“I believe that now is the time that we can make a huge difference in improving the educational outcomes, especially for the kids who are struggling, because for a long time you could easily be left behind,” Gustafson said. “Now the way we’ve reallocated resources … it’s meant to deal more effectively with the kids who are struggling … but not to leave the ones out that can move ahead, that don’t find it difficult.
“So like I say, it’s a very exciting time. I’ve seen the improvement in results for our students overall, and I just want to be a part of keeping the momentum going.”
Gustafson serves as one of the urban trustees representing Prince Albert and area on the 10-member board. He was first elected to the local school board in 1991 and served until 1997. Taking a break after that year’s amalgamation, he successful ran in a 2002 byelection to replace a recently departed trustee.
Since then, Gustafson — who is the only member of the board with no experience as an educator, and a full-time day job as vocational manager at SHARE — has chaired various committees, including transportation and finance.
The board has a different approach today than during his 1991-1997 term.
“We were very hands-on as a board, almost like micro-managing, and that’s the way you did it in those days,” Gustafson said. “The board has changed to more of a policy governance board, and I’m really glad to see that. With the size of the division, it would be extremely difficult to expect a board to have the expertise to manage everything. So we’re the common sense voice of the public, and I think we’ve got a good mix in there.”
It’s a very exciting time. I’ve seen the improvement in results for our students overall, and I just want to be a part of keeping the momentum going. - Grant Gustafson
One of the biggest challenges during Gustafson’s tenure was a 2009 change to government funding that prevented school boards from setting their own mill rates. The SRPSD’s rate was frozen considerably lower than other school divisions in the province, decreasing revenue. But the division’s relatively good finances helped it through the challenge.
Today, Gustafson has a daughter who teaches in the school division. He emphasizes that the school board is a collective endeavour, and any achievement is always a team effort. But he is clear about what he intends to bring to the table should he win re-election.
“Kids succeed if we help facilitate an environment where they can succeed, and I just don’t want to see that compromised,” Gustafson said. “To keep me on the board, you should see someone who supports continuous improvement within the schools, who does not feel the need to micro-manage, someone who sees things slightly differently than some of the other people on the board.
“My kids, a couple of them are living here in town. They’ve finished university, they’ve done quite well … Sask Rivers has been quite good for my children. I want more of the kids coming through to be set up for that success in life.”