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Part 2: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates answer the second 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. The first part was published Friday (Sept. 16) and we continue today with part two. The remaining questions and answers will be released the rest of this week and into next week, as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

Today’s question is, ‘Working collaboratively and professionally with other trustees, teachers, support staff, and district staff is essential in this role. How will you maintain these relationships?’

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.

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


Barry Neufeld:

Working collaboratively is the best way to come up with the wisest decisions. I support and enjoy regular meetings with our partner groups. But I must keep in mind that “the buck stops with the board.” We must accept accountability for not only successful decisions but also the bad ones.


Brian Van Garderen:

With respect and humility. Due to the divide between party groups, something has been lost when working together. It takes respect and humility to listen to those who disagree with you and come up with a compromise that represents the community as best as possible. This also means that all parties and concerns must be heard and responded to in some way. Even if a decision or policy is made that a party disagrees with, they should still feel like they were heard and what they brought up was discussed at some point. As a trustee, it will be difficult for me to come into schools to meet with the different communities that help run a school due to my other job as a teacher in the Abbotsford school district. I will be willing to meet after school hours and I will always answer emails that are sent to me. If there are special events or things that I feel I must be there for I will take a personal leave of absence to attend. Clear communication is extremely important to me and how I work with others.


Carin Bondar:

Collaboration is an essential part of the work that I do. My current role on the Chilliwack school board includes participating in committees and groups – from Child and Youth Care to Scholarships and Audit. I am a good listener, and I spend time getting to know various members/staff/colleagues in a genuine way. This kind of connection-building is a skill that benefits my work and role(s) as a school trustee. In addition, as I keep listening (and keep learning), I am able to give more specialized advice/connection/information to people when they ask. I will maintain these relationships by doing good work and being a productive member of any team that I am on.


Darrell Furgason: I believe in dialogue, listening and respect for all staff, teachers, etc. Maintaining a listening ear is my objective.


Darren Ollinger:

Working collaboratively, I shall keep home and work separated. Any relationship at work will be treated as professional and approached to diplomatically.


David Swankey:

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and there are several values and behaviours I’d like to draw attention to in maintaining trust and supporting strong working relationships that are both professional and collaborative.

1. Being willing to listen, and to have my assumptions challenged. Showing up when I am invited to do so and being sure to follow through on the assigned responsibilities of my role.

2. Being prepared, knowing the context I am working in, and reviewing the information necessary to inform my role.

3. Embracing learning, both my own and that of those around me, and acknowledging that mistakes are part of learning.


Greg Nelmes: Working collaboratively and professionally with other trustees, teachers, support staff and district staff is essential in this role. I will be an active listener. Understanding each of their roles and perspectives is the key.


Heather Maahs:

Over the last 14 years I always had a respectful relationship with trustees and staff in our schools and will continue to do so.


Kaethe Jones:

There are many ways in which to maintain collaborative and professional relationships with the people who work in this district. Contact in committee meetings, school meetings, DPAC meetings, small group and individual conversations about needs and concerns in their area of expertise would be vital to understanding to how this district functions on a daily basis. Taking all options into consideration for making decisions is important.


Margaret Reid: I’m a community builder- both in my job and in my volunteer work. I’ve learned through all of this work that in community-building, you are often required to work with people that you do not agree with in order to get good work done. I have an established resume of solid working relationships with professionals in many sectors that I have built by asking questions, listening to the answers, finding projects that pull people together for a common goal, and developing trusted pathways for regular and meaningful communication between everyone involved. I will make it my priority on the Board to ensure that all stakeholder groups are heard, and to adjust communication methods until everyone has a seat at the table.


Teri Westerby: I listen. In meeting spaces, you will often find me quiet, more often than not, because I want to be sure I am listening to everyone, and fully hearing them from their perspectives. I advocate for those who are often unheard, to give everyone’s view a chance to be fully considered. I will amplify the voices of those who are muted and will work to ensure equity in meeting spaces and within the district. I strive to create a sense of community where folks of all backgrounds can come together and feel like they belong. This includes, and is especially important internally. Teachers, support staff and district staff need to feel comfortable that I am open to them, available and ready to listen and to hear them, and to work hard for them. I can only do that by proving it with my actions because actions always speak a multitude louder than words. I will always have an open door for everyone and will dedicate myself to creating space for people to speak up for themselves and their values.


Willow Reichelt:

I have a strong working relationship with district staff. I am always available to talk to any of our partner groups or any individuals who have concerns about anything happening in our district. When people email me, I answer their question when I can; when I don’t have an answer, I either seek more information or direct them to the person who can best answer their question. When sitting on committees or participating in partner group feedback sessions, I make sure that all participants are able to speak up. I am not afraid to hear criticism from partner groups; when our first draft of our Vision, Mission and Motto was soundly rejected by partners, we went back to the drawing board: The new versions are so much better!


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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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