Tonya Ste. Marie and Amanda Amaral are joining forces to run as school trustees at School District No. 46 (SD46) in Central Coast, also known as Electoral Area 2. Three candidates will represent that area, which includes the District of Sechelt and portions of the Sechelt Indian Government District.
“We don’t directly work together but we work in the same field, social services, and that prompted us to run together,” said Ste. Marie of the decision.
The two said they have common goals, including expanding alternative education opportunities, encouraging mental health and community dialogue around social issues, increasing graduation rates, promoting solar installations on schools, improving collaboration between schools, service providers and the community, and “exploring how the curriculum can make education more accessible.”
They are also interested in finding ways to make schools “community hubs,” improving outreach and counselling services and “maintaining equitable opportunities for rural students.”
The two said their shared values make it likely they would vote similarly at the board but they are not committed to doing so on all matters. “Can I anticipate that we will be voting the same way over a four-year period? I think that’s fairly impossible to state. It may be that we do disagree on things and we’ll have to vote according to our values and support it with our rationale,” said Amaral.
Ste. Marie and Amaral have similar educational backgrounds – Amaral has a master’s degree in social work, and Ste. Marie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.
Currently, Ste. Marie is the lead for Youth Services at Sunshine Coast Community Services and works for RainCity Housing. She also serves on the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Local Action Team and the sexual assault intervention and prevention committee, in addition to her volunteer work as a first responder.
Amaral is team leader for the Sechelt office of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and has served on the Arrowhead Board of Directors, the Town of Gibsons Board of Variance, the Gibsons Public Market Board, the Town of Gibsons parks and community services committee and the Jack and Jill Preschool Board of Directors.
Amaral, who is married to Gibsons councillor Silas White, said she wants to run for trustee in the Central Coast electoral area, which includes Sechelt, because her daughters attend school in that area, because she works in Sechelt and is “familiar with the schools, students and families” in the area.
She said she is particularly interested in running as trustee because of her education experience. Growing up, she attended the alternative school and calls herself an advocate of supporting student success through “more alternative and creative” means of education. She said she wants to see the expansion of programs like NEST and SPIDER, and to make them more accessible to students.
Ste. Marie said she was motivated to run because of her background working with children and youth and because of the anticipated high turnover at the board. Of the district’s seven trustees, at least four won’t seek re-election.
Among the duo’s shared priorities, Ste. Marie said she is particularly interested in partnerships. “I want to create collaboration between the schools and service providers in our community, allowing students to achieve their full potential,” said Ste. Marie.
They also look forward to participating in succession planning to “ensure the district is in good leadership going forward,” said Amaral.