Photo by Chung Chow
Heather Larson is a veteran when it comes to Richmond schools, with 19 years of experience as an educational assistant, buyer, and homestay coordinator.
Now, she is ready to take on the role of school trustee, having been elected to the Richmond Board of Education for the first time on Oct. 20.
“I’m very excited, but it’s also a surreal feeling,” said Larson, adding a thank you to the public.
She finished in fourth place with 13,258 votes to nab one of the seven trustee spots.
Larson retired from her job as the homestay coordinator of the international students program in 2013, but she still has many family, friends, and students in the school district.
From her lengthy and varied experience, she believes that increased and more effective dialogue between everyone in the school district is crucial.
“We need to build relationships and maintain them. I see that as a duty as a trustee, and that’s what I want to bring to the table,” she said. “We need to have better communication between departments.”
Each department has many needs, a lesson she learned firsthand as an educational assistant, where everything she “thought and did was from (the angle) of an EA.”
Larson then moved on to the purchasing department, where she worked for four years. Building the trust of the individuals who were buying items was one of her objectives, and she would make the effort to understand and listen to their concerns and needs.
“It’s getting out there and talking to people to see what’s needed. You have to find out what (they) need. There are certain barriers, and you have to work within (that). But if you work together, then you have the opportunity to find the best solutions.”
One of the challenges that schools are facing today is funding for special needs students and educational assistants. Because funding is only reserved for disabled students who are given a designated number, students who need financial help but haven’t been diagnosed with a disability are unable to get funding.
“This puts a lot of pressure on families, teachers, and everyone.”
Effective communication will be important in overcoming this challenge, as well as in the discussion surrounding SOGI 123, the sexual orientation and gender identity policy promoting safety and inclusivity for all students.
Larson believes that there were many opportunities for people to be informed throughout the past year.
However, not everyone really understood what SOGI stood for, including a “very outspoken group from outside the Richmond district that were going for fear,” she said.
“There are a lot of people who do understand, but a lot who don’t. But it’s working together.”
SOGI is absolutely necessary, Larson said, and it must be monitored.
Ultimately, Larson hopes to give all students equal opportunities to reach their potential, which can only happen in a non-threatening environment.
“Everybody is entitled to an education in a classroom, and to be safe. Whether it’s religion or gender or ability, everyone is entitled to be safe.”
To create an inclusive learning space will require cooperation and teamwork.
“I truly believe networking is incredibly important,” she said.
“Everyone I have met over the years brings strength. If we work with everyone, then we can find the solution in times that are tough. When we bring those all together, you’ll get the best answer.”