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Chilliwack teachers, parents grill byelection candidates on current issues

Candidates responded to questions on inclusion, standardized testing and partnerships
Clockwise from top left: Carin Bondar, Brian VanGarderen, Richard Procee and Adam Suleman are the four candidates for the Feb. 13, 2021 byelection for school trustee in Chilliwack. (Submitted photos)

Two of the Chilliwack school district’s biggest partner groups have posed questions to candidates for the upcoming trustee byelection.

Both the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) and the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) sent in a Q&A to the four candidates, and have now received and published the answers.

There are more than 1,000 members in the CTA, and the DPAC represents parents and guardians of the district’s more than 14,000 students. Both groups have listed their full Q&As on their Facebook pages, and DPAC has shared theirs with every school’s parent advisory council.

“The #sd33 Board of Education byelection is just around the corner,” the CTA questionnaire reads. “Teachers in our community are eager to hear where candidates stand on key education issues facing our work, our schools, and our students.”

The questions include topics such as inclusive education, collaboration with partner groups, the Foundation Skills Assessment, collective bargaining rights, public vs. private education, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

On the issue of supporting the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), ideas were mixed.

Carin Bondar said she doesn’t believe FSA testing is the only means by which students should be assessed, and that she doesn’t think FSAs should be undertaken during this pandemic.

“As a trustee, I will strongly advocate for the use of basic common sense when it comes to what we ask of our teachers,” she stated.

Richard Procee called the FSAs “a standardized measuring stick to give feedback, so that is good.”

But he also noted that teaching goes beyond those standards, and that it is important to find “good data.”

Adam Suleman said he does not support the FSAs “because it has not improved student outcomes according to statistics from the provincial government.”

The time spent on FSAs could be used for learning, he added, and teachers are the beset source for assessing a student’s progress.

Brian VanGarderen, a teacher himself, said he has two views of the FSAs. The first, is that it does provide insight into the growth of students B.C.-wide. But at an individual level, it’s not as helpful.

“Standardized assessments do not allow for teacher judgment to assess the student’s knowledge,” he said, adding that they can be stress inducing and difficult for students. He believes schools should be able to exempt students when needed, and that they should not be mandatory.

The DPAC asked nine questions, focusing on relationships with partner groups, how they would use social media, where they see room for improvement, their involvement and interest in the board to date, and SOGI 123.

Again, the answers varied among the four candidates, especially on the question of relationships with partner groups.

Suleman said he has concerns about the board’s relationships.

“There is no excuse for unprofessional behaviour from the leaders on the school board,” he said, adding he would like to establish common ground so the board can get away from its “turmoil and theatrics.”

VanGarderen said he is concerned with the reputation the board has been getting, due to personal beliefs of board members that have created issues.

“The board is there to service its community but also ensure that the curriculum and vision of the B.C. education is present in all schools in Chilliwack,” he said.

Procee said he isn’t aware of any concerns with partner groups.

Bondar said successful partnerships are part of what keeps the entire system functioning “in a holistic way.”

“It’s important for both parties to come to the table and reason with each other, even during these tense periods,” she added.

The Chilliwack School Trustee byelection is on Feb. 13. There are also three dates set for early voting, Feb. 3, Feb. 10 and Feb. 11.

For more information on when and where to vote, visit

The candidates also took part in video interviews with The Progress. See the links below:

RELATED VIDEO: Byelection candidate Richard Procee hopes to ‘introduce good conversation’ to Chilliwack school board

RELATED VIDEO: Carin Bondar shares what she hopes to bring to Chilliwack school board table

RELATED VIDEO: Chilliwack byelection candidate would like to see district-wide connections

RELATED VIDEO: Chilliwack byelection candidate focuses on mental health, bullying, COVID-19 safety


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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