A Welcome Letter for New School Trustees

Congratulations on your election! This very important role doesn’t even get coverage on TV on election night, which is very frustrating for those of us who treat it like the Stanley Cup Final!

School trustees do important work in our education system, overseeing the delivery of K-12  public education. In your governance role, you are responsible for a large budget and a large number of employees, and for the strategic direction of the district. Ideally you’ll work as a team to represent your community, and to advocate to the province as necessary for the things your district needs to best serve students.

The decisions you make will have a direct impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of all the students in your district.

Students with disabilities and complex learners need your support. These students can belong to other groups that are also often not adequately supported by policy choices and these students are marginalized through racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. First Nations, Metis and Inuit students, LGBTQ2S+ students, new Canadians…the intersection with disability compounds the challenges these students encounter at school and when interacting with the system.

I am sure that you have seen in the news over the last few years that there are a lot of concerns for these students, around safety, exclusion, and equitable access to education.

From looking at improving your district’s graduation rates for students with disabilities (and ensuring all students with disabilities are counted in this rate!), to collecting data on school exclusions, ensuring sufficient EA support and continuity with appropriate educational standards and training, and recruiting and keeping adequate specialist teachers and ratios, there are many ways for you as a board member to proactively help these students. This may be the only educational opportunity for these students and we need to ensure that it is the right education. They, like every student, deserve a safe and welcoming school experience.

I would also encourage you to put your attention to the quality of education and supports provided, not just whether paperwork has been completed. Parents, teachers, EAs and others will come and present on issues in the district, and you can also meet people where they are at in school communities to seek more information.

Thank you for standing for election – and for returning, for those of you serving an additional term. Finally, please continue to advocate strongly to the province – tell the truth about what is happening, and what is needed. For inclusion to be successful, we need leaders in our school districts to stand up for ALL students. And please reach out to us at BCEdAccess any time!