Civic Election 2018  

Mark Olsen

Mark Olsen

School District 22 Trustee candidate.

With over 30 years of working experience in the Vernon School District Mark has decided to take the next step in ensuring our students are provided with the best opportunities to reach their maximum potential by seeking a position as School District Trustee. 

He is a 33-year resident of Vernon with his wife, two grown daughters and 4 grandchildren.


1) Why should voters cast a ballot for you October 20?

The principal reason voters should consider casting their vote for me is the experience I bring to the table.

I have over 30 years of working experience in the Vernon School District and through this experience have gained a solid understanding of the processes in the public education system.

I previously served as the Vice-Chair of the K-12 Presidents council representing 27,000 school district employees. 

One outcome from this time was securing additional provincial funding for Special Needs assistance. 

I have advocated at the Provincial level and the local level for increased support for special needs children, which resulted in successfully increasing classroom support time for these students.

As a former President of the CUPE support staff, I sat as a member on many District committees including the Student Nutrition Policy Committee; Joint District Occupational Health and Safety Committee; and the Hiring Committee for District senior staff.

One of the results of my efforts was spearheading the “Apple-A-Day” program providing nutritious snacks for our students. 

Daily nutritional needs continue to be an issue with many students.

In all of my workplace activities, I have shown a willingness to work with those who share a passion for advocating and providing a high level of service for our children. 

I have found that one factor that affects this is a satisfying, healthy and safe environment for our employees and students. 

My involvement has revealed to me the issues faced by all partners in education including teachers, support staff, First Nations, parents and students, and highlights the need to continue to advocate on their behalf. 

Now retired, I can dedicate my energy and time on the requirements of the District.

2) What is the biggest issue facing the Vernon School District, and as a member of the board of education, how would you work to address this issue?

I feel the biggest issue facing the Vernon School District is the provincial funding formula used to determine the level of funding each district receives. 

Out of this flows many other concerns of service delivery and funding allocations such as ensuring resources are available to school staff to facilitate student success and classroom composition support, but the source of many of these issues is the method of the funding determination.

Currently, District funding is primarily based on enrollment numbers and a basic per-student allocation but this doesn’t fully consider the specific circumstances each district faces. 

The basic allocation should separately consider the delivery of education services and the infrastructure support for the assets of the district.

There are some targeted grants that address issues like geographical isolation and more complex special needs support but they are not extensive or comprehensive enough. 

It is important to note that out of the basic per-student allocation we must also provide support for students with; learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, moderate behavioural issues and gifted students. 

This also means services like Learning Assistance and Speech and Language Pathology must be funded from this source.

In times of declining enrollment and/or increasing cost pressures, the available funding levels are reduced simultaneously for educational services and infrastructure maintenance. 

As an example, a district like Vernon has more heating and transportation concerns than a district on the lower mainland.

One outcome we have seen in Vernon is a reduction of bussing available to students and busing fees being implemented. 

The by-product of this decision that I don’t believe was given proper consideration is greater vehicle congestion at our schools, increasing traffic safety concerns, and creating a larger carbon footprint from all the additional vehicles.

As the District works in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the Provincial government, I would continue to advocate for a revamping of how our districts are funded and how we can improve the service delivery required to facilitate all of our students have the opportunity to be successful.

3) Balancing a budget while providing quality education means sometimes making difficult decisions that affect the lives of young children. Can you provide an example of a time when you were forced to make a difficult decision that affected the lives of many?

During my time in the school district I have had to make several decisions that have affected the lives of many people but to bring it to a personal level I think the biggest decision I had to contend with was almost 35 years ago when we moved our family to Vernon.

Uprooting your family is a difficult decision many have had to face due to a variety reason, primarily employment, but it is one you do to hopefully benefit you and your children. 

For us, it was important to have a healthy and wholesome place for our children to grow. Vernon provided that for us.

The effects of such a move are far-reaching. 

You are leaving friends and family hoping to build new relationships, but you are also meeting new challenges.

For my family, there have been no regrets. We moved here with our first daughter and our second daughter was born here. We now have 4 grandchildren that are in or about to enter the public-school system.

Moving here provided me with an opportunity to work in the Vernon School District and gave me the foundation I have to contribute further as a Trustee to improve the provision of educational services.

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