Karen Blanchard enjoys living a rural lifestyle at Big Lake. She is a retired teacher, dapples in the arts and spends time with her grandchildren.
What do you think are the top issues facing School District 27?
I think the top and most crucial issue facing School District 27 is the poor morale in the field. Poor morale cannot help but bring about lack of cooperation among teaching staff, staff burnout and conflicts between staff and administration. The ultimate result is poor delivery of best practices to students and students becoming bored or disinterested. While most of a School District’s budget is predetermined, I think specific and very thoughtful designation has to be put to the remaining budget with input from all stakeholders.
Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
I am excited to serve as a School Trustee. My 35 years of teaching experience has taught me what a good classroom and vigorously learning students need to look like. I have considerable experience facilitating training sessions with colleagues and have kept my own training up to date and forward thinking. I have had a very enriching ten-year retirement and am now energized and looking forward to taking on a position with the school board with the main goal in mind of moving toward ever increasing service to students and parents.
How would you go about improving relationships within the district in light of last year’s vote of non-confidence by the CCTA?
I feel since I have not served on the board before and information around the non-confidence motion is sketchy or ambiguous at best my plan to begin with would be to put forward my best listening and communication skills. It will be vital that all parties are given a hearing. Action must be taken at the grass roots level. The well being of all students must remain the point of focus.
What are your thoughts on how the province funds districts?
I think if we asked some years ago how the province’s fiscal framework funding has worked for school districts and students we would have to call it a colossal failure for many. A school district and school boards are responsible to invest in the success of all students. This is not to imply that spending should have open access to tax dollars but that student needs should be informing budget planning to a far greater extent.
Would you support the closure of schools when their population drops below a sustainable level?
In principle I do not agree with school closures when their population drops. School populations have been shown to be cyclical and school board projections are not always reliable. I cannot think of an instance where rural schools should be closed. I would think that some creative accommodation must be made to keep rural schools active as they are often the centre of the community. Bussing students especially young students is a very undesirable option. At times school consolidation within town may work well.
What would you like to see in local schools that isn’t there now?
I am no longer in the school system directly. Information I have from parents is that many parents are not sure of how curriculum is being delivered in a meaningful and measurable way. I think that current emphasis on social and communication skills is very important. It would be good to see these embedded in all aspects of school life rather than as stand alone courses. In my school vision valuable school time would be split equally between humanities reading, writing, arts, and music) sciences (math, biology, physics, chemistry, phys-ed, mechanics and woodwork) and independent learning (research, managing curriculum demands and mindfulness). I also think that accessible and consistent access to computer technology is vital, remembering that analog media have their place.
What could be done to attract and retain teachers in this district?
I think it’s obvious that lots of work has to be done to attract and retain teachers. Currently a reliance on the lifestyle setting and lower cost of living in the area is attractive. The current board has posted positions electronically. Giving incentives such as subsidized housing or first access to postings for students to do their practicum here may bring people that are suited to the district’s needs. Working directly with universities having a presentation to support the emerging values of the district may also be helpful. Current communication difficulties must be worked through with respect to all parties and in a timely fashion.