Eight Lloydminster residents are looking to secure a spot on the Lloydminster Public School Division’s Board of Trustees.
There are seven seats open this election with four people looking to return and four new candidates. Cathy Cornet, Chrissy Gee, Karoline Kennedy and David Thompson are running for re-election while Asad Gavahi Kashani, Melanie Mutter, Viren Tailor and Georgina Veltikold are looking to secure a first term on the board.
As part of the board, elected trustees will develop and evaluate the strategic directions, goals and policies of LPSD as well as advocate on behalf of the division, its schools, students and staff.
Election day is on November 9th and voters can head to the polls at the Servus Sports Centre, the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association or go through the drive-thru poll at Bud Miller Park from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to cast their vote.
Cornet has been in Lloydminster since 1996 and first joined the board in 2009. She’s worked in payroll in the medical field for 12 years and a staff scheduler with the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Lloydminster.
“I enjoy being an advocate for the children. I enjoy interacting with the kids and staff. We’ve done some exciting things and I would like to help build and keep a good school division.”
If re-elected, she says she will continue being an advocate for more school funding from both provinces and securing funding in the future will be more challenging in the current economy.
“We’re in a bit of a struggle in the economy and there will be funding challenges, accessing and keeping what we have. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge that we have is the economy.”
She says she would also like to see the Lloydminster Comprehensive High School expansion through to the end as the project began during her time on board.
“[There] will be a readjustment in moving our Grade 9’s over there and that’s why the expansion is needed. I believe that we really need that expansion and we’ll have to work to realign our schools in LPSD.”
She mentions guiding administration through the pandemic will be another focal point for her.
Gee has served on the board since 2015 following a by-election and works in the city as a cosmetologist. She says she remembers the high school being packed when she attended and so maximizing the space and implementing another gym facility will be an important aspect she will look at for the expansion project.
“Programming-wise, I don’t have anything specific that I want to see. I love that our high school has the trades program and I think continuing to expand and point that in the right direction is awesome. I took the cosmetology program so I was able to get all kinds of experience in my industry before actually going to [post-secondary.]”
Outside of the high school project, Gee says she wants to focus on building the relationship with the community and the division.
“I want our kids and families to feel very comfortable in the schools and feel like they are a part of their kid’s education too. I think relationships are so important and would like to keep building on that.”
Gee says in the past five years she’s been a part of several committees connected to the board, but there is still room to grow and new things to learn as part of it.
“The knowledge that I’ve gained has helped me understand the process. There is a process and everything has regulations when it’s government and taxpayers money. There’s a process that needs to be followed which was a huge learning curve for me, but I think I’ve learned a lot.”
Asad Gavahi Kashani
Kashani works as a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart in Lloydminster and is a certified diabetes educator and certified respiratory educator. Kashani moved to Lloydminster in 2015 after living in Sylvan Lake and Vancouver.
“I have two daughters who are going to school and pre-school very soon in this community and I want the best for them and every kid. If I can put my expertise and experience and what I know about in different areas into the perspective of the Board of Trustees that might become more helpful.”
His primary goal is to help the division through the pandemic as part of the board. He says his experience of the past few months working with COVID-19 testing will help bring a unique perspective to the board and could help with planning for future issues.
“The healthcare issues that we face right now and might face in the future, we’ll have support from the professionals in the government that are putting plans into motion, but the community could always benefit from a more experienced person that wants to work locally.”
He says the pandemic response in schools has an indirect effect on the economy as people could miss work while taking care of their children at home.
“There should be some local plan in motion so that if something like this happens, what should we do.”
On the topic of the high school expansion, he says he needs more information on the project before coming to any conclusions, but does thank the previous board for their work and advocacy in securing the funding for the project.
“The best investment you can do is in your education and your children’s education and it will definitely pay off.”
Kennedy is a chartered accountant and has been on the board since 2008. She also served a four-year term as Secretary-Treasurer of the Public Schools of Saskatchewan. With her financial background, Kennedy will look towards keeping the numbers in check and advocating for more funding as part of the board.
“Alberta has changed the way they finance schools and that’s going to hurt us in the next couple of years quite a bit. Our funding with Saskatchewan never lines up perfectly. We get money from Alberta and Saskatchewan. They come in different envelopes and are calculated in different ways and it’s quite a nightmare.”
She says she’s already experienced funding model changes during the early parts of her time on the board. She mentions she was also on the board for the completion of College Park School as well as several other renovation projects across the division.
“Having achieved all these things, I think there’s so much more that we can do and are doing. It’s exciting to move ahead in these times.”
Kennedy hopes to see improvements to the infrastructure within the school and better learning environments as part of the expansion.
Mutter teaches business at Lakeland College and is the interim Executive Director of the Lloydminster Learning Council Association. She moved to Lloydminster in 1993 and took on several different roles in education from administration to instruction and previously worked at the Lloydminster Comprehensive High School as a Career Preparation Coordinator.
“Although I bring years of experience in community engagement and education for students from kindergarten to post-secondary studies in both the private and public sector, I think it’s less about who I am as a new board member and what I’ve done to contribute to our community than how I can move LPSD forward in a positive way.”
Critical thinking and planning for the future are crucial skills for students making decisions about their careers, but she says they are also important for decision being made that will impact future generations of students.
“When we have the information to find the best solutions, regardless of the project or issue at hand, we can ensure excellence for all students.”
Mutter says physical and mental wellness are also important to student’s success and hopes to see more done to help students transition to the workforce.
She says she cannot comment on the high school expansion as she needed more detailed information about the project.
Tailor is the Chief Financial Officer for the County of Vermilion River and a chartered professional accountant. He was born and raised in India. Tailor has an extensive background attending the University of Windsor for a Bachelor’s degree and getting a Master’s degree in the United States. He also worked as an investment banker in the U.S.
He says that varied experienced in multiple disciplines and education will help provide different perspectives and ways that other schools in different approaches from other countries.
“I look at myself and see that I’m a prime example of what education can do. I came to Canada empty handed and today I’m in charge of a multi-million dollar municipal corporation. I value my education and I want to do the same to the community.”
Tailor hopes to see more of a focus on helping students plan for the future and learn about finances early. As part of the board, Tailor wants to learn more about their capabilities and will also be looking at the division’s finances and find efficiencies where he can.
On the subject of the high school expansion, Tailor says he needs more information on what exactly the plans are for the project, but will check to see if those plans do meet the needs of the community.
Thompson says he has a passion for education as he held several positions in the education system from teacher to Director of Education to the Faculty of Education at the University of Saskatchewan. If re-elected, this will be Thompson’s fourth term on the board.
“We are both in a challenging and exciting time in education right now. We’re delighted with the funding announcement and that we are going to be able to renovate and expand the opportunities at Lloydminster Comprehensive High School. We are also looking at the challenges presented by the health issues and the economic challenges both provinces we serve are facing.”
Thompson adds he’s been on the building committee for the high school and would like to see the project through to completion. He mentions another focus for him in the next term will be on class size as well as student achievement in the early years.
“We have a high emphasis on student achievement and if students can be reading at grade level by the end of Grade 3 then the predictors are very high for success in later school years.”
Veltikold says she’s involved with her children and grandchildren’s education for a long time and wants to bring a voice for concerned parents to the board.
“I know parents are concerned about some issues and I understand as a school board you don’t have anything to do with the curriculum, but I’m hoping to be a positive voice and bring attention to some of the concerns parents have.”
“I wanted to learn more about what is being presented in the school system right now and things like that. I know there are a lot of changes, so as a concerned grandparent, I also wanted to see the ways children are being taught today.”
The retiree was born and raised in the Border City and worked in the medical field for 40 years as a registered nurse. She says she has some experience working on different boards and committees such as the United Nurses of Alberta.
“I was president for five or six years, so I learned how to get involved with decisions that needed to be made to better the workplace.”
Veltikold also volunteered her time to a teachers support group to learn about their concerns and the issues children face in school.
She says she needs more information on the high school expansion, but if elected, she will be sure to review the criteria and plans for the project closely and make sure they are moving forward with a good decision.