It’s the end of an era as Candace Spilsbury, a fixture on the Cowichan Valley board of education for 16 years, most of those as its chair, has announced she will not be seeking re-election come October.
Spilsbury made the announcement during the Board of Education’s Open Board meeting May 3, giving her would-be successor enough time to prepare a campaign.
“My passions are kids, and educational success for every one of them. I have worked in education for 47 years for a teacher, administrator, and trustee, including 21 years in the Cowichan Valley, and I have loved every moment of it,” Spilsbury said. “I will really miss the relationships I have developed in the school district with trustees, staff, community leaders, and students and their families. I will also miss the challenges of making things better for students in our schools. However, it is time to heed the call of my family, and not run for a trustee position in the fall election.”
The next election is set for Oct. 15, 2022.
First elected in 2008, Spilsbury has served four, four-year terms in total, with her peers promoting her to board chair for at least 10 of those years. During that time she’s overseen many significant changes to the district and Spilsbury admits there have been many ups, downs, issues and challenges.
Spilsbury has overseen the recruitment and hiring of three superintendents, the closure of a number of schools, and the fight for, the approval and the ground-breaking of a new Cowichan Secondary School. She has spearheaded efforts to build the now-flourishing relationships with local indigenous communities, and is a stalwart community and childcare advocate.
Spilsbury has also worked with other elected leaders to gather local government officials and service agency leads, creating the Cowichan Leadership Group which oversees the response to many issues across the Cowichan Valley.
“I feel like so much has been accomplished during my time on the board but there is always more to do!” she said. “I’d love to be continuing to work on good governance, the completion of the new, fabulous Cowichan Secondary School, on creating our culture of caring, acceptance and inclusion, on continuing to raise indigenous student graduation rates and on eliminating racism and inequities. However, there is a solid foundation and direction for these goals and I can personally step away and feel confident the focus on these goals will continue in the school district.”
Under Spilsbury, the board created ‘Beyond Education’, the board’s visionary strategic plan, which led to the formation of the Ad-Hoc Anti-Racism Committee, Climate Change Committee, and Early Learning Committee as well as a number of other initiatives. What’s more, Spilsbury’s focus on early education and childcare were instrumental in securing five new childcare centres in the district. She’s done much of this work during the last three years, which were marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My greatest joy has been knowing that I have contributed to the development of a very strong and successful school district for the benefit of each and every one of our students in our schools,” she said.