Future administrator Kim Fallis has had the opportunity to see the city’s school system from a variety of perspectives – as a mother, an administrator during her last municipal term, and as an employee at Brandon University, where many Brandon School Division graduates attend.
If re-elected, the upcoming term as a director would be her second. Fallis said she was motivated to run for the school board for the first time by her desire to give back to the community. After interacting with students while working as an administrator, she said she found another wellspring of motivation as she tried to get back to work.
“I think I’m more invested,” Fallis said, describing how much she loves when students show their work to the school board during their meetings. “We’re not just in a boring meeting, we’re actually interacting with the students and understanding what motivates them, what makes them excited to go to school.”
Fallis is among 14 candidates vying for eight available spots on the Brandon City School Board. Caroline Cramer was acclaimed to be the council’s rural ward representative. Voters will go to the polls on October 26 to elect a mayor, council and trustees.
Fallis said she knows the importance of education. After graduating from high school in the mid-1980s, she found herself stuck, she said, and education was her way out.
“I was a single mom with two kids living in Portage, in a dead-end job, and I knew the only way to make things better was to continue my education,” Fallis said.
In an interview with The Sun, Fallis described how she enrolled in a 10-month accounting program at Assiniboine Community College and, upon graduation, was hired by Brandon University in 1986, where she has worked ever since.
Fallis started in food service at BU, then served for 20 years as a senior accounts receivable manager who would help students get loans. For the past 13 years, she has served as an administrative assistant to the university senate, one of her duties being to help organize the convocation.
Her role at the university gives her perspective, she says. Her work as an administrator can be especially rewarding when she sees a student who has previously participated in a presentation to the BSD board walking later on the BU campus.
But working in college also made her feel like BSD students don’t get the education they need to succeed when they enter college or university, she said.
“I’ve seen many, many students come through our doors, and I’ve seen and heard of many struggling students,” Fallis said. “I wanted to see if I could bring some of that knowledge to the table to help make things easier.”
Numeracy and literacy are the two biggest areas in which students entering college struggle, Fallis said. Deficiencies in English are of particular concern when a student reaches post-secondary education and essay writing skills are essential.
Fallis points out that school funding is a major issue facing the school board. Besides fees paid by international students and students from outside the region, Fallis said the board’s hands are tied when it comes to funding.
“We have no way to raise funds, other than what we get from the government and through taxes,” Fallis said, adding that inflation has increased costs. “All of our fixed costs, those things that we still have to pay, have all gone up and they’re not keeping pace with what the provincial government is giving us.
Meanwhile, the provincial government froze the division’s ability to raise property taxes in order to balance budgets, she said, and during budget deliberations last year, administrators had to make tough choices when they ran out of $2 million.
“None of us came out of there with a smile on our face,” Fallis said.
Among the cut services was a popular program in which BSD students attended ACC to learn about nursing, although ACC later stepped up funding for the course instead. Fallis said the choice was to scrap the nursing program or the Food for Thought breakfast and snack program that ensures kids don’t go to school hungry.
“I think all we can do is continue to pressure the government and show where these funds are being spent,” Fallis said. “Like any other business, our biggest share goes to salary. So we need to figure out how to raise funds so that we can cover, give our teachers a decent salary, and then still be able to buy copy paper for the schools.
Fallis said that if re-elected, she would like to see Maryland Park School completed. She said the school, which is already “full to bursting”, has been designed with eight additional classrooms. The division has set up two modular classrooms to ease the pressure.
She added that she would also like to work on expanding full-day kindergarten to all schools in the division to relieve pressure from parents struggling to find child care and provide more opportunities for students to develop social skills and learn.
Fallis has volunteered for a number of Brandon groups including United Way, Big Brothers and Sisters and the Brandon and District Workers Advocacy Center.
Her two children, now adults, were educated in the Brandon School Division.