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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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Lisa Dominato (Non-Partisan Association). I’ve never met this newcomer to the NPA slate and I don’t know much about her at all at this point. I hope we get to know more about her as the campaign gets underway.  

Janet Fraser (Vancouver Green Party). Fraser was elected to the board in 2014 as its sole Green trustee, along with an evenly split board between Vision and the NPA, which each held four seats. She drew criticism from Green-party supporters for running on a progressive platform that mostly aligned with Vision’s, but then casting the deciding vote for NPA trustees to chair the board. She subsequently cast the deciding vote to turn the chair over to Vision’s Mike Lombardi in late 2015 and supported Vision’s decision to refuse to approve the 2016/17 budget cuts that led to the board’s firing last year. Fraser served as vice chair for her two years on the board. Despite our occasional differences, I found Fraser to be hard working, intelligent, principled and focused on making the right decisions for students. 

Estrillita Gonzalez (Vancouver Green Party). I don’t know this new candidate and don’t recall seeing her at any VSB events or meetings, but the party website says she’s a health and wellness consultant who was “born and raised in Metro Vancouver and has resided in Vancouver since 1992. She has a BBA in Human Resources Management and is a small business owner, author, speaker, and mother to an energetic and talented teenage boy. Gonzalez has had a senior management and consulting career (HR/Marketing) in Canada and Asia. In 2012, she launched Derma Bright Clinic, a wellness centre and medispa based on her health and wellness values. As a Wellbeing speaker and writer, she passionately shares ideas on ways to detoxify your life. She is a volunteer with the CHILD Foundation, Eric Hamber Secondary’s Studio Co-Treasurer and was a VANOC NOC Assistant in 2010.”

Jamie Lee Hamilton (Independent Democratic Electors Alliance). Hamilton is the only candidate that I know of who has a Wikipedia page, Hamilton’s been a presence at park board meetings for years but I don’t recall seeing her at any VSB functions and I didn’t know she was interested in school board issues. She ran for park board in 2014, 2011, 2008 and city council in 2005. Fittingly described by the George Straight as a “well-known political gadfly,” Hamilton has a strong — although at times controversial — record as a community activist and advocate for the rights and safety of sex workers. I’ve known Hamilton for a few years, although not very well. I admire her determination and outspoken nature (takes one to know — and appreciate — one, perhaps) and her relentless devotion to Vancouver’s political scene.

Erica Jaaf (One City). I don’t know this first-time candidate but the One City site has this to say: “Jaaf is a life-long social justice advocate and fighter for public education, and a coalition builder with a keen eye for detail. As a Vancouver School Board Trustee, Erica will work together with trustees and staff to cultivate neighbourhood public schools that are safe, inclusive, and meet the learning needs of all Vancouver children and families. She first decided to join her Parent Advisory Council (PAC) as a way to connect with her children’s school life and quickly became dismayed by the inadequacy of funding available to Vancouver schools. Watching parents fundraise for everything from textbooks, to essential supplies, to even the very basics like breakfasts and food for students to take home over the weekend moved her to deepen her fight for well-funded public education.”  

Theodora Lamb (Vision Vancouver). Lamb is new to the Vision slate but brings board experience from VanCity and years of community organizing and advocacy experience. With a young son just starting in childcare, Lamb brings renewal to the Vision team and hopes to work collaboratively with the board, staff and VSB stakeholders to ensure all students have access to high-quality educational opportunities in all parts of the city. I met Theo about nine years ago and I’m happy she’s running for the board — she’ll bring energy, passion and intelligence to the job.

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