The results of the municipal election were made official on Oct. 22 and with that, old and new faces at the Foothills School Division (FSD) are gearing up for the upcoming term.
“I’m really honoured with the opportunity,” said Sharon Nichols, who was elected to her second term as trustee for Okotoks Ward 4. “I heard from people that they are respecting the work that I do and trust me to carry on. So that gives me a great deal of confidence as I move forward that I am indeed representing the people of Okotoks well.”
Nichols, a former teacher, garnered the most votes among her opponents, with 2,772.
Also elected to Ward 4 was Lisa Penzo with 1,669 votes. She is presently a parent of a child at Foothills Composite High School and a former council chair. She also previously served as the board chair at École Percy Pegler School.
“I’m excited,” Penzo said. “I’m looking forward to joining the others on the board – it’s quite an opportunity.”
Ward 2, which covers the eastern part of Foothills County – excluding Okotoks and High River – and contains the schools of Blackie, Heritage Heights, and Cayley, will also have a new face on the FSD board for the next four years.
John Evans overtook Toby Kliem to claim the seat. Evans lives in the Heritage Heights area and has children that attend that school as well as Foothills Composite.
“It was a great moment in our house for sure,” said Evans as he recalled the moment he learned of his win.
Looking ahead to her second term representing Okotoks public schools, Nichols said she is looking forward to the day when education can return to ’normal’ – citing the role of human interaction in successful learning.
“We’ve learned a lot through COVID, but one of the things that we’ve learned is that connection and interaction in a school setting create that rich learning environment for all of us,” Nichols said.
“I’m looking forward to having us move through a school year with the rhythm of it that is always energizing and exciting and feeling through achieving and feeling successful and uncovering talents and all of those kinds of things that we normally see.”
Penzo said that she is preparing to continue to advocate for the best public education experience for all students in FSD and noted that looks different for every student.
“[We’re] always making sure we’re looking ahead to the next initiative to support strong education,” she said.
The new trustee added that she is preparing for the learning curve as she adjusts to her new position and explained that areas expected to present some challenges are the draft K-6 curriculum, as well as development and pandemic planning.
Nichols said a big focus for her this term will be working with the newly elected Penzo to bring the concerns of the town’s seven schools to the board.
Funding for public education is also presently an issue, she said.
Evans is looking forward to the next four years representing Cayley, Heritage Heights and Blackie, and said that working with the team of new and returning members has him excited to get started.
“There’s a lot of divide out there in the world right now and I think I just wanted to show my kids that it’s okay to put yourself out there – to run for positions so that you can hopefully try and make a little bit of a difference in the world,” he said.
Evans would not specify the issues he expects to encounter in his first bout as trustee, but indicated that he is ready to work with the board to make FSD a great educational experience for students.
The FSD board of trustees for this term will also feature Jack Molyneux and Theresa Letendre who were both acclaimed in Ward 1 and 3, respectively, along with Philip Irwin who was elected in the Ward 5 seat.