Name and pronouns: Maya Russell (she/her)
Affiliation: Community First New West
Tell us about yourself:
I ran for school board in 2018 to represent working families and speak up for students who have been under-served. As a trustee I led an inclusive education review resulting in a successful three-year implementation plan. I have championed Indigenous education, Access for All policies, adult education and the needs of children and youth in care. I am an active parent volunteer with minor lacrosse and can often be found at Queen's Park Arena. I also love the performing arts, paddling, camping and gardening. My husband David and I live in Sapperton with three great kids and our dog, Sirius.
Why are you running for school board?
There is more work I would like to contribute to represent families in New Westminster. I think we need to look at the long-term loss of funding to public education over the last few decades. Our schools really need more resources, and we need to look at compensation for teachers and staff that compares with other jurisdictions, so we can retain fantastic people to work with our kids.
What do you think the current school board has done well? Where has it missed the mark?
I am proud of the progress made getting schools built and planning for the future. The population growth ahead of us calls for leadership and attention now, and there has been a lot of work put into this. We have also created child-care spaces for working families.
What are the top three issues facing the next school board?
- Capital planning and advocating for new schools
- Continuing to foster safety and inclusion in every school and every classroom
- Advocating for public education
How do you plan to address those issues?
Our school board works closely together. Working on these issues starts with listening closely to the community, families, students and staff. Where we have done our best work, we have engaged everyone in tough issues, taken time to deeply understand problems, surveyed all the options and then stepped up to make brave decisions that put students first.
New Westminster schools are facing a serious space crunch. What does the next board need to do to address it?
Over half of students are now studying in new schools. A 12-classroom expansion is underway at Queen Elizabeth Elementary, and we have agreement to fund a brand new elementary school for families downtown. Keeping up with this planning and advocating for the schools we need must remain the board’s main focus, so that great schools are open for the students living here five, 10 and 20 years ahead. This is a relatively old city; land space is very challenging, so we must work closely with the city and keep up the pressure for capital funding.
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?
If something happens that doesn’t meet our expectations for safe and inclusive schools, we need to provide a clear, transparent and fair process to deal with it, and those affected need to see action. The district has implemented better incident reporting using the provincial ERASE online tool. There is more to do to strengthen standards and equip our school teams to resolve problems. We foster safer environments by teaching respect and consent consistently. Our schools are a reflection of our community; we need families to stay involved by talking about how we treat people, even those we don’t like.
And just for fun: If you got to spend one full day in school again, what grade would you return to and why?
Grade 11 in Mr. Chudnovsky’s Creative Writing class. I hope everyone has a teacher who draws out strengths they didn’t know they had.
Note: All candidates received the same questionnaire, including word limits. (If candidates ran over word limits, answers are cut off at the limit.) Contact information and social media details are presented as provided by candidates.