Abbotsford’s new trustees took their oaths of office on Tuesday night at Irene Kelleher Totí:ltawtxw, the city’s newest public school.
Three new trustees – Rupi Kanda-Rajwan, Mike Rauch and Jared White – join incumbents Korky Neufeld, Stan Petersen, Preet Rai and Shirley Wilson. After the inauguration, they held a short business meeting for the election of chair. Neufeld was elected as board chair by acclamation, and Rauch was elected as vice-chair by acclamation.
Neufeld spoke to the audience reading from a prepared speech, acknowledging former trustees in the audience and thanked them for mentoring him.
“I want to recognize the hard work that has been done by the previous board,” he said, including words to Rhonda Pauls, Freddie Latham and Phil Anderson. Pauls didn’t run for re-election but Latham and Anderson lost their seats in the recent election.
Neufeld also gave a little insight into his concerns ahead, highlighting concerns with provincial relationships between school boards and the BCTF.
“The 2017 Supreme Court decision on class size and composition continues to challenge our ability to be flexible in our district, flexible in our school sites, and most importantly, we’re not very flexible in the classrooms. Applying ratios and formulas from 1997 to the 21st century classroom just does not work.”
He also stated that operational funding is being directed from classrooms to capital funding.
“I believe it is wrong to take money designated for the classroom to fund bricks and mortar,” he said, adding that 90 per cent of the district’s $240 million budget goes to “wages and benefits, which actually leaves very little discretionary funds.”
Neufeld has been an Abbotsford trustee since 2018, and previously served on the board from 2005 to 2014.
He asked the new board to “bring your unique abilities and voices to the table” and that learn to disagree without being disagreeable as leaders of the district.
“Critical thinking requires opposing views being discussed and finding the best way forward together,” he said. “Every decision we make must be guided to what’s best for our students and their families.”
The Abbotsford board of education will serve from 2022 to 2026.
The ceremony included a territorial welcome and song by Ronald Francis-Modeste of Mathxwí First Nation. Ardaas Sukdev Singh from Khalsa Diwan Society Abbotsford and Pastor Mitch Borrows from Hill City Church brought blessings to the event. Students from Irene Kelleher Totí:ltawtxw’s choir, led by Amanda Schoepp, performed A Wish for Peace and also led the room through the singing of O Canada.
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Godden emceed and briefly spoke about the critical role trustees play in the district.
The first regular meeting of the board will occur on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at the board office. The meeting will also be available to be watched via livestream through the district’s YouTube channel.
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