Orra Storkan has lived in Lillooet “since the day I was born” and is the patient registration and medical records clerk at Lillooet District Hospital. She was first elected by acclamation to the Gold Trail Board of Education in an April 2017 by-election.
Her involvement as a volunteer and parent in this school district:
I started out primarily as a mom with my kids in school. I joined the PAC (Parent Advisory Council), became PAC secretary-treasurer and was the president of PACs at the elementary school and at LSS. I’ve also been on the District PAC. I’ve been a parent advocate – people would come and ask me how to navigate the system and I could help with that, provide support and give suggestions on how to proceed.
What’s surprised her since becoming a trustee?
The procedure. It’s very heavily-laden governance. It’s interesting and difficult and knowing how to govern well takes time. The Board of Education has a certain style and as a trustee you have to become familiar with that,
Her role as trustee:
None of this process and procedure, none of this formality is going to help you if you can’t develop relationships with people. With the six other people on the board, I’ve had to get to know them, learn from them because they’ve been there much longer than I have, and be able to explain myself to them when I have an idea and want their support.
I am only one vote but we do have hard conversations at board meetings and I do bring up what I hear from my community. I bring up ALL the things I hear from my community, not just one voice. As a school trustee you take an oath to represent all the children of the district. I come from Lillooet and I certainly bring your voices to the table but we just can’ t funnel money to Lillooet or just provide programming here. It has to be for all the children.
Controversial issues within SD 74:
I was a part of the Lytton School District closure discussion near the end of that. My vote was to allow more time for the group in Lytton that wanted to continue working on that. With the white privilege posters, it’s the board’s job to evaluate the work of staff, it’s not our job to tell them how to do it. Superintendents, principals and teachers decide which materials to use in schools and classrooms. The Board doesn’t do that. Those posters were the work of staff, they weren’t the Board’s work. Having said that, there does come a time for us as governors to assess that work…I do look forward to that time. That’s my opportunity to contribute to the discussion and what I heard from Lillooet. These issues are very controversial and emotional for people and the only thing I can promise is that I will continue to talk to people and listen to people.
If we keep drawing lines in the sand and making emphatic statements, we’re not going to be able to get anywhere. It’s about moving forward and it’s about teaching kids. We have to keep that at the forefront. We are going to educate our kids up until Grade 12 and then we are going to send them out into a global place. Within seconds they can have China on the phone and if we don’t teach them about diversity and the world that is out there, they’re never going to succeed.
Public school belongs to all children and they have to feel included and they have to feel welcome. SOGI is an acronym - that’s all it is - for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. There’s no such thing as SOGI curriculum. As of Dec. 31, 2016, all B.C. school districts and independent schools were required to include specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies.
The teacher shortage is not only our issue, it’s province-wide. It affects our ability as a district to offer a wide variety of courses and when you’re from a small community, that’s a really, really important thing. I hope we can work together and with our partners on that.
Post-secondary school access is heartfelt for me – how can we support our students to leave our community and be ready for the financial demands of post-secondary institutions? I don’t have a hard-and-fast answer at the board level, but that’s a concern. I also think we need to create transition study programs and help them plan for scholarship and bursary applications.
The sustainability of aging facilities and declining enrolment are other issues. We’re still operating schools in the district at less than 50 per cent capacity.
If I had to pick my #1 item to work on, it would have to be communication and relationships. All the issues we face as a board, as parents and students, and as a community, boil down to relationships.
People should vote for me because…
I have been here for a long time and I have worked for a long time with parents, for parents, with students, for students. I’ve just got my foot in the door and I’ve learned so much, that I want the opportunity to take what I know and go and use it. I've spent a lifetime forming relationships in this community. These relationships will be key to the voice I bring at the Board table.