Joan Axford expects she’ll spend more time in rinks this winter.
After attending 140 regular meetings plus 97 special meetings, preparing 28 budgets and building 14 sets of financial statements, she’ll do a little dancing too.
Axford retires today (Oct. 28) after 14 years as the secretary-treasurer for the Saanich School Board.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” she said. “Even the difficult meetings, because you know you’re having the meeting for an important reason … You don’t want people to have apathy about public education. You want people to be engaged.”
Her interest in the school system began 29 years ago. The intrigue of an entity that basically ran businesses in busing, construction, janitorial and more offered an intriguing puzzle for anyone in the numbers game.
“I decided it would be interesting accounting work,” she said. Axford began work with the Sooke School Board then in the Ministry of Education before becoming secretary-treasurer in the Peninsula-based Saanich School Board in 1998.
Througout the years, there have been challenges, the past decade marked by declining enrollment and the financial pressures that imposes.
“There’s always lots of change,” she said. “You can be creative in adapting to all of that.”
Despite the need to close schools in recent years, Axford’s proud of the facilities the board has created.
“As a school district we are the most effective in the province,” Axford said. The reduced overhead created by keeping schools at capacity means putting two per cent more than the provincial average, back into education. The communications surrounding those decisions may be part of an achievement of education she hopes has been passed along.
“I like to think that with the work we’ve done, there’s a broader understanding of the funding system and how we spend money … at all levels,” she said.
Peers have recognized her dedication. In 2005 Axford earned the Larry Ozero Leadership Award (BC Association of School Business Officials). This spring she was named an honourary BC Teachers’ Federation member.
“You can choose lots of different careers when you do accounting,” Axford said. “What’s been important to me is working in something as important to society and economy as public education … It’s important to do the best you can for students and we work in a school district that believes that.”
Though retiring from the district, Axford won’t be leaving public education anytime soon.
She’ll stay on as a board member for the teachers’ pension plan and for BC Investment Management Group; both have reappointed her to 2014. She’ll also be part of a mentorship program.
Naturally there will be travel. She also plans to spend more time with her husband of 34 years, and as a hockey mom to 20-year-old Victoria Cougars forward Steve Axford. And instead of Wednesday night school board meetings, Axford will be teaching Scottish dance.
“It’s been a lifelong passion for me,” she said. “I’ve had less time to do it.”