School trustees return by acclamation

Sheryl Yaremco and Les Kearns, who were both re-acclaimed as school trustees Oct. 24, talk about their role in the school district.

Houston’s two school trustees can spare the lawn signs.

No one stepped up to challenge either of the trustees, Les Kearns or Sheryl Yaremco, for the upcoming Nov. 19 election.

Both were acclaimed for another three-year term on Oct. 24.

Les Kearns, a retired teacher and school principal with 30 years’ experience, says he is glad to have another chance to contribute to the Bulkley Valley school district.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve spent my whole career here.”

The Houston Today sat down with Kearns to find out exactly what trustees do for the school district.

In a word, Kearns said it boils down to governance.

“It’s a big word,” he said, adding that a trustee’s role together accountability, education policy, and communication between parents and school district staff.

“I don’t think that a lot of people realize that the school district is the number-one employer in the Bulkley Valley, and that we have a budget of over $23 million,” he said.

People may also be unaware that trustees are tasked with hiring some of the top staff to oversee the district, he added.

Trustees hire the district superintendent, the secretary-treasurer and their assistants.

“Those are the key people in the district.”

Budgeting is the most visible part of a trustee’s role, said Kearns, but by no means the most important.

“Part of our job is accountability—not just for the budget, but for all the learning that’s going on.”

A final measure of how they are doing, he said, is a district’s graduation rate.

Sheryl Yaremco agrees that hiring lead staff is the most important job of a school trustee. This term marks Yaremco’s eighth term as a Houston school trustee.

“I was first elected in 1990, and have been continuously learning the job since then,” she said in an email.

For the past six years, Yaremco has also served as a board director for the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA).

Looking ahead, Yaremco said the first challenge of the upcoming term will be to maintain a positive working relationship with teachers as the teachers and employers reach a new labour agreement.

In the long term, she said, the district has a great need for infrastructure funding from the province.

“Since less than ten per cent of B.C.’s population has a child in public school these days, it’s tough to keep education on the front burner,” she said.

For example, Yaremco said that every year for the last 13 years, the district has asked the province for funding to replace Houston Secondary School with a building that is more efficient to heat.

Energy costs were not a priority when the school was built, she said, and it should be brought up to today’s standards.