Andrew Burton: Answers to DPAC Questions

DPAC questions emailed to trustee candidates October 28th, at 8:30pm. Answers received from Andrew Burton October 29th. 

1. What do you think is important to parents in the district?

I think what matters most to parents is the wellbeing and future of their children. Beyond that there are practical issues that occur. When there is disruption in school schedules parents are faced with having to make special arrangements for child care and transportation. Costs for supplies, extracurricular activities and special programs are a concern for some parents. Safety from harm and exclusion is an important issue as well.

2. Why are you running for trustee?
I have worked with young people for most of my adult life. I have the skills, education and experience to be of benefit to our youth and our community. I have a Master’s Degree in Education and specialized training in counselling to back up years of work. I see some real positives in our schools and some room for improvement as well. I believe I can make a difference. I believe that some people run for the wrong reasons. Some are reacting to a specific issue such as the recent contract negotiations and disruption of school schedules. Others see school boards as training for other offices or as a forum to advance partisan political agendas. I am here to serve the interests and the future of our young people and our communities, period.

3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the role of trustee?
I have worked with youth and with parents for a long time. Much of my work with youth has involved theatre presentations and workshops by the Street Spirits program that I founded. This has involved engaging youth in defining and addressing problems in the world, many of which are problems in the school system. I listen to what they tell me and to the concerns that affect their lives both within the school system and without. I have followed and researched the issues related to school operations closely.

4. How will you ensure that the schools in this district are safe and caring places for all students?
This is a significant issue. We talk often about bullying and I know that the board has instituted policies to ensure safety. However, such approaches are often regulatory in nature. The focus is on punitive measures. For example, in addressing diversity issues there are rules in place that authorize disciplinary action for discriminatory language and behaviour. This is a good thing but it does not go far enough. Punishing wrongdoing often serves to drive such behaviour underground. It also teaches people to look to authority to manage or settle problems. We need specific elements in curriculum and in the daily practices within the school to challenge the thought processes that drive bullying, discrimination and marginalization. We need to develop critical thinking and encourage young people to challenge inequity and to build strong, open, inclusive and egalitarian social environments within our schools. Such changes must involve and be driven by the youth themselves. They can be supported and encouraged but cannot be imposed.

5. How do you see your role as trustee in relation to the superintendent and staff?
I believe that board members should have a role of supportive collaboration with the superintendent and staff. We need to recognize that school staff members are for the most part, there because they want to serve the interests of their students and have the skills and abilities to do so. We need to listen to them and support them in providing the best possible environment for our children. I believe as trustees one of the most important trusts we have is to maintain the focus of the school system on its mission. We can do that by asking questions. When decisions are being contemplated we need to ask not just the board but school staff and superintendent; “Is this in the best interests of our students? Is it achievable? Are there other ways to do this? What else will this do? What else needs to be done?”

6. How will you demonstrate and communicate the accountability and transparency of the school board to parents and to the community?
I will make a commitment to communicate with and listen to all sides of every issue and to be easily available to people who have questions or opinions they wish to share. I will consult with parents and school staff before making decisions on significant issues.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Too often elections focus on sound bites, slogans and appeals to emotional issues. Such an approach does not serve us well. The issues facing schools and the issues facing parents are complex and challenging. We are faced with a changing world and a changing society. None of us know with any certainty what the world will be like, what social and political changes may come, what technology will appear and what the economy will do in the coming years. We need a school system that prepares our children to learn and live in that changing world. We need to build resilient, creative, socially capable critical thinkers. I will work to do that.


More information on Andrew Burton, taken from newspaper article links:

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