The Callo Family, 2022.
Born and raised in Victoria, Esther brings her experience as an SD61 student, parent volunteer, PAC Director, community organizer, Educational Assistant, and pre-service teacher to the role of trustee.
SD61 Student and Parent Volunteer
George Jay Elemetary School Grade 7 class photo, 1979.
As a child growing up in Victoria, I depended on the public school system to provide me with opportunities to thrive. I lived in subsidized housing with my single Mom and sister and attended some of SD61's most marginalized schools; yet I had access to high-quality teachers and training in programs like music (strings) and sports. These experiences instilled in me the belief that public education is the great equalizer.
I attended several schools in SD61: Oaklands, Blanshard and George Jay Elementary Schools; Central Junior High; and Mount Douglas Secondary. In 1986, I graduated from the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, UK on full scholarship.
I have had the privilege of raising my two beautiful daughters in Victoria. During their years in public school, I worked as a crossing guard and volunteered for classroom activities, field trips, school fairs and fundraisers. I also served on Parent Advisory Councils at my children's elementary, middle and high schools. Revisiting SD61 as a parent revealed to me worsening systemic issues that threaten the quality of education students receive. Cuts to music, Educational Assistants (EA), custodians and outreach workers undermine student potential.
I am running for election to the Board of Trustees to prioritize equity and put students first.
SD61 Educational Assistant and Pre-Service Teacher
Personal photo, 2022.
Five years working as an EA has given me first-hand experience supporting some of SD61's most vulnerable students at schools throughout the district, including George Jay, Rockheights, Shoreline, Monterey and Campus View. I have noted that despite the best efforts of educators, EAs and support staff, years of underfunding is harming education and failing students. This experience will inform my priorities as trustee, inspired by the tireless work of BCEdAccess Society.
As a pre-service teacher with an undergraduate degree in English Honours, I am familiar with the new BC curriculum, which emphasizes the core competencies of thinking, communicating, and personal/social awareness — a strong recognition that collaborative learning is at the heart of student success.
When students see themselves reflected in school settings that give both their humanity and talents room to grow, this objective can be realized. For this reason, the new School Board must continue to support SOGI 123 and anti-racism initiatives.
As trustee, I will work to mobilize financial support from the Ministry of Education to bring this inclusive vision to life.
Public Education Advocate
Like many public school advocates, I have voiced objection to the recent cuts to programming and staff that jeopardize student success, as well as the undemocratic suspension of two trustees.
I have also followed closely the mismanaged seismic upgrade processes at Burnside Elementary (now SJ Burnside Education Centre), Vic High, and Cedar Hill Middle schools, as well as the disposal of 1.9 acres at Lansdowne South Campus. Transparency is an ongoing issue in SD61.
Three years of research and Freedom of Information requests have given me access to documents and decision-making processes that have been withheld from the public. In particular, the school board's undisclosed plan to dispose of public school land across the district is of deep concern.
An accumulation of nearly $300M in deferred maintenance costs due to chronic underfunding from the provincial government is at the root of this misguided plan that cannot generate the revenue required to address such a vast problem.
As populations increase and the need for schools grows, we must protect all available land and reaffirm its place in our education and parks and recreation systems.
As trustee, I will continue to pursue transparency regarding all issues on behalf of the public.
In 2008 I founded the Oceans Day Festival Society. Over the span of five years, I collaborated with artists, friends and schools to host four aerial art events in SD61, free of charge. Our motto, "You're Part of the Big Picture," reflected our mission to give students an active experience of collaboration through art in response to ocean-related and climate change issues.
In addition to these large projects, I was active in the Fernwood community as an organizer of the Vining Street Party on the Plaza (VSPOP, previously the Vining Street Block Party) from 2007 to 2017. VSPOP grew from a traditional block party format to a festival held on Vic High grounds with live local performers, BBQs, markets, fundraising auctions, and activities for kids.
More recently, I have served on the Fernwood Community Association Land Use Committee. With plans to increase density in the urban core and beyond, we need Councils that recognize and protect the vital role public schools and their amenities and green spaces play in the health of communities.
I intend to bring the spirit of collaboration from volunteer work to the role of trustee.