Dan Coulter knows he has a steep learning curve ahead of him and is excited for the adventure.
With just one year to prove himself, Coulter, the newest trustee to join Chilliwack school board, is already looking at ways of making a difference in the Chilliwack school district.
He wants to get more students involved at the board level, and hopes to entice the Chilliwack board to write an open letter to the B.C. government, including the premier, finance minister and education minister – similar to that of Vancouver school board –advocating for more public school funding.
“I don’t know exactly how [this year’s] going to play out; it’s going to be a big learning curve,” he told The Progress earlier this week. “I’m really going to have to just get in there and dig.”
Last Saturday Coulter won the Chilliwack school board byelection earning 520 of the votes cast, beating out second place finisher Harold Schmidt by 181 votes.
Voter turnout for the byelection was tepid, at best.
The 1,453 ballots cast were far short of the nearly 10,000 cast in 2011, which was the second worst voter turnout in the province.
With roughly 64,000 eligible voters in Chilliwack, participation was around 2.3 per cent.
The Chilliwack school district has approximately 1,800 teachers and support staff and 14,000 students.
Coulter, who billed himself as the first “progressive” candidate to seek a seat on Chilliwack school board, was endorsed by CUPE BC and former school trustee Louise Piper, whose resignation necessitated the byelection. He also had the support of former NDP MLA for Chilliwack-Hope, Gwen O’Mahony
Schmidt, who didn’t attend either all-candidates meetings, one due to a date change and another to a scheduling conflict garnered 339 votes. Ben Besler, who played an active role in the BC Liberal win just a few months earlier, finished third with 279 votes. Karen Jarvis, a regular at school board meetings, was fourth with 238 votes; Corey Neyrinck fifth with 54 votes; and Rob Stelmaschuk sixth with 23 votes.
Coulter has moved swiftly into the new position.
He’s already spoken with the president of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA), was sworn into office on Tuesday, and will be attending the BCSTA annual trustee academy this weekend.
“It’s a short period of time,” he said of the year he’s got before the next election.
“I’m going to try to learn as quick as I can.”
Coulter, a mature student at the University of the Fraser Valley, said he’ll continue his studies, but will likely drop down to four courses from his current five. He intends to take the teacher training program, likely next fall, but will work in another district, following graduation, if he continues to be a Chilliwack school trustee.
He is, however, stepping down from his position as vice president of the Chilliwack-Hope NDP constituency office.
“I don’t have the time and I don’t want any perceived partisanship to affect my relationship with the other trustees or the work we have to do,” he said.
Board chair Walt Krahn is looking forward to having a full board of seven trustees again. The last several months have been hectic, he said, with the added responsibilities since Piper’s leave.
“We have a lot of work to do from now until the end of June,” said Krahn.
Chilliwack voters will be heading back to the polls in less than a year. Municipal elections, including school board, are set for November 2014.