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School District 8 trustee candidates make their case at debate

Seven candidates took part in Tuesday’s event
School District 8 trustee candidate Julie Bremner speaks Tuesday night during an all-candidates debate. Also seen sitting down are (L-R) candidates Lesley Garlow, Kathy Krulitsky and Murray Shunter. Photo: Tyler Harper

School District 8 trustee candidates had just one opportunity to make their case for election at a Nelson debate, but few made an impression.

Six candidates are running for two open district seats in the City of Nelson/Bealby Point area. Tricia Braun, Julie Bremner, Lesley Garlow, Kathy Krulitsky, Murray Shunter and Tamara Ziemer, who was not at Tuesday’s debate, are campaigning for the seats left by Sheri Walsh and Bill Maslechko, who are both stepping down.

The debate at Nelson’s Wildflower School gym included Nelson’s mayoral and city council candidates, which left little time for everyone on stage to answer the few questions they were given.

School board chair Lenora Trenaman and challenger David Feldman, who are both running for the Crawford Bay/East Shore/North Shore seat, also took part.

Candidates were first allowed time to introduce themselves. Every one of them with the exception of Braun has worked in public education. Garlow, who is originally from Six Nations in Ontario, was the only candidate who identified as Indigenous.

When asked about budget priorities, Braun, a former television actress who works at Service BC, said she wants more education assistants in SD8 classrooms. Students with special needs, she said, aren’t receiving enough support. Braun also said she believes arts education funding has been cut and wants it restored.

Shunter, who has been a teacher in the district for 30 years, told the audience he wants to make cuts to district bureaucracy. The current budget, he said, doesn’t emphasize classrooms and is a poor draw when recruiting teachers.

Garlow wants outdoor student programming expanded and efforts made to bring environmental groups into the classroom.

Trenaman meanwhile defended the district’s budget. The majority of funding is spent on salaries, she said, while the education ministry has frozen funding despite rising inflation. That has left little extra for classrooms.

Krulitsky, Bremner and Feldman offered no specific thoughts on the budget.

Responses to a second question asking how trustees plan to engage with community and education stakeholders were often vague and underwhelming.

Krulitsky and Bremner only said they would make themselves available to the public, while Braun said she wants regular meetings held with teachers. Garlow said she is passionate about decolonization and wants to have that conversation with the public.

Shunter, the only candidate to answer the question with a specific idea, said informal public gatherings should be scheduled throughout the year to give parents one-on-one opportunities to speak with trustees.

Feldman, who has been a math instructor, school chair and dean at Selkirk College, said he prioritized listening to students and the community at the college and would continue that work.

Trenaman committed to continuing being open at public meetings. She referred to a coming update to the district’s five-year strategic plan that will require public consultation.

It was difficult to leave the debate knowing who among the group was electable.

The local chapter of Canadian Federation of University Women organized and ran the event, while the Nelson and District Teachers’ Association but did not ask trustees for their thoughts on more pressing provincial and local education issues.

No trustee offered their opinion on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) curriculums and policies, which have become a sticking point for other trustee candidates across the province. Braun was the only trustee to mention the aging infrastructure at Trafalgar Middle School.


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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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