Retired teacher’s margin of victory over DSBN incumbent largest in Pelham
BY SARAH WHITAKER
Special to the VOICE
“I will be a very loud voice.”
That’s the promise Nancy Beamer makes as the new school board trustee for Pelham and Thorold after her victory in the 2018 Municipal Election on October 22.
The retired teacher defeated incumbent, and District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) Board chair, Dale Robinson by 3,431 votes, winning by more than 3,300 in Pelham and winning, albeit in a tighter race, in Robinson’s hometown of Thorold by almost 100 votes.
Beamer watched the early results come in at the new Pelham community centre and, after stopping by several other Pelham candidates’ parties, was with Mayor-Elect Marv Junkin as the final results came in showing she had taken the seat easily.
“Relief” is how she described the feeling on election night as the results came in.
“Relief knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do.”
During the campaign Beamer said she had a great deal of positive responses from Pelham and felt confident the voters in this community would support her. Thorold, where both other candidates live, she wasn’t so sure about, although she did a lot of campaigning in that city with many positive reactions there as well.
In the end, Pelham voters had given Beamer “overwhelming support.”
“The people of Pelham trusted me,” she said. “The voice of the community showed they would not be ignored and disrespected.”Beamer believes it was the way the DSBN board handled the renaming of E.W. Farr Memorial Public School to Wellington Heights that was behind that overwhelming support. While the community didn’t like the name change at all, Beamer said it was the combination of the name chosen, the secrecy of the process and the disrespect of not listening to a petition carrying hundreds of signatures that had Pelham voters passionate about the school board trustee position and voting to replace the incumbent in this area.
When asked if changing the name of Wellington Heights Public School is on her agenda as the new board trustee, Beamer explained individual trustees don’t have much power and it is not something that she can bring to the board.
The request to change the name of the school has to come from the school community—parents, students and teachers—with support from the greater community, and go through the superintendent. If the superintendent brings the name change to the board, they can reconsider it, says Beamer, and if that happens she’ll be the “staunchest supporter” of a second name change.
If not, Beamer looks forward to an opportunity to name another school building in town after E.W. Farr if projected growth in Fenwick is correct and a new school in the community is required. On her agenda when she attends the first board meeting in early December is establishing open communication with the communities she serves.
Beamer hopes to create a blog or regular column to keep community members abreast of what’s happening with local schools and hopes to attend a school advisory council meeting at each school she serves to introduce herself, explain her role as trustee, and be available to help with issues.
She looks at the work currently happening in the athletic field in front of E. L. Crossley as an example, noting no one in town knew what was happening when that work started and it would have been very easy to communicate the plans to the greater community.
While Beamer is not sure what will actually be on the agenda at her first meeting, she promises to keep the well-being and achievement of all students at top of mind as she makes decisions, noting that what’s best for the students, safe schools they enjoy going to (most of the time) and good teachers should be the top priority for all trustees.
In reference to good teachers, Beamer says she needs more detailed information about the provincial government’s recent announcement that all teachers will need to pass a math test before being licensed to teach in the province.
“What level of math test is it?” she asks.
Will all teachers need to pass the same test? Will kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers need trigonometry?
The better option, Beamer says, is professional development supporting teachers at the level they are teaching math and moving to a balance of basic math and the new math being taught now. Memorization of the multiplication table gives students a strong base as they learn higher levels of math but it also teaches the brain to retain information, to sort data and use information productively, she says in support of going back to basics.
Beamer will have an orientation meeting in November and plans to attend the last board meeting before the new trustees step in to their roles in December so she will be fully prepared for her first meeting.
“Hopefully I’ll do a good job,”she says, before sneaking in a second, but brief, happy dance to show her excitement at winning the election and taking on the new role on behalf of her community.
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