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Part 4: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates answer the fourth 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 (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 will publish the questions and answers one at a time. See links to previous questions and answers below, and we continue today with part four. The remaining questions and answers will be released tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 23) and through next week, as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

Today’s question is, ‘As a trustee how would you inform yourself on teacher perspectives and issues?’

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

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

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


Barry Neufeld:

I do a lot of reading and research on my own. I compare our district and our province to other jurisdictions. But I also read the periodicals from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) and Canadian School Board’s association. As a trustee, I am reminded that I am not alone: I am a member of a board of seven and we have only ONE employee: the Superintendent. Trustees need constant reminding that their job is to: “lay the track and avoid playing with the trains.” When I am allowed back in schools, I would regularly meet with teachers and observe their classrooms.


Brian Van Garderen:

Being a teacher myself I would be informed of larger struggles and perspectives that are a part of BCTF concerns and issues that are common around the province. To stay informed of local struggles I hope to create a respectful relationship with the local union and be able to hear concerns and perspectives on different topics/issues. I would also welcome emails and comments from teachers as well that could be more localized to schools and different communities. The more informed I am as a trustee the better I can serve my community and help keep the best interests of all parties in mind.


Carin Bondar:

I have many conversations/meetings/committees/grads/celebrations where I can (and do!) directly interact with teachers and students. I also receive emails or have short discussions on social media. I am the current B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) rep, which has given me the opportunity to learn about another perspective in the school ecosystem. Lastly, I enjoy reading the ‘Teacher’ magazines that arrive in the mailbox.


Darrell Furgason:

I have advocated for increased opportunities for Trustee-teacher dialogue. Excellent teachers produce excellent outcomes in terms of student achievement.


Darren Ollinger:

As a Trustee reaching out to teachers on perspectives and issues I would make accessible: my Email for on demand, participating in the PTA with both teacher and parent, and if warranted, regularly scheduled in person assembly meetings.


David Swankey:

First, I’ll again highlight the importance of showing up when invited to do so and always being willing to listen, even when it challenges your assumptions. More specifically, I believe school visits are both a privilege and a responsibility of being a trustee, providing an opportunity to gain perspective in the school rather than at the board table. I have also appreciated the opportunity to attend CTA organized professional development opportunities this term and I hope that invitation continues to be extended. Finally, I believe established norms for partners to meet with the board must be a priority over the term. Routine meetings were not established and followed through on; that must change starting this school year.


Greg Nelmes:

I was a teacher and school administrator in Chilliwack for 38 years. Most of my teaching was at the Grade 5/6 level but I also have experience as a Grade 2 teacher. Listening carefully to the teacher perspective will be a top priority for me.


Heather Maahs:

The Corporate Board has forums and venues for teachers to bring their perspectives forward.


Kaethe Jones:

I would want to speak with teachers about what they are experiencing in the classroom and school about the needs of their students. Also how their experience affects them personally. The health of the teacher is vitally important to doing their job effectively.


Margaret Reid:

As an individual Board Member, I will reach out to the CTA and other stakeholders for regular input on arising issues, but I believe communication should be ongoing. I will advocate for a Board liaison to the CTA. I believe a concentrated effort should be made to make sure the Board and District foster an environment where teachers and staff feel respected and valued. As the people who are with our kids 6 hours a day and see the classroom challenges firsthand, teacher perspectives are essential in the boardroom.


Teri Westerby:

I hope to have open communication and healthy professional relationship with teachers, the DPAC, and CTA - I also hope to make relationships with those on the BCTF, and BCPSEA, and have an open door to teachers who wish to share experiences with me. I listen to and consider all viewpoints, I ask questions and learn as much as possible. I do not plan to ever speak for “myself” only, but for the community as a whole, including teachers and staff. I want to ensure that my choices as a Trustee are what is best for the whole community. The only way to do this is to learn about teacher perspectives and issues, directly and indirectly, to gain a whole picture and full perspective.


Willow Reichelt:

I taught in the district, my husband is a teacher, and I have many friends who are teachers; therefore, I have both personal experience of teaching and many opportunities to discuss current issues. I also connect with the CTA when I have questions or concerns and want to know what they’ve been hearing about their members’ experiences.


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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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