Prairie South School Division will hold a byelection next spring to fill a vacant spot on the board after trustee Todd Johnson resigned to pursue a job with the organization.
Johnson, who was elected to the board in November 2020, announced his resignation in November because he planned to pursue the position of transportation manager with Prairie South — a position he now fills.
The division will hold a byelection on Thursday, March 9, with nominations open from now until 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2. All nomination forms can be dropped off at the division office at Ninth Avenue Northwest.
Johnson was the general manager of Wakamow Valley Authority for four years before he resigned last year to pursue another job. However, when the transportation manager role opened, he applied because he thought it was a better fit for him and his family.
“It was a tough decision to step down and I really enjoyed that (school trustee) position,” he said. “In my time with the school board, I really enjoyed my time. You learn so much and contribute on the board.”
There were many facets of being a trustee that Johnson enjoyed, he said.
Some aspects he liked included the board work, learning new information, helping students, discovering how school operations work, influencing lives, meeting hard-working staff, and interacting with school community councils.
The board also had to make some tough decisions three years ago during the height of the pandemic, he pointed out. Many variables went into those decisions.
The position was attractive to Johnson because his background is in management while having responsibility for the operations of a large organization was also appealing. Moreover, the position is in Moose Jaw, while he can work with a great team of people with whom he is familiar.
“It’s a great opportunity for my skill set,” he said.
While some residents may question how he acquired the job, Johnson pointed out he is “completely qualified for the position.” He holds a master’s degree in business from the University of Regina and has three diplomas from SIAST — now Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Johnson also pointed out that he didn’t — and couldn’t — receive preferential treatment from the board because nine other trustees would all have to agree to support his application. Receiving unanimous support would not be easy.
“It would be quite the feat for a person to convince nine other people to do that,” Johnson said. “… to orchestrate something like that would be something I would never do.”
Johnson had been on the job for 10 days when the Express spoke with him in late December. He felt everything had been going well and the division had great employees who did incredible things to meet students’ transportation needs.
He noted that PSSD school buses travel roughly 25,000 kilometres per day, transporting about 2,500 students on 106 routes.
Ryan Boughen, director of education for PSSD, told the MJ Independent that Johnson could not continue as trustee while working as an employee due to a vested interest. If he remained a trustee, he would be responsible for setting policies and wages that affect his job. Legislation at all levels of Canadian politics forbids this.
Due to an expected low voter turnout — byelections traditionally see few people visiting the ballot box — Prairie South will run its election. It typically has the City of Moose Jaw run its elections during municipal elections.
The byelection is expected to cost around $5,000 because PSSD will hold it at its schools using paper ballots.
“The last time we held a byelection, we had 120 people vote, but hopefully there is more interest this time around,” said Boughen.
He encouraged people to run or vote in the March byelection.