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Part 1: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates answer the first of 10 questions from the CTA
The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association has presented Chilliwack School Board candidates with 10 questions leading up to the 2022 municipal election Oct. 15, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Black Press Media)

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association sent a questionnaire to the 15 candidates running for the Chilliwack School Board in October’s municipal election.

The CTA posed 10 questions, and the Chilliwack Progress will publish the questions and answers one at a time, starting today and continuing next week and the week after as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

The first question is, ‘What is your motivation for running for school trustee?’

Answers below are presented in alphabetical order by first name. Candidates Elliott Friesen, Lewis Point and Richard Procee didn’t provide responses before the CTA deadline.


Barry Neufeld: My motivation to run for Trustee again (the 9th time) is to ensure that public education continues to prepare children to enter the “real world” equipped with the knowledge and skills to lead a productive, fulfilling life.


Brian Van Garderen: I have two main reasons for running for school trustee. The first is my family, specifically my daughter, she will be attending public school and I was looking for ways to be involved in her education. As I was looking at joining PACs or volunteer programs I started reading more and more about what was happening at the trustee level in Chilliwack. At that point, I realized that I have the skills, background, and expertise that could benefit the district and make an impact on many children’s lives while they attend school. The second reason I am running for school trustee is to find a meaningful way to give back to my community in an area that I am familiar with.


Carin Bondar: I love being a school trustee. I consider it an honor and a privilege to do this work, and I also love that it meets my skill set. I am an educator and communicator, a biologist by training. In my current role at the University of the Fraser Valley, I teach in areas of biology and environmental science. I love being able to share ideas, pedagogy and projects across the school and university systems. Our district is growing rapidly, and our world is changing. I feel proud to be able to contribute to public education at such an important time for District 33.


Darrell Furgason: To improve student achievement for all grades in the District.


Darren Ollinger: My motivation for running for School Board is to secure a future for our resources of student body such that they become competently employable and earn enough to pay for both the basic costs of living, that includes university tuition, and to support the social network infrastructure of old age pension where emphasis would be put on eventually finding a job that matches a student’s skills and aptitude in a workplace where the worker should not have to contend with morality issues, but rather ethical ones to make a buck. Currently being a God Father, and wanting to become a Father, I possess the disposition of both a parent and a teacher wanting to make a difference on how to educate the children with morality and ethics in mind.


David Swankey: More than anything, I want to contribute to and build upon the successes in our district and the good work being done every day. Part of contributing to that success requires trust in the decisions made at the board table. I hope to support a board that models integrity and helps restore trust and I believe my conduct over the past term has reflected the values and ethic needed to help this board move forward. There is lots to focus on over the next term and I don’t intend on limiting those priorities; however, this election I am focusing on early learning, district infrastructure, and gaps in student achievement. Each point is expanded on in my platform and I believe each is part of our future success in the Chilliwack School District.


Greg Nelmes: My motivation for running for school trustee is to ensure that the interests of students comes first. Kids first and I want to be part of a United Board that can disagree in camera but presents a united front to the media. In short, I will listen carefully to all and make level headed decisions.


Heather Maahs: My motivation has always been to support early learning, the science of reading and fundamental skills so that there are no road blocks to learning.


Kaethe Jones: The primary focus of a School Trustee is to improve student achievement. I am running for School Trustee to work with like minded Trustees who understand that helping our students succeed in reading, writing, math and science give them an advantage for future opportunities in their life. Anything that distracts from this is not helpful for our student body in this district. Another reason for running is to give back to the parents a voice to speak to the Board of Trustees. As important stakeholders in their child’s education they should be free to speak when they have concerns. This has been sadly lacking in the last 4 years. A gag order has been placed on parents at Board meetings and this is not acceptable.


Margaret Reid: I have always been passionate about advocacy and public education. When I was 16, I served on the Educational Policy Board as a Chilliwack high school student because I wanted to know more about the rules we were asked to follow and why. Now, I am a mother in the same District and I have frequently been frustrated with the conditions for both students and teachers. I have always been an action-oriented individual and I feel I can serve the board well. Chilliwack is facing many challenges; recovery from the flood and 2.5 years of COVID, economic uncertainty and rising living costs, and struggles with uniting to find a shared vision for our school district and community. I’m a collaborator and a mom who wants the best for my community and my kids, and my experience can bring energy, action, and unity to the board table.


Teri Westerby: I repeatedly hear stories from students and their families about students being bullied, excluded from their education, sent home early, and about events that occur within the schools that show their lack of accessibility, and other similar events that prevent students from being included and accessing their education in the Chilliwack School District. Students in the district are under-served, and teachers are often unsupported in their efforts. Many teachers work hard to ensure their classrooms are inclusive and accessible, but they cannot do it alone. They need allies in the district who will fight for them and for inclusion and accessibility in creating classrooms that all students can access. This is why I chose to step up as a candidate for Trustee - so that I can stand up for the teachers, the students, their caregivers and their families.


Willow Reichelt: I grew up in Chilliwack and have raised my children here. I love my community, and I want it to be a thriving city where our diversity is celebrated. I am proud of many of the things we have accomplished as a Board during my first term. Our strategic plan is a forward-thinking document that directs our resources to the vital areas of reading and numeracy while also acknowledging the systemic barriers that some students face and that need to be addressed. In my next term, I want to make further progress on equity and reconciliation. We’ve made improvements, but we have more work to do. I want to prevent the Board from being distracted by those who seek to drag education back to the last century: I’m focused on the future.


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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