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Chilliwack teachers’ union endorse school trustee candidates for second time ever

One incumbent not endorsed by CTA called the move ‘entirely unethical’
The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association has presented Chilliwack School Board candidates with 10 questions leading up to the 2022 municipal election Oct. 15, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Black Press Media)

For only the second time ever, the union that represents teachers in Chilliwack have endorsed specific candidates for the upcoming school board election.

After a special general meeting on Sept. 20, the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) said in a statement they endorsed Carin Bondar, Willow Reichelt, Margaret Reid, David Swankey, Brian VanGarderen, and Teri Westerby.

Bondar, Reichelt and Swankey are incumbents. Reid and Westerby are first-time candidates, while VanGarderen has run unsuccessfully in previous elections.

The CTA said the six candidates were endorsed based on their responses to the CTA questionnaire that all trustee candidates were requested to complete earlier in September.

READ MORE: Part 1: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

READ MORE: Part 2: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

“Chilliwack teachers chose to endorse candidates that best uphold the values that ground our schools as safe and inclusive places to teach and learn,” according to CTA president Danielle Bennett. “These values encompass inclusion, diversity, and a willingness to adhere to ministry policies and the Human Rights Code.”

The CTA has only endorsed candidates one other time, and that was in the last election in 2018. That year they endorsed seven candidates, mostly due to their responses to the anti-bullying LGBTQ resource called SOGI 123.

READ MORE: Chilliwack teachers’ union publicly picks school board candidates

“We believe that it is necessary to share with the wider community the names of candidates that have shown a willingness to listen to teachers, students, and families,” Bennett said. “These candidates understand the role of school trustee and have indicated their desire to work towards making our schools safe spaces for students and staff.”

One incumbent trustee, however, called the CTA endorsements “entirely unethical.”

Incumbent Heather Maahs said in a social media post that it’s “unprecedented,” “unwise,” and said other union locals do not do this.

Maahs asked rhetorically is the CTA board held a referendum with the 1,400 teachers in the district before telling them who they should vote for.

“What if, these endorsed candidates do not get elected?” she asked. “Will they be hoping for great working relationships with the ones they didn’t endorse? And if their chosen folks do get elected, they’ll be looking for recompense at the board table.

“They are telling their members who they are choosing to be their ‘bosses’ so to speak. It’s a total abuse of their position as the executive. I’m actually very sad that the vitriolic mud slinging is still going on from the executive towards the existing board. It’s very unprofessional and makes for difficult relations.”

For its part, the CTA said in its statement it hoped the next elected board could do a better job working together.

“We are hopeful that the next elected board can work together co-operatively to move our district forward and create a better name for Chilliwack,” Bennett said.

READ MORE: Part 3: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

READ MORE: Part 4: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

READ MORE: Part 5: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Three non-incumbent candidates endorsed by a new organization, ParentsVoice BC, declined to respond to the CTA’s questions.

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