Comox Valley School District chair going back to school

School board chair Susan Barr will not seek re-election this November.
Barr announced Friday that she is returning to school in the fall to pursue a Master in Public Health degree from the University of Victoria.

School board chair Susan Barr will not seek re-election this November.Barr announced Friday that she is returning to school in the fall to pursue a Master in Public Health degree from the University of Victoria.”As a strong advocate of lifelong learning, I am looking forward to taking the next step on my own journey,” she said in a press release.Barr began exploring her educational options late last year and decided to apply to the program this past January.Upon being accepted into the program, it became clear to Barr that she would not be able to juggle her education, family, a full-time career in health care and her duties as an elected school trustee, Barr explained in the release.”It has not been easy in either of my two terms to maintain the voice of the public in public education,” she said. “Constantly shifting provincial government mandates, combined with personal agendas at the local level have sharply contrasted with what families in the Comox Valley say they value in public education.”My first priority has always been to represent what families say they need. I believe the public deserves no less from anyone they entrust with public office, and I am proud of the work I have done on behalf of the families I serve.”Barr was first elected as the school trustee for Area C in 2005.Barr says one of the highlights of her two terms on the board has been making decisions she feels reflected what she heard from the public — even when they weren’t what she wanted personally.”I’m a social worker at heart, and if I can advocate for what people tell me they want and need, that’s where I’m coming from,” she said. “I was able to do that to the best of my ability.”Barr also considers meeting school staff and seeing the great things they do inside the schools a highlight.”I got to know a lot of really neat people through this,” she said. “I’m really impressed with the people we have working in our schools. The teachers and (education assistants) we have are really top-notch. I think I knew that before because of my own kids … but I would say a highlight for me was to learn more about how great these people are. We should be really proud of the people we have working in our district.”As a trustee and board chair, Barr has had the chance to attend various conferences, and she has learned that many districts across B.C. have the same issues. “For me, what that shows me is some of the challenges we have locally are felt throughout the province,” she said. “For example, a huge challenge is when the provincial government has some kind of mandate they download on us, we need to cut programs … that’s not unique to us.”One thing Barr has found is that the Comox Valley’s Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) is unique.”I was amazed that throughout our province, educational opportunities for aboriginal students are not anything like what we do here,” she said. “The AEC is an absolutely amazing group. They are a standalone group … the board can’t take any credit for what the AEC does. Provincially, I see we have something really amazing and special in that group and how they handle aboriginal education here.”Barr says interpersonal issues between board members and between trustees and senior staff are also not unique.”We’ve had some interpersonal challenges on both boards I’ve been on … provincially that happens, too,” she said. “I still say despite the problems we’ve had in this term, we’ve still accomplished wonderful things in this district, and I don’t regret a day of it.”writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com