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Karen Redkwich

Independent for Maple Ridge School Board

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I am recently retired; Prior to retiring, I was employed for 27 years with the Vancouver School Board. I feel that the first-hand experience I obtained of the integral and complex workings of a school district would be a decisive asset to the role of School Trustee.

My name is Karen Redkwich. I am recently retired and the mother of two adult children as well as the proud grandmother of a 2-year-old toddler. While raising my children, who attended Burnaby Public Schools, I was an active parent volunteer and sat on the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Committee. Prior to retiring, I was employed for 27 years with the Vancouver School Board. Upon my retirement from the Board, my husband of 39 years and I moved from Burnaby to Maple Ridge to be closer to our grandchild. We have found Maple Ridge to be a beautiful community – one of which I would love to give back to.

During my career at the VSB, I worked as an Administrative Assistant in both Secondary and Elementary schools spending 16 of those years in an Inner-City Elementary School. There I gained first-hand knowledge of the many obstacles that families and teachers faced – hunger issues, housing problems, student focus and lack of teaching resource materials just to name a few. My last 6 years with the Vancouver School Board was as an Employee Services Divisional Advisor. In this role, I supported the Associate Superintendent of Employee Services and was responsible for all non-union staff positions as well as the Principal and Vice-Principal group. I was also the public recorder for Personnel Committee Meetings with included the Trustees and all Stakeholder groups.

While working in Employee Services, I was given the opportunity to work alongside the District and Senior Management Team as well as a wide group of stakeholders and was able to see the processes and obstacles that are inherent when aligning school goals with district direction. I feel that this first-hand knowledge will allow me to make rationale decisions while also being able to implement the legal obligations and roles and responsibilities as defined in the School Act and other legislation.

I am truly honoured to have been a part of our public school system. The most valuable lesson I learned during this 27-year period was to understand that a school community is composed of groups representing various interests; unions, parents, management, teachers, and students – and that all of the groups have their own needs and processes. Working together and including stakeholder groups in the creation of a long-term district vision and transferring this articulated vision into an operational and clearly understood plan is essential. And every year, school districts are faced with a multitude of different challenges and issues. Recently COVID forced school districts to look at different ways to support student learning. Unfortunately, it also left behind some residual difficulties that now need to be addressed. Mental Health issues are on the rise, reconciliation, gender diversity and special needs students as well as increased projected enrolment and long-range facilities plans to accommodate enrolment should be at the forefront of needed conversations. With inflation on the rise all parameters of family life, especially housing and salaries, are being affected. All of these components then affect things like recruitment and retention of qualified teaching staff which ultimately affects student focus, engagement, and learning. We need to remember that the generation that is currently enrolled in public schools are the future and investing in our future is crucial.

I have also seen and heard throughout the years and the changing climate what some of the needs are. I have also seen what processes work to put visions and ideas into an operational and clearly understood plan with all the components and reasoning laid out for all to understand. I have also seen things that don’t or can’t work. In these cases, clearly understood reasoning why something can’t be accomplished needs to be communicated in order for people to not feel cheated or not listened to. This is a crucial piece – always providing follow-up and clarity so that people know that they have been heard and that their concerns have been addressed and given proper consideration – even if the outcome is not in their favour. 

As School Trustee, I hope to be able to be a part of the solution in addressing the many issues currently faced in our Public School systems. I will strive to develop a clear understanding of the BC School Governance model and how it influences and affects district and school decision-making. I enjoy getting to know about people’s backgrounds and personal stories which then helps build relationships and affords open and transparent communication. I know the need to be able to be accessible and approachable. I want to listen and solicit the input of others who will be affected by plans or actions in the decision-making process. I really feel that hearing the voices of the many people who make our schools a valuable learning institution and being aware of the implications that organizational strategies have on others is key to successfully helping the school district move forward in a positive and thriving direction. I feel that I have a clear understanding of how the school district and community are connected and will strive to ensure that those partnerships are strong and honoured.