Election 2014: Candidates offer ideas on better student success

The Progress asked trustee candidates what they would do to improve completion rates in the district.

More than 20 per cent of students who start school in Chilliwack, fail to graduate within the prescribed time. Improvements have been made over the past few years, but Chilliwack’s completion rate remains below the provincial average.

In our ongoing series on election issues, The Progress asked trustee candidates what they would do to improve completion rates in the district.

Here is a synopsis of what candidates who responded to our question had to say. (Their complete responses can be found in the Q&A section under the Election 2014 tab.)

For many candidates, success at the secondary level must begin early. By Grade 7 as many as 40 per cent of students lack sufficient reading skills to succeed, said Heather Maahs. “We can start to improve reading – and the graduation rate – by reinstating the resource program that was geared for students between grades 4 and 6,” she suggested.

Silvia Dyck argued that improved graduation rates must begin in kindergarten. The first four years of school are critical to building a foundation of literacy and numeracy that can be fortified in each succeeding year. Without that foundation, the result is frustration and eventually disengagement, she said.

The problem, said Martha Wiens, is that too many students are not taught the basics early on and are unprepared. “They have been denied the opportunity, to be taught what is  expected as a requirement for high school  completion,” she said.

While reading is critical to success, Walt Krahn agreed, so is student engagement. He suggested each student be assigned an advisor to connect with weekly for support and encouragement. They need opportunities to see their education has relevance, he said.

John-Henry Harter agreed, but said that won’t happen if schools are not properly funded. For success to occur, teachers and their students need the support of education assistants, teacher libraries and counsellors.

“The issue of funding, completion, achievement, class size and composition are interrelated,” he said. “We need to ensure equitable learning conditions for all students to keep them engaged and working towards completion.”

That point was echoed by Barry Neufeld. Mentoring is an important contributor to student success, he said. However, “With the current funding shortage and low morale of teachers, especially at the secondary level, we simply don’t have enough employees to form meaningful individual relationships with students who are getting discouraged.”

Karen Jarvis agreed: “While lack of funding is a chronic problem with student support, the need for relationship building can go a long way,” she said.

Ben Besler said success will come through a more personalized approach. “ I believe that we can encourage more students to graduate by continuing to allow our schools to diversify for more personalized education,” he said.

That’s particularly true for aboriginal students, said Dan Coulter. “If aboriginal students see their culture valued and reflected in their schools, completion rates will surely rise,” he argued.

Paul McManus said that before the district arrives at a solution, it must clearly understand the source of the problem and understand why so many students are leaving school.

Rob Stelmaschuk, meanwhile, had a more practical approach: “Offer the students technical vocational training for the last three years of school, 10-12. This would give them the skills to fit right into the workforce and give them a future and a reason to complete there schooling,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

A protester holds a sign on Yale Road near Hodgins Avenue during the Fraser Valley Freedom Rally on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
OPINION: Freedom, yes, but don’t forget about responsibility

‘Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being’

A man holds a child while speaking with RCMP following an erratic driving incident on Highway 1 in Chilliwack on Friday, April 16, 2021. The child and a woman (but not this man) were in this Jeep Grand Cherokee which hit a barrier and a parked car on Highway 1 and continued driving. The vehicle finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

An undated picture of the Hope Station House. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)
Hope council must consider all options for Station House: B.C. Ombudsperson

Investigation ‘revealed flaws in District’s process,’ statement said

April 16, 2021 is the 130th anniversary of the first edition of The Chilliwack Progress, the oldest community newspaper in British Columbia. The first four-page Progress was printed on April 16, 1891.
PHOTO GALLERY: Today is the 130th anniversary of The Chilliwack Progress

British Columbia’s oldest community newspaper’s first edition was April 16, 1891

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sex assault, and is now being sued by the victim. (files)
Former Pitt Meadows city councillor sued for sex assault

David Murray was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a teen 25 years earlier

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read