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Sunshine Coast school board chair flips to Amanda Amaral

Trustee Amanda Amaral was elected chair of the Board of Education for School District No. 46 (SD46) and Maria Hampvent was elected vice chair at a regular board meeting Nov. 4.
School District No. 46 board chair Amanda Amaral (left) and vice chair Maria Hampvent (right).

Trustee Amanda Amaral was elected chair of the Board of Education for School District No. 46 (SD46) and Maria Hampvent was elected vice chair at a regular board meeting Nov. 4.

Vice chair Stacia Leech accepted nominations from outgoing chair Pammila Ruth for the roles of chair and vice chair at the meeting but was defeated in both votes.

In an unusual move, Leech made a brief speech before accepting Ruth’s nomination for chair.

She thanked Amaral for a prior email outlining her intention to run for chair, which Leech said “was very helpful and made me think about what I needed to say.”

Leech then laid out the importance of maintaining perspective to consider all students, staff and families at SD46.

“It can be challenging to resist the influence of our own needs … our own desires and also individuals who are very vocal that we may be responding to,” Leech said, adding that trustees are “servants of the organization, and the ideas and the passions and the agendas that motivated us to become trustees may not be what the school district needs right now. We need to sometimes put those aside.”

Leech said the board aims for consensus, and that can require “letting go of our own fixed ideas and seeing what is best for the whole,” which she said was an “important aspect of a board chair.”

A supportive relationship with senior staff “is key,” she said.

“What we model at this level of board and staff I think does not go unnoticed by others in the district,” she said, adding continuity at the board would be important during the pandemic.

Following the speech, Amaral said she had communicated with all trustees about her intentions, “in hopes that I can represent [the] trustee voice at the board table and also be a listening ear to staff, students and their families.”

Amaral summarized her communication to trustees in a follow-up statement to Coast Reporter, saying she has a “good understanding of the chair role and  have experience working in government,” and that she wants to increase the district’s profile through increased participation in the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) and BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA).

“Our district has a legacy and reputation of being trail blazers in early childhood education, inclusive education and outdoor education,” Amaral said, adding she wants to support “trustees and staff to keep the amazing work our district has done current and innovative.”

“I believe we do this by fostering a culture where people feel excited and supported to take risks and try new things. We need to support our staff to take risk, try new things and create advancements in public education!”

Amaral, who represents Area 2 (Central Coast), was nominated by Area 2 trustee Maria Hampvent, while Tonya Ste. Marie, who also represents Area 2, nominated Hampvent for vice chair.

Amaral and Ste. Marie ran together in the 2018 local government election, citing shared backgrounds in social services.

The stage was set for a new lineup at the board after outgoing chair Ruth, representing Area 3 (Lower Coast), announced she wouldn’t pursue a third year as chair, telling Coast Reporter before the board election she wished to create opportunities for others who’d expressed interest in the role.

In a release following the election, Amaral said she was “excited to support and lead the board in our third year.”

“I believe this is a critical year as we are almost half way through our strategic plan and are afforded an opportunity to reflect and adjust the plan as needed to ensure we are upholding our vision, mission, affirmation and values.”

Hampvent said, “I am honoured that the board elected me as Vice-Chair for our third year. I look forward to serving our community and organization in this new expanded role.”

Ste. Marie was acclaimed as the board’s representative for the BCSTA provincial council while Ruth was acclaimed as representative for BCPSEA.

Votes were emailed in the district’s first electronically-held election due to COVID-19. Voting was anonymous. Board elections are held annually.