Below read her answers to OUR questions

Laurae McNally answered first 6 questions by email and the last four in a telephone interview which we offered to her because she has a foot injury from shrapnel suffered whilst helping at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan this summer.

1. What is your key, or main, motivation to run for a school trustee position?

I do not view Trusteeship as a “stepping stone” to higher office, or as a job, I view it as community service. My mom always said “you get out of your community what you put into it” How true! I have a passion for seeing students succeed and want them all to like school as much as I did. I am not beholden to any slate; just beholden to people in my community. My “institutional history” helps folks in getting problems resolved. I am willing to put in the time and energy to serve my community one more term.

2. How do you see the role of the school trustees in addressing the issues with space, overcrowded classrooms, and new school construction in this rapidly growing district?

Trustees play a huge role here.We need to constantly let other levels of Government know what our needs are. MPs, MLAs, City Councillors have all kinds of issues on their plate ( transportation, crime, budgets, health, etc.) They cannot be experts on everything and rely upon us to keep them abreast of our needs. One meeting a year or more does not do it. It distresses me to see students crammed onto school sites like salmon beneath blocked waterfalls, and it angers me to have to use scarce operating dollars to fund portables, and to pony up money for Capital projects. Those dollars are distributed to us to be spent on students.

3. Currently, Surrey is short of classroom teachers and teachers teaching on call. What ideas do you have for recruitment and retention?

This is becoming a problem in many countries. Recruiting needs to occur year-round.

In the short term, I think we could be doing more jointly to promote the District. I was heartened late this summer, to see a “Tweet” by a Surrey teacher encouraging others to come to the District. We jointly could be doing some self promotion. Housing is a huge concern for teachers new to us. A retired teacher I know has opened up a suite in her house, renting to a new teacher here. She feels she can also be a support for this new educator. Together, we could be highlighting such an idea.

Mentoring programs are helping our new teachers, let’s not overlook the value of that. We all do better when we work together.

In the longer term, teachers need to secure an appropriate wage increase through bargaining! But the government needs to seriously look at what other jurisdictions are doing.

I am familiar with initiatives in New South Wales… $6000 signing bonuses for new teachers, assisting in paying off student debts, etc. Trustees should be making their wishes known to their BCPSEA reps.

4. Surrey Schools are still short of Learning Support Teachers. How will you advocate fully implementing the language in the collective agreement so that Surrey students will have enough specialist teachers to meet their learning needs?

This should remain high on our radar screen. Trustees have a responsibly to address this at budget time. One of my frustrations has been how long it is taking to resolve the outstanding issue of our special education staffing. I know it is in arbitration between BCTF and BCPSEA, I know there are several issues at that table, and I know they need to report by January 31/2019. Do not know if any progress being made, or why folks always have to wait until the very last minute to report out.

5. In bargaining for a new contract, what actions will you take to ensure that BCPSEA and the Provincial government will reach a fairly negotiated contract with teachers?

After a long campaign, Trustees are back in the BCPSEA Board. Each Board of Trustees should be meeting to give their desires and instructions to their region’s rep.

I am still puzzled as to why bargaining is taking so long to start. Lots of red herrings thrown out, but, in my books, there is a ton of stuff to talk about!

6. What is the best way for the Board to hear from and respond to concerns from parents, employees and other community members?

Where to start! Firstly, one meeting per year with the STA is not enough. I believe we should be meeting more frequently, with just one or two topics on the agenda. How I miss the days when we had joint potluck dinners together and talked about issues.

One example. The STA wrote us a few months ago re refugee funding. Nothing ever happened about that issue. It is an issue near and dear to my heart, having spent considerable time with refugees. With a Federal election coming up quickly, we should be jointly making our needs known to our MPs as they will be doing election planning soon and developing their platforms.

I miss the liaison meetings we used to have with various multicultural communities. …Arabic, Pilipino, Mandarin, etc. We went out to their neighbourhood schools, we did not expect them to come to us. For me, the input was invaluable. Yes, it was time-consuming. However, if you are not willing to put in the time, you shouldn’t be a Trustee.

As the District continues to grow, I think we should have zonal parent mtgs. One big forum at DEC with hand selected participants doesn’t give me the feedback I am looking for from parents. It is more valuable for me to chat with parents at track meets, school and District events such as Fine Arts performances.

It is a rare day I am not out at a school, and I find that time commitment useful.

7. How can the Board support the recommendations and calls to action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission?

Well, we’ve made a good start in the district but I think there is more we can do. I ve been encouraged by the knowledge about the TRC report that I am hearing from students, there is certainly a lot more awareness. It seems schools are taking it seriously. We musn’t stop, we need to continue, it isn’t only the students, it is also the parents. I’m thinking schools can do individual PAC meetings with that as a topic, for instance.

8. As school trustee, how will you use your role to support the sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity development of Surrey students?

I think again, we need to support what schools are doing. I don’t know how widespread it is, hopefully in every school, but a number of schools have a staff person assigned as the SOGI contact person. I am thrilled with that. Whenever we come upon people who aren’t sure what SOGI is about, we need to talk to them about it. We have a role as leaders in our community, to tell people the way it is!

9. As school trustee how will you actively advocate for a better funded public education system?

I alluded to this earlier, but I think we need to be out there talking to the MLAs and other powers-that-be at every opportunity. If you are a city councillor, or MLA or MP, you have to have a grasp of a whole pile of topics, you don’t pay attention to schools, so it is our job to be educating them at every opportunity. Sometimes we think they don’t care, but they just don’t know.

What do you see as the difference between a needs-based budget, and a balanced budget?

A balanced budget is living within the pie that the government gives you. A needs-based budget is what you really believe the district needs to operate.

10. How can trustees ensure that the leadership in Surrey schools reflects the diversity of Surrey’s communities?

I think we can encourage our senior staff to go out and encourage a diverse group of people in our district to apply for these positions and to go to some of the leadership workshops that are offered. Tap people on the shoulder. It isn’t that difficult.