There are eight candidates running for seven Yellowknife Catholic School Board positions. Before voters head to the polls, Yellowknifer asked the candidates to respond to three questions:

Why are you running?

What is the biggest issue facing the school board today?

And, what would you do to remedy it?

Their responses have been edited for readability and length due to space restrictions. Yellowknifer did not receive a response from candidate Susan Waddel by press time.

Steven Voytilla

My name is Steven Voytilla, a member of the Gwich’in Land Claim, a Catholic, a husband, and the father of two children who attend an YCS School. I’m the Director of Aboriginal Consultation and Aboriginal Relations for the GNWT. I have been a YCS Trustee for three terms.

I graduated from St. Patrick’s. The experience and education I received there has helped to shape my life for the better. I want to do my part to see that level of education and community continue.

This one year term is going to see a lot of changes and that’s an opportunity, but it will also be very challenging. I hope to bring my experience as a three-term Trustee to help ensure the YCS Board continues to be able to deliver the best quality of education our students deserve.

The education of our students. Other matters come up over the life of a Board including funding issues, HR issues, and facility issues, which are all important, but at the end of the day, the lens that must be used in making these decisions is “what is best for the education of our students”. I don’t just mean math, reading, and writing, but also their education as healthy members of our community.

I believe I bring the experience as an indigenous person, a Catholic, a parent, and a three term YCS Trustee to ensure the YCS Board operates collaboratively and effectively for what is best for the education of our students.

Melanie Williams

I am running to be a Yellowknife Catholic School Trustee because education is the key to our children’s future success. Having a child in Weledeh Catholic School, I have witnessed and continue to appreciate the quality of education and the sense of community the Yellowknife Catholic School system has to offer. I believe in the core values of the Yellowknife Catholic School Board and am committed to putting the needs of our children first and supporting the best school system possible.

One of the most important issues facing the Yellowknife Catholic School Board today is operating during the COVID–19 pandemic. Trying to mitigate the disruption of education for students, staff, and families is a huge challenge. I would like to hear and understand the concerns from our community and help develop the strategies related to remote learning and in-person learning as they are critical tools to ensure our children are receiving the best education possible during these difficult times.

Ainsley Dempsey

I am a mother of school aged children in the YCS system so the success and well-being of our students is of huge importance for me. I have been considering it for a few years now but with the pandemic changing how and where our kids learned I really felt that it was the right time for me to throw my hat into the ring and to try to bring my education and experience to the table. I had the benefit of a very stable and supportive learning environment from an early age both at home and at school and I want to help to cultivate that same environment for the children in the Yellowknife Catholic

The priority of the school board should be the education of students. Children need stability, normalcy, and routine. We need to figure out a way to get the kids back to school safely and keep them there so that they get the quality of education they deserve. We also need to provide supports for families who may be uncomfortable sending their children back to school in this current environment, to ensure that those children aren’t left behind.

The key to addressing this will be communication with parents, caregivers, teachers, and the students themselves. Let’s have a frank and open discussion about what’s working and what’s not and apply what we’ve learned 18 months into this pandemic to create an environment where students can be comfortable and confident when they arrive each morning.

Tina Schauerte

My name is Tina Schauerte and I am running for a 3rd term as a Yellowknife Catholic School Board Trustee. I have a long history with YCS as a student, high school graduate, parent and trustee. I am a mother to two fabulous children, Katie 18 and Matthew 15 and spouse to Gary who have all been a part Yellowknife Catholic School system. I have enjoyed a long career with the Canadian military here in the north and looking forward to another opportunity to serve on the YCS School Board.

I enjoy being a part of the Yellowknife Catholic School system and see great value and many rewards in being YCS trustee. Catholic education has always been a part of my life and I believe in the wonderful leadership group supporting catholic education, which includes board and school administration, and wonderful staff in all our schools. I encourage all voters to get out this October and vote safely.

As a board, we are responsible to the supporters of catholic education and I feel an important issue in our current situation is online learning and making sure that our staff and students are supported and equipped for effective online education. I feel the board and school administration have done a good job in this area. It is important listen and be there for the staff, students and parents while also being ready to go back to the classroom at any time.

Christine Lewandowski

The future of equitable, differentiated, high-quality education for all children in the north is important to me. I am an educator, life-long learner, and an entrepreneur. I am a mother of two who attend École St. Joseph School, in Chief Drygeese Territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

I have a wide range of experience in the realm of education. Also, leadership experience in industry in the north, responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets and public reporting.

I am deeply passionate about holistic well being for children to create a solid foundation for them to grow into capable, confident and balanced people.

Today we are faced with the realities of the pandemic. Supporting the well being of students, parents and teachers is paramount during this time. The current situation and approaches are not sustainable. At the same time, we cannot lose site of the long-term; setting our children up for success in an ever-changing global world, and in a northern context, empowering children to be proud of who they are and walk confidently in two worlds, both Indigenous and Western. This leads to the importance of Truth & Reconciliation, creating ethical space in schools, teaching approaches rooted in inquiry and experiential education to foster authentic meaningful learning.

To address these heavy issues, it means being creative and open to new ideas, to listening, to collaborating and being courageous to trial innovative approaches. I would work hard to listen to parents, elders, staff, students and knowledge holders, bringing people together to collectively take steps forward.

John Dalton

My wife Pat and I came to Yellowknife in 1972 and have been involved with the Catholic Schools and St. Patrick’s Church ever since. Our children and grandchildren were in both English and French streams at Ecole St. Joseph and Ecole St. Patrick High School. We still have two grandchildren at Ecole St. Joseph.

Students are under more stress today than ever before. Society and families are fractured and under attack by the pandemic, homelessness, the Internet, and unemployment. For many students the school is their only safe haven.

As a trustee you are accountable for providing a safe and caring learning and working environment for both students and staff. I have over 20 years experience as a trustee on several boars including 16 years on the Yellowknife Catholic School Board holding the chairperson position and several other chair positions.

As this term is only for one year my past experience with this board will assist me in being an effective member, sooner. As I am semi-retired my time is my own and I would be able to dedicate the time needed to come up to speed.

Yellowknife Catholic Schools are full and we have no room to carry us to the future. We will have to develop a proposal for funding from the Department of Education. We will need to support from our parents. The planning time is at least six to seven years.

These last two years have been an exceptionally difficult time for staff and it is up to the board to support administration in order to meet the needs of our staff.

Andy Young

At 42 years of age, I have worked and resided in Yellowknife for the past 19 years. After graduating with a College Diploma in Natural Resources Technology, I came north in search of a career. Since that time, I’ve been employed in the local aviation and mining services industries for 13 years, with an additional 2 years at the GNWT, and for the past 4 years I’ve been employed as a project manager. I have also spent several years volunteering as a board member with 3 local organizations. Being happily married for the past 11 years, my wife and I have an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son enrolled in French Immersion at Ecole St. Joseph School.

I’m running to become a Board of Trustees member with YCS because I feel my board experience, strategic planning, and project management experiences will be an asset in advancing the faith-based education being delivered in Yellowknife.

While we are aware that investing in the education of our children and youth now pays dividends when they later enter the workforce; this couldn’t be truer today. As we all struggle in our own way to address the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the traditional classroom approach for educating has pivoted to an online approach, this approach will need to be evaluated to ensure the investments made in it are meeting the needs of our children and youth, as well as meeting the education standards established for them.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.