October 21st, 2021

Public school board candidate looks to be advocate for students

By Al Beeber on October 14, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Joanne Siljak has worked in the education system since 1980 and for the first time has thrown her name into the ring in hopes of earning a spot on the board of the Lethbridge Public School District.
Siljak just retired in July from her job as Corporate Services Co-ordinator with Palliser Regional Schools, which serves areas including Lethbridge County, Vulcan County and the City of Calgary.
She also has worked in Lethbridge School District 51 and its successor, the renamed Lethbridge School Division.
Siljak started her career in education driving school bus in Coalhurst. When her youngest child started in Grade 1 an opportunity came up at Coalhurst High School where she worked as an education assistant for a year. She went back to school to become a library technician and worked in that job at Coalhurst High.
She then moved on to various education roles including serving as a school secretary and also the assistant to the directors of curriculum and student services at a school division.
She spent seven years working as the executive assistant to the superintendent of Lethbridge School District 51, working for Mel Clewes. That division was renamed as the Lethbridge School Division, said Siljak, when the Alberta government decided to get rid of numbers for school district names.
She came back to Palliser in 2013.
“I’ve worked with kids in the classroom, I have worked with the board, I’ve worked with administration, I’ve worked with teachers. So I believe that I do have a really good idea of what goes on in a school division,” she said.
“School Divisions exist because of the kids. If there weren’t kids in school, there wouldn’t be school divisions. It is all about the kids and being an advocate for the students,” Siljak said Wednesday.
Many issues are affecting provincial education including the proposed K-6 curriculum.
“The curriculum is the biggest one that I’ve heard; all of the emails and calls I’ve got are ‘what are my thoughts on the curriculum.’ The best thing we can do is to make our thoughts known to the government. The government, since I’ve worked with them, haven’t really changed their minds when they’ve made a decision. And it’s only public pressure that seems to have any sway with them. That’s the one thing I keep telling people – go and make your opinion known, go to alberta.ca/curriculum, let them know how you feel. It’s important that they know how everybody feels, not just school boards and not just the teachers,” Siljak said.
If voters haven’t seen any signs on boulevards or lawns with Siljak’s name, it’s because she purposely chose not to go down that route.
“You can’t even tell whose signs they are,” she says of the advertising candidates for various positions in the municipal election have posted.
After so many years working in education, Siljak feels she has a good rapport with both parents and educators.
Running for trustee has been a learning experience for Siljak, who readily admits she’s not good at selling herself.
But she’s looking forward to working on the board if voters give her a chance.
“I’m really excited if I get the opportunity,” said Siljak.

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