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A who's who of the candidates running in the Vancouver School Board by-election

VO contributing education editor Patti Bacchus knows most of the candidates. Here’s her first take on who is on the ballot. 

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Mike Lombardi (Vision Vancouver). Lombardi and I go way back and were elected together in 2008, 2011 and 2014. He was the chair of the board when it was fired for failing to pass a balanced budget in 2016. A former teacher, Lombardi is one of the most passionate public education advocates I’ve met, and goodness knows I’ve met a few. He was vice chair for some of the years I chaired the VSB and I appreciated his energy, easy-going nature and deep knowledge of the complexities of governing a complex school district. Mike championed successful initiatives including the VSB’s early mandarin bilingual program and creating B.C.’s first student trustee position.

Jorge Julian Prieto (NPA). I haven’t heard of Prieto before but he’s set up a Facebook page that says he’s worked on multiple local and provincial campaigns and has a “vast knowledge” of Vancouver's school system as a [sic] English teacher.” It also says “He obtained his M.Sc in mathematics from Oxford. Julian, as many of his friends call him, served in the Governing Council of the University of Toronto. He speaks Mandarin, French and Spanish and works as a teacher in University Canada West.” I found another page that appears to be his asking “Why not improve services for children with special needs and for the gifted? Widen language programs to reflect our diversity?”

Rob McDowell (NPA). After an unsuccessful run with the NPA for a city council seat in 2014, McDowell is a newcomer to the NPA school board slate. I’ve met him a few times and he always struck me as a pretty decent and intelligent guy, although I’ve never seen him at any VSB meetings or events and didn’t know he was interested in school board issues. I’m interested to hear why he decided to switch over to the school board. His experience as a diplomat and strong support for arts and culture, along with his not-for-profit work, could be useful at the VSB and he’d provide a nice contrast to the notoriously undiplomatic style of slate-mate Ballantyne.

Christopher Richardson (NPA) – It seems that no matter where you go in Vancouver, there’s friendly Richardson. He’s often wearing his Vancouver policy auxiliary uniform while he directs traffic during events but he’s also served on the Vancouver park board and was elected to the VSB in 2014. He served as board chair for six months before tearfully resigning “for the good of the board.” He often speaks glowingly about private schools, and in particular the expensive Fraser Academy on Vancouver’s West Side. I don’t recall any programs or initiatives Richardson brought or advocated for at the board but I welcome suggestions from readers if I missed something.

Allan Wong (Vision Vancouver). Wong was the longest-serving trustee on the fired board, after getting elected in 1999 and every election since. Wong was one the trustees who inspired me to run myself. I admired his principled and ethical approach to governance and his commitment to social justice and an equitable and accessible public education system. Wong chaired the VSB’s facilities and planning commitment for many years and was instrumental in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in provincial funding for seismic upgrades and new school construction, including projects like Kitsilano Secondary, University Hill Secondary, Norma Rose Point, Strathcona Elementary, Queen Mary, Jules Quesnel, Sexsmith, Douglas, L’Ecole Bilingue, Gordon and more.

Judy Zaichkowsky (Vancouver Green Party). Another newcomer whom I don’t know — not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Green party website says she was born and raised in Vancouver and went to Carleton Elementary and Killarney Secondary. She did a home economics degree at UBC and taught at Hamber and Templeton. She’s a marketing professor at SFU an has a masters degree in consumer studies. “Her main interests in the Vancouver School Board are around the principles of health, safety, social interaction, maximum intelligence stimulation and achievement for pupils and teachers alike.” I don’t really know what “maximum intelligence stimulation” means but the term makes me a little leery. I’m looking forward to learning more about this candidate. 

Did I miss anyone? Drop me a line at [email protected].

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