Seven candidates team up to put Students First

The Students First team is a group of seven school trustee candidates who have found common ground in their desire to provide the strongest possible educational foundation for the Valley’s children.

The group includes Keith Chicquen, Barb De Groot, Joanne deLure, Cathy Schmidt, Candace Spilsbury, Joe Thorne and Rob Hutchins.

Most of them attended an all-candidates session at Lake Cowichan’s Centennial Hall Oct. 29 where they stated some of their positions to the crowd.

Chicquen has spent 25 years in education as a teacher and now works as an instructional director at Vancouver Island University.

His career has seen him at all kinds of schools, where, he said, he’s "done a great deal of budgeting" in various capacities.

Chicquen has coached sports, worked with chambers of commerce, and now has worked hard with both the aboriginal community and the business community to develop relationships and programs.

De Groot said, "Education is the most important thing we can do for our children. Public education needs to be supported, and not with rhetoric."

She said she saw many challenges in the coming years "but each trustee is vital."

According to deLure, a 25-year Valley resident with an extensive background in business and administration, a new board is needed.

"No more voting along political lines. We need healthy debates but we also need to be fiscally responsible," she said.

When it comes to working with higher levels of government, deLure wants trustees to "stop demanding and start collaborating."

Schmidt, born and raised in the Valley, was elected as a trustee in 2008 and again in 2011.

An enthusiastic volunteer as well, she’s been teaching dance at Tansor Elementary for 20 years.

Schmidt said she wants "more consultation about effective programs for aboriginal and special needs students."

She also stressed the need for "a respectful board."

Spilsbury said her many years of experience as teacher, principal, administrator

and trustee, "gives me a clear view of what excellence in education looks like. I have dedicated my life to education. I know the issues."

She said more funding is needed, especially for aboriginal education and to increase graduation rates.

All candidates were asked whether or not the district and its students benefited from the previous board’s controversial decision to send in a deficit budget, which saw them fired and replaced by a single appointed trustee.

Leading off, deLure replied, "No. The citizens of this Valley got one administrator. They didn’t get to participate in any debate when decisions were made."

Spilsbury also thought the result was negative.

"We didn’t get additional funding. We lost our voice. I still feel strongly that it was against our oath of office, and was a bad model for students," she said.

Chicquen agreed. "This province underfunds education at all levels but that set a poor example. It was the demise of democracy and made this district a laughing stock," he said.

De Groot replied, "It depends. We didn’t have much of a local voice. We’ve lost so much. There are ways to better approach [something like that]. Being fired made a big splash in the newspaper but it didn’t benefit students."

Schmidt saw both sides. "My answer is yes and no. There were some difficult decisions made; some of them benefited kids. But who did the parents go to when we were fired? Their voices were silenced," she said.

Two additional members of the Students First team, Rob Hutchins and Joe Thorne were unable to attend the Lake Cowichan meeting.

Thorne has worked closely with both the school district and Vancouver Island University towards developing and implementing a successful trades training program for aboriginal students.

He has brought students to board meetings to talk about how much they are enjoying the chance to move their lives forward through education.

Hutchins, who has been mayor of Ladysmith and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District board, is now trying for a board seat in addition to running for Ladysmith council.

He said he liked the Students First group because of their pledge to honour the School Act and pass a balanced budget.

He also wants to see "success for all students including improved graduation and transition rates, Aboriginal Education, special needs support, early learning and earlier intervention for children needing literacy assistance."

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP remind drivers of school zone safety as classes resume

Keep your foot off the gas or police might get their hands… Continue reading

Centennial Hall upgrade, parking lot paving among postponed capital projects in Lake Cowichan

Council lowers tax increase for the year due to COVID-19 crisis

Mill Bay students petition for formal graduation

“We have a few realistic ideas in mind that could provide a safe and healthy grad celebration”

800 meals donated for Cowichan frontline workers

They were at Cowichan District Hospital on May 25 handing out prepared meals to grateful workers

Cowichan CMHA officials respond to report, probation order

“there are important improvements needed to ensure greater fairness within our housing program.”

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Stepdad able to walk bride down the aisle days before he passes away

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

Most Read