Sujay Nazareth is one of the Delta school trustee candidates running in this month's civic election. Here are his responses to a questionnaire from the Optimist:
1. Bio – Tell readers a bit about yourself and why you are running for office.
I am a 23 year resident of Delta. For the past 20 years, I have been operating a successful technology company. My reason for running is to make an impact on our education system so that it becomes a system that we can depend on to shape the next generation. Having a two-year-old daughter myself, I feel it is important to work towards fixing problems that seem to be holding our system back and helping empower parents and educators to make sure that we can make Delta one of the best school districts in B.C.
2. Most pressing issue – What issue are you most passionate about and what action will you take on it?
From talking to parents face to face as well as through social media channels, it is apparent that there is a disconnect between the school board and their stakeholders. Parents and educators do not feel that they are being listened to or even consulted. I want to bring back openness and collaboration between stakeholders to ensure that the school board is achieving the best results for our students.
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?
Parents in Delta are already contributing to the district in the form of property and provincial taxes. Therefore Delta residents and their children should be able to access our Delta Schools for free. Delta students must always be given priority in Delta Schools and all students should have the right to attend the school within their catchment area first and foremost.
I further believe a review needs to be done about these academies and the programs they offer. There needs to be a cost benefit analysis about these academies are an asset or a hindrance to the success of all students in Delta.
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?
Without having a detailed analysis of the current budget it is hard to provide a proper response to this question. I believe an entire review of the budget of the School Board does need to take place and see where we stand. The fact is the Delta School Board is having issues currently where Teachers and EAs are not being paid at the same rate as other neighbouring districts which means we are in fact losing our own Delta teachers and EAs to other districts.
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?
The Slate that I am proud to be a part of has made this commitment to be a major part of its platform. Delta is sorely lacking in these facilities and the Achieving for Delta Council & School Board team will make revitalizing the track fields a priority.
With regards to corporate sponsorship I believe this is something that can be considered but it needs to be cautiously done. There needs to be limits to what the sponsorship includes and how much access the sponsor is given to the students and other users of the facilities. In general, it is much better to have a long-standing deal with both the City Council & School board to ensure that the facilities are looked after with public funds so as to not compromise the values that the public believe in by partnering with a corporate sponsor.
Any prospective deals with a corporate sponsor needs to be properly studied to see if the benefits are worth pursuing or if the same amount can be raised through funding through the various grants from other levels of government.
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.
Trustees are elected officials whose mandate is to govern the local district to which they are elected to represent. Trustees are meant to manage the funds that are received to run the school system and set budgets and manage how they are spent. They are also responsible for ensuring that the school district is ensuring that students are receiving the required education as set out by the Provincial Government. It is important that the trustee is also able to work with unions and the Provincial Government to ensure that concerns that parents have are relayed to those parties and that the trustees will advocate for all parents and educators who have concerns with decisions made at the various levels that have an effect on the local district.
I believe that a good trustee is one who is able to have open lines of communication with all stakeholders. They are also a person who can navigate through a difficult bureaucratic system and yet be able to find solutions that can be implemented to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
Being a businessperson for the past 20 years, I am well suited to dealing with all these factors. I have the ability to put people at ease and try and resolve problems in a timely fashion. I believe that my people skills are exemplary, and I will be able to help diffuse a volatile situation successfully. My out of the box thinking would be an asset in coming up with creative methods that can be implemented to solve problems where the usual solutions have failed to garner results.
Budgeting is a part of any business and my experience with dealing with my own business budgets as well as the budges of other organizations that I have been involved with would help me wade through the numbers of the district and get an understanding of how money is being spent and see how things can be optimized so the district can get the best bang for its buck.
As a parent, I understand what the needs and challenges of the modern day parent are and I understand what they are looking for in terms of support for their children. I will be able to empathize with them and seek answers that would be positive for all the families in our system.
Over all the current school board has been in place for many terms and unfortunately there has been a dramatic deterioration in the system and I am fresh new voice with the vision and business experience to make a change to help brighten the future.