SD51 trustee candidates speak at other all-candidate forums

While Area C and Grand Forks trustee candidates for SD51 had an all-candidates forum on Nov. 10, there were other forums as well.

While Area C and Grand Forks trustee candidates for School District 51 (SD51) had an all-candidates forum on Nov. 10, there were other forums as well.

Three candidates – David Grootjes, Ken Harshenin and Teresa Rezansoff – are vying for two trustee positions in Grand Forks and met on Nov. 9 at a forum at Grand Forks Secondary School.

David Reid has been elected as trustee for Area D by acclamation after fellow Area D candidate John Malloff dropped out.

One of the first questions the candidates were asked was whether they would change the four-day school week.

“I think it was about three years ago we did a review of the four-day week. Overwhelmingly, the response was response was positive and in favour of it,” said Rezansoff.

“As with any situation, there is always going to be (two) sides to that. There were some families and students and parents that felt that it wasn’t in the best interests of their kids but I have to say overwhelmingly, it was supported.”

She mentioned that graduation rates have increased and currently stands at 94.2 per cent, which she said was considerably higher than the provincial average.

“I would concur with that. There’s nothing else I could add,” said Harshenin.

Grootjes, who is also a teacher on SD51’s teacher on call list, said that while the four-day week didn’t really seem to affect elementary school students, it was a little different for high school students.

“When you’re starting to look at Grade 11 and 12 students that are doing the academics and needing the Calculus and the Literature 12 and the higher-end stuff, I think as teachers you do see a difference in a student learning,” said Grootjes.

He said that in an average five-day week, Monday morning’s see students coming back talking about their weekend with their friends and they aren’t really interested about learning at that point.

Teachers spend Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays teaching students and on Fridays, students are back in party mode again, eagerly anticipating the weekend.

“With the four-day week you have that same cycle except from three days during the middle of the week to teach them, you’re down to two. Monday you’re dealing with the same issues, Tuesday, Wednesday their learning, Thursday they’re back into, ‘We have a three-day weekend now,’” Grootjes explained.

“When you do a review of the whole, you need to actually focus on what’s happening at the elementary level and the secondary. They’re two different areas; two different sets of students.”

Budget issues and technology were also topics that were covered by the candidates.

On Nov. 15, Area C trustee candidates Sally Garcelon (incumbent) and Cindy Strukoff attended a forum at the Christina Lake Community Hall.

One of the topics asked of the Area C was the role technology in the classroom.

“I think technology is really important, especially to our children. They’re growing up in a world with new technology,” Strukoff said.

“I think in high school it’s vitally important that they’re exposed to technology and that it’s used for everyday learning. It engages them and they’re learning because they’re involved with computers and using the whiteboards and using texting and iPods and different communication devices in the classroom; it will keep them engaged.”

She said that in terms of elementary schools she would like to see the presence of technology but she would like younger students to learn the basics first.

Garcelon said how technology is used should be up to the teacher.

“I think first and foremost it’s the teacher’s call. If the teacher wants to use it and embraces it, that’s great and I think it should be there and available,” she said.

“Other than that, I feel as a district we should keep up with other districts and make it available if it’s wanted or needed but it’s definitely the teacher’s call.”

Graduation rates, the Foundation Skills Assessment, bullying and the budget were other questions that were asked of the Area C trustee candidates.