The only trustee with a full time job - being a board member keeps Richelle Papin hopping.

backgrounder 100By Pepper Parr

September 15, 2015


Richelle Pain took a rather circuitous route to becoming a school board trustee. She originally thought about running in 1991 – it didn’t seem right to her at the time.

Richell Papin - finngers down

Richelle Papin describes the board she serves on as cohesive and that serving as a trustee takes up a lot more time than she expected.

When she did run in 2010 and lost she found “losing was hard” At the time she had no special passion, no particular issue to run her campaign on – she just felt it was time for her to be in some form of public office.

She moved sometime after the 2010 race and now lived in ward 4 where she decided to run in 2014 and won the seat at the public board of education. She had grown to the point where she felt the school boards had to be accountable and she wanted to be part of the process that ensured accountability was in place.

Papin is more of a bureaucrat than an issues person – process matters to her which reflects her years of working in the public sector – currently as an information technologist.

Papin found the discussion around the French immersion programs all consuming and pointed out that in some western cities in Canada the second language is Spanish.

Papin describes the board she serves on as cohesive, “one that works well together” but she was not able to point to anything that she felt she had achieved in her first year as a trustee.

Richelle Papin

Papin, like every other trustee, said the board’s web site is “lousy”.

As the only trustee with as full time job she finds that role requires more work that she thought it would take to get the job done.

The leadership conference the board held recently was one she appreciated – “I took quite a bit away from that”

Papin said she doesn’t have a strong policy on communicating with parents in her ward – she does have a Face book page but doesn’t get much traffic from it.

She wonders if our schools are what we think they are. She mentioned that Tuck, which has one of the best reputations in the city, had problems getting enough parent volunteers to help out at the annual Fun Fair.

Households today are not what they once were. The demands and strains on parents are a lot different – many parents don’t have the time needed to be fully active in their community. Those that commute aren’t back in Burlington until pretty close to 6 pm – and if they’re children are involved in some activity – a family around the table dinner often gets a pass.

Papin, like every other trustee, said the board’s web site is “lousy” – the current Director of Education has said $100,000 has been committed to upgrading the web site – but no one has attached a time line to the planned upgrade.

Papin admits that she doesn’t have nor does she want a high public profile. She feels her job is to look things over and be involved in the process of managing the issues before the board.

Richelle Papin - hand to chin

“That’s a good question” she said – “it isn’t something I, given any thought to – I am certainly going to finish this term.”

While some trustees had an issue with schools being used for voting purposes – Pain doesn’t see any problem with such a practice. “I’m certainly not against it” she said and pointed out that the one parent who delegated at city council and met with people at the board of education is married to a police officer and that may have influenced some of her thinking.

Papin says she has a very good working relationship with the ward Councillor Jack Dennison, a former boss. “He copies me on anything that is even remotely related to school board matters”, she said.

Is there a political life beyond the school board for Papin? “That’s a good question” she said – “it isn’t something I, given any thought to – I am certainly going to finish this term.”

Papin was born in West Africa raised in Aldershot and attended Aldershot High school and earned a degree at the University of Guelph that had majors in English and sociology. “I gave some thought to becoming a teacher but life took me in another direction.”

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