Countdown begins for school board elections

With still three months to go before the Chilliwack board of education election, the debate is already getting heated.

With still three months to go before the Chilliwack board of education election, the debate is already getting heated.

Current trustees were contacted by The Progress earlier this week and asked if they were seeking re-election.

Trustee Doug McKay and Heather Maahs confirmed they will be running for re-election. John-Henry Harter will not, and both Darlene Wahlstrom and Martha Wiens are still undecided.

Silvia Dyck and Louise Piper did not return messages prior to The Progress deadline.

McKay, who has served two terms in Chilliwack, four in Alberta, came out firing with his campaign initiatives.

He said that while the district has been able to move its academic agenda forward in the last three years, it was not easy.

“I do not believe the present board of education has been an effective board of education,” said McKay. “As much as we have tried, we’ve been unable to work together as a unified team.”

Largely, he said, because of the dissension among trustees regarding their roles and responsibilities.

The Ministry of Education website states that boards of education have a duty to govern their districts in a fiscally responsible and cost-effective manner. It also states that trustees are responsible for setting education policies that reflect the aspirations of the community and are consistent with overall provincial guidelines.

“Our role is to develop policy that provides direction for our administrators, that’s our job,” said McKay.

“Every one of us understands what our job is, but a number of us refuse to accept it, and that’s the problem. They don’t like what their job is, they want the superintendent’s job, and there in lies the issue.”

McKay intends to campaign against that.

“I will attack with vigor the notion that trustees should be involved in the day-to-day operation of the school district … we are ill prepared or positioned to enter into the professional realm of running schools,” he said. “That job should be left entirely for highly trained educators with years of formal university learning and even more years of professional development and growth.”

Trustee Wiens, who has served seven terms in Chilliwack, disagrees. She said the board is the leader.

“We’re totally in leadership,” she said. “We need staff of course to do the work, but we don’t need staff to tell us how to do it.”

However, Wiens is still undecided on whether she will run again.

“I won’t be there unless I can make a difference,” she said.

“We have to elect somebody that’s committed. To just sit there and let administration do everything, that’s not the role of a board member.”

Trustee Maahs, who has served one term, sent an email from Scotland stating her intention to run for re-election.

“I hope to have the privilege of serving the parents, students and education community once again,” she said.

Trustee Harter, who has served two terms, said he would not be seeking re-election as he is near completing his PhD and will instead be looking for a permanent university teaching position.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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