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Get to know your Burnaby school board candidates: Jen Mezei

'Currently board chair, I look forward to continuing my service to Burnaby families and communities with collaborative leadership through a lens of equity and inclusion.'
Incumbent Jen Mezei (Burnaby Citizens Association) is running for reelection to Burnaby school board this October.

Name and pronouns?

Jen Mezei (she/her)

Tell us about yourself: (max. 100 words)

This is my 21st (and final!) year as a Burnaby school district parent.

As a parent of children on the autism spectrum, I faced the parental challenge of navigating cross-ministerial systems including a complex and underfunded public education system. As I advocated for children’s learning needs, I learned many barriers families faced were due to provincial education policy, not district decisions. This led me to provincial leadership roles as BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils president and currently director of BC School Trustees Association, where I continue provincial advocacy for students with disabilities, refugee students, mental health supports, and anti-racism.

Why are you running for school board? (max. 50 words)

Burnaby public schools are a microcosm of our greater community, and our schools must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of our community. Currently board chair, I look forward to continuing my service to Burnaby families and communities with collaborative leadership through a lens of equity and inclusion.

What do you think the current school board has done well? Where has it missed the mark? (max. 50 words)

  • Developed a strategic plan that reflects district values and priorities, and increased coherence within the whole district in alignment with a board work plan
  • Development of anti-racism action plan (ongoing)
  • Sustainability strategic plan
  • Broader community engagement
  • Governance restructure and improved transparency
  • Created 773 childcare spaces

Unfortunately, the pandemic delayed timelines.

What are the top three issues facing the next school board? (max. 50 words)

  • Changing community needs
  • Learning needs such as locally developed programs of interest, educational supports, and school community needs such as childcare availability, access to technology and food insecurity
  • Inadequate operational funding provided by government to support students, including vulnerable learners
  • Escalating construction costs and future capital contributions

How do you plan to address those issues? (max. 150 words)

Our priority for the past two years has been keeping students at the center of decisions in alignment with our values and strategic priorities.

The difficult issues facing Burnaby schools are the same issues facing districts across the province. We can either react after provincial policies are decided or proactively engage with provincial partners and all levels of government to communicate the unique challenges facing Burnaby.

We must move from reactive to proactive and ensure that the needs of Burnaby students are considered in upcoming revisions to the Special Education Service Manual, affecting a generation of students with disabilities, and the Area Standards, determining the maximum space allocation of new and replacement schools.

Ministry mandate letters clearly signal what changes to provincial policy or practice are a priority for the Provincial government, including:

  • Indigenous languages
  • School meal programs
  • Childcare on school grounds
  • Climate change
  • And equity, anti-racism, and anti-Indigenous racism

And just for fun: If you got to spend one full day in school again, what grade would you return to and why? (max. 25 words)

Ms. Morrison’s Kindergarten class (which sparked my love for baking, cooking and new foods) to join the student “Helper of the Week” make classroom snacks.

Where can voters find out more about you? (e.g. social media, website)

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: JenMezei