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Question Answers with Fraser-Cascade 2019 byelection candidates

Seven candidates have stepped forward for this year’s sudden byelection—learn about them here

1. What prompted you to come forward as a candidate?

Sequel Adamson - I used to be on the school board when I was in Grade 12, when I was a student, I was part of two committees. And during that time I noticed (the Board) was doing a good job, but they didn’t know what was going on in the school first hand. They were making decisions about things they perhaps hadn’t seen, so I thought this was a good opportunity to provide fresh perspective to the Board.

Tom Durrie - I was asked to run by the wife of the recently deceased, Tom Hendrickson. I know his wife reasonably well (through community involvement,) so I said I would think about it, and after researching the whole thing and looking at the School Act, I thought, ‘Ok, I’ll go ahead.’

Cathy Speth - I’ve been involved in education for about 25 years, and as the chair of the Aboriginal Educational Council, I have a pretty good relationship (with the Board) already, but one of the trustees, Ron Johnstone, encouraged me to run. I took a long time to think about it, but decided to run. My (band) chief also encouraged me to run because they feel they have a good knowledge of education.

Wilfried Vicktor - I’ve always had an interest in the school district and had the opportunity to serve twice in the past—once by winning a similar byelection. But at 48, I still have some mileage in me, and I’m a long time to retirement, so I still have hard work to do.

Bronwyn Punch - I’ve always been a volunteer, and I believe in the committee work, and have been involved in the district in the past, so I felt this was a natural progression. I’m a strong believer in what kids get in school sets them up for the rest of their lives, so I think it’s a very important role, and (want to play a part in creating those success stories).

Hollie Traas - I’m very passionate about the future of our children, and doing my part to see they succeed. I feel it’s important that the community feel they have a voice … and (if) elected, I’d like to be their voice.

Cheryl Davidson - I’ve been on the Aboriginal Education Council at the school board office, and we’ve been talking about having a First Nations support person try to get on board as a trustee, so I’ve been thinking about this since probably January or December. (I’m stepping forward because) I want to make a difference in the schools, I’ve always loved working with kids, and I want to see them get the education they deserve.

2. What sort of skills, experiences, or points-of-view would you contribute to the Board, if elected, and why are they a benefit to the students of the Fraser-Cascade school district?

Sequel Adamson - Because I recently graduated last year, I believe I would provide a more youthful view for the Board. That’s important, because they’re working to benefit the students, so it would be good to have a student voice represented.

Tom Durrie -I have lots of experience working in schools: I was a teacher in public elementary schools for 10 years in the past; then I was involved in the alternative school movement; and then I did a lot of public speaking and lecturing about schools, and have written articles that were published. I was also involved in the Vancouver Opera and their school program for eight years.

Cathy Speth - I’m the chair of the Aboriginal Education Council, so I’ve already been in an elected position for the past five years, as well as I’ve been involved in education for (decades). And of course (the experience of) my kids (going through the school system, as they’ve) all graduated from Hope Secondary.

Wilfried Vicktor - Board experience is a good thing, and as far as I know, I’m the only candidate with local school board experience. I’ve lived in the Hope area since 1980. I have a degree in finance from UFV, so whether it be school board, personnel board, running a district, finances is always important.

Bronwyn Punch - I have worked in the school as a support worker, so I’m very aware of how important support work is in the school system. And I think with support workers and teachers working together with the Board, we can provide the best possible outcome for our kids.

Hollie Traas - I’m a young mother with kids in the school system. I see firsthand what goes on in the school. I may not have the experience other candidates may have—the work or years of service they’ve put in—but in order to get experience, we have to start somewhere, and having young kids involved in the school system (definintely) helps.

Cheryl Davidson - I’m very easy to get along with, people can approach me if they have any issues and I can help them work through the problems without bringing them down and having them upset. I have worked in the school system for 28 years as a support worker, so (I’m familiar with union issues) that the Board may have to deal with. And just my love for the students (will be a benefit).

3. What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as trustee, if elected?

Sequel Adamson - I hope to make sure the education we get in our school district matches what every other school district is providing in B.C. because we should have the same opportunities no matter where we live. I go to UFV, and I noticed in first year of studies a lot of things we were learning I hadn’t learned, but others had—basic sort of things—and it made it hard to keep up with my classes. At HSS, they didn’t even offer Chemistry 12 last year. We had no computer training aside from grade 8, and today, computers are everywhere, so it was hard for me to pick up on these things that everyone else had learned. So I’d like to see that changed.

Tom Durrie - I believe one of the most important things is keeping the Boston Bar school open. Attendance has dropped because people have moved away—things are difficult for young families because there’s not a lot of work. And depending on student enrollment, it’s going to be (a challenge) to keep this school open, and we don’t want to see our kids bused into Hope or Lytton.

Cathy Speth - I want to look at student success and achievement and look at different ways students can succeed. Not all students are rocket scientists and they have different learning abilities, so I want them to learn in (their own) way and still succeed in school. And mental health: how children (with these issues) are dealt with in the schools—but if we don’t deal with it, there’s no success for them in school. I want to listen to parents and staff, and strategize together what school success looks like.

Wilfried Vicktor - I’m going to work hard to represent the Canyon riding well. I’ve done some homework, met some of the locals there and they identified some of the issues for me. I also plan on working as a team player, putting Wilf on the Board won’t solve all the problems, but it will be an addition of talent that will help. I recognize how important education is—even more important than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Bronwyn Punch - There’s a lot going on at that school board, so I would hope I have lots to contribute, but until you’re actually in the position, you don’t know how much you can actually do. But I would like to be a voice for the positive and the young people in our community. When you come from a small community, I think it can be a bit harder for kids, so I think it’s for the best that we do what we can for them—and it starts in the schools.

Hollie Traas - I hope to be a voice (for the community). I’m passionate about the area, about the kids, and I feel like the community needs somebody to be there and advocate for them. I know I can’t change everything on my own, but I can bring things forward and say this is what (the community) is asking for. My passion is strong for this.

Cheryl Davidson - What I hope to accomplish is to have students feel more comfortable in the schools to seek counselling if they need it, and to have the support workers in the schools reaching out a bit more. (I also hope to be part of the creation) of a better education for students throughout the whole district, to have them all learning the same thing.

4. If elected, in what areas do you hope to help the school district, as a whole, improve?

Sequel Adamson - I’d like to increase our technology education in the school system. I hope we have at least a few computer classes that teach the basics of how to use it for when you go to (post-secondary) school.

Tom Durrie - I will always be lobbying for an increase in the arts, and getting kids more involved in arts. If we can do trips to water-slides, we can do trips to the Vancouver Art Gallery. So yes, I’ll be focusing on getting more art and music into all of the schools.

Cathy Speth - I think the District is run quite well. However, more communication with stakeholders would be appreciated, but overall, I think they’re doing quite well.

Wilfried Vicktor - A lot of amazing work has been done on graduation rates , but I’m really concerned about the people who aren’t making it through the school system, so we have to keep working on that. To refer to that old adage, you need backbone, not wishbone, so you need to roll up your sleeves and (do the hard work), which is what I (want to do for our students).

Bronwyn Punch - For me, just being part of a team, working as a team, and coming to a consensus as a team for the kids going through the system (will be enough). I’ve worked with disenfranchised (youth), so I know how hard it is (for them to succeed), so the more we can do for them to set them up for success (in the school district), the more we can do for them in their lives.

Hollie Traas - I don’t really have an agenda, (nor do I) have anything I want to change or improve. I just really hope I can be a voice for the school and the community. If they have issues they want to bring forward, I can sit there and say, ‘I’ll bring that to the school board.’ I want to see kids succeed in life, do well with their education, and have a full future because of it.

Cheryl Davidson - I think listening to what the teachers have to offer—e.g. great ideas for classrooms that are struggling—is important (and needs to happen more). Most of all, the education taught in the school: I’d like to see the Board have the schools teach very similar things, not different things everywhere. And I also think the (Board is) too comfortable, they need to step out of the box and teach to what would be best for the students, (instead of what they’re used to).

5. What sets the Fraser-Cascade school district apart from others?

Sequel Adamson - We’re a small district, so we’re very close-knit, and (even though that) sometimes hard to function, I think being so close can help us if we all work together (towards the same goals).

Tom Durrie - Every district has unique problems, so as a trustee, I would be very involved in learning about what’s happening in our entire district, as of right now I only know about our local school at Boston Bar. I think the relationships between the schools and the communities are vitally important, especially in small communities like (ours), but I think we do it well.

Cathy Speth - Because I work with the Aboriginal community, I have such a good relationship with them. I think our Aboriginal students have really succeeded, and we’re closing the gap in education because of our good relationship with them. I think the Board is really trying to have success in school (across all levels).

Wilfried Vicktor - I think geographically we’re very large for a small student population. We also have a lot of Aboriginal students—an important group of students we have to honour and help out—so continuing to get their input on curriculum is very important. And being composed of so many small communities, we have a lot of economic challenges in the homes that always have an effect on everyone in the community, particularly the students, and (we see a lot of effort to assist that).

Bronwyn Punch - Our location more than anything else (sets us apart): we’re rural and very wide spread. So often, community is built around the schools, and in an area like (ours), where the kids can come from so far, trying to keep that sense of community for the kids and their families is important, and the District has done a good job for the most part.

Hollie Traas - (The entire District, although very large, acts like) a community. We’re a close bunch of people who work together to do what’s best for the kids.

Cheryl Davidson - I think our District in some ways is ahead of others, like getting FN language/culture/residential schools taught in the schools. Our district stands out with the trades, and working with TRU—that’s been a very big step forward for the district. Most kids are comfortable, so they’re not getting lost in the system, but we’re still losing some students, (and we need to work on that).

- Compiled by Sarah Gawdin