Ask yourself: Is public education worth just a few minutes of your time?

It was no parade for Mayor Sue McKortoff earlier this week as she struggled to get home from Vancouver.

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Candidate Profiles

Because of the publisher’s recent heart attack and surgery, OsoyoosToday was unable to provide for profiles of the three candidates for the Osoyoos trustee position. Because of the importance of this vote, OsoyoosToday is taking the extra-ordinary step of encouraging you to review candidate profiles provided by The Osoyoos Times. Links to each are including below.

One of my favourite photos taken during the summer months is of Mayor Sue McKortoff.

Decked out in Canada Day red, she is standing in the back of a convertible during the Cherry Fiesta Parade. Her arms are raised in triumph and she is cheering as parade watchers cheer with her.

Anyone living in Osoyoos over the first six months of 2016 knows exactly why everyone is celebrating.

A lengthy battle to save the community’s secondary school was finally complete — a victory after the provincial government relented and found money within its coffers to fund a Rural Enhancement Education Fund.

The additional $490,000 offered to the Okanagan Similkameen School District was enough for trustees a day earlier to reverse their decision to close the school.

In large part, the provincial money came about because of the work the entire Osoyoos community had undertaken between the time the school closing was first proposed to the day it was reversed.

Certainly Mayor McKortoff and the remainder of Osoyoos Town Council played a major role in that effort. So did an ad hoc committee comprised of Osoyoos residents who organized events, wrote letters and made phone calls and attended meeting after meeting.

But the effort went much deeper than that.

Hundreds turned up for information sessions scheduled by the School District. Hundreds more attended rallies and protests. The stream of letters and emails to various players in the drama was never-ending.

The pressure to keep the school open was relentless.

Four months later the community finds itself in the midst of a by-election to replace departing trustee June Harrington.

We’ve had a summer break; the kids are back in school. Life is normal.

Except that tomorrow, residents of the Town of Osoyoos and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen’s Area “A” will go to the polls to select her replacement.

Three candidates —Casey Brouwer, Penny Dupperon and John Redenbach — have allowed their names to stand for that position. Although it is important for voters to vote their conscience and elect the best person to the job, almost equally important is the response the Osoyoos community gives to this vote.

High voter turnout at tomorrow’s polling station will send a strong signal to the province, the school district and others that education in the community — maintaining a secondary school program just one issue among many — is still of critical importance.

High voter turnout tells those who will be watching that as a community we cared enough to make casting our ballots a priority.

High voter turnout says we are still on the job ensuring our children have a place to attend classes in Osoyoos.

Conversely, a majority of Osoyoos and Area “A” residents staying home will indicate quite the opposite.

It contributes to an environment where the provincial government can establish its own agenda. It also tells other trustees that we didn’t really care who we sent to represent us in Oliver.

Trustee Myrna Coates, just prior to the vote last June 30, made a plea for communities within the school district to support its school trustees.

“I’m begging again that the communities help us to get the government to understand we need more money for education,” she said with some emotion.

“We’re begging you to help us.”

As a community, we have a big opportunity tomorrow to stand together — again  — and express our support for more money for public education. A strong show of support sends a message to Victoria that Osoyoos is still engaged.

A vote tomorrow is more than just a vote for the candidate of your choice. It is a vote for public education.

I leave it to you to decide yourself how important public education is to you, your family and your community.

Your actions tomorrow — to take a few minutes to cast a ballot or to otherwise just stay home — will put an answer to that question.

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