Harter the latest to join Chilliwack school board race

School District 33: The field of candidates running for Chilliwack school trustee is starting to grow.

As the official nomination period opens for the Nov. 15 school board elections, the field of candidates is starting to grow.

This week former two-time school trustee John-Henry Harter added his name to the ballot.

He said his decision was prompted by the actions of the current school board during the recent teachers’ strike.

“Whether it was locking the teachers out in June, or cutting their pay, or being silent all summer, the current trustees showed they would do nothing to help end the strike, and do very little to communicate during the strike,” said Harter in a release.

“In their silence, they abdicated their roles as the community’s voice in public education.”

Harter said he could be that voice for public education and vowed not to be silent.

“As trustee, I will work to heal the district culture that has been badly marred by this dispute and compounded by the silence of our administration and trustees,” he said.

But Harter won’t be the only candidate courting the liberal vote.

Barry Neufeld has also indicated he will seek re-election. He said he also wants to be a voice for frontline workers, “who put the needs of students above the government’s priority to cut back on educational spending to ‘balance the budget.’”

Still active in the Canadian prison system as a chaplain, he said he has seen the consequences of an underfunded and under-performing education system. Failing to invest in education will only mean later spending on jail and courthouse construction, he said.

Neufeld also said he wants to continue pressuring the school district to adopt a restorative justice approach to discipline in schools, instead of the current “punitive” approach.

Dan Coulter, meanwhile, said last week he will try to extend his term on the board. Calling himself a “progressive candidate,” he said wants champion the value of public education.

During the recent labour dispute, both he and Neufeld refused to cross picket lines set up at the school district office to attend a board meeting.

Also on the ballot will be veterans Walt Krahn and Heather Maahs. Krahn, a former principal, said he hopes to repair the damaged trust created by the recent strike. “Now that we’ve all returned to our schools, I want to be involved in the collaboration and communication efforts we will need to build new bridges between students, parents, teachers, school staff members, trustees and the community,” he said. “We are all in this together.”

Maahs said her emphasis will be the implementation of the Special Education Review, and a more transparent budgeting process.

Paul McManus may be the first first-time candidate to declare, but he says his experience in the community makes him a force for “positive change.”

His business background, coupled with his involvement in the Chilliwack public education system both as a parent and a volunteer, has given him a strong understanding of the challenges the district faces, and ways to meet them.

The nomination period closes Oct. 10.

Municipal elections are Nov. 15.