Mita Naidu is one of the Delta school trustee candidates running in this month's civic election. Here are her responses to a questionnaire from the Optimist:
1. Bio – Tell readers a bit about yourself and why you are running for office.
I am running for Delta School Board because:
1. There are certain voices missing- trustees that represent the communities of Delta.
2. I have been an advocate for youth, families, the arts and athletics- through my various board positions, committee appointments and speaking engagements.
3. I am an engaged mom of 2 Delta children, and a relationship-builder, policy-maker and fundraiser in my professional life.
4. I believe strongly in equity- which means valuing all types of students, as well as families, teachers and staff.
5. I understand the job, and have a long history of governance and leadership experience.
2. Most pressing issue – What issue are you most passionate about and what action will you take on it?
I am most concerned about funding in the District. The amount distributed to Delta by the Province will directly affect a number of things I am passionate about including: school playgrounds and tracks, inclusive learning programs, and enough support staff in classrooms. I will ensure, that when the funding is delivered- the research is done, all the stakeholders are heard, and community needs are prioritized.
3. - The Delta school board has been able to bring additional per-pupil funding and revenues by attracting out-of-district students to Delta’s specialty academies. Should these programs be made free for Delta residents without having to apply for special exemptions?
I think the academies should be free for Delta residents. I am a strong believer in the benefits of sports and the arts. I see their value in my own children. This issue is about equal access and opportunity to those benefits for ALL Delta students. The ability to pay shouldn’t hinder a child’s passion. The Delta academies provide an amazing opportunity for students and the bursary system in Delta is generous but not all parents are aware of them or have the ability to apply. With creative planning at the outset of funding planning, academy costs could be offset- or at the very least, a much lower fee model could be implemented.
4. - The district has seen steady increases in the number of students from other countries in the International Student Program. By 2016/17 revenue climbed to just over $10 million. Part of that money has now gone into offsetting budget deficits. Do you support using those revenues for the operating budget and, if not, where should those monies be targeted?
I am supportive of some of the revenue being used to offset budget deficits. If we research the financial data, the reality is this is a very small percentage. Most of the revenue from the International Student Program is channeled back into the program to sustain it.
5. - The school board is proposing to work out a land deal with the City of Delta to build a new track facility in North Delta. Many other schools in the district will still be without upgraded tracks. Do you feel corporate sponsorship may be a possibility or are there other options you believe can be explored?
As a professional fundraiser, I do believe that there are now ways to facilitate new sources of revenue with non-traditional partners, like corporations and foundations, to support public education. This is about consultation, research, knowledge, relationship-building, ethical sourcing and following the guidelines set out by the District. The current funding model cannot be sustained as Delta grows. We need to think outside the box, without compromising Delta’s educational values. This would allow for more stable and predictable school budgeting.
6. - As a candidate for trustee, please explain the role of trustee and explain why you among all of these other candidates should be elected to it.
The role of the Trustee is primarily centered on governance.
This includes, reading and interpreting large budgets; allocating those funds responsibly; research; public and stakeholder consultation; writing and understanding policy; relationship-building; knowledge of governmental departments and agencies; knowledge of fundraising and grant writing; a balanced and fair understanding of the educational system; and finally ethical leadership.
I have expertise and understanding in all of the areas described above. My career and my volunteer work have allowed me to practice these skills in the real world, from the Boardroom, to non-profits, to youth communities, to the Downtown Eastside.
I am as invested in seeing all our teachers and staff feel valued and supported, as I am to see all our students succeed and have access to a high-quality educational opportunities.