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  • Writer's pictureMike Rauch

Abbotsford District Parent Advisory Council DPAC All-Candidates Forum Responses

On Monday October 3rd, 2022 I participated in Abbotsford DPAC's All-Candidates Forum. Notes from all the candidate responses are included here. Please take the time to get to know your candidates and vote on Saturday, October 15.

All Candidates Trustee Forum Responses Oct 3 2022 (1)
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DPAC : All Candidates Forum: Monday Oct 3rd, 2022 School Board Trustee, Candidates responses Opening Statements: 7:05 Korky Neufeld: pro parent, pro guardian. Representing the tax payer at the board table. 1- Supreme court decision on class size, little / no flexibility. Needs to be hashed out. Need to pressure MLA’s to resolve this. Vulnerable students, ie capital projects like IKT. 4 million fewer dollars to spend to hire EA/ teachers etc. pressure MLA’s to change, the financial watering hole is has shrunk Earl Storey: Father of 8. Grandfather of 14. Because I believe parents need to have their voices heard in the classroom. Decision making needs to be handed back to teachers/ parents. Not enough transparency, between school system and parents. 1- Parents voices in classroom 2- Resources and policy needs to be addressed 3- Classroom sizes. Too big. Been in business for 43 years. Manages accounts/budgets. Serving the community. Katherine Cyr: Born and raised in Abby, 2 children. Attend UFV part time. 4.03 GPA. Strong advocate for her children, and wants to do the same for others. -better communication practices at all levels -better supports for parents and caregivers -increase prevention strategies (physically and emotionally regulated) -clear and consisted boundaries -new ways to support those who may earn a suspension, but don’t’ have a safe place to follow through with that. Safe guarding for the children, now and always

Freddy Latham: Former educator, served on the board for years. Passion for kids, not only in the classroom, but in the community. Founder of Abbotsford children’s theatre. -running for a 3rd term. Because the quality of education they receive is important. -Supports collective work force. -Supports current curriculum -classrooms receive the funding, student success. Strengthen ongoing relations with the city of Abbotsford, indigenous community, is our responsibly. Stan Petersen: seeking 4th term on the Abbotsford School Board. Fully support regular communication with community and parents. 44 years of experience. Doctorate of Education leadership. Passion for student learning, and success Resident for over 40 years. Classrooms are increasingly diverse. Direct as many resources as possible to the classroom. Student need to feel safe, valued. Collaborative leadership, and decision making. Care of the success of each and every student in the system. Mike Rauch: Lived in Abbotsford for 26 years. 6 children. Joined a small garage door manufacturing business. Open, diverse, multi ethnic company. Open and collaborative environment. Decisions to be made in the open. Everyone understands why decisions are made. Ask questions. Ensure mental wellness of our kids, Fun, passion for learning for kids. Phil Anderson: 8 years served as Abbotsford School Board Trustee. Care deeply about young people. Equal opportunity. Trustee was very detailed statistically. RE students learning percentages. Parents are responsible for instilling values in their children, and parents need to be informed. Need to be involved. Assists with future success. Instill value and tradition.

Grahman MacDonell: Former Army Drill Instructor, turned teacher, turned journalist. Communication officer. Lived in Abbotsford for over 30 years. Seek council for further insight. Shirley Wilson: Thanks people for support. It takes time to affect change, in a system set in its way. Many voices to be heard. 17 years at the board table. She describes herself, as accountable, diligent, open, curious, determined, and some will say stubborn. Shirley wants to affect positive change, challenge status quo. Works hard to ensure parent voices are heard. I serve and use my voice, and work on solutions. Goal: Student have the best outcome. Prudent fiscal management, and appropriate staffing. Parents are the primary educators. Shannon Rose: Thanks DPAC. Family moved to Abbotsford 7 years ago. 2 kids in the district, History as a chartered professional accountant. Actively involved in PAC & DPAC since 2015, currently the DPAC Chair. Gained a greater understanding through involvement with PAC and DPAC roles. Significant amount of time with diverse learners. Envisions a school district where all kids are safe, and successful. Wants all children to reach full potential. Jared White: Ran 4 years ago, created parents first Party. Who decides what is best for students. Its parents. Now re-branded to Partners in Education. Use parents for big decisions. What do they want? Use technology to find out. Decisions being data driven, not ideology, parents engaging. Committed to have data driven solutions, pull parents, and commit to your children. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: Moved to Abbotsford when she was 10. Family own jewellery store. Married for 22 years 3 children in the district. Masters in education. Owned/ operated daycare. Then became a social worker. Strong passion for community. To give back to the community. Raised money to help those in need during COVID.

Aware of gaps between schools city and parents. Best interested of our children and community. Preet Rai: Seeking re election on Abbotsford School Board. 14 years on the board. Honour and privilege to serve. Family community involvement and education. Profession Accountant. Keen interest in community, 3 children who came through in the district, Enjoys visiting schools and community involvement. Fortunate to have hard working staff across the district. Education of children is most important. Tallest guy with the shortest last name. Thank you for your opening statements, we will now begin with our questions. Question Period 7:40 #1- In your view, what level of importance is there in developing and fostering a strong relationship between trustees and the Executive of the Abbotsford Teachers’ Union and teachers in the District? Jared White: Values, bringing everyone to the table. Inclusive. Greater Collaboration from all stakeholders. Partners in Education. Disconnect between teachers and union, and trustees Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: Communication, conversation and collaboration. Respectful opportunity and innovation. Practical, attainable, relatable solutions within a 4 year plan Phil Anderson: Mainly working with different people. Work closely and get on the same page. Collaborating. Shannon Rose: Trust and communication are pillars of any strong relationships. Need to be fostered with teachers, union, and trustees. Earl Storey: Communicating, getting groups together at the same table and working out the issues among 3 groups to figure out solutions for kids Katherine Cyr: Communication, attend classrooms, and watch, to fully understand. To understand first hand Freddy Latham: More forums, more opportunities to meet as groups, more thought exchange. Key questions, ATU- more opportunities to meet, and more importantly to listen. Mike Rauch: First- safe for teachers to ask questions. Teachers may feel reluctant. Joint committee’s – PAC ie one rep on committee.

Preet Rai: Have more regular meetings. Public communication, call the trustee and ask questions Graham MacDonell: develop a relationship with school based admin, and teachers. And develop relationships Shirley Wilson: Very big on communication. I will listen. Teachers reach out. Union has a diff objective then the teacher, union has bargaining goals. Stan Petersen: Student success needs to be a collaboration, between trustees, union, teachers, community, and parents. Communication amongst all Korky Neufeld: Classroom teacher- trustee focus on success of each student. Barriers with union, meet at a table and hash out issues, meet outside that role, and try and communication, it takes 2 sides. More opportunities. #2- How do you see our schools better supporting inclusion of students with learning disabilities such as Down syndrome, dyslexia, Autism etc with the current limitations of support staff? Graham MacDonell: 1975 monitored district, seen a number of EA’s triple if not quad. Good foundation, for tackling issues mentioned. Dependent what we pay these EAs and how long we can keep them Korky Neufeld: Dear to my heart- take a while to get designations. Once IEP if there is no funding, it comes directly from board. Money is being spent in the wrong place. To build new schools when it should com out of capital funds Preet Rai: students aren’t getting designated, paperwork immense. We should somehow have less paperwork, needs to come from provincial office. We don’t have enough staff. Shirley Wilson: A parent of a special need child, far behind in many areas. Challenge, we become a training ground. Bring in EAs and they leave to be paid more money, given union situation, we aren’t on the same playing field as other districts. Stan Petersen: Difficult question, inclusive education, believe strongly. Challenges are staffing and resources. Given what we have, we do very well. But there will never be enough resources for needs of student. Advocate for more resources. Freddy Latham: Bottom line, numbers of complex learners and their needs are growing. Gaps in educational journey, ie COVID. Grow the skills and competencies so its shared practice by all. Build inclusive environment, through social emotional learning. Staffing is an issue and pay.

Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: ECE- specializing in special needs. Picked mission because they pay 2$/hr more. That was in 2007. Same issue. IEP. Never ask the EA for input. Help those relationship by increasing wages but go back to collaboration. Phil Anderson: Short workers, all over BC -30 teachers alone retired this summer. Specialized workers. Doing the best we can under circumstances Shannon Rose: All diverse needs to be supported. Wait times for designation is far too long. More supports available More funding, more EAs Katherine Cyr: Grossly short of staff. No psychologists to do psych education evaluations. Join forces with foundry and city, create programs for self regulation Mike Rauch: Teachers feel stretched. Spectrum in classroom is widening. 1- Advocate for speeding up funding within province. 2- Creative solutions. Like EA’s float through classrooms, Earl Storey: Give me your feedback- main thing was support for teachers in classroom. More money in district to put more teachers in classrooms Jared White: More money, practical things like changing culture, to attract teachers and EA’s to stay, go and spend a day at schools as trustees, listen and talk to administrators. It’s too late at the board tables. Allocate resources better. #3-With the increasing awareness of mental health post COVID in our students, how do you see schools supporting students? Shirley Wilson: Pre COVID was already seeing a decline, now it’s far larger. Entire community. Better place for the resources, and time on that matters, a happy person is a happy learner. Graham MacDonell: Money is the bottom line. This province is 85 billion dollars in debt. Political situation isn’t helping. NDP government will be tight with money. Jared White: Increase the amount of time that kids spend with PE, the benefits to a child is massive. Change system so it’s not an elective. Kids are on their phones, they have a negative impact on mental health. Earl Storey: Kids needs to be more involved in sports, exercise is huge. Shannon Rose: More resources, more councillors. Social/emotional learning is key for kids. So they all know how to self regulate. Learn how to use those techniques. Korky Neufeld: Issue for every family. It’s not only students, is teachers, adults, etc. if people don’t regulate it translates in to classroom. Give them play, sports, arts. Technology also plays a big role in mental well being of students.

Phil Anderson: Mental health is different for everyone. Someone as to liaise in each school to help students cope. Professionals in the schools. Stan Petersen: It’s a significant and growing issue. District has made teachers take mental health for emotional social development, d/t professional development. Teachers are doing the work, to help students. Its one more things being asked of teachers. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: It’s not new. Due to COVID it’s more validated. Kids needs help regulating feelings. Resources for students and teachers. Council. Importance of sports music and arts all year long Mike Rauch: Classroom needs to be a sanctuary, kids need to feel safe, keep it fun. Simple outdoor play. Katherine Cyr: Identify the kids who are struggling, many kids aren’t noticed. Parent education, send a plan home, kids and parents are jointly involved. Council is not always financially affordable. Preet Rai: Let kids be kids, let them have fun. Since COVID, we have seen major increase. Resources are less. Hard to find professionals. HR is working overtime. Freddy Latham: Thought exchange, parents, teachers, student, school board has hired mental health workers, starting to see projects that students can share, more arts more sports. #4-What are your thoughts on creating safe and functional spaces in schools for our gender nonconforming youth? Specifically in regards to washroom and changing rooms? Katherine Cyr: Creating safe spaces- feed back from student, what does that look like. Inclusive, get information. Everyone should feel safe and comfortable. Jared White: Anti bullying – safe place advocate, love there to be options. Not sure all bathrooms should be gender neutral. Talk to everyone, everyone needs to feel safe, student’s parents etc. make decisions based on that. Mike Rauch: include entire student population when making decision, ensure that everyone feels safe. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: Collaboration on how, with parents and student, how kids can feel safe. Stan Petersen: All students need to feel safe and included. Regardless of race, sexual orientation. Do whatever it takes, do that with parents, teachers and all school community. Shirley Wilson: Collaborate with student, ask questions, listen, its not a one size fits all. Korky Neufeld: Everyone needs to feel safe. Do whatever it takes.

Earl Storey: Kids need to be separated, needs to be boys and girls. But their safety is important. Preet Rai: Kids should feel safe, Individual stalls is a great idea. Talk with students and teachers. Shannon Rose: Safe spaces, all kids need to feel safe, race, or sexual orientation, regardless. Freddy Latham: We have gender spaces for all kids in our school, but it’s important to keep checking in and make sure we are doing the right thing for this children. Safety is most important. Graham MacDonell: Fiscally very conservative. Phil Anderson: Agree with all speakers, bathrooms should be private and then those where students feel safe in. Everyone should feel safe at school. #5-How will you work toward sustaining a collaboratively relationship with the City of Abbotsford to resolve issues surrounding joint assets? For example the sports fields at Abby Senior and Mouat? Stan Petersen: Interesting and ongoing dilemma. I don’t think mayor or city councillors understand the main concern, we do not have the funds to provide synthetic fields. They may disagree but we have continuing conversation. Mike Rauch: The school district and the city need to recognize that the obligation is to the community. I am 100% certain we will come up with a resolution after the election. Jared White: The city isn’t hashing it out like they need too. Literally the councillors and school trustees need to go out, and think this through, look bigger picture, how will this impact us as a whole? Put our egos aside, how does it impact the community. Korky Neufeld: 25 years of a good working relationship build on trust. Now the staff has turned over, now we don’t. Broken trust. Sit down face to face and hash it out. Get to conclusion. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan: Ongoing discussion with trustees/ mayor. New council we know what’s needed. Work together. We can make it happen after this election. Neighbouring cities are making it happen Katherine Cyr: Respectful communication. Transparency re budgets. Are they fully aware? They need to know can we rely on school district. Both sides need to be clear on what they can and can not do. Freddy Latham: WE have a joint USE agreement. We have always shared our resources. Shame on all of us, it should be about community. We need to fix this issue, and we will.

Shirley Wilson: Fresh start between our two governing bodies. Focused on our community, not on politics. Looking for a pathway to resolution. Used to meet, and now in the last 4 years, it hasn’t happened face to face. Looking forward to improving it. Preet Rai: Councillor’s and trustees need to sit down. Lock the door and hash it out, don’t come out until its done. Shannon Rose: No money for turf fields, high hopes to rectify the working relationship. Confident we can do it. Phil Anderson: City has stored away 265 million dollars, but they don’t have the money to help redo these fields. That city person we negotiated is gone now, maybe now we can make headway Graham MacDonell: Get in to a room and develop a much better relationship between the two bodies. Earl Storey: Big disconnect between the city and board, get back to the table. And hash it out. Shame after hours teams aren’t allowed to use the fields. #6-How many School Board meetings have you attended in the last year? Mike Rauch: 1⁄2 at least- winsome has been at all. Earl Storey: 1 in person, some online Korky Neufeld: every one of them Shannon Rose: All of them, my role as the DPAC Chair was to attend the meetings so I could bring back the information to the parents at DPAC meetings. Phil Anderson- hasn’t missed one meeting. Shirley Wilson- All committee meeting, missed 1 d/t family matter Stan Petersen- Missed one meeting in 3 terms, in 11 years... missed 1 meeting Katherine Cyr- 1 in person, watched the rest online. Preet Rai- Missed 1 in the last 10. Over all missed 2. Graham MacDonell- since 2011-2018 every one of them. 2014 walked to board offices, since 2018 – live stream. Jared White- 4 in total. Been to enough to know, there isn’t enough discussion / debate that actually happens. It happens behind closed doors. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan- since Oct 2021- read all the board meeting minutes. All summer. First meeting in Sept. 2022.

Freddy Latham – 10 On any type of school board, there are bound to be differences of opinion among members. How would you handle conflict with your colleagues? Rupi Kanda-Rajwan:- Good to have differing of opinions. Advocate for students, through differing opinions, be adults about it. Earl Storey- 7 people on a board, there will be different opinions. Work together. Agree to disagree at times. Katherine Cyr: I don’t share opinions with all my friends, but we are still friends, I understand valuing people’s differences of opinions, respect the differences, and respect them. Freddy Latham: Leave them at the board table, it’s a fact of life. But when it comes to the things that matter, we all agree. Stan Peterson: Impossible to get 7 people to agree on everyone. We are there for the common belief that we want the success of students. We are all there for student success. Mike Rauch: Diverse opinions are healthy. Focus things on the outcome. Don’t get stuck on initial view. Focus on common areas. Collaborative solutions, and a little bit of compromise. Come to balances solution. Phil Anderson: Differences of opinions and work it out, main thing is give some to see what total value is at the end. Graham MacDonell: Boils down to a vote. Respect the decision of the board, stay within the code of ethics. Shirley Wilson: Finding common goal, when faced with a big issue, is really important. Respect the differences of opinion. It can be difficult. Issues about children are not simple, or community. The common goal is what’s best for the student’s Shannon Rose: Great things can come out of healthy debates. It’s how we learn and become better people Jared White: Value robust debate, smile shake hands and know it isn’t personal. Everyone here has desire to see kids succeed. Korky Neufeld: Critical thinking demands we have differences of opinions. Even if we don’t agree, respect the decisions. Preet Rai: Come from different point of views, but in the end we are all friends / family regardless if we don’t all agree.

Closing Statements 8:45 Preet Rai – Make decisions in the best interest of students and children is what I stand for. Graham MacDonell – see my business card. Shannon Rose – Only one that has been almost everyday for the past 6 years inside a school working with students. Role with the DPAC has allowed me to gain insight, I’ve seen where strength’s are and where things need to be improved. Stan Petersen: Read our measuring up report. Required by ministry, talks about the progress of our student. Shows successes and challenges. I’m up for the work. Rupi Kanda-Rajwan- I can provide a fresh education, support for our students in the district. I am a champion of our community. I’m not afraid to work hard. Offer practical relatable, and attainable strategies. Korky Neufeld- Represent the students and those that need support and those that need to be challenged. Advocate for proper funding. I respect all the trustees. Earl Storey – Thanks teachers and EA’s. Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. Shirley Wilson: Parents are the primary educators. They know the children best. Their participation is key to their success. My honour to continue to serve you in our district. Freddy Latham – Grateful to be part of the district, and working with hard working dedicated caring work force. Running for the 3rd time. Wish luck to everyone. Katherine Cyr: Thanks everyone for listening tonight, and current board. Duty I don’t take lightly. Look forward to learn and grow. Not afraid to ask the hard question, more importantly not the dumb questions. Mike Rauch – Engage with those closest to student, listen to parents, teachers, and students. Young people are our future. Youth education should be our single most important priority. Phil Anderson- trustees are a link between the community and the classroom. Help students with the help of parents. I am number 1 on the list. Jared White- To be your voice and rep for your students. I am an ideas guy, creative, think outside the box guy. I run a group called Advocate- I promise you I will be a great advocate. Passionate about public education, and students being all they can be.

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