Diversity, parental input among the key education issues

Candidates for the Abbotsford board of education weigh in on the key issues in this election.

New candidates vying for a seat on the Abbotsford board of education in the Nov. 19 municipal election cite fiscal responsibility, the diverse needs of students, and more consideration of parents’ views as some of the key issues.

Ralf Landsberger and Matt Thiessen – among the nine new faces and six incumbents vying for seven seats – said the current board has not always listened to parents’ concerns.

“We saw this poorly handled during the spring break change from two weeks to one week then back to two weeks,” Thiessen said, referring to the matter that drew heated response in 2010 and 2011.

Landsberger said any decision made by the board should focus on what’s best for families and students.

Candidates Graham MacDonnell and Stan Petersen said this includes better addressing the challenges related to Abbotsford’s diverse student population, such as those for whom English is not their first language and those with special needs.

“It is critical that we support these diverse needs by responsibly directing as many resources as possible to the classroom,” Petersen.

This is where fiscal responsibility plays a big part, the candidates said. It’s important to ensure that education funding is allocated in smart and innovative ways, said Rhonda Pauls.

Some suggestions the candidates made for needed programs included anti-bully and anti-gang strategies, as well as “ethical and appropriate access” to technology.

Other new faces running for a seat on the board of education are: Aeriol Alderking, Arlene Ambrose, Balbir Gill and Freddy Latham.

Meanwhile, some of the incumbents mentioned the same concerns as key issues the board of education will face now and in the future.

Uultjse DeJong and John Sutherland said that in this time of economic restraint, it is crucial that classrooms are not negatively impacted.

“Balancing funding and a fair funding formula from the ministry of education is needed,” DeJong said.

Parent consultation is also important, Sutherland said.

“But as we saw in the debate over the two-week spring break, parents often feel they are not listened to. This is wrong.”

DeJong, Cindy Schafer and Korky Neufeld listed “21st century learning” as a significant issue.

“The education system is challenged to be innovative and creative in approaching the unique needs of today’s learners,” Schafer said, adding that community input is crucial for ideas on how to improve.

Other incumbents on the ballot for the election are Shirley Wilson and Preet Rai.

Watch upcoming editions of the Abbotsford News for more information on all the candidates.