Voters choose mostly familiar faces for Thames Valley District school board
The wave of change that swept London city council stopped short of the city’s school boards that remained largely unchanged after Monday’s election.
There will be just one new voice from London on the Thames Valley District school board, despite a campaign that saw 23 candidates try for the six spots in the city.
Jake Skinner, a teaching assistant and father of six children, was the lone new elected trustee in London’s wards 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13.
“My platform and the main message that I’ve been pushing is that we need to move forward, we need to give children the skills they need to succeed. We can’t stand still any more,” Skinner said. “I want to increase school performance. That’s why I ran.”
Skinner came under fire late in the campaign because he and his wife home-school their children for private, health-related reasons.
Skinner will join Joyce Bennett, who has sat on the board for more than 25 years.
London lawyer Matt Reid, who was appointed trustee a year ago after the resignation of Peggy Sattler who won a provincial seat for the NDP, won his seat. He joins longtime trustee Peter Jaffe in wards 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
“There will be a few new faces, but also a lot of institutional memory that we can use,” Reid said. “These trustees have really been more willing to question administration, and that’s not a bad thing. We need people to weigh the pros and cons of what the admin tells us.”
Falling enrolment has hit elementary schools hard and will soon move to high schools, a huge issue for the next board, he added.
Ruth Tisdale and Sheri Polhill kept their seats in wards 1, 11, 12, 14.
The makeup of the London District Catholic school board appeared to be largely unchanged as well.
Father-of-three Stephen Paul replaces trustee Phil Squire, who left the board to run for city council. Paul beat out three other candidates in wards 5, 6, and 7.
In wards 11, 12, and 13, John Jevnikar and incumbent Roy Mantle were in a head-to-head battle all night, just like during the 2010 election. By the end of the night, however, Jevnikar pulled out in front.
“I think it comes down to the parishes,” Jevnikar said. Jevnikar is a member of St. Martin’s parish while Mantle belongs to St. Justin’s parish.
Jevnikar was a trustee in the late 1990s, when the Conservative government amalgamated the London board with rural boards. He’s run several times before, unsuccessfully, citing his passion for Catholic education. He said he’s ready for tough decisions.
“I think it’s not going to be a fun time. There will have to be cuts,” Jevnikar said.
He criticized the current board’s decision to hire a $45,000 consultant to find cuts, saying superintendents who work for the board should have the expertise to do that.
Trustee Linda Steel was acclaimed in wards 8, 9 and 10.
The Thames Valley board has an $815-million operating budget, and faces the challenge of more school closings as demographics shift and enrolment declines.
Those elected to the London District Catholic school board will also face tough economic decisions. Last year, the board had to dip into reserves to balance its $230-million operating budget.
The Catholic board has hired a consultant who will look to find savings at all levels — many will likely prove unpopular as the board trims the fat. There have been relatively few school closings in the Catholic board, but that’s unlikely to stay the case.