by Andru McCracken
As of the last election, the Robson Valley finally has a local school trustee, the first in a very long time, and according to trustee Bob Thompson there is a lot of learning to do. He likened the experience to drinking from a firehose.
“It’s just about a four hour meeting almost every night,” said Thompson, of his work on School District No. 57. “It’s busy, busy, but it is great. I’m learning a lot and enjoying it.”
Thompson is not alone as a new trustee. Across the province, 46% of school trustees are also newly elected.
“They give us lots of training because it is complex and difficult job,” Thompson said.
The provincial government made changes to allow for the election of Robson Valley and Mackenzie trustee to the school board, after a tireless campaign for better representation.
Thompson’s counterpart in Mackenzie is Shuirose Valimohamed.
“The point of having the Mackenzie trustee and the Robson Valley trustee is to better understand the thinking of people in the valley,” Thompson said.
“The reason I’m on the board is because they finally heard that things are different out here. They’re different than they are in Prince George. And that’s exactly why I’m on the board.”
He added that individual trustees are expected to support the board’s decisions once they are made, however.
“The board is a congenial board at least so far. I think it will remain so.”
Thompson said that the board has not yet discussed the potential closure of McBride Elementary School.
“Obviously that is an issue of concern for people in McBride, but I have heard some opinions saying that they don’t really mind if the school is closed,” he said.
“I think the majority opinion in the valley is ‘Let’s not close the school.’ However, these things seem to be decided by formulae.”
“My personal opinion is that it would hurt the town to lose Centennial school. But you know, it’s not about me. It’s about the process and how the decision is made, but we have not discussed that at all yet.”
Thompson said the board is still waiting for the province’s new funding formula, which hadn’t been released yet.
“There may be more money allotted to smaller rural and remote schools. But we don’t know yet,” he said.
Thompson said the issue he is approached the most on concerns the school’s SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) curriculum.
“There are parents in our communities that are really opposed to it. They don’t want any talk about sexuality in any way.”
Thompson says the curriculum helps prevent bullying.
“It’s really anti-bullying. It’s just information about why gender differences happen,” said Thompson.