Central Okanagan School District trustee spills on what it’s been like being a new trustee

Lee-Ann1Lee-Ann Tiede felt somewhat prepared when starting her term as a newly-elected school trustee for the Central Okanagan School District.

First, she has three children and is an active parent, giving her direct experience with the education system. She familiarized herself with local school district issues, read the district’s trustee handbook and she has a sister-in-law who served as a trustee for 15 years, providing her insight in how it all works. Tiede also has experience serving on boards before, such as being a director of the Kelowna-Lake Country Electoral District Association.

During her campaign, she realized most people don’t quite understand what school trustees actually do. After winning her seat, she quickly realized that a big part of her job is being a sounding board for unfiltered grievances from both faculty and parents, even if it’s unrelated to her new position.

“I have this mom calling me all the time, asking how to get her daughter on the basketball team,” Tiede said, with a hint of laughter. “She also has some issues with the coach and I’ve told her, ‘be careful what you say to me, otherwise I can’t be your advocate.’ Then she says, ‘I know, I just want you to listen.’”

Shortly after being elected in November 2014, she attended the BC School Trustees Association’s annual Trustee Academy in Vancouver. The conference provided her a wealth of information, and one breakout session she attended was geared specifically to new trustees. She left that orientation with a name and number of an experienced person who she could call for help and advice, anytime.

“My mentor was actually [BCSTA president] Teresa Rezansoff,” Tiede said. “To have that resource and the ear of the president of the BCSTA, that was huge. It was a great confidence booster to have someone like that looking over your shoulder.”

Attending that session and making that contact soon benefited Tiede tremendously. She ended up chairing the Exempt Staff Committee that is charged with hiring senior staff, and an opening suddenly came up.

“This was my first term… then, our CEO, the superintendent resigned,” Tiede said, explaining she had no experience in the recruitment process. “It was expected, he was retiring, but I was a bit wet behind the ears.”

Tiede called Rezansoff for advice and help and she also had the support of her fellow trustees and district staff, all of which made her feel more confident in what she had to do.

“I had a great team to work with,” Tiede said. “We hired a fabulous CEO.”

It’s been just over a year since Tiede became a trustee and she has enjoyed her experience thus far, though she shares many of the same frustrations other trustees have, such as dealing with a limited school budget. Her favourite part of the job is visiting her liaison schools and interacting with the students. Last year, her middle child graduated from high school and Tiede spoke to that graduating class as both a school board representative and a proud mother.

“I thoroughly embarrassed my daughter,” Tiede laughed.

Besides spending up to 20 hours a week doing trustee-related work, Tiede juggles that commitment with her day job, working in administration for a healthcare technology company. Surprisingly, she hasn’t had a problem with balancing her two jobs and family life.

“It sounds really silly, but I have more family time now than before because everyone thinks I’m too busy,” Tiede said. “Friends don’t ask me to babysit for them because they think I’m too busy. I’m just not being asked to do all the crazy stuff that would fill up my day.”

While the next school trustee election isn’t until 2018, Tiede is receptive to running for a second term. She originally ran because she felt the school district was already doing a great job and she wanted to play an active role in maintaining that.

However, there is one thing that she completely dislikes that comes with being a school trustee which could prevent her from running again.

“Campaigning wasn’t fun,” Tiede said. “It might be different now as I’ve already been out there and did all that so people know who I am now, but selling myself is something I’ve never done before.

“I love what I do and if I can continue doing this without having to campaign again, I totally would.”

Author: Christopher Sun, Writer, BCSTA

Total 0 Votes

Tell us how can we improve this post?

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?