Kate Cooke: Answers to DPAC questions

DPAC questions emailed to trustee candidates October 28th, at 8:30pm. Answers received from Kate Cooke November 4th

1. What do you think is important to parents in the district?
There are three basic things that all parents want: they want to know that their kids are safe, loved (or at least cared for), and learning something useful. Additionally, I think parents want to know that their kids receive adequate support, that problems (like bullying) will be dealt with quickly and fairly, that their role as parents will be respected, and that their kids will get a solid foundation in reading, writing, math, and opportunities to grow in the arts, phys-ed, citizenship, and practical skills.

2. Why are you running for trustee?
I am running for re-election because I have high expectations. For the last three years I have tried to raise the game for everyone involved in student success. I have worked for healthy caring schools and good relationships between all partner groups. I talk regularly with stakeholders and partner groups, especially when I know there are outstanding issues and dysfunction in our district. I have fought for transparent governance, asked tough questions of management and others, and refused to simply rubber stamp motions. Although I respect my fellow trustees, this usually puts me in the minority, often 1 out of 7.

3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the role of trustee?
To prepare for being a trustee I do three things:
a) I talk to people involved like teachers, principals, parents, and support staff to find out what’s going on
b) I read the material prepared by senior staff and ask tough questions about it
c) I make motions to actually deal with the issues that come up, either on my own or with other trustees

4. How will you ensure that the schools in this district are safe and caring places for all students?
I will ensure safe and caring schools by continuing to find out what is behind the issues that come up and by holding senior management accountable for dealing with them. I will continue to be persistent. In 2012 I was the only trustee to support a stand-alone policy on LGBTQ bullying. Eventually the others came around. I also started out alone in pushing for class composition reports and better information release on school registration data and future projections. I keep in close contact with a network of parents, teachers, administration, and support staff.

5. How do you see your role as trustee in relation to the superintendent and staff?
I see my role with district staff as being an important part of providing transparency and accountability. I have prepared detailed responses to each of the superintendent’s reports and district achievement contracts, and have asked tough questions at every in-camera and public board meeting. I insist on better data for decisions, e.g. the new student information system, and set high expectations for board office communication and reporting, e.g. I’ve kept the pressure up for a better and more useful district website. One of my favourite roles was being the DPAC liaison for two years.

6. How will you demonstrate and communicate the accountability and transparency of the school board to parents and to the community?
I will demonstrate accountability and transparency by asking for a restoration budget to by developed alongside the balanced budget. This shows partner groups and the government what a fully funded schools would look like, and would be developed with inputs from all partner groups. In fact our partner groups made very good suggestions during the “Extended Committee” process over the last two years but we failed to implement those changes in part due to insufficient funds. I also believe we need less closed-door meetings and would push for more inclusion and a redesign of our meetings. Lastly, we have a strategic planning process coming this year and I would like to ensure that it is not a “done deal” process but one that actually listens to and uses the input of partner groups and the community.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There are different strengths and weaknesses on every board. By my own admission I am not a politician. I am in fact an introvert who works very hard because I am trying to make a change. My work may not always be in the spotlight, but it is important because many of the other trustees are not comfortable doing it, like bringing issues into the light and asking difficult or awkward questions on behalf of parents, students, and employees. Learn more at http://trusteecooke@blogspot.com




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