Questions: CKPG Today

Thank you so much for CKPG Today for the opportunity to respond to these questions.  They will be posting all candidate’s answers on their website leading up to election day.  Here are my responses.

Why run for a trustee position? Fist and foremost, I am passionate about Public Education and believe I still have work to do as a Trustee.  I am seeking re-election for a third term on school board because there are some big challenges and opportunities on the horizon for both SD57 and Public Education in BC.  I am confident I have the skills, leadership, and experience to support the district and board through these while also advocating for our students, staff and communities.  These challenges include addressing the catchment and capacity issues in Prince George schools; advocating for our district and students as the government introduces changes to the education funding formula; supporting our staff through the final implementation of the new curriculum; and as the employer ensure a fair and respectful bargaining process with our teachers and support staff.  These are all going to faced by the new board in the next 12 months.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing SD57? One of the biggest issues facing our district right now is catchment and capacity. Our district is growing and we are quickly running out of space in our schools. This will need to be addressed by continuing the consultation started by the Board and looking at options to address the current and projected capacity crunches. These options could include changing catchment areas, trying to add space through the addition of portables and/or finding creative solutions that would not impact the education needs of our students. The first round of consultation regarding Ecole Duchess Park is complete and we learned a lot about what the community is looking for.  We need to take some of that feedback and look at some different options presented as well.  Before the final decisions are made the board needs to continue consulting with stakeholders, and make sure the process remains transparent.

 

Is the current curriculum preparing kids for success? Yes, I believe it is.  The new curriculum was developed with extensive consultation with teachers across British Columbia and is designed to have kids learn and understand concepts rather than memorize and regurgitate. It is teaching core competencies and big ideas rather than ensuring kids remember a certain fact for a test. It will create more enriching learning environments and will help create better rounded citizens. I also believe it will provide teachers with more opportunities to teach to their passions and create even better learning opportunities for kids.   I recognize that the roll out of the new curriculum has caused concern because it is a big change in how education looks and is delivered.  The district has and will continue to provide support to our teachers through the first few years of the new K-10 curriculum and need to ensure we are supporting staff and communicating with parents, guardians, caregivers and students as the new graduation curriculum is implemented.  The goal of the new curriculum is to produce well rounded graduates and educated citizens. I believe the new curriculum will do that and hep our students be successful in life after public school.

 

Do you believe the new ward system will be effective? I do, but it will take work and commitment from the new board. Once sworn in the board of seven is now responsible for representing and advocating for all students, staff, and citizens of SD57.  The board still needs to be committed to visiting these communities and meeting with their local governments and community members, even if there is a trustee living there.  The Board also needs to review our Ad-Hoc report on Rural Education to make sure the recommendations implemented have had the desired impacts and get updates on recommendations that have not yet fully been implemented.  The voices and perspectives of the trustee from electoral area two (Mackenzie) and three (Robson/Canoe Valley) are going to be valuable.   The District has also taken some actions to ensure these trustees are fully able to participate whether they make the trip to Prince George or participate remotely.  We want to ensure they can participate fairly and represent the constituents they were elected by.

 

How should the funding formula look? The provincial government is reviewing it.  It needs to be predictable and sustainable. There needs to be more funding and support for special needs students and that a model focusing on needs based supports and strategies rather than a dollar amount per student is beneficial. I believe CommunityLINK funding needs to be increased and tied to data such as EDI or other indexes that monitor a community’s vulnerability.  I believe the formula needs to recognize the importance of a school to rural and remote communities and provide adequate funding to support rural education.  I believe that the formula needs to give boards more flexibility and local autonomy.  I believe the formula needs to increase capital funding and ensure it is distributed throughout the province. I believe targeted aboriginal education dollars need to stay as targeted dollars. The new funding formula may have a big impact as we have been told the quantum is not increasing, just being redistributed.   When it is introduced we need to quickly model it and ensure it does not negatively impact our district, our students or our communities.  If it does, we need to quickly respond to government.  I support our motion asking government to delay implementation until 2020 rather than 2019.

Campaign Questions – PG Daily News

This afternoon I received a survey from PG Daily News.  As with all my other questionnaires I am sharing my responses here as well.

  1. Name: Tim Bennett

 

  1. Why are you running for School District 57: Fist and foremost, I am passionate about Public Education and believe I still have work to do as a Trustee.  I am seeking re-election for a third term on school board because there are some big challenges and opportunities on the horizon for both SD57 and Public Education in BC.  I am confident I have the skills, leadership, and experience to support the district and board through these while also advocating for our students, staff and communities.  These challenges include addressing the catchment and capacity issues in Prince George schools; advocating for our district and students as the government introduces changes to the education funding formula; supporting our staff through the final implementation of the new curriculum; and as the employer ensure a fair and respectful bargaining process with our teachers and support staff.  These are all going to faced by the new board in the next 12 months.

 

  1. What do you think is the single most important issues facing School District 57: One of the biggest issues facing our district right now is catchment and capacity. Our district is growing and we are quickly running out of space in our schools. This will need to be addressed by continuing the consultation started by the Board and looking at options to address the current and projected capacity crunches. These options could include changing catchment areas, trying to add space through the addition of portables and/or finding creative solutions that would not impact the education needs of our students. The first round of consultation regarding Ecole Duchess Park is complete and we learned a lot about what the community is looking for.  We need to take some of that feedback and look at some different options presented as well.  Before the final decisions are made the board needs to continue consulting with stakeholders, and make sure the process remains transparent.

 

  1. What do you see as the main role of the School District 57 Board of Trustees: The main role of School District 57 Board of Trustees is to act as elected co-governors of the public education system.  We are responsible to set and govern policy, approve and monitor the budget and set the strategic direction of the district.  As co-governors we also have a responsibly to hold the government accountable for decisions it makes.  We need to ensure that our students and staff are not impacted negatively by decisions made.

 

  1. Do you support the current sexual orientation and gender identify (SOGI) curriculum in schools? Why or why not? I fully support the work being done both in our district and across BC in support of our LGBTQ+ students and proud to stand behind the SOGI policy approved by our district in 2014 and then strengthened a couple years later.  I fully support an inclusive and safe environment for all our students and staff.  SOGI 123 is not curriculum but rather is a resource developed and used in some of our schools. It is a great resource and one that I encourage teachers to look at and use.  I will be honest shortly after I was elected in 2011 I was asked about a stand alone policy. At that time I didn’t fully understand the need for one as we had what I believed was comprehensive anti bullying policies. After hearing more of the stories about what was happening myself and a large majority of our board realized we needed to have one developed. I was proud to be chair of Policy and Governance when the policy came to the table for approval. I personally so excited that all of our buildings now have at least one all gender washrooms and will be the norm in all new builds including Kelly Road when it opens in 2020.

 

  1. How will you ensure that rural schools are adequately funded and represented? Right now we are waiting for the government to release the report from the independent panel looking at the current funding formula. The new funding formula may have a big impact rural education funding.  When the new funding formula is introduced we need to quickly model it and ensure it does not negatively impact our rural communities.  If it does, we need to quickly respond to government.  We can’t let the new funding formula impact our communities.   The new board will have two rural trustees on the board.  This will be a good start to ensure the voices from these communities are at the table. However, we still need to make sure we are representing these schools and communities.  We need to revisit the report from the Rural Ad-Hoc Committee on Rural Education (internal committee) and ensure that in progress recommendations are still being looked at.

 

  1. If you have one pet project you would like to accomplish as a school trustee what would it be? Improve communications between the District and the community. It’s 2018 and our website needs improvement and the district needs a social media presence.

 

  1. What is one thing you bring to the board table that no other candidate does? I am currently a director with the BC School Trustee Association. I am currently serving my first term and was proudly elected by my fellow trustees.  As a director it gives me the ability to advocate for our students and region at a provincial level and have a seat at influential tables.  It also gives me the ability to learn firsthand from other districts and bring ideas back to the board table.

 

  1. Recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff is an ongoing issue. What are your thoughts on ways to keep the district properly staffed? Last year the district invested money into a plan to recruit teachers to School District 57.  This plan included hiring an in house recruitment officer, creation of recruitment materials and strategy to bring teachers from across Canada to our district. This strategy has been quite successful to recruit classroom teachers. We have been able to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.  We still need to grow our TTOC list (Teachers Teaching on Call) to ensure we have coverage when classroom teachers are away.  The board has continued this recruitment support in this budget and believe that this will mean more teachers coming to the district.  The District now needs to create a similar strategy to recruit EA’s and other support staff to the district.

 

  1. How will you try to ensure public education for School District 57 increases: When the new funding formula comes out in early 2019 we need to ensure that it does not negatively impact our district’s funding. We need to be able to quickly model the formula and respond back to government if needed. The district is also in a very good financial position.  This past year we were able to invest $800,000 of surplus into the operating budget to create additional supports for students and staff.  It is my hope that the Expanded Committee of the Whole for the 2019-2020 budget can look at investing additional surplus dollars back into the district benefiting our students and classrooms.

 

 

Campaign Questions – Prince George Matters

Good Evening,

Prince George Matters is a new news source in Prince George.

They published this story with a questionnaire for those running for local office.  I took the time to answer the questions.  Here are the questions and my answers.

Basic stats:

Name: Tim Bennett
Age: 32 
Number of years lived in Prince George: 28
Current neighbourhood: West Bowl
Occupation: Executive Director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince George and SD 57 Trustee
Reason community would recognize your name: There are a few reasons why people might recognize my name.  I have been a Trustee since 2011 and have been Board Chair since 2016.  Have been with Big Brothers Big Sisters for almost 12 years.  I was named the 2017 PG Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year, spent 6 years as the President of Volunteer Prince George and growing up I organized a Christmas Seniors Dinner for seniors living in Prince George. 

Questions: 

What is the most important issue facing the school district, and how do you propose to deal with it?

One of the biggest issues facing our district right now is catchment and capacity. Our district is growing and we are quickly running out of space. This will need to be addressed by continuing the consultation started by the Board and looking at options whether it is changing catchment areas, trying to add space through the addition of portables and/or finding creative solutions that would not impact the education needs of our students. The first round of consultation is complete and learned a lot about what the community is looking for.  We need to take some of that feedback and look at some different options as well.  Before the future decisions are made the board needs to continue consulting with stakeholders and committee and make sure the process remains transparent.

 What is your specific reason for running?

Fist and foremost I am passionate about Public Education and believe I still have work to do.  I am seeking re-election for a third term on school board because there are some big challenges and opportunities on the horizon for both SD57 and Public Education in BC.  I am confident I have the skills, leadership, and experience to support the district and board and advocate for our students and staff.  These challenges include addressing capacity issues in Prince George schools, advocating for our district and students as the government introduces changes to the education funding formula, supporting our staff through the final implementation of the new curriculum and as the employer ensure a fair and respectful bargaining process with our teachers and support staff.  These are all going to faced by the new board in the next 12 – 18 months. 

 Where can the school board spend less?

At this time, I don’t believe we are in a position where things could be cut.  We have made many difficult decisions over the past few years and have cut in so many places.   Our board has made tough decisions over the years to ensure balanced budgets. The budget we approved for the 2018-2019 school year is not only budgeted but we were able to add about $800,000 of additional staffing and resources to benefit students and staff in the classroom and build capacity in the Board office. 

 Where should the school board be investing more?

I believe in the next couple budgets (assuming changes to the funding formula do not negatively impact our district) need to invest a bit of our accumulated surplus to further build staff capacity and provide additional resources for students.  Priorities that I have set in my platform include increased staffing and resources to support our venturing and vulnerable students.  I would also like to see resources allocated to meet the recommendations made by the Ad-Hoc Committee on Technology and District Technology committee.  This will help improve our technological infrastructure and better meet the needs of our staff.  

 

Next time you’re walking in the woods and you come face-to-face with a Sasquatch, what do you do?

Honestly probably try to Instagram it.  It would make one great Instagram story!

If the next school board does something film-worthy, who would play you in the film?

Hmm..  Think Dwayne Johnson is available?  He could make a great school trustee and has the abs I don’t.

Complete the sentence:

When I’m not at home or at work, you can find me:

Walking my dog Bentley at either Moores Meadow or Ginters.  Also drink way too much coffee so I could be grabbing coffee at one of Prince George’s awesome coffee shops.   Oh, I also try to squeeze in some volleyball at the YMCA.

The most random, yet interesting fact about me is:

I can play the trombone. 

My favourite beverage is:

Unsweetened Iced Americano with Milk or the Coffee Lemonade from Playgounds Cafe. 

For Christmas/Hanukkah/the gift-giving season, I would like:

New socks.  Love fun and bold socks.  

The best park in/near to Prince George is:

We have a lot of great ones.  Huble Homestead is always a great escape from PG. 

If Prince George didn’t exist, I’d be living in:

My wife Carli loves the ocean so perhaps on the Island or Coast.  It would also be great to wake up with a great view of the mountains every morning. 

When I need some pump-up music, I listen to:

Have two spotify playlists I turn to. One is a mix of upbeat country from the last decade.  The second is my “throwback” and those are all great nostalgia songs that just make me feel happy. 

 

Press Release – Making it Official

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I guess nothing is official until it hits the internet!

This morning I filed my paperwork to officially seek re-election for a 3rd term as a School District 57 Trustee.

It has been an absolute honour to serve the communities of School District 57. I hope I have earned your trust over the past seven years and hope that I am given the opportunity to be an advocate for our children, our district and our communities for another four years. There are some unique challenges and opportunities ahead of us and I believe I have the experience and leadership to help the district through them.

I will be posting more details about my campaign leading up to October 20th. I do have some information already on my website at www.timbennett.ca.As I mentioned before I am not putting up campaign signs and self funding my campaign. The two best ways to support my campaign is to help spread the word and make sure to get out to vote. I am sure there are going to be a lot of strong candidates for the five Prince George seats. Every vote will matter!
Here is the press release that was sent to local media this morning.

School Board Chairperson seeks Re-Election  

Prince George; School District 57 Chairperson, Tim Bennett, will be submitting his nomination papers in hopes of seeking a third term as a Trustee on the SD57 Board of Education.  Bennett will be filing his papers for one of the five seats in the new Prince George electoral area.

In addition to his role as Trustee and Chairperson, Bennett is a Director with the BC School Trustee Association and is the Executive Director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince George.  He is the former President of Volunteer Prince George, former President of Northern Interior Branch of the BCSTA and has been an active volunteer supporting various Prince George nonprofits and events.

“I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in support of our students” he states.  “However, education is something I am very passionate about, and there is still work for me to do.  As I look ahead to the next four years there are a lot of challenges and opportunities facing our school district and public education.  I know I have the experience and leadership to advocate for and support our students, staff, district and region over the next four years.”

Bennett identified some of the priorities for the new board as:

  • Addressing the current catchment and capacity issues facing schools in Prince George,
  • Supporting staff through the final implementation of the new curriculum,
  • Advocating for our district and region through the current Provincial funding formula review,
  • Advocating for and ensuring a fair and successful bargaining process in 2019 with our teachers and support staff.

Information about his campaign and contact information can be found at www.timbennett.ca.