School trustee profiles

School District 34: Personal bios for school board candidates in Abbotsford – Trustee

  • Nov. 7, 2014 1:00 p.m.
School trustee profiles


* Indicates incumbent


*Rhonda Pauls

Education: Studied physical education and coaching at Trinity Western University

Politician: Youth Sport Official development

Political Experience: 3 years as Board of Education Trustee, one year vice chair

Residency: Abbotsford

Community Involvement: Character Canada Council; Youth Asset Development presenter; BC Selects Female Baseball; District Parent Advisory Council vice-chair, chair; Abbotsford Angels Hardball Association umpire-in-chief; Baseball Canada umpire instructor; British Columbia Baseball Umpires Association; community/school sport coach

Key issues:

Importance of focus on early learning. A student’s long term success can be predicted by the time he/she is in grade 3. We need to ensure that in such a diverse community where our students come to us speaking dozens of different languages and bring varying life experiences to the classroom, we are able to bring them all to a place where they can have success.

We need to continue building Strong Start/Kindergarten readiness options, expand co-teaching in primary classrooms for English Language Learners, develop more resources for supporting the mental health issues we see escalating in our young students, and work to equip our families to support students in the home.

Need for teacher training. The number one determinant of a student’s success in school is the effectiveness of the teacher. The diversity of students we are now seeing in every classroom calls for a move towards teachers having the ability to differentiate instruction within each class, be equipped to support students with special needs in the classroom, and be proficient in scaffolding English language learners instruction during regular classroom instruction.

We need to continue to develop and train educators in co-teaching models in our classrooms, create more opportunity for shared best practice among teachers, teacher mentoring partnerships, and work with our post-secondary institutions to ensure our new teachers are graduating with the adaptability skills our every changing systems now demands.



*Stan Petersen

Education: BSc, MEd, EdD

Occupation: Retired

Political experience: Incumbent school trustee (one term)

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: Vice president of Abbotsford Youth Commission; member Clearbrook Kiwanis; Sports Hall of Fame selection committee chair; chair of Hands Up for the Community; committee member of the Abbotsford City Police Basketball Tournament; chair of the AbbyFest organizing committee; Parks, Recreation, and Culture commissioner; board member for the Reach; board member of Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association; board member of Character Abbotsford.

Key issues:


Abbotsford is a great school district. We have strong leadership and excellent teachers and support staff. We have great support from parents and our community. Our students excel in their classrooms and in the many opportunities provided in our district.


Our challenge is to find more ways to support the growing diversity in our classrooms. We need to add more classroom resources and we need to support our teachers to address this diversity. We need to continue to partner with community agencies in supporting all of our students. We need to continue with our early childhood education agenda so that all students have a strong start to their educational experience. We need to create an individualized education for every student so that each can find his or her passion and success.

Our challenge is also to continue to improve communication with all our educational stakeholders. Our teachers, support staff, parents, and our community need to feel confident in the direction of the board and have input in setting this direction. Teamwork and collaboration are essential.


I believe that I have the experience and passion to address these challenges and make our great school district even better. I look for your support on Nov. 15.


*Cindy Schafer

Education: College Diploma

Occupation: Interior Designer

Political experience: Incumbent school trustee

Community involvement: Past PRCC chair and commissioner; District Parent Advisory Council chair; Traffic and Safety Advisory Committee member; Abbotsford Community Foundation Awards committee member; numerous School District committees; BC School Trustee Association representative and finance committee member.

Key issues:

Voters should consider candidates who understand the role of elected School Trustees and understand the governance work of an elected Board of Education.   Representatives are elected by the community, on behalf of the community, to provide accountability and oversight to public education.   Boards of Education have legislated responsibilities to fulfill, such as, submission of the Annual Budget and Student Achievement Contract.  Setting policy is board work and is ongoing, as views and needs change and are addressed through policy development.  Visiting schools (when appropriate), participating in student and school celebrations, and seeing our students graduate is rewarding and gratifying work of a Trustee.

Voters should consider candidates who will advocate broadly for public education at all levels of government and through provincial and national organizations who impact the work of boards.

As current Chair of the Abbotsford Board of Education, it has been my privilege to be an elected trustee for the past nine years, including six years as Chair.  I share the vision of providing a world-class, innovative, and individualized educational experience for every student.  I have been, and will continue to be a strong advocate for public education, keeping the best interests of students, their families and the community in mind, while conducting board business. Thank you, Cindy Schafer, School Trustee.



*Shirley Wilson


Final stages of BA in Adult Education at UFV

Occupation: Contract fund development and leadership in the charity and non-profit sector. Previous employment includes BBBS of the Fraser Valley and the FV Child Development Centre.

Political experience: Elected to Board of Education in 2005 (three terms served); director with BC Public School Employers Association (2012-2013).

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: Rotary Club of Abbotsford; Peer Reviewer (accreditation) with; various liaison roles with Board of Education; volunteering with local or regional boards, local, provincial and national events; and liaising with many children and families serving charities in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley.

Key issues:

Student success: Every child counts. I recently heard a speaker talk about the difference between “each” and “all”. We can talk about wanting to ensure all children meet with success. But a much more laudable goal is to ensure each child meets their own potential. Our work at the Board of Education demonstrates this.

We provide additional resources to students who need support, but may not be eligible for additional provincial funding.  We want each student supported in their learning. We understand we need to do more to respond early to the needs of each child. We organize our various staff beyond teachers and principals from custodians to educational assistants to secretaries to bus drivers and more, utilizing our funding appropriately to stretch each dollar…not stretch the individual.

Board Governance: We are entering a four year term in a time when change for Boards will be certain. Who you vote for will impact decision making both locally and provincially. Are boards going away? Not likely, but certainly the role we play now may change.

Abbotsford is respected as a board as we are sound financially and understand our role. As a member of a board which implemented a strategic plan, we work with the end in mind to prepare students for a lifetime of success.  We plan in a fiscally prudent and financially sustainable manner. We work well with what we have.

With shifting demographics in our workforce and in our families, it is important to maintain solid decision making and consistency at the board table.



Phil Anderson

Education:Completed high school in Edmonton and graduated from NAIT (Northern Alberta institute of technology)

Occupation: Retired in 2013. Business owner (Ambassador Auto Repairs) for 30 years (sold business in 2014). Heavy duty mechanic by trade.

Political experience: School Board trustee for nine years in Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan. One year as board chair.

Residency: Abbotsford.

Community involvement: Involved in my local church; head up the ‘First Contact’ area.

Key issues:

Class sizes too large for an individual teacher.

Children with special needs, like ADHD and other needs that may be disruptive in the class setting, need specialty classes geared to helping them get an education.

Trustees need to be a link between the classroom and the community. Education is a stepping stone to the work force or further education. We need to be preparing students for either choice.



*Preet Rai

Education: Chartered Accountant (India)

Occupation: Auditor for B.C. government.

Political experience: Elected trustee for two terms in 2008 and 2011.

Residency: Abbotsford

Community Involvement: The Reach board; Literacy Matters board; Community of Character board; Abbyfest board;   MSA Museum board; Cycling for Diversity; Sister City committee; Abbotsford Youth commission;  Canuck Place campaign executive committee; organizer of Abby Fest volunteers; chair of the finance committee for the school district.

Key issues:

I am thankful to the administrators, teachers, support staff in helping the district achieve new heights and due to their hard work and dedication we as a district are leading the province in many areas. However, there is always room for improving educational experiences for our children.


I have been serving on the Board of Education for the last six years as a school trustee. There are a number of things that the school district is working on to further improve and provide excellent education to our kids. The two areas that I think we need to further focus on are 21st century individualized learning and how to be more flexible and have more choice available.


Technological innovations have been developing at a rapid pace. It is time to take advantage of this and while many resources and supports are available for students, we can always be further working on the needs of students and the staff. We can ensure that students have the tools to learn at their own pace, a pace that they feel comfortable at and which maximizes their individual learning capacities. We can work on educating them towards careers that they will excel in and ultimately ensure their individual learning success.


All students should have the opportunity and flexibility to access programs and services of their choice. We have Integrated Arts schools, traditional schools, trade programs, various languages being offered, academies like hockey, aviation available as choices. These successful programs plus more choices reflecting the needs of students should be available. Creating a broad learning environment goes a very long way in ensuring that every single student is successful.


Noah Arney

Education: Bachelor of Education (UBC); Bachelor of Arts (UFV)

Occupation: Student Advisor, Native Education College

Political experience: Involved in student government at UFV

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: Four years on the executive of a local not-for-profit educational association, two as the president.

Key issues:


Communication with Abbotsford residents: Communication should be open, accessible, easy, and two way. We should be doing everything in our power to have as much local input on school board decisions as possible. Education is the interest of every citizen and we should be doing a better job of ensuring that the whole city is aware of and able to give feedback on current issues. One example of how communication failed was in the proposed pay increase (trustee indemnity) for School Trustees. If communication had been better both ways the end result would either have been voting against the increase or the board would have been able to better explain why they feel it was needed.


Although the current board is very good at ensuring that information about school and community activities programs and events are disseminated the information coming out about the board’s decisions is limited to the newsletter and the meeting minutes.  Information about topics before the board should be easily accessible and published in multiple venues including through the district’s social media ahead of meeting times.•

Advocating with the provincial government: The school board needs to be a public advocate for education and should be representing the diverse needs of our community. The purpose of the school board system is to allow a measure of local control over local education and to be a voice for the community to the government regarding education. Otherwise the government might as well abolish the elected school boards and replace them with local appointed school boards. The school trustees need to take the concerns of the community and ensure that they are being listened to.



Balbir Gill

Education: M.A.

Occupation: Librarian

Political Experience: Ran for School Trustee in 2011

Residency:  Abbotsford

Community Activity: Volunteer with Abbotsford Connect, Abbotsford Salvation Army, Canucks Place.

Executive member for last 13 years for various parents advisory committees; Representative of Punjabi Parents of Traditional Schools; Abbotsford Sumas Rotary member; helped establish and maintain Little Free Libraries; United Way Fraser Valley Board member and Impact Committee Chair; Abbotsford Youth Commission Board member;  Mentor for Gladwin Language Centre; Organizing member of annual village reunion; Member of Punjabi Development; Sikh Heritage Museum committee

Volunteer as a crossing guard; volunteered for the 2010 Olympics at the Richmond Oval; relay For Life Committee (Canadian Cancer Society); Abbotsford City Neighbourhood Committee; Member of Sister City Committee; Abbotsford Food Bank volunteer; Member of Abbotsford City Diversity Committee; Director of the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association; Founding Member of Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Committee; Abbotsford School District Punjabi language committee

Key issues:


Literacy: Being a librarian for more than 20 years I have seen firsthand students in Abbotsford who are falling behind in reading, writing, and digital literacy. They don’t have adequate access or don’t know how to access technology, library resources or to qualified help. I will work hard to provide those resources needed within the district. I don’t want any students to fall through the cracks. Students need books that appeal to them, they need to have easy access to technology that they can learn and understand, they also need adult mentors and support staff to help guide them and help them become leaders of tomorrow. Let’s provide students with what they need to succeed and make it easy and desirable for them to access that help

Communication / Listening: We need to not only care, communicate and listen to our teachers, but also our students, parents (guardians), administration and support staff. We as trustees need to develop a way to be effective communicators and partners with our teachers, students, parents and schools. We as trustees need to support, listen and genuinely care for our teachers. It is not us vs them, we should be a team working together for the same goals. Those goals should be to make Abbotsford the best it can be!  I can and will communicate to and listen to our teachers, students, parents, administrators, support staff and the citizens of Abbotsford.


Tadeusz Kuczynski

Education: High School, Master in Martial Arts

Occupation: Proprietor and Instructor at Nam Institute of Tai Chi Chuan

Political Experience: Five years at the Board of Directors at Abbotsford Arts Council

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: DJ volunteer at CIVL 101.7 FM

Key issues:


Courage to represent honesty and transparency. Those issues are basic necessity in the process of education. I would activate every cultural channel to bring those issues into attention of public



Freddy Latham

Education: Bachelor of Education (UBC) Majors in English/Theatre

Occupation: Artistic Director, Abbotsford Children’s Theatre; retired educator

Residency:  Abbotsford

Community Activity: Chair, Parks, Recreation & Culture Commission; member, Arts & Heritage Advisory Committee; Canada Day committee member; Facilitator for joint project “We All Have A Story To Tell” stories of immigrants in Abbotsford; Ceremonies chair, 2008 Special Olympics; 2004 BC Summer Games; 2002 Disability Games & 1995 Western Canada Summer Games.

Key issues:

Advocating for support of Public Education. As a Board of Education Trustee I would be visible, approachable and more vocal in advocating for the needs of all children. I would encourage more organizations and community members to partner with the school district to enhance existing programs and develop new ones. I would listen and support teachers, administrators and support staff to develop better relationships with them. I would build stronger partnerships with City Council so we can work together for the benefit of school community. In my current role as Chair of Parks, Recreation and Culture I have worked successfully with trustees, council members and public representatives and bring that leadership experience to the Board of Education.

Insufficient funding to meet the needs of all students. Class size compounded with increasing numbers of designated and undesignated students is an ongoing issue in our schools. I would work collaboratively with local and Provincial Trustees on this issue as I believe the children of B.C. deserve funding equal to the rest of Canada. Gaining support from the provincial government is critical and I would be lobbying for support of more funding for public education. I believe the role of the trustees is to ensure that the learning needs of all children in public school are being met. It is only with the highest level of co-operation that we can maximize and enhance the limited resources provided to help our children achieve their goals.



Kamal Gill

Education: Bachelor of Science

Occupation: Farmer and Occupational First aid attendant

Political experience: Help candidates and ran in 2008 elections

Residency:  Abbotsford

Community involvement: Volunteering for the last 31 years where ver I felt I was needed, when my children at school, I was on the pac or helped pac volunteered at community services.

Key issues:


In order to focus on the problems of students and parents, I have decided to run for a school trustee office in the upcoming elections. I hope to better interpret parents and students’ concerns to the school board. Concerns such as our children’s safety, bullying, and most importantly this rising drug issues the whole Abbotsford community faces today. I would like to ensure each child is getting a equal opportunity for a safe and healthy education. My goal is to see implementation of programs in schools that start at a earlier age of a students’ life, so they can learn early on to make better choices and accommodate them into their lifestyle. In order to do this however, I need the support of the Abbotsford community.


We need to work together to create clear communication between parents, staff, pacs and the school board. I believe that there is a always a solution to every problem, no matter the severity of it.


Abbotsford is a diverse community and I am always trying to get a better understanding of every culture in order to communicate effectively with every parent. Being a mother I listen to the voices of mothers that are not heard. If the whole community gets together, anything is possible. If elected, I would like to see a peaceful, respectful and safe environment for students, teachers, and parents. Our children deserve the best. United we stand, divided we fall.


Graham MacDonell

Education: Bachelor of Arts journalism, teaching certificate

Occupation: Professional genealogist

Political Experience: School trustee, Surrey school district – 1978-1979

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: Abbotsford Genealogical Society; MSA Museum Society; Fraser Valley Heritage Fair judge and presenter; Culture days – MSA Museum Society.

Key issues:


As excerpted from the British Columbia School Trustees Association website, the role of a school trustee is the following: “British Columbians elect their Boards of Education to improve student achievement according to the diverse needs of these communities. (Education-related issue number one.) As locally-elected representatives, the trustees best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands. Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. (Education-related issue number two.) School trustees listen to their communities; guide the work of their school district; and, set plans, policies and the annual budget. (Trustees challenge number one.) Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing; boards are directly accountable to the people they serve. (Trustees challenge number two.)

Regarding education-related issue number one, Abbotsford School District’s Board of Education needs to attend to a recent drop in student achievement in a number of areas as shown by the “District Plan for Student Success”, and needs to put measures in place to fulfill their role: to improve achievement for all learners (with two objectives); to improve graduation rates (with six objectives). When it comes to Abbotsford students’ provincial exams results, the Plan addresses student achievement deficiencies and areas for improvement in a number of subjects, including Reading, Writing and Numeracy. Regarding education-related issue number two, Abbotsford trustees need to engage more with their community partners in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. Recent concerns on this issue are in funding, resource allocation and more support for special needs students and communicating  more effectively with parents such as over the length of the school break and with District’s teachers on their position regarding the impact of a strike.


Kirpa Mann

Education: BA in Psychology and Social Equity, Masters of Education, Curriculum Development (Candidate)

Occupation: CEO of manufacturing business

Political Experience: Have engaged with civic, provincial and federal policies on education, immigration and community development.

Residency: Abbotsford

Community involvement: Co-founded and co-created the very first South-Asian Mentorship Program, called SOURCE, which was implemented in four elementary schools and four high schools in Surrey and Vancouver.

Key issues:

Bridging community partnership. We need to begin the healing process. In order for the school district to achieve success all partners must be working in collaboration towards the same goals. For this, strong communication, collaborative strategy planning and solution-oriented discussions must take place – where everyone is heard with the utmost integrity, respect and genuine positive regard. Knowing that the success of the city is reflected solely in the success of all participants: teachers, parents, students and administration alike, we must begin to build a bridge for those relationships to heal and come together. This will only be possible if we begin to hear the needs of those on the frontline, take their concerns and experiences seriously, acknowledge them and work together moving forward.

Research based program implementation. We must include all partners in this process; thus, make sure that teachers, parents and administration are a part of the process. They should have a chance to learn about plans with transparency, voice concerns, suggest improvements- see suggestions and improvements through – and then be a part of the implementation, as a part of the team that is making new and better programming and systems possible. It is incumbent to utilize research and applied program implementation strategies for the strategic plan outlined for the next four years in order to use funds most effectively and to gain the outcomes initially intended to be achieved.


Linda Matties

Education: Master of Divinity from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno

Occupation: Mostly retired. Worked for School District 34 primarily as a teacher librarian for 31 years. Worked at Trinity Western University as a faculty assistant for 3 years.

Residency:  Abbotsford

Community involvement: Volunteer at The Reach

Member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church where I lead a Bible study group and prayer activities. I have served on the church council andam a board member for provincial and national level church activities.

Key issues:

To open the minds of our children and youth for the journey of life we need trustees who: understand the education system; care passionately about teaching and learning; are able to think creatively to make the system work better; are willing to advocate for funds and other resources to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.

This plaque was given to me a number of years ago.  It expresses what I feel education in our schools should be all about. I have spent enough years working in education to understand the system well. As someone who loves learning I want others to share that love. My experience in the education system is such that I have learned to discern between education policies that work well and those that don’t work well.  Sometimes the less acceptable policies can be made to work with creative application. There have been complaints about lack of funding and other resources for many decades now. It is unacceptable that teachers are spending large sums of personal money buying the resources they need for teaching. There needs to be some creative thinking around how existing funds are allocated as well as how new funds might be found.

School trustee 
candidates Harold Kokot and Kevin 
Pedersen did not submit responses.

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