Feature Story Monday, November 11, 2013
Pressing His Platform
Coulter focused on engaging Native students, improving access to trades training programs
School Board candidate Dan Coulter (L) and supporters at Cottonwood Corners Saturday. Below, former MLA Gwen O'Mahony meets Hugo, Coulter's dog.
hile the majority Chilliwack School Board Trustee candidates have kept somewhat low profiles during the run up to the SD#33 mini-election, Dan Coulter's campaign took on more of an ocular presence on the weekend.
Coulter and his wife Rebecca, along with 15-20 supporters, including former Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony, were doing a little sign dancing at Vedder and Luckakuck Saturday.
Last week, candidates learned of upcoming public debates through a series of erroneous e-mails that meetings were set up for 7 p.m. November 13th at Sardis Sr. Secondary in “The Pit” and again on November 20th at Chilliwack Middle School in the library. Candidate Karen Jarvis, heard about the All-Candidate meetings in an e-mail from a local print reporter.
“I never heard about the meetings until it was printed in the paper,” said Coulter.
Regarding more important things like his platform, Coulter says that Trades Training tops the list of issues that he’d like to concentrate on if elected.
He ties a lot of that training to industry needs in fields such as construction trades and to Liquid Natural Gas jobs where welders will be needed to build and maintain pipelines.
“I'd like to see more pre-apprenticeship programs like they have at Sardis Secondary and Chilliwack Secondary,” he told the Voice.
According to Coulter, the government hasn't been funding education properly in the province, and that a recent deal with CUPE support staff has put added pressure on school districts.
In September, CUPE inked a contracted with the provincial government which provided for a 3.5 per cent wage hike, but it downloaded the burden of paying for it directly onto school districts who have had to tear up budget packages over it.
Apparently there will be more hand-wringing ahead as relations sour between the BC School Trustees Association and the government
“Now they're freezing out the BC School Trustees Association from negotiations with teachers, and I don't know if there's going to be any increase in teacher's salaries, or if their going to make the school boards come up with the shortfall,” he said.
Coulter says he wants to advocate for an International Bacolaureate Diploma Program.
People on the street easily mistake Hugo for a Yeti. Below, everybody's happy and spirits are high.
“It's a program where kids can get four university credits before they finish high school,” explains Coulter. “It also offers quite a bit of independent study for kids that are bright.”
He says rising school dropout rates, both in the Native and non-Native communities, is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
“Right now, Native kids completion rates in high school is 45 per cent,” he said, adding that “the completion rate overall in the school district is 72 per cent below the provincial average.”
Coulter says they have to look more closely at the root of the problem and believes that engaging Aboriginal youth more in the schools would go a long way to increasing their completion rates.
“We're not making them interested in school and we're not making them feel like they’re a part of school,” he said. “I would fight for changes that would help them be more engaged.”
Former MLA Gwen O’Mahony had just returned from a trip to Europe when she found out she had been appointed the new Governor at the University of the Fraser Valley.
“I've been warmly welcomed and look forward to meeting the rest of the board in December,” she said.
Even though she has yet to receive her orientation as Governor, O’Mahony will be laying a wreath on behalf of UFV at Hope's Remembrance Day Ceremony on Monday.
“That will be my first official duty in my new role as a Governor,” she said.
When asked what her thoughts were about Coulter as a School Board Trustee, O’Mahony felt that Coulter would be a “tremendous asset” to the District.
“He has the right character and necessary skill set for the job,” she said. “Dan is trustworthy, inclusive, intelligent and hardworking.
“Dan is committed to fighting for a strong public school system in order to—in his words—"create equal opportunity for all", which brings me to the final reason why Dan would make a great School Trustee. He's running for the right reasons and has always been consistent and clear about them.”
See more photos below.
© Copyright (c) 2013 The Valley Voice
Thanks for looking.