Alexander Ashton defeats Leslie Tucker to become new school board chair

Trustee Valerie Wilson resigns; vacant seat will be filled by byelection Thursday, Nov. 17

The Ashton family political dynasty rolled on Sept. 13 as Alexander Ashton, a rookie trustee, defeated another first-term trustee, Leslie Tucker, to become chair of the board of trustees of the School District of Mystery Lake.

Ashton, who teaches at University College of the North, is the younger brother of two-term Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton and the son of Thompson NDP MLA and minister of infrastructure and transportation Steve Ashton, who is seeking re-election in his ninth campaign in the Oct. 4 provincial election.

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First elected Nov. 17, 1981, Steve Ashton is the longest-serving MLA in the Manitoba legislature. Alexander's mother is Hari Dimitrakopoulou-Ashton, an economist and university lecturer in economics, management, and women's studies, and herself a former school board trustee.

Local lawyer Rob Pellizzaro, first elected in 1998, and the longest serving trustee on the board, did not seek re-election after serving as chair for slightly more than 10 months in the wake of incumbent trustee and chair Cheryl Davies defeat in the school board election last Oct. 27.

Pellizzaro was elected as chair by his fellow trustees last Nov. 4. The last half of Pellizzaro's term was dominated by the controversial firing of R.D. Parker Collegiate probationary principal Ryan Land, now manager of corporate affairs for Vale's Manitoba Operations. Many of the issues from that explosive episode in the board's history, including allegations of students' marks being changed, charges, accusations, counter-charges and grievances, remain outstanding, at least for some.

Trustee Leslie Tucker was the big loser Sept. 13, going down to a double defeat in attempts to become both the board chair, and when she was defeated in that bid, the vice-chair. Trustee Sya Gregovski nominated Tucker for both the chair and vice-chair's jobs, seconded both times by trustee Vince Nowlin.

The six trustees present voted by secret ballot and the ballots were destroyed by resolution of the board later in the evening, so it is not known what Ashton's margin of victory was. Pellizzaro, while he declined to seek re-election as chair, did accept Ashton's nomination for the job of vice-chair, seconded by trustee Guido Oliveira, who, as outgoing vice-chair, did not seek another term in the number two post. It was also Pellizzaro, seconded by Oliveira, who nominated Ashton for the chair's job.

While voters elect trustees for four-year terms, the trustees choose a chair and vice-chair among themselves annually every fall.

Only six trustees out of seven were present for the chair and vice-chair election, as trustee Valerie Wilson, who moved to Winnipeg last month, was absent and had submitted her letter of resignation to the board, which was accepted later in the evening after the internal elections.

Wilson was first elected to the board as a trustee in October 2006, but had an almost 40-year history of involvement with education issues in Thompson, much of it as a board employee herself, including in the old "guidance" department.

Along with her late husband, Brian, Valerie Wilson arrived in Thompson in 1972 when Brian was offered the principal's position at Eastwood School. There was a change of plans at the last-minute and Brian wound up being offered the job of vice-principal instead at Juniper School. He remained at Juniper School until 1978 serving as vice-principal for two years, followed by four years as principal.

Brian Wilson was promoted to assistant superintendent for the School District of Mystery Lake in 1978 and became superintendent in 1981, a position he held until his retirement in 1998. Brian Wilson died in May 2010 and Valerie Wilson bought a condo in Winnipeg earlier this year to be close to her children and grandchildren.

Both Valerie and Brian Wilson also served on city council.

Terry Nychuk has been hired as the senior election official to oversee and administer the Nov. 17 byelection process, which is run jointly with the City of Thompson. Provisions of The Public Schools Act and The Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Act govern the byelection. Nychuk will be based at City Hall and can be reached by cell at (204) 307-6751. He also ran the municipal and School District of Mystery Lake general elections last Oct. 27 as senior election official,

Revisions to the voters' list for the Nov. 17 byelection will take place at City Hall from Sept. 26 to 30; from Oct. 3 to 7; and Oct. 10 to Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. To be eligible to vote or run as a candidate n the school board byelection you must be a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years of age on election day.

Eligible voters must also be resident of the "local authority for at least six months prior to election day" or in the alternative a registered owner of land in the municipality for at least six months prior to election day.

Nominations will be open on Oct. 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Qualified candidates must have their nomination papers signed by at least 25 eligible voters.

The byelection cannot take place until at least 50 days after Wilson's Sept. 13 resignation, meaning the earliest possible date it could have been held would be Nov. 1.

© Copyright 2018 Thompson Citizen

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