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 has presented Chilliwack School Board candidates with 10 questions leading up to the 2022 municipal election Oct. 15, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Black Press Media)

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates describe how they would advocate for school improvements

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) 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 has been publishing questions and answers one at a time. See links to previous questions and answers below, and we continue today with part 10.

Today’s question is, ‘There are a variety of issues plaguing school districts throughout the province, such as lack of space, decreased funding, and severe staffing shortages. Do you see your role as trustee as being an advocate on these issues? If so, how would you advocate for improvements?’

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

RELATED: Part 1 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 2 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 3 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 4 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 5 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 6 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 7 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 8 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 9 – Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

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Barry Neufeld:

I would make every effort to publicize the success of our public education to convince taxpayers that education dollars were well spent. But I would ensure public confidence by admitting when we have made mistakes, and that I and the board are willing to be accountable for our expenditure of public funds. Our board is an active member of the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) and B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) who regularly advocate for increased funding. Our board has also had regular meetings with our two local MLA’s and successfully advocated for the construction of new schools and additions.

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Brian Van Garderen:

I believe that as a board and as an individual trustee it is extremely important to be the voice advocating for the needs of the district and its students. It is important that we keep track of the data that will help support and represent the issues and struggles in our school system and as a trustee try to become a part of the larger association to make sure the local voice is being heard on a larger scale.

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Carin Bondar:

In the coming year, I think that we will see an increased ability of teachers and students to be ‘back to normal’ after the pandemic. Yes, there are issues plaguing the province – including the aforementioned ones – but I think that first and foremost, seeing post-covid levels of function will be a goal for many classrooms and teachers. We’ve seen several completed expansions and a new school in the past term, which is great news. However, there will always be a demand that exceeds what the district can provide. We are a rapidly growing municipality, and unfortunately there is no current dialogue between the city and the school board. I think that our district could be better prepared for changes to our student population, as this is reflected in many aspects across the district including facilities and transportation. Yes, I do think that trustees can be advocates for issues like this because of our level of knowledge about the entire system. As advocates and community members, we can inform people on issues that resonate. As trustees, we can join committees at the provincial level to work towards policy change/construction in specific areas. Granted, this is a lengthy process, reflective of the complexity of the system.

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Darrell Furgason:

Over the last 4 years I have voted on many motions that have specifically advocated for all of those issues. We have worked to provide more spaces, new schools, more funding for TOC’s, EA’s and Staff. The Covid impact was greatly reduced by our efforts.

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Darren Ollinger:

As a Trustee, I see the issues of space, funding, and staff shortages as articles worth advocating for improvement. Since it all boils down on how to spend money, rather than shuffling around funds from one place to the other in the budget compromising for money that does not exist; but rather to lobby the Provincial and Municipal governments for funding and to implement creative means and methods to provide funds to put capital into the budget.

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David Swankey:

I see it as both the role of a trustee and a board of education to advocate on these and other issues. Over the past term I have focussed on supporting the work of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) where I hold several positions; their advocacy is directly to the Ministry of Education and Child Care and other ministries as necessary. The BCSTA’s advocacy focuses on many areas, including but not limited to improved capital funding, adequate and predictable operational funding, and better support for training and retaining public school staff in our province. I intend on continuing that work through this next term, should I be re-elected. Looking forward, I hope to work with a board better able to lend voice on these issues and speaking directly to how they impact the Chilliwack School District. That requires a board with both the confidence of their community and the ability to work with their provincial partners. I believe advocating by motion of the board and by meeting with local MLAs and members sitting in government will be important in successfully advocating for Chilliwack.

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Greg Nelmes:

Yes, I do see my role as an advocate on these issues. Portables should only be used as a last resort. The recent additions at Promontory Elementary and Vedder Elementary are current examples.

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Heather Maahs:

If an issue arises that puts students in jeopardy, of course I would advocate.

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Kaethe Jones:

Advocating for the best teaching and learning environments for students and more staff is necessary to improve optimal learning. Again, promoting provincial funding increase if possible would be a good start but making sure that current resources have been used wisely and thinking outside the box for the best way to use district funds is also a good strategy.

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Margaret Reid:

I absolutely am an advocate for these issues – I have kids of my own struggling to have their needs met in a variety of areas by staff and teachers who do amazing work, but don’t have the tools or support to cover the workload. As of September 10, District 33’s job vacancies are twice the rate of Abbotsford, Langley, Fraser Cascade and Maple Ridge. It is the school board’s role to assure that the district is operating smoothly, so as a Trustee, I would make it a top priority to investigate why we’re struggling to attract and keep top talent in Chilliwack, and how to fix it. The only way to understand these issues deeply is to talk with teachers and support staff to find out what we’re missing, and ensure that teachers have influence in the budgeting process to ensure that we’re allocating resources in the right direction. We should also be fostering relationships with various levels of government to innovate on this problem, as it impacts us all. I believe a strong focus on Recruitment and Retention needs to become a priority for the District.

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Teri Westerby:

I look to the higher levels of government that are responsible for the funding and advocate for the district for increased funding. This can be done through letters from the board, working with the BCSTA and attending their meetings.

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Willow Reichelt:

Yes, I do see this as part of my role. One of a trustee’s duties is to work with their board to advocate on behalf of the district. Our Board has sent several letters to the Ministry of Education over the past few years. I also attend the BC School Trustees Association AGM every year, and we have passed many resolutions calling on the government to increase funding and support.


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chilliwackChilliwack School DistrictElection 2022