Ciel Patenaude is from the community of Horsefly. She is a mother of a toddler, an artist and holds a degree in biology and a masters in integrative healing.
What do you think are the top issues facing School District 27?
In reflecting on the provincial report offered from this year, the key issues seem to revolve around a significant lack of cohesive vision, low staff and teacher morale, poor communication, and a lack of trust between stakeholders. We have also been facing significant teacher shortages and a difficulty with teacher retention in this district as well, and this is certainly contributing to the high stress levels and poor morale amongst our staff.
Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
I have been immersed in researching and addressing children’s health, education, and the overall well-being of our society for the last ten years. I feel that we are at a pivotal moment in our relationship to education and how we interact with the world and each other. Serving as trustee feels like a meaningful position through which to pursue these objectives, and to support our community in reaching high level educational and operational goals.
How would you go about improving relationships within the district in light of last year’s vote of non-confidence by the CCTA?
The success of all relationships is dependent upon both effective communication and on having a shared vision, both critical areas of development that have been articulated as lacking in our district. It is no wonder that the relationships between stakeholders have been strained.
The lack of unity in this district can be remedied by powerful and meaningful goal setting that brings all voices to the table: parents, administrators, students, community members, and teachers, and by challenging all involved to focus on what we all have in common rather than our differences. As per the suggestions of the provincial report, it will be necessary to engage communication experts from outside of the area to facilitation these conversations and to help navigate this transition, but I feel that my experience in communication and facilitation will contribute positively to this process. As well, our past trustees have been less involved in our schools than teachers and staff have wanted, and this has been expressed several times during this campaign period. It will be necessary that incoming trustees serve as the intermediaries and informed voices of this district as they should have been all along, and this alone will contribute greatly to the health of the district.
What are your thoughts on how the province funds districts?
From the perspective of a rural community I feel that the conversation around funding is of particular interest to us here, as it is in all other small school districts.
First and foremost there needs to be significant conversations regarding the total amount of funding being provincially allocated for education, and whether this is adequate for the type of education we are intending for our children. The return on investment that higher cost/quality education has been shown over and over again: it is of benefit to the entire society that our schools are well taken care of. Beyond that, a needs-based system of allocation makes sense for us here, but the demand for equality and a comprehensive picture for the entire province must also be taken into consideration. We have needs in this district that do not exist in all other districts—our requirement for transportation, for example—and asking us to work with the same amount of per-student dollars that other schools receive seems unreasonable.
Would you support the closure of schools when its population drops below a sustainable level?
As a publicly funded institution it is absolutely necessary that educational facilities are kept open and available to as many children as possible in rural areas. However, it is also the responsibility of the board to remain fiscally aware of the cost/benefit analysis of keeping schools in operation, and to navigate this challenging question with consideration of all involved. I would err on the side of keeping schools open just because we know that many of our district schools tend to fluctuate in attendance numbers due to local employment options, strike actions, etc, but we also have to consider how educational dollars in our district are spent, and the trends in enrolment we are seeing locally.
What would you like to see in local schools that isn’t there now?
District staff interacting with and gaining greater understanding of their schools.
Reduced stress levels in teachers and staff, as well as improved social-emotional health in our students. A culture of compassion, curiosity, and openness between all parties.
What could be done to attract and retain teachers in this district?
Initially I feel that just getting clear on our local vision and working to heal the relationships within our district will result in less negative press and thus a more positive image for School District #27. Teachers want to work where they feel supported, appreciated and joined in a common goal, and that will be essential to establish. I feel that piloting staff wellness programs that aim to support the mental and emotional well-being of our teachers and administration (before they get so stressed they have to take leave) will create an image of this district as forward-thinking and progressive, and serve to both attract and retain teachers. In light of the shortage of teachers around the province right now, British Columbia also needs to seriously consider increasing teacher pay significantly. As a trustee I would be advocating for this.