Chilliwack trustee hopefuls angered by cancellation

A rescheduling of last week's school trustee all-candidates meeting left some candidates in the dark about the date change.

Corey Neyrinck

School trustee candidates Harold Schmidt and Rob Stelmaschuk were noticeably absent from the first all-candidates meeting last week.

Not because they wanted to be, but because they were not informed of the date change.

The event, which was held at Sardis secondary, was initially scheduled for last Thursday, but due to a scheduling conflict with the school, it was changed to the Wednesday a few days prior.

None of the candidates were informed of the change.

Instead, the District Parents’ Advisory Council, one of the co-organizers, relied on media to get the word out.

“I’ve never missed a meeting, I’ve never done that,” said Stelmaschuk. “It really ticks me off; why were we not notified?”

Both Stelmaschuk and Schmidt were under the impression the meeting would be held Thursday. They had hoped to introduce themselves to the voters in attendance and show what they could bring to the school board table.

Schmidt found out about the missed meeting Wednesday evening after friends had called asking where he was. Stelmaschuk found out Thursday morning from his son who had heard about their absence on the radio news.

Candidate Corey Neyrinck also didn’t realize the date had been changed, but was called by DPAC president Gord Byers two minutes before the start and arrived 15 minutes late.

“It’s pretty haphazard, really unorganized,” said Stelmaschuk.

For Schmidt, a retired Chilliwack school teacher who worked with both at-risk and gifted students, last week’s meeting was his only opportunity to attend an all-candidates meeting.

Prior to the byelection being called, Schmidt planned a trip to Manitoba for this week to help move family into assisted living. The trip can’t be postponed.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “I’m disappointed; the organizers should have contacted us.”

However, while Gord Byers, DPAC president, was apologetic about the communication error, he said it’s the candidates responsibility to know when meetings are being held.

“If you’re going to be a trustee, you’ve got to be able to gather the information and dig,” he said. “You can’t wait for it to be fed to you.”

CANDIDATES SPAR IN FIRST ALL-CANDIDATES MEETING

The first of two all-candidates meetings had trustee elects facing several Chilliwack-specific hot topics.

In two hours, questions surrounding corporate sponsorship, government funding, district spending, drugs and alcohol in schools, and completion rates were raised.

Here are some of their views.

Do candidates favour the school district’s drugs and alcohol policy?

Dan Coulter said the policy should be tempered; Karen Jarvis suggested restorative justice as an alternative; Corey Neyrinck said students should be handled on an individual basis; while Ben Besler wouldn’t change a thing.

“Children need boundaries,” said Besler. “I would go with the current board’s decision to keep the policy the way it is, I wouldn’t go against the wisdom of that.”

Would candidates risk their jobs as trustee in favour of a deficit budget?

Jarvis, Besler and Neyrinck said they wouldn’t give up their positions, that their voices would be better served on the board than off. But Coulter said he probably would as an act of protest against “government underfunding.”

“If kids are going to suffer, I wouldn’t just sit until all that’s left is mathematics and English,” he said.

What programs would trustees cut first to balance the budget?

Neyrinck said the board would have to look at which programs are least effective and start there, while Besler and Jarvis said it’s not a matter of cutting in the classroom, but of reviewing the system as a whole.

“I don’t think cuts need to begin in the classroom,” said Jarvis. “I think we can be creative with our budget.”

The next all-candidates meeting is Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Chilliwack middle school. For more information, email dpac@sd33.bc.ca

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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