Yellowknifer profiles nine trustee candidates running for Yk1

by Simon Whitehouse - October 12, 2018

The Yk1 Education District has a full slate of candidates that includes all incumbents seeking re-election. There are two new candidates in the race, Al McDonald and Ozgür Oner.

Name: Terry Brookes
Age: 64
Family status: Married 41 years
Time in Yellowknife: 28 years
Occupation: Professional engineer
Experience relevant to the job: Twenty-four years as a board trustee with Yk1. I have also spent three years with the Cambridge Bay Education Council. I have been a Yk1 PAC Member.
Why you should be elected: I have the experience and I am a constant learner; that means asking questions, looking for improvement in education, the persistence to get things done, ensuring teachers are continually learning how to improve how we educate our kids, ensuring we have a variety of results that show our kids are learning, understanding my governance role and not getting bogged down in administration’s role, having vision, constantly asking myself “did I help make a difference for the better for kids?”
Biggest issue(s) for next board: The biggest issues for the next board are creating a board that has a vision for the future of educating kids; making the board accountable for its results; ensuring kids get an education for today, but also having the skills to learn for the future. I also want to involve our parents and stakeholders.

Name: Jay Butler
Age: Not provided
Family status: Not provided
Time in Yellowknife: About 25 years
Occupation: Computer analyst, GNWT
Experience relevant to the job: I have two children in YK1 schools. One graduated and one is in Sir John Franklin High School. I also have nine years experience as a trustee at YK1 and lots of other committee and other organizational experience.
Why you should be elected: I bring a lot to the board, including significant investment by the district in professional development specific to being a trustee. I am not afraid to ask hard questions, and I believe students must always be our first priority in making decisions for the district.
Biggest issue(s) for next board: Our number one priority is, and must always be, good governance of the district. This term, it is very likely we will be looking for a new superintendent, as our current superintendent has indicated he would like to retire. Ensuring the new superintendent is managing the district well, and establishes good working relationships with staff, administration and the board will be key concerns.

JH Sissons School is high on the GNWT’s plan for replacement. We have to do what we can to ensure the new school will meet the needs of the district going forward and minimize disruption for the students through the district during the transition. A poor implementation could negatively affect all students in YK1, not just the school being replaced.

Name: Tina Drew
Age: 53
Family Status: Married for 23 years
Time in Yellowknife: 18 years
Occupation: Registered nurse
Experience relevant to the job: I have two sons who have been through the entire YK1 school system. The oldest recently graduated and the younger is in Grade 12 at Sir John Franklin High School. I am first and foremost a parent. I have decades of experience serving on a variety of boards. I have been a member of the Parent Advisory Council at four different YK1 schools from 2004-2015. I served as a YK1 Trustee from 2015 to 2018. My mother was a single mother and a teacher raising 12 children so I know from real life experience how teachers and parents, struggle with a healthy work/life balance.
Why you should be elected: I am an extremely hard working and a passionate individual. I am deeply committed to represent the interests of teachers, parents and students. I have gained valuable expertise during my recent term serving on the board. I am eager to continue the progress we have made.
Biggest issue (s) for next board: First, the board needs to urgently ensure that the growing mental health issues among our young children are addressed. Health Canada has published shocking data regarding suicide and self-harm in both boys and girls aged 11 to 19. These numbers have been increasing steadily since 2011. We need to end that trend and ensure that all students in our schools are supported to grow up to be healthy, responsible adults who are confident about their future and their role in the world.

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Second, the board needs to proactively advance the vision of a new inclusive school to be constructed on the J.H. Sissons site. This school should be able to be constructed while protecting the playground. This playground is an asset to both the children who attend the school and all those who live in the surrounding area.

Name: Satish Garikaparthi
Age: 40
Family status: Married
Time in Yellowknife: Eight years
Occupation: Water management advisor with Environment and Natural Resources
Experience relevant to the job: I have one daughter at William McDonald Middle School. I am a water management advisor with the GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources a and parks officer with the Department of Industry Tourism and Investment.
I have previously worked with the Yellowknife Airport, Municipal Enforcement Division and NWT Legislative Assembly.
I hold bachelor of science degree from the University of Nagarjuna, India (equivalency with University of Toronto, Canada), an executive diploma in masters of business administration and project management from the University of Florida. I am also a certified professional for business continuity through the Disaster Recovery Institute in Ottawa.
Why you should be elected: I am an active volunteer and member in the Yellowknife community where I serve on many boards, including: the Salvation Army, Crime Stoppers, Municipal Enforcement Division’s Bike Rodeo Program and the Combat Sports Commission.
As a trustee, I work with the policy and communications committees of the YK1 board and assist with school events. I also engage with parents from Sir John Franklin, Mildred Hall, William McDonald, Range Lake North and N.J. Macpherson schools and bring their education-related concerns to YK1 school administration. I have served as member of the Parent Advisory Council for Sir John Franklin School and I am currently serving on the board with N.J. Macpherson School.
In my current term as a trustee, several priority areas emerged that need to be addressed. These include the need for more inclusive and improved care for special needs children, more support for mental health and wellness, more opportunities for traditional and alternative educational programs and improving pathway programs for high school students.
I also understand and appreciate the value of our school staff and the important role they play in helping to address these challenges. I regularly consult with YK1 staff, principals, teachers, parents and community members to understand the various perspectives that allow for better informed decisions on important governance matters.
Biggest issue (s) for next board: Improving programs on inclusive schooling and attention to programs for special needs children in our schools. New school (J.H. Sissons) and staffing issues in schools.

Name: Al McDonald
Age: 66
Family status: Married
Time in Yellowknife: 37 years
Occupation: Retired educator
Experience relevant to the job: Most people know me pretty well. I’ve done a number of volunteer jobs. I’ve been the national president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and president of the NWT Teachers’ Association. I’ve also been vice principal at Sir John Franklin School. I have a lot of perspective on various things.
Why you should be elected: I think I have the experience and commitment and possibly some new ideas on how to improve some of the relationships between the board and teachers. I still have an interest in education and I think I have the experience and expertise to assist the YK1 board. I want to work on behalf of students and parents and teachers.
Biggest issue (s) for next board: Definitely the retrofit to J.H. Sissons School is a high priority and an important issue for the board.

Name: Rajiv Rawat
Age: 44
Family status: Married
Time in Yellowknife: 10 years
Occupation: Virtual exhibits at the museum
Experience relevant to the job: Chair of teaching assistants’ union in university, various leadership positions over the years in non-profit community organizations, focus on public education and scientific inquiry in my various positions.
Why you should be elected: Having climbed the system’s high learning curve in my first term, I would like to serve for one more term to continue pushing for innovation and change while bringing my diverse experience and sensibilities to inform decisions that affects our entire community.
Biggest issue(s) for next board: Succession planning for senior staff, teacher recruitment and retention and collective bargaining. With regards to governance, board renewal and democratization. J.H. Sissons School’s renovation/rebuild. With regards to student welfare, there are shortfalls in inclusive schooling within and between schools. We also need to tackle the emerging mental health crisis. With regards to programming, we need continued support for arts and science education.

Name: Özgür Öner
Family status: Married
Time in Yellowknife: Yellowknife resident since 2004
Occupation: I have a university degree in meteorological engineering. I have recently completed my studies to become a holistic nutritionist. I am presently building my business in that area.
Experience relevant to the job: I have eight-year-old twin boys. They are both in Grade 3 in the new self-directed learning Birch Bark initiative at Mildred Hall School. They were previously J.H. Sissons in French immersion. I have been very fortunate to become my boys’ first teacher as they begin to forge their own paths in life.
I served on the Parent Advisory Committee at J.H. Sissons School for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years, giving particular attention to specific projects such as creation of an outdoor classroom, developing new after school arts programs, playground equipment research and actively working for the delivery of an emotional intelligence seminar open to both parents and teachers.
I worked as an administrator for the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) in Yellowknife from 2005 to 2009, where I took an active role in organizing community outreach programs. This included preparing grant applications and bringing in performing artists to give workshops to children at schools in Yellowknife and other NWT communities.
I worked as an executive secretary to the deputy minister and assistant deputy ministers at the GNWT departments of Environmental and Natural Resources (ENR) and Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
I worked as a substitute teacher for YK1 in previous years.
I served as a board member and a photography teacher for the Frozen Eyes Photographic Society and I travelled to a number of NWT communities to give photography workshops.
Three years ago I created the Farm to School Program at my sons’ school in British Columbia while they were completing my nutritional studies.
This involved introducing healthy eating habits into the classroom for Grades K to 5 and also cooking healthy lunches for students with produce donated by a local farm.

My parents are retired elementary school teachers. As a result of their influence, embracing life-long learning to enhance personal progress and development has been my motto since I was a little girl.

I had to leave home at 11 to study at a boarding school because there was no senior level school in the village where my parents lived and worked in Turkey. Some kids come from outside Yellowknife to study here and I understand what they’re going through.

I served as a board member at the Turkish Canadian Society in Edmonton from 2001 to 2004. I was actively involved in implementing Turkish language education for young children.
Why I should be elected: I am a YK1 parent and longtime Yellowknifer. I am familiar with many of the needs/concerns of residents when it comes to our schools. I understand the challenges often facing families new to Yellowknife: navigating a completely new living environment, and in particular, how to best raise and educate your children within that environment.

My background in engineering, experience with finances and management, interest in serving the community, desire to create holistic environments for learning – including physical and mental well-being, and my knowledge and first-hand experience through my own children’s education journey in different systems from Waldorf to Montessori, from French immersion to self-directed learning, has given me a wide range of experience related to child education.

As a trustee, my goal is to be an active and positive contributor in helping the board implement its current strategic plan. I will actively listen to parents in the community and help to voice their concerns to the board so that the board is as fully informed about the community’s desires. I stand for the principles of inclusive and culture-based education, developing new approaches to learning, and finding creative ways to build on the inherent curiosity which all our children already have.

Biggest issues(s) for the next board: First, site selection for the new J.H. Sissons School and building the new school. Second, fundraising for inclusive education for kids of all cultures and abilities. Third, providing an effective bus service for children in junior kindergarten. Fourth, fundraising for maintenance of existing schools, such as: new roofing for William McDonald School. Fifth, effectively addressing mental health issues impacting students. This is also a challenge impacting teachers, who regularly have to face difficult situations in the learning environment. Finally, finding effective ways to reduce bullying at school and creating the best possible learning environments for our children.

Name: John Stephenson
Age: 65
Family status: Single, with four grown children
Time in Yellowknife: 44 years
Occupation: Expediter and logistics co-ordinator at Blachford Lake Lodge
Experience relevant to the job: I have four children that are graduates of Sir John Franklin School and two grandchildren at J.H. Sissons School. I have spent nine years on the YK1 board, volunteer service on various YK1 school Parent Advisory Committees and volunteer service as president of Canadian Parents for French.
Why you should be elected: I am looking forward to serving another term on YK1 to continue to contribute to board governance in support of its excellent achievements. YK1 is a leader in academic achievement with superb success in athletics, fine arts, outdoor education, trades and other areas. My work experience includes a variety of careers. For 30 years, I worked for the GNWT in administration, policy and senior advisory roles. I have experience in surveying and construction. I’ve been a fishing and hunting guide. I have five years of experience expediting and doing logistics support for a remote wilderness lodge.

My volunteer service includes coaching short track speed skating, officiating and various related roles in cross-country skiing and active involvement in my children’s schools including service on Parent Advisory Committees. I have helped raise four wonderful children that are pursuing their careers or post secondary studies. My wide range of experiences will guide me in my role as a trustee. I firmly believe in and support the education that YK1 offers and will be honoured to continue to serve on the board of trustees.

Biggest issue(s) for next board: The trustees elected this year will serve the governance role for YK1 for the next three years. The trustees have the opportunity to build in the success of YK1 by providing effective and cohesive leadership. The school district’s challenges and opportunities are to continue its work to improve graduation rates by keeping students engaged and encouraging active attendance throughout the school years. We also need to meet the complex needs of students for effective inclusive education and improve the physical and mental health of students and staff.

Name: Allan Shortt
Age: Not provided
Family status: Single father with two grown daughters
Time in Yellowknife: 40 years
Occupation: construction superintendent at Clark Builders
Experience relevant to the job: I have two daughters that went through the system, including one daughter that is teaching junior kindergarten at J.H. Sissons.

I’ve been on the board for 10 years, including four years as vice-chair and three years as chair. I was recently involved in completing the Alain St. Cyr School addition.
Why you should be elected: I have 40 years of construction experience in the North. That experience will go a long way in making sure that we can work with the government and ensure we get a new, quality school built for J.H. Sissons for the next century.

We have to be able to work with the government. We have a shortage of money and our schools are getting older. We also need to get a new roof on William McDonald School because it is leaking.
Biggest issue (s) for next board: The most important thing is that the kids get a quality education. The biggest issues the board faces are first, replacing superintendent Metro Huculak, who has two years left on his contract and second, dealing with aging buildings or renovation backlogs in the school board.

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