Name and pronouns: Cheryl Sluis (she/her)
Affiliation: Community First New West
Tell us about yourself.
With 20 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, I am ready to apply my expertise in project management, strategic planning, and program evaluation to continue to strengthen New Westminster’s public schools. I am passionate about public education and bring a deep commitment to social, economic and environmental justice and reconciliation to my work and my community involvement. I live in Sapperton with my partner and our two school-aged kids. I am active on parent advisory councils, non-profit boards, and involved with my kids’ sports teams. I can often be found running on the Central Valley Greenway.
Why are you running for school board?
We need strategic thinkers and strong advocates to work on the big challenges of a rapidly growing city, equity and inclusion, and the climate crisis. I believe my skills and experience in project management, strategic planning and program evaluation will be an asset to the board.
What do you think the current school board has done well? Where has it missed the mark?
They have built two new schools and begun to move ahead with a significant addition to another elementary school in Queensborough as well as fund a new elementary school downtown. As a rapidly growing city, we face significant pressures, and long-range planning for schools must be our top priority.
What are the top three issues facing the next school board?
The top three issues facing the next school board are:
1. School infrastructure and resource needs to accommodate our rapidly growing city.
2. Not all students feel safe at school.
3. The climate crisis.
How do you plan to address those issues?
1. To address school infrastructure and resource needs we need to: identify areas of current need and future growth; acquire land; advocate to the ministry for funding for new schools; and use space in creative ways.
2. To ensure students feel safe, we need a multi-pronged approach that includes: a review of existing policies from the lens of safety, equity, respect and compassion; implementing a process for reporting and reviewing safety concerns; and empowering staff by offering training in conflict de-escalation and intervention. We also need to increase access to mental health support for students and promote respect through education and awareness on topics such as consent, sexual health and mental health.
3. To address the climate crisis, we need to take meaningful action in the following areas: up the LEED standard for new builds; adopt a procurement policy that considers life-cycle costing; and support climate curriculum development and implementation.
New Westminster schools are facing a serious space crunch. What does the next board need to do to address it?
New Westminster is the one of the fastest growing municipalities in the Lower Mainland, especially for young families. To address the space crunch, the board needs to identify areas of current need and future growth, identify opportunities and acquire land through partnerships with the City of New Westminster, and advocate to the Ministry of Education for funding to build new schools. The board needs to ensure that our schools and learning environments continue to engage, inspire and motivate our teachers, staff, and students in New Westminster.
Health and safety has been a topic of discussion on multiple fronts over the past few years. What are your health and safety priorities for New Westminster schools, and how will you address them?
This is a complex issue that requires a multi-pronged approach that includes: a review of existing policies from the lens of safety, equity, respect and compassion; implementing a process for reporting and reviewing safety concerns; and empowering staff by offering training in conflict de-escalation and intervention. We also need to increase access to mental health support for students and promote respect through education and awareness on topics such as consent, sexual health, and mental health.
And just for fun: If you got to spend one full day in school again, what grade would you return to and why?
I would return to Grade 10 and get involved in student politics!
Note: All candidates received the same questionnaire, including word limits. (If candidates ran over word limits, answers are cut off and noted accordingly.) Contact information and social media details are presented as provided by candidates.