School District No. 46 board chair Silas White was thanked "for six years of incredible service" when he stepped down as chair at the last school board meeting of 2013.
Trustee Better Baxter, who took over the role as chair, noted, "we are in very good shape as a school board" because of White's leadership.
"School District No. 46 has benefited greatly under the chairship of Silas White," trustee Lori Pratt added. "Under his leadership we have undergone an organizational review, almost a full turnover of senior staff, the start of the Gibsons Elementary rebuild, amongst many other projects and initiatives including the addition of a student trustee at our table."
She noted White's efforts to help the school district didn't stop at the board table, however.
"What you see at the district is only one part of Silas' role. His efforts have risen our profile amongst our trustee colleagues and throughout the province. The Sunshine Coast is now counted as being an innovator in education from our early learning to graduation and governance," Pratt said. "Whether you're an adversary or an ally, you can not deny the effect his vision has had on our small district."
White has served on the school board for the past eight years, taking on the role of chair after two years as a trustee.
"I didn't really want to be chair in the first place," White told Coast Reporter. "I was 30 years old, I had been a trustee only two years, my eldest daughter had just been born the month before, and I was just starting my master's degree with the University of Victoria. But others on the board urged me to run and I suppose I was naïve. I was so determined to see changes to how we operated that I agreed to dive in."
He didn't see himself as an effective leader that first year at the helm.
"I wasn't confident or experienced enough to assert myself as a leader and the political environment was extremely challenging," White said. "So I ran in my second term to dramatically change the governance of School District 46, and our board eventually established more transparency, public participation, clearer roles for both the board and staff, strategic planning, financial stability and a coherent set of policies rooted in community visioning."
With the changes in place, White felt his final term as chair was particularly productive.
"By the beginning of my third term, we had hired new senior staff from outside the district based upon criteria and planning associated with our vision and strategic plan. So my goals for this term were to get a project agreement for Gibsons Elementary, to advocate for environmental/outdoor education programming and to support our new senior administrators as they immersed themselves in our district," White said. "All these initiatives have been accomplished, so it's a good time to step aside as chair."
White feels he's left the school board in a good position with Baxter now holding the reins.
"Betty [Baxter] is an outstanding leader, and a passionate advocate for public education and the students, families and employees of our district. I'm excited to see what she brings to the role," he said.
He's most proud of securing funding for a new Gibsons Elementary School building, although seeing a student trustee come to the table was also an exciting moment.
"Our district is making great strides and I expect there will be many more things to be proud of coming out of the foundation we've been building the past several years," he said.
White plans to run for a school board trustee position again in the next election, noting, "My young children and their friends directly experiencing the system provides me with a whole new perspective, so I hope to be a Sunshine Coast school trustee for a long time."
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