Leading up to the school board trustee election on October 16, 2day FM posed two questions to the candidates running for the Peace Wapiti School Division board. Their responses are listed by ward 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?

WARD 5

Cameron Donald

A: Why am I am running for School Trustee? The main reason is that as a concerned father of 3 children (2 recently graduated); I feel that the school system is turning out graduates who are not being prepared sufficiently for the real world. By the time these young adults have completed Grade 12, they are walking into situations that they have not been adequately prepared for enough. The effort to build a strong educational base needs to occur well back in the early years and be consistently focused on throughout all 12 years of schooling. There is a lack of focus on the core areas of math, sciences and citizenship. The Board has a role to lead in seeking greater focus for our children. I wish to be the voice for my neighbors who feel that they have no voice on the School Board. I ask everyone, do you feel that you have been heard by the School Board? Is your children’s educational journey being well managed and are they getting prepared for their futures?

Wendy Kelm

A: I will strive to ensure that every child receives the best education possible by listening and being the voice for all students, parents and local community members so that no child is left behind. For the past nine years as the Ward 5 trustee I have worked with both local and provincial government to enhance quality of education for our up and coming generation.

WARD 7

Stefanie Clarke

A: Originally, I became a trustee because I knew I could clearly represent the needs of communities to Peace Wapiti School Division. Being born and raised in the area, I have an excellent understanding of the values and challenges of community families. Having two young children in the public school system ensures that I am Invested In the ongoing improvement of our education system. I have viewed trusteeship as my full-time job and poured myself into learning all that I can while realizing with every new thing I learn, there is more work to be done. In the past four years, I have proven to my constituents and colleagues that I am an excellent representative and a valuable voice at the table.

Stephanie Zee Fehler

A: I am running because I am concerned that the board is becoming less independent. Teachers and administrators have the ATA to represent their interest, Alberta Ed has your tax dollars and the power to legislate. Kids need active, involved parents on the school board to make sure that children’s interests are always front and centre.

Lynda Miller

A: I have recently retired from a 24 year career as a teacher & administrator with Peace Wapiti School District and see my position as trustee as an extension of a lifelong career working with, and for, children. I want to do what is best for kids!

I know schools, how they run, what works and what doesn’t. I am familiar with how the system works, such as government process, the School Act and various educational initiatives and School Board policies. We need to keep kids at the centre of all we do in education. I have the experience and when elected, I will welcome open and honest communication between the Board, our parents and our community.

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

Cameron Donald

A: The single most important issue I feel right now facing us in this election is accountability of the educational system in Peace Wapiti School Division. Put simply, are we getting a well managed school system as taxpayers? We have projects such as Whispering Ridge School which is scheduled to open in January 2018, do the residents in the County feel that this project was well managed? The issue of transportation of our children to school is crucial yet, many parents have expressed to me they still do not know how long their children will be expected to ride the school buses starting in January 2018. Routes of greater than one hour for children are unacceptable. Many parents feel that they could do a better job of transportation of their children themselves. It is the School Board’s role to hold Administration and their contractors accountable for delivering a cost efficient and effective transportation system for our children. No parent should be faced with putting their 6 year old on a school bus at 7:00 am for a 90 minute commute. Parents also are frustrated with the transportation decisions impacting their children’s extracurricular activities. If our children are not going to arrive home off the bus until 4:30 pm or later! Some parents may choose to not let their children participate in after school activities as it would become too inconvenient for them.

Wendy Kelm

A: I realize that we as a rural community have many challenges ahead as we face tighter budgets, growing populations in certain areas and declining populations in others. Transportation is a huge issue in our division and needs to be appropriately funded so that our students aren’t riding the bus for hours.

WARD 7

Stefanie Clarke

A: In my opinion, transportation is one of the most important issues facing Peace Wapiti School Division today. Because of long ride times, we are seeing some students on the school bus before 7 a.m. and not at home until after 5 p.m. Because we are only funded for those students who live beyond 2.4 km from the school, we could see unfunded students walking along country roads with no sidewalks or street lights. In order to provide an excellent transportation service to our students, we need to continue working diligently towards seeing the Alberta Education department increase the transportation grant. Secondly, we need to remain focused on the capital plan and continue to work towards building replacement schools for Harry Balfour and Peace Wapiti Academy outside the city limits. Above all, school boards must remain sensitive to the individual needs of communities and students, working to ensure we are providing relevant and quality programming.

Stephanie Zee Fehler

A: The issue that motivates me most is the issue of parental authority. Parents are recognized in international as well as federal and provincial law to have the prior right to direct their children’s education. But we have some boards in Alberta working to get rid of parental notifications on important issues. Children learn best when there is a strong, and trusting relationship between the schools and their parents.

Lynda Miller

A: I feel there are a several issues that need to be explored within our School division, most importantly that of transportation and bussing. Peace Wapiti has consistently had transportation deficits for a number of years. Funding on a per student basis puts rural & remote areas at a disadvantage. More specifically, the present government model used for transportation costs puts our vast rural areas at an extreme disadvantage. We cannot keep taking money away from classrooms and putting it into transportation. We need to lobby our government to adjust this present model.

In addition, education dollars will likely not increase so we need to figure out how to stretch what we have and spend those dollars wisely. We need to look at other areas of the budget and perhaps reassess certain areas and put additional dollars back in the classroom. We need to look closer at all we do and do whatever it takes to make things better for students in Peace Wapiti School Division.