Calgary·Calgary Votes 2021

Meet your candidates for public school trustee in wards 5 and 10

When you head to the polls on Oct. 18, in addition to casting a vote for mayor and city councillor, you will also be voting for a school trustee.

10 people are vying for a chance to represent wards 5 and 10 at CBE board table

Candidates running in wards 5 and 10 for the Calgary Board of Education spoke with CBC News about what issues would be important to them if they were elected. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

When you head to the polls on Oct. 18, in addition to casting a vote for mayor and city councillor, you also will be voting for a school trustee. 

CBC News reached out to all the candidates for wards 5 and 10 and asked them to write their own short bio, adhering to a strict word count, introducing themselves and explaining what issues would be important to them if they were elected as school board trustee. 

There are 10 candidates running in wards 5 and 10, including the incumbent, Marilyn Dennis, who has served as a trustee for one term.

Malik Ashraf

Malik Ashraf is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

Malik's background in computer science, real estate, petroleum land administration, business operations, management and banking has exposed him to a wide breadth of sectors in Calgary over the past three decades. In addition to his impressive professional background, Malik has dedicated a significant amount of his life to community leadership and volunteer projects in Calgary and surrounding areas.

Most notably, he is the board director of the Calgary Interfaith Council (CIC), an organization that hosts the Interfaith Harmony Week on an annual basis. Along the same cause and in the spirit of collaboration and bringing people together, Malik was also an active volunteer with Love With Humanity, an organization that initiates various projects in many communities. These include holiday celebrations with senior citizens, clothing and food drives for those experiencing homelessness, road and park cleanup, resources for immigrants, and more.

Jay Chowdhury

Jay Chowdhury is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

Jay Chowdhury has a background in economics and long-standing experience for more than two decades with children and youth's education as planner, goal setter, policy-maker and communicator with government and non-government stakeholders. 

Jay's focus will be on: development of funding as the number of students will be rapidly growing; curriculum and assessment that sets the best interest of children and not policy-makers; classroom conditions in Calgary's northeast; more Indigenous education contents and education for reconciliation; and students' safety, such as bullying and diversity and inclusion to create safe learning environments for all students.

Jay also wants to see more support for pregnant teenage students attending schools from all quadrants of Calgary.

Jay has been married for 20 years and his three kids are going to school in Calgary.

Marilyn Dennis

Marilyn Dennis is running for re-election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

Representing wards 5 and 10 as your CBE trustee was a dream in the making for many years. I have lived, volunteered and raised my family in northeast Calgary, giving me an unparalleled understanding of the unique challenges faced by schools in wards 5 and 10. I value strong neighbourhood public schools and the choice that the CBE offers. I was selected by my peers to serve as vice-chair from 2017-2019 and as board chair since 2019. 

I continue to be a champion for the advancement of equity across the CBE, ensuring resources are directed where they are needed most and diligently advocating for the needs of students; new schools in northeast Calgary; changes to provincial transportation regulations and funding to improve access to transportation services; and a delay in the implementation of the draft curriculum to ensure that concerns of families and educators are suitably addressed.

As your trustee I have supported the development of an equity allocation framework that will see funding directed to schools with the highest need; a program evaluation framework that will measure the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of our programs to ensure every dollar spent is maximized; and the Indigenous Education Holistic Lifelong Learning Framework providing targeted support toward the success of Indigenous students.

With the majority of trustees not running for re-election, my leadership, knowledge and experience will be instrumental in seeing these plans through. My commitment to families in wards 5 and 10 is unwavering.

Harseerat Dhami

Harseerat Dhami is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

I am 26 years old and a single child that was raised in Calgary by my dad. My dad taught me the value of hard work and the importance of being educated. My education has helped me prosper by giving me the skills to run my own media and broadcasting channel, Asia TV HD. Our channel connects communities by covering events, gatherings and news with live recordings on its 24-hour channel.

Being a businessman has taught me how to network, problem-solve, communicate, negotiate, market my services and build valuable and meaningful relationships with individuals around Calgary. Most importantly, my business developed me into a dependable leader that effectively reaches goals. These skills have made me a successful philanthropist and will make me a successful trustee. 

Since I was educated in wards 5 and 10, I understand the challenges that parents and their children face, which gives me the confidence that I can solve their concerns. I aim to solve concerns with equitable education such as transportation; building more schools; understanding the budget; and how funds are allocated, etc.

Advocating the importance of these concerns in meetings is essential to me because it gives the right support to advisors, guardians and parents, who can then support the needs of students. This ensures that every child gets what they need to have an equitable education to succeed in life.

Humaira Falak

Humaira Falak is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

I am a community development practitioner working primarily in wards 5 and 10 communities. I am also a parent of two beautiful girls, who go to a public school in Ward 10. I have been involved with the communities in wards 5 and 10 and across Calgary through my work. I have led domestic violence and mental health initiatives. I am the co-chair for the ethno-cultural working group of Calgary Domestic Violence Collective. I have volunteered with many agencies here in Calgary and often speak on issues impacting disadvantaged communities and ways we can work together to dismantle some of these barriers.

I am running for this position as I believe in a strong public education system. Over the past few years, I have come to realize that schools in wards 5 and 10 communities are underfunded and more resources and supports are needed for its diverse student base. I stand against education budget cuts and the erosion of public education system, against the proposed curriculum, against over-crowded classrooms, against increased school and transportation fees.

As a parent, I want the best for my kids. And as trustee, I want to make sure that the unique needs of student base from wards 5 and 10 communities are met and the diverse voices of parents and families are heard and included in decision-making impacting their children's education. Also, wards 5 and 10 communities badly need new schools closer to homes, ESL support, playgrounds and support for extracurricular activities.

Christa Harris

Harris did not respond to multiple requests for information from CBC News.

Stephen John

Stephen John is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

Stephen John is a accomplished sales and business man with eight years of experience. Stephen has a deep connection between his family and the CBE, with a passion for equality for all students. Stephen has the drive and is willing to advocate for the success and safety of our students and the understanding to the vast and different needs each student can have.

Michael Siapno Jurez

Michael Siapno Jurez is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

I am a father of three who has lived and grown up in northeast Calgary most of my life. I have my Level 1 in early learning childhood education from Bow Valley College and I'm currently a real estate associate with CIR Realty. My family operated a daycare for over 10 years. I volunteered in different organizations including Christian youth groups, Wildrose Lions Club and numerous community outreach projects as a board member of the Philippine Festival Council of Alberta. Our communities in wards 5 and 10 are growing vibrantly but our schools are lagging behind. 

I am advocating for equal and proper funding for our schools. We want to ensure that the CBE is being prudent in its spending so we can fund our schools properly. We need to closely examine how our tax dollars are being spent. Public education is vital to the future of any city, yet there seems to be a disconnect of services available between wards. The CBE needs to prioritize quality education for all school across Calgary

I am running because it is high time for parents to have genuine representation within CBE. We have to ensure that concerns and issues that parents are facing don't fall onto deaf ears. Parents should be actively involved and consulted in the decision-making process of CBE

Baldev Kaur Tamber

Baldev Kaur Tamber is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

Having done my degree in electronics and instrumentation, I served as a lecturer in an engineering institute in India. I came to Calgary in 2009 and completed my bachelor's degree in business administration. 

I have two sons studying in public schools. I have attended public council meetings in my son's school. I shall engage parents, students and community in problems concerning transportation, education and curriculum, and equal opportunities to all students, and will build a relationship of trust and accountability. I shall have an open door policy and collect feedback on all important decisions. I will try to ensure that all the needs of parents, teachers and students are fulfilled. I will strive to secure more funding for future and present  schools in my wards. I will ensure that any decision is for the betterment of students. I will be open-minded, honest and ethical in my work. 

Finally, I shall support those policies that are best for students' development, keeping in mind the community expectations and good educational practices.The best in education and the well-being of students will be high in my priorities.

Vikas Verma

Vikas Verma is running for election as public school trustee in wards 5 and 10. (Submitted)

I am currently working with the City of Calgary in Calgary Transit. For the last 14 years, I have been serving the city with utmost dedication and honesty, giving justice to the roles and responsibilities offered. I have served as the operations supervisor, CTA scheduler and I'm currently serving as a transit operator. Academically, I have completed my master's in commerce and I'm a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant). Along with my city job, I am running a jewlery business called VJ Jewellers Ltd.

Seeing and listening to the problems faced by public schools and students, I decided to become the voice of the people and run for the position of public school trustee for wards 5 and 10. My target would be establishing equality in schools, ensuring right allocation of funds and raising standards of public schooling.

The current funding system in public schooling is inadequate. The government subsidizing private schooling is impacting the development of public schools. I'd also focus on being the voice and raising concerns about lack of resources and facilities in the public schooling infrastructure. The majority of the parents are inclined toward sending children to public schools, and I'd be raising their concern and pressuring the provincial government to allocate more funds.

I will work hard toward establishing changes in the curriculum so that both parents and students feel satisfied. Curriculum has to be more of practical experiences to the students with an aim of creating strong basics.

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