By Al Gribbin, School District 8 Trustee
The opinions in the following article are mine and not those of the Kootenay Lake School Board.
Like it or not, we are living in interesting times. The Americans are in the midst of an election where the stability of their democracy is challenged like never before. Here in British Columbia, our provincial government has chosen to throw us into an election one year early while we are being challenged by a second wave of COVID-19.
In my many years of teaching, I always emphasized the importance of certain principles and responsibilities associated with living in a democracy. The people who we elect to represent us must do their utmost to represent their constituents while upholding the principles of rule of law, including the fair and equal treatment of everyone.
An important role for all of us is holding our elected officials to account and making sure they live up to the promises they make when we elect them.
When I was elected as one of your school trustees, one of my promises was to determine what would be required to return the Creston Valley schools to being its own school district, similar to the one that was taken away from us in the late 1990’s. Let me share what would be required.
It is our provincial government that has the power to reorganize school district boundaries and has the power to return the Creston community of schools back to its own school district.
If this return to having control over our own schools is a priority for the people of Creston, the first step is to get a commitment from our MLA to work with and support the people of Creston, the MLA who we are about to elect.
I have been in contact with each of our candidates running in the Nelson-Creston riding in our current election and have presented them with the following question.
“In 2022, school board elections will be held in British Columbia. If the people of the Creston Valley choose three school board trustees who are dedicated to the re-establishment of an independent school district, similar to the one that existed before amalgamation, will you commit to working with them to help make this dream a reality?”
The first unequivocal response from a candidate making a commitment to this question was the Libertarian party’s Terry Tiessen. The NDP’s Brittny Anderson, Liberal’s Tanya Finlay and the Green Party’s Nicole Charlwood have all provided clear written confirmation and support to the people of Creston should they choose to proceed in this direction.
The next step in the process to re-establish Creston as its own school district would occur during the next school board elections, in the autumn of 2022. Creston would need to elect all three of its trustees who are dedicated to working toward and re-establishing its own school district.
Lookie-loo or faint of heart trustees just won’t do. It would have to be clear to the people of Creston that the realignment of our district boundaries is a major election issue.
Finally, with the commitment and assistance from our MLA, trustees would have to present the case to the provincial government and the minister of education. There would be research, discussions, community meetings, arguments, and perseverance required from a determined community.
Although I have already obtained a commitment from each of our riding candidates to commit to supporting the people of Creston’s wishes if we choose to go there, I have done so to meet my promise to you just as writing these columns was a promise of mine when I got elected.
I am not at this time advocating for this move to returning to becoming the Creston Valley School District 86, but I believe that it is in the interests of the people of Creston and other parts of the district to be prepared to have this discussion.
I imagine that this article will be central to the current board’s justification that I should be censured for a third time. As was my promise in the last election, I am committed to providing you with my views on important issues.
Getting back to our role of living in a democracy, who we elect has consequences. The next American president will not only affect Americans but people around the world, likely for decades. Our next MLA will work with the people of Creston, some likely more effectively than others. Please cast an informed vote and please vote.
Other school districts have policies that allow and even encourage trustees to express and support their own positions publically. For reasons I can only speculate upon, our board chooses to use censure to try to shame me into curtailing what I say in respect to political discourse and thoughtful dissent.
I hope that this same board will do better at listening to and respecting the voice of the Creston Valley community. We have a provincial election happening right now.
Please vote for a candidate who will support your right to be heard, will be open with you, and won’t allow themselves to be muzzled even when they are often expected to tow the party line.