in our Public School System.

I am honest, reliable, and willing to stand up for what I believe in.

Lon Rubie

A: Firstly, I am concerned with what I call genuine education. When I see a news article that states ” More than a quarter of Alberta sixth -graders and nearly a third of ninth-graders are failing the annual standardized math tests” ( taken from the October 7, 2016 Edmonton Journal) I want to know why. I would work with all the board members to discover ways this may be rectified.

Charlene Ungstad

A: As opposed to thinking in terms of education issues, I prefer to think in terms of opportunities to continually improve education experiences for our students. The ultimate goal is for each student to reach his or her full potential. We need to set students up for successful high school completion and ensure that we have given them the needed supports along the way for that. This starts very young. When students are engaged in hands on learning, see purpose in what they learn, receive quality instruction, feel welcomed and supported, they will want to go to school and will achieve. As a trustee, I want to see evidence that this is happening and advocate for the proper funding and resources to work on improvement when needed. I’d like to see an increase in career exploration, beginning in grade seven/eight, so students are setting goals and focusing on potential pathways after high school.

There are many factors that play a role in how successful a student may be at school. Mental health issues, affordable child care options, and family community supports are a few other very important factors. As a school board, we need to keep these in mind when focusing on student success. As a school district, we need to look for and initiate opportunities to increase inter agency support in the community. This also applies to working with businesses to increase opportunities for apprenticeship dual credits and job shadow/exploration. We can be far more effective with a team approach to helping children and families. This would not be a new concept in Grande Prairie, but it is a path we need to grow and continue to improve.