Candidates for the Delta School Board in the upcoming civic election took part in an all-candidates forum on Monday evening at the Genesis Theatre in Ladner.
It was the first of two forums organized by the Delta Teachers’ Association (DTA) and CUPE Local 1091, with the second scheduled for Tuesday evening at the North Delta Secondary School Theatre.
Running for one of seven trustee seats are incumbents Bruce Reid and Nick Kanakos under the Independents Working for You banner, as well as incumbent Erica Beard, who is running again with the Achieving for Delta team.
Incumbent Val Windsor is also running for re-election with the Achieving for Delta team. Hoping to make it onto the board for the first time, are Achieving for Delta candidates Nimmi Daula, Ammen Dhillon, Masako Gooch, Maury Kask and Joe Muego.
Also running for a seat on the school board independents Andrea DeWolff and Whitney Saip Dyck, while candidate Nuno Antunes describes himself as an independent endorsed by ParentsVoice BC.
Three candidates who are also running under the ParentsVoice BC banner - Carmen Halpenny, Alisa Horth and Daniel Tonn – did not take part in Monday's forum.
The evening began with the candidates introducing themselves with most saying they supported safe and inclusive learning environments.
The first question from the DTA asked each candidate how they would advocate for increased funding.
Antunes answered that he believes everything must be done to inspire kids to keep them in schools, while Beard said she would advocate though provincial and community partnerships, and Daula pointed to the need to continue to talk to educators to convey their needs.
Suggesting Delta should bring even more international students for additional revenue, DeWolff said they must advocate even “harder and louder” to the province, while Dhillon, who agreed Delta is one of the lowest-funded districts, said the district needs to encourage even more enrolment.
Dyck also said they need to engage in “unapologetic hounding” as they raise the profile of teachers, while Gooch echoed that they must work closely with education partners.
Kanakos suggested bringing provincial officials to Delta for “face-to-face” communication, and Kask said the board “needs to go on the offence, not defence.”
Muego said the district has to get creative with its partners to stretch dollars further, and Reid, saying Delta has become the victim of its own success, said more strategies are needed.
Noting the province has given the same amount of funding as last year, despite inflationary costs, Windsor said they can get results by making their case for more funding directly to the province.
Among the other questions were queries from the floor including those directed at specific candidates.
One asked what “inclusive” meant to them, with Gooch saying it’s about creating an environment that allows people to freely express themselves, while Reid said more models are available to help all students develop as individuals, and DeWolff said the district doesn’t have enough resources to truly include all students.
Asked if racism is an issue in schools, Antunes said it’s important that parents show the right way by example, while Dyck said Delta has gone a long way, but has a long way to go, and Daula said more programs and resources are needed because racism is everywhere including schools.
Among the other questions to select candidates was how they felt about the International Student Program subsidizing inadequate funding.
Beard said the revenue doesn’t make up for the funding shortfalls, thus the need for more advocacy, while Reid insisted the revenue should not be seen as a means to finance education, and Muego noted the revenue can’t be counted on every year.
Also asked was what can be done about Delta's “have” and “have-not” schools when it comes to a parents’ ability to fundraise.
Beard said building relationships with the city can be beneficial, while Reid noted some schools have supported others “because that’s what community is all about.” Muego, who said he witnessed first-hand the problem as a district PAC chair, said everything needs to be done to ensure there aren’t “have-nots.”
The election takes place Oct. 15.