Elections for school board trustees for Yellowknife District No. 1 (YK1) are set for Oct. 18.

There are 10 candidates running for seven YK1 trustee positions. 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. Yellowknifer did not receive a response from Tina Drew by press time.

Doreen Cleary

One of the reasons that I am interested in running is because education has always been my passion. I have experience in the field of education as it was stepping stone towards my career. I am knowledgeable about education system, curriculum, and the Education Act. Another reason is with the new curriculum coming out that motivated me to run because I often read and hear people state that education is not meeting the needs of some of our NWT students and it is not same as the rest of Canada. By putting my name forward for a trustee position my grandchildren who are in the system can see how important education is and how it is a priority for me. Hopefully, this will encourage them to do the best they can as they seen it open up doors for me.

When I think of residential school, I think of how little input my parents or I had in my education. We just followed the system if we wanted to get educated and do something with our life. It was a big sacrifice for some of us who had to leave home. What better way to be part of reconciliation, be active in the system by getting elected to the education board.

I feel with my years of experiences, I can continue being active so my grandchildren and other students can see the importance of education and my hope is that they see me as a role model. They can be pro active with their choices in life.

Some of the important issues facing school boards today is the mental health of students, parents and teachers. For example, homeschooling right now is a stresser for some students and parents and teachers. Are they overwhelmed with homeschooling? What are they feeling like? Do the parents/ students understand the system of homeschooling? Do they have the computer skills to navigate the google classroom to complete the work? This can be very overwhelming and can cause stress. The technology… not everyone has access to it and are not all familiar with these devices, so performances may be low. I learnt over the years that if a student is stressed, they don’t perform well.

Well, first I have to get elected and than work with the board of trustee as a team. I can’t fix things in isolation but I can contribute solutions to make changes for the betterment of students, parents and teachers.

I am sure there are many issues facing the board, as it is a learning curve for me, I am hoping to hear some of the concerns and issues of the stakeholders.

Allan McDonald

Married to my wife Coleen (46 years), 1 daughter – Teacher / Administrator for 40 years in the NWT – Wife was also a Teacher/ Administrator for 40 years. – Our daughter is currently a teacher – President of the NWTTA ( 1984-88) – President of CTF (1991-93) – Member of the NWT Education Hall of Fame – Current President of NEBS (Northern Employee Benefits Services) – Retired and living in Yellowknife – Sat on numerous Boards over the last 37 years – Current Trustee for YK1 .

I am seeking re-election as a Trustee for YK1 because there Is a lot of work left to do. I spent 40 years as a Teacher / Administrator in the NWT and some of the ideas I raised at Board Meetings showed a different perspective to Trustees. I hope to continue to move YK1 forward into the 21 Century. In today’s world our Parents and Guardians expect a different level of communication and they must be involved in the decisions that effect their children. At the same time our teachers are struggling with a myriad of problems and they need assurances that they have someone who cares about their health both mental and physical. I believe I am one of those people and I hope you will to on Election Day.

The most important issue facing any School Board is and has been how to educate and care for our children in a world that is changing rapidly. I believe now more than ever that my experience and understanding of how to deal with change will help our Teachers as they navigate the best path forward for our children. This requires patience and understanding but also allows for innovation. In today’s world there is little room for error and I know my knowledge and experience will help to facilitate the education of our children.

Joey Sutton

My name is Joey Sutton. I am married. We have a daughter in Grade 7 at William McDonald School. I have lived in Yellowknife for close to 20 years and am the owner of Polar Tech Recreation.

I want to ensure the ideas and concerns of parents and students are being heard at the board level. Not making judgments on past or present trustees but it’s no secret that Yellowknife is a government town top to bottom. I have found that reality sometimes gets in the way of honest discussion because people are too worried about the blow back they will receive if they rock the boat. As a business owner I don’t have that problem.

Clearly the most important issue facing the school board today is the district’s ability to educate while schools remain closed due to Covid-19. And it’s not just education but physical fitness and mental well-being as well. These are very difficult challenges but I’m hearing many complaints from parents that they’ve been basically left to their own devices with their kids at home while trying to juggle their jobs as well. I’m hopeful that vaccinations will be available for students ages five to 11 before Christmas but until that time, if I am elected as a trustee, I will be asking for benchmarks from the schools to ensure students and parents are not being left behind. I think our district is trying to do its best to accommodate people but I intend ask a lot of tough questions on behalf of the parents.

Carla Kinakin

My name is Carla Kinakin and I’m running for YK1 school board trustee.

I have lived in Yellowknife for 14 years along with my husband, and we are now the parents of two school aged children. I would like to help shape the future of education for the YK1 school district for all our kids. Like many of you, we have no extended family in Yellowknife and school has become a major part of our lives with teachers and students helping shape our sense of community and belonging. I believe in the importance of providing kids with individual education plans when needed to help increase their learning. Every kid has the right to learn and to be challenged, no matter the level they start from. I would also like to pay homage to the hard work of previous school boards trustees and pay it forward so that others can continue to benefit. It would be an honour to serve as a YK1 School Board Trustee.

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly impacted my family and has given me a much greater appreciation for everything schools and school boards do for our kids. Switching from in school to remote learning is not ideal, however it is a big step to ensure the safety of our children, especially those who have not reached vaccination age or can’t be vaccinated. I know this has impacted everyone differently but we have all shared in the uncertainty and stress of this situation. I am grateful for all the support YK1 schools have provided so far. However, my QA/QC background has taught me to always look out for continual improvement opportunities. I think a lot can be learned from this experience and lessons can be learned and applied as we navigate this pandemic.

In the short term, I believe the pandemic should be the most important issue to address as it impacts all aspects of our kids’ education, well being, and safety. In the near term however, there is also the modernization of the Education Act and the JK-12 school curriculum renewal that will also need the board’s attention. If elected, I will work respectfully with the other school board trustees, listen, and be a strong voice at the table as we continue to improve upon YK1 schools. I know there is a lot to learn but I’m up to the challenge and would appreciate your vote. The key to a successful school board is working as a team to ensure the education of all YK1 students. Vote Carla for YK1!

Terry Brookes

Profession: Professional Engineer

Hobbies: Sailing, Amateur Magician

Years in Yellowknife: 31

Family status: Married with four children and five grandchildren

Education is our investment in our children’s future, and I want to focus on what is best for our children. I enjoy that challenge. I strongly believe in YK1’s motto, “Educating for Life,” and as a professional engineer I see myself as a life-long learner. I had four children pass through the YK1 system and was able to see first-hand the high-quality educational experiences available to Yellowknife students, and I want to continue that tradition for all children. I also now have four grandchildren who have started their education at YK1. I have been on the YK1 Board for twenty-seven years, and I still continually look for and learn new ways to improve the education system. I also want to hear from parents, for their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Getting better has no finish line.

While Covid is an urgent issue, educating children to meet the future of a continually changing world is the most important issue. While we need to learn locally, strengthen our cultural understanding, and implement T&R, we also need to learn to think globally, and understand the environmental and social-economic world. The Board needs to set a framework and dedicate the resources to staff to develop 21st century critical thinking in our students. A big step in this direction would be to implement the Board’s new strategic plan.

David Wasylciw

I’m David Wasylciw, a parent of a Grade 10 student at Sir John. I have been involved with Parent Advisory Councils since my daughter started at NJ 11 years ago. Currently, I’m PAC Chair at Sir John and served on both NJ and William MacDonald’s PACs. Previously, I was the Chair of the NWT Montessori Society. Professionally, I operate a consulting company specializing in policy development and data analytics. Outside of work, I am the Chair of the Yellowknife Housing Authority and the founder of OpenNWT.

I’m running to represent families and to work towards modernizing our district. Having been involved at the school level, there are areas where the school board could set different direction to improve schools for our students. My priorities as trustee include an annual student survey to give students a voice, developing common standards, and reducing administrative burdens. I will be an active member of the board who takes a strong role in providing direction to our schools reflecting the voices of our families and educators.

The board faces unprecedented changes in the way we educate our children. Remote learning, changing classroom priorities, and evolving teaching methodologies need our attention. Working together to set direction on these issues will be challenging, but there is lots of potential for positive change. In recent years the board has deferred to the GNWT in many areas and I’d like to work collaboratively to change that and make sure we are vocal supporters of our students and staff.

Diana Neill

I am a mother to two wonderful boys who attend YK1 schools: Mildred Hall School and Sir John Franklin High School. I have served on the MHS Parent Advisory Committee. Inujunga, I’m Inuk and interested in bringing some Indigenous Representation to the YK1 Board of Trustees. Truth and Reconciliation is so important, especially within the education context. Our children are our future. Professionally, I have practiced Speech and Language Pathology for the past 7 years with a focus on school aged children, I have a sound understanding of child development from this perspective. Recently, I have moved over to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in another capacity where I am supporting students in schools. I am eager to be available to the community to listen and represent the values and the issue of importance to direct our children’s education. I believe that including the views of the rich diversity of Yellowknife, as “it takes a whole village to raise a child”.

Trevor Sinclair

I am a stay-at-home dad with two children that attend different schools. I have experienced first-hand a vast difference in the quality of education from one school to another and from one student to another. This inequity is our most important issue. I am running because I wish to help ensure that no matter what school a child attends or what supports they may or may not have at home, they will be afforded the same level of opportunity in education.

I worked in government organisations for 16 years, which included negation, facilitation, legislative development, planning and analysis. I left government to start my own consulting business where I have worked with governments, not-for-profit and charitable organisations establishing strategic plans, action planning and program review. It is these skills sets that will help address some of the issues of inequity.

I have lived in Yellowknife for 13 years and have chosen to make this my home. I believe in community and have undertaken significant volunteer efforts with a variety of organisations. While reading, writing and math remain as key priorities to every child’s education, as the Executive Director to Music NWT, and as someone who built their own house, I also understand the importance of the arts and the trades. If elected, I will be there to hear the concerns of parents and do everything in my power to ensure that our youth receive the education that meets their needs and affords them the opportunity to be successful in life.

Maria Wisener

I am running because our students are our future leaders who will define the education of our next generations. Our teachers are the vital link to connecting and inspiring those students. We have fantastic teachers who give of themselves continuously. We must provide excellent programming and educational dollars cohesively. I am running to ensure we positively define our budget dollars with that in mind and ensure program diversity for the arts is always a priority. Every student passes their respective grade-year only once, they cannot wait for the school board to get it’s act together and resources aligned. You cannot drive your car without gas no matter how beautiful your car is!

I have volunteered in a variety of capacities for charity organizations including PAC committees, school events; and I am a board member of NACC. My passion is the arts and educational diversity. I believe in supporting the Arts, which appeals to the discovery of students’ interests and provides opportunities for a lifetime of continued learning for their creative talents! Kids are unique and we must ensure they have choices for alternatives programs so they too can be successful.

The most important issue is that we must be actively engaged in the budget process to ensure the dollars are increased to adequately to get a full spectrum of choices.

I would work collectively with the Legislature & fellow board members & teachers at the beginning of the process; actively identifying & being specific how the money will be allocated.

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