Karin Kwan

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I have an education background and have worked in the district as a teacher on call, so I have a firsthand understanding of the challenges teachers are confronted with every day and the barriers that students face in the classroom. I also have worked in finance, and have a deep familiarity with budgeting. I now am a people partner in human resources, which has taught me a great deal about working effectively with others who may not share my viewpoint.

Finally, I am a parent of four beautiful children. Two have graduated from the district and two currently attend schools in SD61, so I know well the issues parents are facing. In addition to helping out in classrooms and volunteering on PACs, I have been a community advocate over the past two years, leading a grassroots effort to successfully save middle school music and the elementary strings program in SD61.

Questionnaire Responses - click questions to open

I am the mother of four children, two have recently graduated and two are still attending school in SD 61. In my view,the role of a trustee is to engage with my community, students and families, stakeholders and rights holders and bring their issues and challenges to the board table. A school board’s vision and plan for the school district is lost if it isn’t aligned with the communities they serve.

I am motivated to bring a new and innovative outlook to the SD61 board table. I’ve noticed a very conservative, siloed view of education. I hope to change how we look at education and how our school district delivers education. I believe that the current board has lost the public’s trust. A new school board will have to work to regain that trust. We have much to learn from each other. Listening to each other and working together will only make us stronger.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an important piece of legislation. It affirms and respects the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and sets out Canada’s obligation to protect the health, security and well-being of First Nations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has set out clear Calls to Action. It is our responsibility to uphold those Calls to Action.

It is important that rights holders be at the Board table to remind all of us of our obligations to the Four Houses.Decisions should not be made if rights holders have not been consulted on them. Listening to Indigenous students and their families to find out what their needs and challenges are is a good first step. Each and every student is unique and their needs are all slightly different. What is best for one, isn’t necessarily best for another. A “blanket” solution is never the answer to removing barriers and providing equitable access to education, not just for indigenous learners, but all learners.

We have a rich curriculum, and we are bringing in more cultural awareness every day. However, we still have a long way to go. How can we engage Indigenous students when their own rich culture is being overlooked? We need to look for connections for Indigenous learners in our school district.Connections to curriculum, peers, role models, leaders, community and each other.

Any instances of exclusion on the basis of disability, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity and other protected classes should be addressed immediately. Public education should provide equal access to ALL students. Diverse voices on the board allows for a wider view of how this district is doing with regards to inclusiveness. My hope is that we see trustees from varying backgrounds with varying experiences on the board. While I hope that each trustee has an inclusive mindset, we all come with our biases. This isn’t a bad thing - everyone has them - you can’t avoid it. Being aware of those biases and listening to others, especially those with different experiences, is the only path forward to ensuring true inclusiveness and belonging for all students.

I believe that health and sexual education should be a part of the curriculum in SD61. It comes back to equity for all students. Not all students have access to this education outside of the classroom. To ensure all students in SD61 are successful in caring for their health and well-being, including their sexual health, we need to ensure that each student receives this essential knowledge. As a mother, I know that things change all the time. We live in a fast paced world where keeping our kids safe and healthy (physically, mentally and sexually) is a large task. I am grateful that public education is able to provide experts to guide my children and keep them safe.

As a trustee, I would like to ensure that the community, stakeholders and rights holders have easy access to me. Being available via email is the minimum. However, I would like to see more engagement at the Board meetings (allowing for the public to speak up more often and giving enough time for them to complete thoughts without clock-watching). I would like to see opportunities (besides Board meetings) for the community, students, parents, stakeholders and rights holders to converse with trustees on various topics.

Trustees listening to the community, stakeholders and rights holders is a very good first step. However, listening isn’t enough. SD61 should provide an education that our community (including all stakeholders and rights holders) wants. Critical decisions should be based on what the board has heard from the public. Decisions that don’t take valuable feedback into consideration do a great disservice to everyone.

There are always various challenges facing the school board. I believe the biggest challenges right now are:

1.  Rights holders and stakeholders have left the Board table - a public apology from the Board is a must and a formal request to return to the Board table must be made to each of these parties.

2.  Public trust in the School Board has been lost - the new incoming School Board has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s trust. I believe the only way to do this is to be transparent and to really listen to and act on what our community, students, stakeholders and rights holders really want.

3.  Funding - at a time when we are predicting a provincial surplus, we have not seen funding for education / students keep up with inflation or other increasing costs. We have seen cuts to many essential student services in the past few years. The province needs to know that the current funding they are providing isn’t sufficient. However, if we, as a school district, have to “tighten our belts”, student services should be the last place we are cutting funding.

I have analyzed the budgets that the district has prepared over the past few years and have reached the following conclusions. First, there are many factors that go into our current “deficit” (I don’t believe it is structural). It’s time for the board to take a “deeper” look at the budget, rather than relying on a status quo budget. I believe we can afford to take more risks with budgeting and are currently too conservative on projecting revenues (under estimating) and expenses (over estimating). While it’s never a bad thing to be conservative when it comes to finances, being too conservative comes at the detriment of students. We need to find a better balance.

The only increase to student funding over the past few years is directly related to collective agreement bargaining. CPP and EI increases, inflation and other increased costs have not been taken into account. These increases are cutting into student funding. It is imperative that trustees lay out the details to the Province. A clear report from the school board on where costs have increased is hard for the Province to argue with or ignore. Additionally, the current funding model and cycle is not functional. School District's are expected to estimate revenues from per student funding for September of the following year based on enrollment numbers from the previous January! That's almost 8 months in which enrolment can change significantly.

However, conversations with the Province are not enough. Trustees, parents, students, stakeholders and rights holders need to work together collaboratively to make an impact the Province can’t ignore.

I believe that I am up to this task. I have an accounting background and am familiar with numbers and am not daunted by budgets.

I believe that arts education is an enormous contributor to teaching students essential skills. Through the arts (visual, literary, performing and culinary), students learn ways to express thoughts, knowledge,and feelings beyond just words. They develop essentials such as listening skills, better motor coordination, improved language abilities, increased emotional resilience, increased empathy, increased attention span and focus and teamwork. Achieving these skills builds confidence, self esteem and trust. If we want to prepare our students for a future that is still being invented, skills gained from arts education are essential. By devaluing arts education, we are failing the students of our district.

Currently, BC is one of very few provinces/states in North America that still does not have a funding model for arts education at the Elementary School level (referred to as K-7 in Provincial funding) as part of the curriculum. Too many times, music, theatre, drama, etc. are considered “enrichment” activities and “clubs”. Many studies have proven that these subjects not only help,but advance, academic achievement. How can we attempt to provide equitable education when these subjects are taught as “extras”? Are we willing to allow some students a “jump start” by accessing these activities while others are unable to participate (due to various reasons such as financial, childcare, etc.)? This doesn’t sound like equal access to education to me. To many districts, the solution has been to take away these “extras”. If no one has them, then everyone is equal. Equal does not = Equity. And this doesn’t sound like anyone is putting students at the center of the decision-making. Why wouldn’t we fight for subjects that allow students to be successful?

This is why I have fought so tirelessly for elementary and middle school music education in our district. As the former chair of the Advocacy for Music In Schools grassroots advocacy group, I have worked alongside parents, students, teachers, arts leaders in our community and more to fight against cutting music in our schools I co-led the effort last spring to raise over $218,000 in private funds to ensure that the Elementary Strings program in our district will continue.

A board of trustees would not be as effective if we all had the same opinions on issues. Each trustee should be prepared for diverse opinions and welcome them. By listening to each other and finding compromises (rather than forcing opinions on each other), I believe we can make each other better. It is important to approach the board table with an open mind, ready to work together collaboratively.

Collaboration requires a level of awareness and trust. By really knowing your fellow trustees, you can start to understand what each member has to offer. Knowing each other's strengths and preferred communication styles usually allows for positive outcomes. Many times what seems like a difference of opinion is actually just a breakdown in communication. I have dealt with numerous conflict resolution scenarios in my professional life as a human resources specialist, and often a difference of opinion is actually just a difference of approach. Each team member is ultimately looking for the same outcome. The best way to understand fellow trustees is to ask questions that focus on approach and outcomes, respect the differences that they bring to the board table, and find ways that we can collaborate together to meet the needs of ALL students in our district.

I aim to be a trustee that will show respect for a colleague no matter how much I disagree with them. It’s important to give everyone the opportunity to speak, not speak over them, and not silence them (a practice that we saw too many times in the previous years).


As an organization representing all parents in the district, we do not endorse any candidates. This website was put together by VCPAC to showcase information provided by each candidate. All questionnaire answers are posted as received, without any editing. We encourage voters to contact the candidates with any questions they may have.