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Candidates firming up election campaigns

The 2011 School District No. 40 election ballot is beginning to take shape as incumbent trustees are starting to declare their candidacies or are nearing decisions.

The 2011 School District No. 40 election ballot is beginning to take shape as incumbent trustees are starting to declare their candidacies or are nearing decisions.

Of the seven incumbents, four have declared their intention to run, while others are leaning towards it.

Michael Ewen, current board chair endorsed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council, confirmed last week that he will be on the ballot.

"I'm definitely going to run for re-election," he said. "There are still things that are in play like the capital projects that hopefully soon are going to be coming to fruition. I think it's important to have some stability and some consistency as we move forward."

Ewen said priorities will be keeping an eye on the district's budget but also making sure students have access to programs that meet their needs.

"I'm prepared to do that if that means we have to find sources of income, which we've done over the years. I know that not all trustees see it that way," he said.

Jim Goring, one of Voice New Westminster's trustees, said he too is eager to be back to bring balance to the board and work out some lingering issues.

"Getting the capital plan rolling, the whole issue of governance, conflict of interest, strategic planning - a lot of things that need attention that I think have been really not looked after in the past," he said.

Goring said it is important to make sure that teachers don't take every trustee seat as a school district needs an advocate for parents and taxpayers as well.

James Janzen, a labour-endorsed trustee and library worker, has confirmed as well, citing a need to handle "unfinished business," including the district's capital projects.

Janzen said he will also be a valuable voice to have on the board as the B.C. Teachers' Federation and province clash over contracts.

"I'm a little bit worried what the next two or three years are going to be like given the way the negotiations are going between the province and the teachers' union," he said.

"I think there's going to be quite a bit of controversy in the school system over the next couple of years, and I'd like to be able to help work through that."

Voice's Casey Cook said Tuesday that he has consulted with the Western Lacrosse Association, which he recently became commissioner of, and determined he will have the time to commit to another term on school board. Cook said the last board has made good progress on the capital plan, issues of transparency and conflicts of interest, and a "significant, significant budget crisis," which he said has been largely cleared up.

What remains on Cook's todo list is getting parents more involved with school board policy.

"We need to find in New Westminster and, indeed I think, all of education in this province, a meaningful role for parents in education because right now, I think parental involvement has been all but shut out in decision making," he said.

Three current trustees have yet to declare, though some say they are probably going to run.

Lisa Graham, of Voice, said she hasn't made her decision, but it is likely she'll run again.

"At this point in time, I am leaning towards running."

Graham said if she does run, she plans to do so under the Voice banner again.

Lori Watt, who was backed by labour in 2008, said Tuesday that she is "not ready to announce at this point."

Brent Atkinson, the only elected candidate who won without official Voice or labour support, said he has a lot to consider before the official nomination period begins.

"I never make a decision until much closer to the filing date simply because I have family and business commitments," he said. "A lot can change between now and Oct 14."