'A proud moment:' new Halifax school board member becomes second black voice at table
Suzy Hansen of District 5 was elected last month alongside Archy Beals as the African Nova Scotian representative
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Being one of two African Nova Scotian voices on school board is an opportunity to represent those who “don’t always get seen,” says Suzy Hansen.
Hansen, alongside the rest of the new Halifax Regional School Board, was sworn in as the District 5 member on Wednesday night in the Burnside board chambers.
“It’s a proud moment. I’ve walked through every office and I’ve looked on the walls, looked at the pictures, and there’s not much of me, you know,” said Hansen, who won the Peninsula North/ Fairview seat over incumbent Christy Linders in the recent municipal election.
“It’s something that I hold very dear, because I represent a group of people that don’t always get seen, get represented as much as they should.”
Hansen, who has six children and four of them currently in the school system, said she was so immersed in school issues already that she thought the best way to make a difference was to sit at the table.
Echoing the words of newly elected District 8 representative Lindell Smith, who just became the first black councillor in 16 years, Hansen said “it’s time” to have more diversity at the board level with herself and newly elected African Nova Scotian member Archy Beals.
Hansen said she knows Smith well, and they both helped “boost” one another through their campaigns. She learned a lot about politics, while she said Smith educated people about school board and let them know about Hansen’s bid.
It’s not only exciting to have two black board members, Hansen said, but she’s proud to see members like Gin Yee and Mi’kmaq representative Jessica Rose creating a diversity rarely seen in Nova Scotia politics.
“(That) will help in giving insight and movement to what needs to be done,” Hansen said.
At 26, Rose is also one of the youngest members and was appointed to the board in October by the province.
New chair, vice-chair elected by board
Dave Wright and Cindy Littlefair both began their second terms on school board by taking the positions of chair and vice-chair.
During the Halifax Regional School Board’s annual general meeting Wednesday night where all members were sworn in, Wright put his name forward for chair alongside member Gin Yee.
Speaking before the vote by secret ballot, Wright (District 8) said his priorities as chair would be to continue building trust with the community by ensuring the board was transparent, and focus on the ongoing work to close gaps for African Nova Scotian and indigenous learners who fall behind in assessments.
“For better or worse, this investment is long-term and has yet to show the significant results we want,” Wright said.
“I’m proud to be a member of a board that acknowledges this gap and is working towards a solution.”
Wright was voted in as chair, while Littlefair (District 4) was voted in as vice-chair over fellow nominee Nancy Jakeman of District 2.