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ELECTION 2014: Richmond gets a new-look school board

ELECTION 2014: Richmond gets a new-look school board

New school trustees Sandra Nixon, Alice S. Wong, Ken Hamaguchi and Jonathan Ho. -

New school trustees Sandra Nixon, Alice S. Wong, Ken Hamaguchi and Jonathan Ho.

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Change swept over the Richmond Board of Education Saturday, as the majority of its newly-elected school trustees will be serving in political office for the first time—including two independents.

Jonathan Ho, Ken Hamaguchi, Sandra Nixon and Alice S. Wong are the new faces on a board whose remaining seats were reclaimed by Richmond First incumbents Donna Sargent, Debbie Tablotney and Eric Yung.

Two of the new trustees—Hamaguchi and Nixon—were elected as independents, something rarely seen in a city where slates dominate school board.

“Nobody was more surprised than I was,” said Nixon, who watched the results at home with her family. “I was saying to myself a few days beforehand if I was in the top 12 I’d feel that I’d done pretty well.”

Nixon, 44, has two children in Richmond schools and is a minister at Grace Memorial United Church in Vancouver. She’s hoping to bring to the board a “really independent voice” free of party ties.

That independence might have earned her votes, along with those from voters looking for change after a long teachers’ strike.

“Whether it’s legitimate or not, I think there was a perception, (with) the strike especially, that trustees weren’t doing enough to speak out, or could have done something differently.”

Nixon said she’ll advocate for better funding for local schools, and also plans to address Richmond’s lack of an LGBTQ policy addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning issues.

“I’m hoping to have the board take another look at that, especially since we’re only one of a couple of school districts in the Lower Mainland that doesn’t have a specific policy.”

Hamaguchi, 55, is the executive director of Seafair Minor Hockey Association and a behaviour consultant who works with people with autism. He suggested the increase in voter turnout helped independents.

“I kind of get a sense this year that more people came out, that they were hoping to vote in not just a regular slate of people,” he said.

Hamaguchi also pledged to advocate for funding while making the best of what the district has.

“I see a lot of parallels to running a hockey association to school board,” he said. “To me the key…has to be supporting the people who really do the work, essentially the teachers, the principals, the special ed assistants, and even the custodial people, the maintenance people.”

Alice S. Wong was the lone winner for the new Renew Richmond slate. Wong—who has the same name as a Richmond MP—is a longtime resident active in parent groups, serving as president of the Richmond Chinese Parents’ Association and vice-president of the Richmond District Parents Association.

Jonathan Ho, an employee with TD Bank Group, won with the Richmond Community Coalition in his second try at a seat.

Saturday’s election also marked the first time RITE has been shut out of the board since the party—now named RITE Richmond—was formed ahead of the 1999 election.

Incumbent RITE candidates Rod Belleza and Norm Goldstein both lost their seats. Belleza, a two-term trustee, lost by 581 votes, while Goldstein, who served a single term, finished 1,076 votes back of seventh spot.

Two incumbents didn’t run for re-election. Kenny Chiu is running for a federal seat with the Conservatives in the new Richmond riding of Steveston-Richmond, while Grace Tsang made an attempt at a council seat on Saturday but finished well back in the 18th position.

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