Valks wins SD20 school trustee by-election

Birkley Valks has been declared the new SD20 Area 2 school board trustee. (Photo courtesy of Birkley Valks)

Birkley Valks has won the by-election for the Electoral Area 2 school trustee position on Kootenay-Columbia’s School District 20 school board.

Electoral Area 2, which represents the City of Castlegar and RDCK Electoral Area J, has two trustee seats on the school board; Catherine Zaitsoff fills the other position.

Only residents of Area 2 were able to vote in the by-election.

Valks won by a large margin with 807 votes, followed by Emily Duggan with 307, Jennifer Burton with 139, and Lindsay Kenny with 31.

Valks, a father of three, has a son with autism. He said he was inspired to run in the by-election to try to make a difference for his child and other students with disabilities.

“My middle child has autism, and my wife and I have been talking for quite some time now about what that’s going to look like for him in the school system. I wanted to be able to help and make a difference for him and all the other kids like him and so many others out there that need that extra support.”

He said that his main priority during his term focuses on promoting mental health and inclusivity to ensure that every child gets the best education, no matter what they’re going through.

“Education is something that I believe in. It saved me when I was younger, and I understand how valuable that is. I want to make sure that mental health is number one because if you don’t have that stability and you don’t feel safe and you don’t feel well-rested and loved and appreciated, you’re not going to take in as much information as you can.”

Additionally, Valks wants to further support the SOGI123 program in the district.

The program, as he explained, provides information to teachers on how to guide their classrooms with compassion and kindness, promoting the understanding that not every family or person looks the same or has the same experiences.

“It’s not like a course that’s being taught like sex, math, or social studies. It’s extremely valuable, and while there are some folks out there that are saying it’s only for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, it’s actually not. It’s meant to create a safe space for everybody,” he said.

“If and when my children show up in school and they say, ‘oh, my daddy’s trans,’ the teacher will have the information to have that conversation. I wish it had been around when I went to school, and my life may have looked a little bit different in terms of my identity.”

Valks also plans to use his new position to re-focus the SD20 school board meetings to ensure students and their education are the main focus.

“I think the biggest problem right now is we’re dealing with parents that are trying to interfere with the education of all kids and instead are focused on trying to nail things down, and that does make me worry. I’m hoping that one extra voice like myself on the board will help give it some more strength and battle against people like that.”

Valks is excited to have received so much support during the by-election, and promises to use his platform to ensure that all children are cared for and respected.

“Thank you to everybody who voted for me and who believed in me. I will give you my absolute best day in and day out to provide exactly what I stated in my platform and to make sure that all children of every situation are cared for and respected and valued.”

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