Trustee candidates respond to teachers' questions regarding the October 2022 municipal election:
Answers to PRNTA Questions from Helen Gilbert
1. Why are you running for the position of School Trustee?
I would like to continue to serve the children and families of the district. All
students need the opportunity to reach their full potential and this has been my
focus during my teaching career and time on the board. In my first term as a
trustee, I learned ways to make a difference. I would like the opportunity to
continue to use this knowledge for a second term.
2. How will you create and maintain collaborative relationships with partner groups:
teachers, support staff, District Staff?
In my current role as chair of the board I have had the opportunity to be involved
with boards from around the province. I realize that the collaborative relationships
in our district are strong and should not be taken for granted. I would like to
maintain and enhance existing relationships. To do this I would continue to be
available to people, and regularly attend all meetings that go with the roles I have.
(District Health and Safety Committee, Labour Management Meetings)
I show my support of school staff by participating in school events such as the
elementary badminton tournament and preschool programs.
This term trustees have shown personal involvement in staff appreciation events
like the apple delivery, as well as long service and retirement events. I look forward
to continuing to make this happen and visiting schools for apple delivery in October.
Appreciation of the extraordinary work done by all staff during COVID times was
important to the board.
3. Teacher recruitment and retention is a huge issue in Peace River North. What steps
will you take to address shortages?
This concern was one that had me run as a trustee for my initial term. Both the
board and myself have done a considerable amount of advocacy around this issue.
The issue is multifaceted and there are many factors to be considered. Every
opportunity to advocate for needs specific to the north is taken. This advocacy has
included providing a district response to the Funding Formula Review, advocating
for improvements to the service provided by the Teacher Regulation Branch and
seeking support from other local governments to speak out on our behalf. We keep
building on our recruiting efforts. The recent Financial Standing Committee
recommendations reflect some of our advocacy work. One recommendation
contains wording that was specific to our presentation.
Pg. 83/84 Report on Budget 2023 Consultation
164. Increase funding for K-12 education in recognition of increased operational
costs and unique regional needs.
165. Consider factors that affect equity of opportunity for students in school
districts that serve rural and remote communities, especially as it related to
transportation, operations, recruitment, and retention.
167. Explore measures to recruit and retain teachers, including by providing
incentives, especially for teachers in rural and remote communities.
I would like the opportunity to follow up to make sure that these recommendations
get the action they deserve. I look forward to working with the PRNTA on this
follow up. The PRNTA’s presentation to the Financial Standing Committee is also
reflected in these recommendations.
Teachers need qualified support personnel in their classrooms. The board supports
training opportunities for educational assistants and we are involved with the dual
credit Early Childhood Education Program. Strain on teachers is increased when
they do not have well trained support staff working alongside them. Job satisfaction
is a factor in retention.
I can expand further on the answer to this question when we meet.
4. Should public funds from taxpayers be used to support private schools?
Private schools should not be funded at the same level public schools are. These
schools should be funded at a significantly lower level if they are offering the
provincial curriculum. Parents of students attending private schools contribute to
public funds through their taxes. If they are supporting the goals of public education
through a focus on provincial curriculum there should be some benefit. Private
schools do not serve communities in the same way public schools do so there should
be a funding difference.
5. What is your view of the Foundation Skills Assessment?
The Ministry of Education needs a common provincial assessment tool to measure
the success of our system and be accountable to the public. The
Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) serves this purpose but there is room for
improvement in this tool or the development of a new tool. Recent changes to the
Literacy assessment reflect a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education
and other partner groups including teachers.
One of our education partners FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee
advocate for the continuation of the FSA because it is tool that shows systemic
inequality which needs to be addressed.
I do not support the Fraser Institute’s misuse and abuse of these results to rank
schools. I will continue to support the BC School Trustee Association’s efforts to
have this addressed.
6. What solutions do you propose to address the critical shortage of qualified teachers
we are facing?
Follow up related to the Funding Formula Review recommendations outlined in my
answer to Question 3 is a must.
We have raised the concept of incentives like those that they have in Northern
Alberta for teachers working in rural and remote communities as a possible way of
addressing this shortage. We know that this incentive is a factor in former district
students starting and maintaining a teaching career in Alberta rather than returning
to their hometown.
Forgivable loan programs like those offered in health care should also be looked at
We have advocated for AHCOTE to run at a lower level of enrolment than what is
expected in larger centres. Keeping the program active even in years where the
class is not full helps increase the number of qualified teachers available to us.
These are incentives that we have asked other school districts and levels of
government to support.
Increasing opportunities to grow our own teachers who are committed to our
community will also be a focus.
Currently we have local residents that are working through the University of
Calgary online teacher education program this program requires a small amount of
time to be spent on campus. We would like to see the development of a BC fully on
line program that would allow local residents to pursue an education degree and
remain in the community. An online option would also allow individual’s to work to
meet family commitments while taking courses.
7. How will you ensure public schools are safe and inclusive for all students-especially
our most vulnerable learners?
The core values that guide the district’s work are: respect, compassion, honesty,
responsibility, relationships. Goal 2 of our Framework for Enhancing Learning-
Increase Social/Emotional Competency reflects the importance of these values.
When students feel respected, they are more able to show compassion and take
responsibility for themselves and others. School safety is enhanced when everyone
focuses on building a community of respect
The importance of this area is recognized in the allocation of surplus for an
additional Social Emotional Learning staff member for this school year. Currently
the district is part way through an equity scan. When this scan is complete, I will
work to make sure the identified areas of need are addressed.
We work to allocate the available funds to meet the needs of our most vulnerable
Our facilities need to be welcoming and safe. Within the funding available to us
through our Annual Facilities Grant, we do upgrades to our facilities. With the
opening of ARYES and MMMCS space has been created in our in town elementary
schools. Remodelling of spaces within our in town elementary schools serves the
needs of students and staff. Upgrades need to continue on some of our rural
8. What steps will you take to advocate for the funding required to operate a free,
inclusive, quality public school system?
We will continue to work towards funding that reflects the needs of our community.
Having an informed and engaged board is essential. My commitment has been
demonstrated in my work this term. I will continue to listen and be a voice for
students, families, staff and the north.