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)

Part 9: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates describe what they would do to make schools safer for students

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 nine. The remaining question and answer will be released as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

Today’s question is, ‘As a trustee, how will you ensure that our schools are safe spaces for all students, staff, and families?’

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

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Barry Neufeld:

I would ensure that all staff have professional development in the priorities of Anti-Bullying programs like Bully Beware. Bullying, harassment, assault and stalking are both the cause and effect of stress and mental health problems. But most importantly, I am an advocate of multidisciplinary approaches to student mental health. And I am an advocate for removing the systemic stigma against mental illness. The recent COVID restrictions caused a dramatic increase in student mental health problems. When our district received millions of dollars in Federal COVID assistance, only $50,000 was allocated for mental health services. I objected strongly that this was not enough, as this only was about a half time position to cover a district of fourteen thousand students. We spent five times as much outfitting school buses with electronic card passes.

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Brian Van Garderen:

This is a very difficult question as there are many things we can do to create a safe place for all. The first is coming from our leadership they must embody the policies they set in place for schools to follow. If our leadership cannot attain those levels how can people trust that issues that arise in schools can be dealt with effectively? Secondly, it is important that staff who are working with individuals with diverse needs feel equipped with tools to help de-escalate situations or to keep themselves safe. There are always incidents that happen in school and it is important at that time to have clear communication with all parties, parents, support staff, teachers, and admin, to create a plan that all can agree on and feel comfortable implementing. There might be difficult decisions that have to be made but it is important to keep records of these concerns that way trustees can use this information to help articulate the complexities happening in the district and advocate for the need for better resources. Offering training, supporting new staff development by allocating funds, and creating policies that help protect employees with difficult situations is an important part of a trustee’s role.,

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Carin Bondar:

As a trustee, I strongly advocate for inclusion, kindness and safety at school. I will continue to work together with our district staff to promote our district values of inclusion and diversity. I think that it’s an important time to empower educators and students through difficult situations with empathy and patience. Also, it’s an important time for students and educators to speak out against hate and hate speech when they see it.

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Darrell Furgason:

Absolutely.

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Darren Ollinger:

As a Trustee, to ensure that schools are safe places, I would recommend that in addition to already existing policy, vigilance be exercised in both the classroom and at home and online to be aware of triggers or warning signs, that because of the disposition of the student(s) that something catastrophic could be avoided and by intervened with imposing appropriate measures for those red flag conditions or situations.

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David Swankey:

First and foremost by working to support and uphold the district’s responsibilities within the broader legal framework public education operates within; this includes but is not limited to ensuring the BC Human Rights Code is upheld. These are legal obligations that supersede district policies and motions of the board. Second is working to both model and uphold district values as outlined in Policy 110; values of inclusion, equity, kindness, innovation and collaboration need to be more than a page in our policy book, they should inform all the work being done in our district and every policy from draft to implementation. Finally, following through on priorities outlined in the district Long Range Facilities Plan. There are more considerations than I can touch on here, but the physical spaces we work and learn in are an important factor when considering safety in our district.

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Greg Nelmes:

Safe, healthy schools are critical and the COVID 19 epidemic has taught us all much about the importance of hand washing and clean washrooms and other areas. Custodians play a central role in cleanliness. A school staff committee must be established in the first week of the new school year. This committee will consist of at least one school administrator, two teaching staff, 1 or 2 CUPE members and 1 or 2 PAC members. This committee will establish dates for fire drills, earthquake drills and stranger danger drills asap. This calendar will be shared by the end of September with all committee members and building staff including school custodians and the Chilliwack Fire Department.

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Heather Maahs:

I trust the people we’ve hired with great confidence to do their job as they’ve always done very successfully providing safe schools

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Kaethe Jones:

School District #33 has had a zero tolerance policy for bullying for decades. Bullying occurs in many forms and to many children for many different reasons , not just the children who identify as part of a select group in the schools. ALL children matter and need to be respected and kept safe. ALL staff and families matter. Years ago my school, as well as others, had a Code of Conduct which was taught to all children in the school and reinforced. There was and probably still is a process that one goes through to work out issues that arise in a classroom or school. Administrators, teachers, parents and students need to work together to learn about bullying and encouraging the by-stander to get help and keep someone safe. I will look into the Policy book to see what has already been implemented about safe spaces for all

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Margaret Reid:

It is important to me that the Board maintains regular contact with their liaison schools- not just formal site visits. If teachers, staff, and parents feel respected then they will be better able to vocalize and share how policy is impacting the school community. Further, proper training on inclusive resources and Reconciliation should be pursued so that staff feel they have the tools and knowledge to effectively maintain safe spaces for all. A solid respect for human rights and ongoing dialogue with marginalized students and staff will be important to keep the district on course.

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Teri Westerby:

It starts at the very top – from the School Board Trustees to the District staff, to the administrators and teachers, to the students! Ensuring all levels are open to hearing everyone’s voice and standing up to make a change in the areas in which students and teachers struggle. It means listening and creating equity through advocacy to have those who are affected speak up and share their stories and create a space for them to be heard. It means being present, showing up, and standing up, authentically, for every member of our community. It means creating discomfort, and handling it with grace so that everyone can follow suit in creating safe spaces. It means leading with compassion, but also firmness in upholding the human rights of students and staff.

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Willow Reichelt:

The last four years have been challenging, but I have remained steadfast in making sure that the official position of the Board is one of supporting and celebrating diversity and inclusion. I speak out strongly and consistently in support of LGBTQ2S rights. I support anti-racism initiatives. I denounce book banning efforts that seek to remove LGBTQ2S and BIPOC voices from our classrooms and libraries: Every student deserves to see themselves and their family represented. I sit on the Advisory Committee for Inclusive Education, and we are working to make this a committee that has real input into how we best support kids with disabilities and diverse abilities.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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chilliwackChilliwack School DistrictElection 2022