Abbotsford voters heading to the polls this Saturday will find the name of one long-time trustee missing from the ballot.
Joanne Field, who has served on the board of education for 15 years, including four years as chair, is not seeking re-election.
Instead, she will spend the next three years on a sailing adventure with her husband, Ray.
“It’s his time now,” Field said, referring to the demands that a public position can make on one’s personal life.
She said the trip has been a lifelong dream of her husband’s and, although she has some hesitations about traversing major ocean crossings, she’s embracing the adventure.
The pair begin their journey in January aboard a 57-foot off-shore sailboat that they recently purchased in Jacksonville, Florida.
They will leave from there and then travel to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and Central America, and then along the west coast of North America, probably via Hawaii.
The boat will be stored for periods – such as during hurricane season – at which time the couple will return to Abbotsford, and Field will continue her involvement in community endeavours such as the Rotary Club, Abbotsford Restorative Justice and the new City of Character initiative.
She said she will miss the break from the board of education, but doesn’t rule out seeking another term when the sailing trip is over.
“I feel like it’s an absolute honour and privilege to serve my community in this way.”
Field was first elected as a trustee in 1996. She said she decided to seek political office because, as a parent of two children, she was concerned about the standards of education.
“I’ve always had a heart for young people … I truly do believe in the role of public education and what it can offer young people.”
Field said her proudest moments as a trustee have been seeing the accomplishments of Abbotsford students, whether they’re graduating, winning awards or “turning their lives around.”
She said she is also proud to see the progress the school district has made in addressing the diverse needs of students. When she first began, French immersion programs and the Career Technical Centre were the only alternatives to standard education.
Now, she applauds the numerous options available, including vocational programs, a virtual school, a fine arts school, expanded secondary-school opportunities at universities, and the traditional school model.
Other highlights for Field were being named a recipient of the Abbotsford Community Leader Award in 2007 and the school district being the first in B.C. to become Power Smart-certified.
She is an advocate for renewable energy, pointing out that the sailboat includes solar panels and, eventually, a wind generator.
Field said areas in which she would like to see improvement include more attention to the issue of bullying – particularly over the Internet – and the use of technology in a way that best benefits students in a safe, responsible manner.
Overall, she feels the school district has made great strides in the years she has been involved.
“Right now, I think we’re in a pretty good place.”
Field’s final board meeting was last night.
The other six board of education incumbents are seeking re-election, along with nine new faces, who are vying for seven available seats.