The cut-off for candidates vying for school trustee in Manitoba to file their nomination papers has passed.
The role was almost eliminated through provincial legislation the Manitoba government has since abandoned but some observers said the plan to get rid of school boards continues to reverberate.
After serving four terms and 16 years as a school trustee, the current board chair of the Pembina Trails School Division has decided not to seek re-election.
“I think 16 years is a long time and maybe it’s time for me to do other things and to allow other people to come onto the board,” Dianne Zuk said.
In the ward Zuk has represented, no incumbents are running this year for the three trustee positions that are up for grabs.
Six people have put their names forward to run in that ward alone on the heels of the Manitoba government first introducing and later scrapping legislation that would’ve eliminated school trustees and centralized decision-making.
“Which is a good sign that people weren’t concerned. They really have the courage and the interest in running for elections so I think that’s a good thing,” Zuk said.
She said she was relieved when the Manitoba government scrapped its controversial Education Modernization Act, better known as Bill 64, which proposed numerous changes, including dissolving school boards.
While Bill 64 didn’t impact her decision, Zuk wouldn’t be surprised if it prompted others to put their name forward.
John Wiens, dean emeritus and professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, said the impact of the bill continues to linger in the lead-up to this fall’s school trustee elections.
“I think that some people will be reluctant to run and others will in fact want to run but even for those people who won’t run, people will be watching really closely who does run and for what reasons they’re running,” Wiens said.
Wiens, who’s also a former superintendent, said it’s difficult to say how many people may have been discouraged to run but he’s aware of a few people who have stepped away because of the controversy surrounding the bill.
He said that’s not the only concern. Finding ways to pay for new initiatives amid a review of the way the province funds education could be a challenge for those who are elected.
“And we think we are going to end up being blamed in the final analysis,” Wiens cited as a concern. “Like we won’t be able to do the things we think we need to do because we won’t have the money.”
Zuk said while the job is challenging, it’s also very rewarding.
“Because I really believe in the democracy and really believe that the community should have a voice and a connection to the people directing the learning in the school divisions,” she said.
And she’s glad more people are stepping forward to keep that connection alive.
A full list of candidates running for school trustee in wards across multiple school divisions in the City of Winnipeg can be found here.
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