Independent candidates offering varied viewpoints

While 11 of the candidates for Cowichan Valley school trustee have organized themselves into two groups, there are six who are running independently.

They are Dana Arthurs, Roger Chin, Elizabeth Croft, Randy Doman, Amy Matamba and Amrik Prihar.

Arthurs has spent more than 20 years as an advocate for public education.

"It started when my daughter was at Honeymoon Bay School," she told the audience at an allcandidates session held by the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce Oct. 29.

Since then, she’s worked hard for public education on parent advisory committees at local, district and provincial level and served on the Cowichan Valley school district’s finance committee.

Friends, noting her dedication, have "nudged" her to run for trustee.

Chin moved to the Valley because he "liked the culture of self-sufficiency" he saw developing here. He’s put in 20-plus years as a teacher in both the private and public systems and wishes that students in public schools could get more benefits.

"Not everyone has $20,000 a year to pay for education," he said, adding that underfunding in the public system is denying appropriate programs to both special needs and gifted students.

Croft said she chose to run for trustee because of the need to "offer more options for students."

Also, she wants to see "a varied gene pool" at the school board.

"We need parents. As a parent, I’ve got skin in the game."

Doman, also a parent of schoolaged kids, volunteers on parent groups and as a sports coach.

The school board needs to "focus all resources to support students at the classroom level" and cited such programs as Strong Start

and Wendy’s House as useful building blocks to help focus on literacy.

After regularly attending board meetings, Doman said he "won’t have to spend months catching up."

A former trustee, Prihar said he has spent his life either going to school or teaching school, going as far as working at the Youbou sawmill at night and teaching at Lake Cowichan Secondary during the day until he got full-time work.

"I am not a political person. I have no self-serving purpose. All I can give is my blood, sweat and tears," he said.

Asked by meeting organizers if they thought there had been any benefit from the failed attempt to send in a needs budget, an action that got the school board fired in 2012, the candidates’ answers varied. Some voiced a measure of approval, others did not.

"Yes," said Doman. "We finally have some momentum in the district. We are moving forward without any drama" while Prihar was just as unequivocal on the other side.

"No," he said. "And it’s my duty as trustee to obey the School Act. During that time nothing educational was discussed at the board.

It was disheartening."

Arthurs said, "I’m not sure about any benefit to students but it made the public aware of the struggles about funding public education."

Chin was also positive.

"Yes, it improved student achievement. That’s what the board was trying to do. How can the students reach their potential if the board has to decide who goes without?" he asked.

For Croft, the exercise meant "a risk of our own democracy."

"It took away our elected board.

We need to keep the conversation going."

The other unaligned candidate, Amy Matamba, was unable to attend the Lake Cowichan session.

A well-known entertainer and music teacher around the Valley, she taught in the public system for 21 years as a music education specialist.

She lists her willingness to develop innovative programs and work as an inclusive community leader and "cultural diversity ambassador" as assets, adding, "I am bringing fresh ideas to the school board. I would like to continue to make a positive difference in education."

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