Hopeful candidates fight for New Westminster school board trustee spot, after previous trustee resigned

The former trustee resigned after being caught harassing others on a fake social media account

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By MILICA ANIC

A Studio 58 graduate and father is one of at least three declared candidates vying to be a school trustee in an expected New Westminster school board byelection.
Shawn Sorensen, a political rookie and New Westminster parent in school district 40, is running as an independent for an opening on the board after former trustee Dee Beattie resigned in September.

A former Langara Studio 58 student, Sorensen believes his Langara and subsequent experience will contribute to the board.

“If there is one thing I learned at Studio 58, that has served me in all the work I have done since I graduated, is how to do a lot with a little.”

Sorensen, who works as operations director at New Westminster’s Massey Theatre, said his experience has helped him to find ways to collaborate with others to get things done.

He said part of his mission is to help transform the school board and district into an inclusive place where parents and caregivers are comfortable and confident to advocate for their children. “I see room for my independent voice,” said Sorensen, who has a daughter.

He said he will push for further SOGI educational tools and training for staff and students. “Each and every student should walk to school each day and feel safe, seen and respected,” he said.

Carlsen’s second chance

The other announced candidates are Alejandro Diaz, another independent, and Kathleen Carlsen, who is running again as part of New West Progressives.

Carlsen worked as a dance instructor and recreation leader with the City of New Westminster for 30 years. A former chair and executive member on the district parents advisory council, she said she believes in leading with patience, empathy and integrity.

Carlsen said her experience working with children has caused her to see education from the viewpoint of a child as opposed to an administrator or adult.

“I’ve been at the meetings. I’ve seen how they’re run. I’ve seen how it all works,” she said.

Carlsen ran for the board unsuccessfully in the October 2022 civic election. She said it makes sense to throw her hat in again and hopefully win.

“Last time, the time wasn’t right for me. I was still working on another project, so that’s why I couldn’t run a normal election,” she said. “Now is the right time.”

Beattie resigns

The date of the byelection has not been announced. The vacancy on the board came after the September resignation of Beattie, who was revealed in June to have been behind a fake X/Twitter account that harassed other trustees and community members.

School District 40 district parents’ advisory council chair Laura Kwong said despite significant time and resources taken away from addressing other pressing issues in the district, it was the right choice for Beattie to resign.

“The bullying and harassing behaviour Ms. Beattie exhibited was totally unacceptable for a school board trustee,” said Kwong.

Kwong is hopeful that the byelection will bring a new trustee to the board who will act in good faith in the best interests of families and their students. She said the board needs to rebuild trust with parents and caregivers.

Alejandro Diaz, the other candidate to declare so far, is a local businessman and father of three. The date of the byelection has not been announced.

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