Trish Bella isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
It’s one of the qualities that she believes makes her a good school trustee.
And, if the voters agree, she’ll continue doing that.
“You can’t be neutral,” she said. “You have to be true to yourself. It’s OK to disagree.”
Bella is seeking her third term on the School District 57 board of trustees this fall. And, even though she’s been a trustee for a number of years, she’s excited about the prospect of another term because the new board, while facing some challenges, will have some uninterrupted time to work.
With the teachers signing a six-year deal, CUPE workers signing a five-year deal, and trustees now being elected for a four-year term, the new board will be able to spend some time focused on providing quality education in the district.
Funding will be the biggest challenge ahead of the new board, she said.
“B.C. has the second lowest (per pupil) funding in the country,” she said. “That has to be addressed. This is the cornerstone of our society … public education.”
The challenge, of course, is convincing the province to provide more funding to schools. And that means lobbying the government and making sure the public is aware, and supportive, of the board’s efforts.
“We need to have a louder voice with the community,” Bella said. “We need to talk about the good along with the bad, so people are aware of public education.”
Bella pointed out that there is lots of talk about “jobs and the economy,” which is good, but for the foundation for the “jobs and the economy” comes from a good education system.
“The challenge is to meet the needs of all the students,” she said.
The new board will face have to deal with aging infrastructure. A board submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance highlighted the fact that the condition of 71 per cent of School District buildings are listed as poor.
Dealing with that will be a challenge. Another challenge is recruitment and retention, especially given the fact that School District 57 has many rural schools.
She said there needs to be a voice for rural education at the provincial level and has found that voice as a member on the B.C. School Trustees Association board, which she hopes to continue with, if re-elected.
“It’s exciting to be involved in someone’s education,” she said. “To go into a school and see it all happen is great. We need to have a voice. We need to go to bat for kids and the employees.”
She hopes she can be that voice. Residents will choose a new board of school trustees on November 15.