Six Richmond school trustee candidates have joined forces to run as part of a newly-formed, “progressive” slate.
Calling themselves the Richmond Education Party, the group is headed by incumbents Ken Hamaguchi and Sandra Nixon. Joining them is Jeff Danis, Heather Larson, Karina Reid and Andrew Scallion.
“If we are successful in getting these six people (elected), it will be a very strong team,” Hamaguchi told the Richmond News, adding that he believes the group has the “will and determination” to make difficult decisions.
Hamaguchi explained that the group is calling themselves progressive because they are “more prepared to move forward.”
“Based on my last four years, within the boardroom, we’ve had some really good discussion over the issues but I find that there’s almost too much talk and not enough action,” Hamaguchi said.
“People want to be really sure before we move ahead, which I understand…but you do have to take some chances…if you’re going to be a leader you’ve got to lead in the popular issues and the less popular issues.”
Hamaguchi also highlighted the team’s support of the newly-approved sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) policy and cautioned against candidates who wanted to reverse the policy.
“That would be a big mistake,” Hamaguchi said. “The biggest fault in the policy lies in the fact that maybe we could have done more to educate people about what it is.
“The policy is sound…it’s more about education, awareness and the bottom line of the whole policy is about being more accepting of the LGBTQ population and, for that fact, everyone.”
Hamaguchi said if parents’ fears are rooted in a lack of understanding on what the policy means, then the school board should work to educate them.
“One of the things we’re committed to, once it gets up and running, is to monitor it,” he said. “If parents have a fear about something then it’s real to them…if their fear is based on a lack of (understanding) then I think we owe it to them provide that information.”
For new candidate Karina Reid, emergency preparedness in schools is top of mind and Hamaguchi says she’s been a “strong advocate” on the issue.
“Some schools have a great amount of supplies and some don’t. So how do we use funds or what do we do to help those other schools as a district,” Reid told the News.
Reid, who is a Richmond District Parent Association representative, said she was excited to be approached to run with the Richmond Education Party.
“All of our values align really well. When I realized what a great team this was I was like ‘yes, we can do this, we’re going to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas.’”
Andrew Scallion is the vice chair for the RDPA and adds a “strong parent voice” to the team, according to Hamaguchi.
Jeff Danis, a minor hockey executive “runs a very successful human resources business,” which Hamaguchi said is an asset in terms of hiring.
“As for Heather Larson, she kind of has the most experience,” Hamaguchi said. “She’s got a good understanding of how the system operates and gives really valuable insight into all those areas.”
Incumbents Nixon, who championed the creation of a SOGI policy, and Hamaguchi were both voted to the school board in 2014 and both pushed for more efficiency on the school board.
Richmond Education Party says other priorities include ensuring there are enough teachers, planning for City Centre, increasing mental health support for students and updating technology in classrooms.
Richmond’s election is on Oct. 20 and residents will choose between 26 candidates to fill seven trustee seats.