Flin Flonners will head to the polls today to pick a new board member for the Flin Flon School Division (FFSD).
A byelection to fill a vacant seat on the FFSD’s board of trustees will take place Nov. 8 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seeking to replace now-former trustee Jed Reeves. Two candidates have stepped forward to run for the spot - Katie Kawerski and Trish Sattelberger. Both candidates took part in a candidates’ questionnaire hosted by The Reminder last week - the results can be found below.
Votes can be cast on election day at the FFSD office at 9 Terrace Avenue. Voters will need identification before being allowed to cast ballots and may need to produce a piece of officially issued photo ID, like a driver's licence or passport, to confirm their identity.
Results will be announced later in the evening. Advance polls and mail-in votes have been held already - the deadline to apply for mail-in votes expired Monday.
The vacant seat on the board formerly belonged to Reeves. Reeves, who was appointed as a trustee last year to fill one of two empty spaces, resigned his seat last month after leaving Flin Flon for a new job with a Norwegian company.
The FFSD board of trustees consists of seven trustees in total when fully staffed, each of whom are supposed to be elected to their posts. Local elections last year threw a curveball into that procedure when only five candidates - Tim Davis, Leslie Fernandes, Jackie Hucaluk, Coralie Jays and Angie Simpson - entered their names to run. That led the board and division staff to appoint two members - Tyler Kittle, who remains on the board, and Reeves.
For updates on the results of the vote, see our website at thereminder.ca or pick up next week’s issue of The Reminder.
1. Who are you and what has inspired you to run for school board?
Kawerski: I have called Flin Flon my home for 43 years. I have worked with children and families for 32 years. I am involved with various community events and knowledgeable about community resources. I believe education ensures quality and promotes success. Being on the school board would give me a chance to ensure your children have positive and meaningful experiences during their academic years.
Sattelberger: I am Trish Sattelberger, a nurse and resident of Flin Flon since 1989. I have raised my children here and they have attended public school in Flin Flon. I want to be able to shape the education system for students as the world changes to avoid students being “left behind” because I know someday, they will need to be contributing to society when my generation can no longer do the same.
2. What do you feel are the biggest issues facing education in Flin Flon?
KK: In order to hear what the issues are, we need to have conversations with students, staff, parents and administrators. I'm not sure what the issues are, so in order to address them correctly, conversations need to happen at the front-line level.
TS: I believe recruitment of qualified teaching staff, especially programs such as French immersion, and declining enrolment are concerns. Declining enrolment affects financial allotment to the division from the province. I feel we need more prep education for students wanting to enter trades after graduation.
3. What are your top priorities as a candidate?
KK: We need to find more ways to ensure children come to school. We also need to entice more teachers to come here to work or get more young people to enter the education field. Staff retention is a very high priority for the division. We need to set targets for maximum class sizes and ensure funding is there to support teachers. Having funds to hire more educational assistants to assist in the classroom is important as well.
TS: Improved rates of graduation. Recruitment of educators for the division. Work to secure funding to cover the strategic planning priorities.
4. What do you hope to accomplish on the board, if elected?
KK: Work collaboratively as a team with other board members. Learning all I can so I will make informed decisions in order to make students' educational experience as positive as possible. I care about children deeply and if you can retain excellent staff, your students will benefit.
TS: I have always been concerned with graduation rates, especially among Indigenous students. I would like to explore the reasons why there is still a struggle and work on a solution to the issue.
5. What experience do you have in education or governance?
KK: I worked so that children had the basic building blocks to move on to Kindergarten. I wanted to create opportunities for children to become successful when they entered higher education. I have served on the Women's Resource Centre for 10 years. I understand protocol and the importance of working within the system.
TS: I have been a Flin Flon School Division (FFSD) board trustee previously for 12 years. I have been a board member of Norman Community Services for the last four years. I have previously been an adult educator for both health care aides and licensed practical nurses. My present job is best practice educator for long-term care in Flin Flon. I have a view of both sides of the coin.
6. What types of programs or resources do you feel Flin Flon most needs right now?
KK: I know attendance has been an issue. Having programs that encourage parental involvement would allow parents to feel comfortable within the school - perhaps they would then feel confident about sending their children. Acknowledging family concerns and resolving them is key. Extracurricular programs are important. Land-based learning and physical activity programs help a child become more confident in themselves.
TS: Flin Flon needs more programming towards trades for careers. Industry is again beginning to blossom here with the opening of Foran and options for work in Snow Lake. This will provide employment opportunities in the trades fields. The division needs to look at prep for success in the post-secondary institutions for trades.
7. What long-term priorities do you feel the FFSD has to have?
KK: Mental health supports for students and staff is critical. It's important that the division continues to offer access to safe and caring individuals. Understanding the impact poverty and violence has on our students is important. Bullying has a huge impact on our children's wellbeing. The division needs to continue to understand, address and hope to resolve these issues. We need to find other funding sources. We cannot always rely on governments to prioritize education.
TS: A secure funding and technology model needs to be a priority. The students need to be current with information and the generation in schools thrives in the tech world. This is a different way of teaching and requires a shift in planned spending. It may also be one of the solutions to encourage engagement in school and enhance teachers’ curriculum.
8. How do you feel about recent Manitoba education policy, such as switching funding models or proposing board structure changes?
KK: Until I am elected, I don't know what the answers are to these issues. I do know we need community autonomy. We need local representation here in our community, not in Winnipeg.
TS: The government has the right to change how boards are funded, structured and function under the Public Schools Act. Funding models have changed previously, but funding needs to cover programming and allow for growth to provide education for employment after graduation. If enrolment declines, I would expect the government could reduce board size but that means fewer voices to make decisions at the local and provincial level.
9. In the past, possible amalgamation of Manitoba school boards, including in the north, has been proposed. What do you feel about this issue?
KK: I feel this would spell disaster for our community. School needs vary from each division. We are different even in our northern communities. We would lose our voice in such a huge division. How could we advocate for our students and staff against much larger schools.
TS: Amalgamation saves financially, but it also may cause a loss of autonomy for each division involved. Amalgamation can result in a weaker voice at the provincial trustee table for rural areas, resulting in decisions/resolutions for the Manitoba School Boards Association (MSBA) run by urban divisions. Collaborating for programs between divisions has happened prior to this time and does work for some students in our division.
10. How do you plan to hear concerns from students, staff or other trustees?
KK: People need to be heard. As a trustee, I would listen and ensure the person that I would do my best to find a solution or find someone who could. In order to do that, we need safe and caring policies to support effective responses - listening, hearing, helping and advocating.
TS: I am available by phone or email at any time. I will attend functions/parent councils in the schools and hear concerns as they arise.
11. In some school divisions, there have been calls to either remove or place under review certain books from school libraries, including books that feature queer or trans issues and characters, provide sex education or others. What stance do you have on this?
KK: I believe when you ban books you are taking away education and freedom of speech. We all need knowledge in order to be broad-minded. Children and youth need to see books where they are represented. Every culture needs to see books depicting their way of life. Residential school books teach Indigenous history. Suffragette teaches us the history of women's rights. The 2SLGBTQ+ community is no different. Struggling children and youth may find answers in those books. Diversity needs to be represented.
TS: We have been here before. The previous concern throughout divisions was “The Little Black Book” discussing similar issues. Our division left it available for students in high school to take or not take. Parents are informed about sex education and can choose to remove their child from the class. The ask: Are we violating human rights by removing or reviewing? If we are trying to teach tolerance in society, what does this type of censorship say?
12. Manitoba school divisions, including the FFSD, have at times had to hire teachers without formal certification to keep classrooms covered. How would you propose the division attract qualified teachers and staff?
KK: As a division, we need to commit to ensuring all teachers and staff receive adequate pay and benefits and support for mental health, workplace stress and burnout. We need to lobby our government to make Flin Flon a more attractive and affordable place to live and work.
TS: Flin Flon needs to be promoted as a community not just a career choice. Advertising positions here with events such as Blueberry Jam generates interest, as will partnering with the city’s “Water and the Wild” theme. A “grow your own” approach by talking with students planning to go to university for education with job shadowing, financial assistance and a return service agreement for the division for some time (say, 3-5 years) is an option.
13. What relationship do you think the FFSD should have with education partners in Saskatchewan?
KK: We should have a respectful, informative and collaborative partnership, especially since we are a border town. Having a good relationship would benefit the students, staff and communities.
TS: A reciprocal option for education would work well. Creighton could provide programming for FFSD students and vice versa. This has happened with band students in the past. There has been discussion in the past re: amalgamation of divisions, but the Public Schools Act in each province would have to be consulted. Shared continuing education for educators would enhance programs on both sides.
14. What kind of priority do you believe French Immersion education should have within the FFSD? Do you support maintaining funding and resources for these programs or would you like to change them?
KK: We are a bilingual country, so therefore French Immersion is extremely important. I feel we should maintain funding and resources.
TS: French Immersion provides diversity to learning, opens doors for post-secondary education, and provides a cultural component in the system. French is an official language in Canada and education should be available for it in both standard capacity and immersion if the students/parents want it. Delivery methods may be different depending on the availability of staff to teach each subject.
15. What kind of priority do you believe adult or specialized education programs should have within the FFSD?
KK: Continuous learning is necessary for all adults in our evolving society. You have to upgrade and keep current. We have great resources for adult education. We have ELDC through the Friendship Centre. We also have UCN and Many Faces. Keeping these programs a priority is important.
TS: The division does have adult education in the form of Many Faces Education Center but adult/specialized could expand with partnerships for trade schools, UCN, the RHA, local industry, or the Apprenticeship Board in Manitoba. It would serve the community and students well to have a health care worker course or an entry-level trade available that could be part of the credits for graduation.
16. In 30 words or less - What is your elevator pitch for undecided voters?
KK: My experiences have given me insight to make a difference, help set a higher standard needed for student success and to provide a safe, inclusive space.
TS: Education is a right in Canada. I want every student to exercise this in FFSD and get the right education for them. Please vote Nov. 8 at the division office.
17. What question/questions do you wish we would have asked?
KK: How would you engage all community members (not just parents) to be more involved with the school and the division?
TS: Are you aware of the division’s strategic plan? Do you know what roles the MSBA and CSBA (Canadian School Boards Association) play in our local school division?