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School District 81 candidate responses

The following statements are the original, unedited responses from SD 81 trustee candidates to questions posed by the Alaska Highway News.
School District 81 candidates

The following statements are the original, unedited responses from SD 81 trustee candidates to questions posed by the Alaska Highway News. For convenience, we have also included introductory “elevator pitches” that we asked them to submit, so you can read all of their responses in a complete package.

Responses are listed alphabetically by last name.

Please note: These statements are generated entirely by the candidates and/or their campaigns, and have not been edited or altered in any way, including fact-checking. Therefore, the Alaska Highway News is not responsible for inaccuracies. Also, none of these statements necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff, management or ownership of the Alaska Highway News.



Greetings. My name is Eric Ashdown. I am seeking a second term as a Trustee with School District # 81 Board of Education.

I believe that a high standard of education for our young people today is the key to our success tomorrow. Those most likely to succeed in achieving this will be those people who are educated well.

I have lived in Fort Nelson for 47 years. Those of us who appreciate the diverse opportunities this community offers and have called it home for many years are still here doing what needs to be done to keep Fort Nelson attractive and appealing. The result being, it is one of the ideal and secure places to live, raise a family and educate your children.

I was a volunteer with the Fort Nelson Fire Department as a firefighter and EMT for 13 years.

As a board member of the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society for 22 years, I have contributed to the major growth and expansion of the organization as President or Vice-president, doing countless hours of volunteer work. I took on the task of bringing the barely adequate homeless shelter in Fort Nelson to an extremely well managed facility with several comfortable rooms and food service. (Recently named “Father Poullet Shelter”). I also administrate the Young Canada Works Program yearly at the Friendship Center.

For 6 years I have been a Board Member of the Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee and I plan to continue this work. This committee is under the administration of Northern Health and provides very important health related services to Fort Nelson and the surrounding area as well as many other Northern British Columbia Communities.

I am nearing completion of a 3 year term as a Trustee with the Board of Education (School District # 81). I would earnestly appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve the community in the same capacity in the upcoming term and I am asking for your vote on November 15, 2014. Thank you.

1. Why have you decided to run for School District 81 trustee?

To me there is no better way to invest in a secure future and the wellbeing of a community than to assist our young people in achieving a good education. This doesn’t just happen. It requires good parenting, good educators and a good efficient Board of Education. I want to continue to do my part as a caring and competent trustee.

2. What would be your top three priorities if elected? Why do you think your school district should focus on those issues now?

If re-elected I would set the following as top priorities.

- Direct the allocated funds toward those things that will most benefit students and assist them in achieving high grades. Rather than “nice to haves”, monies need to be spent on educational tools that are up to standard today.

- Continue to work toward good long term Education Agreements with the Aboriginal Communities. We have moved forward and achieved an historic longer term agreement with one community during the last 3 year term and would work adamantly to see this accomplished in yet one other community where we are off to a good beginning.

- Influence the local Board of Education to petition the Provincial Ministry of Education to direct more money to education. Working with the other Northern Interior School Districts in the Province we can bring a great deal more pressure to bear on the Ministry to get more funds back into the communities that it came from.

3. What strengths do you have that would assist you in this position?

I have spent many years as a director on several different boards over the last 47 years.

Experience has taught me to be adamant about moving the beneficial programs forward and dropping the not so good. Sometimes it means moving in a new direction and I understand this well.

I believe I have the personality and faculties to work well with other trustees and district staff. This is an attribute that cannot be compromised in order to accomplish what is necessary for the benefit of education.

4. Is there anything that SD 81 should be doing to prepare for a projected increase in population?

Preliminary work needs to be done regarding housing availability.

Plans to make the best use of available space need to be in place and the availability of portable facilities must be considered.

Class sizes (an already contentious issue) will require some serious pre-planning.

Considering that there will certainly be a need for more teachers there is the need to consider where they will be coming from and incentives should be discussed and ready to implement.




Mr. Dolan did not respond to the candidate questionnaire.


Hello. I'm Bill Dolan and I'm asking for your support in the upcoming School Board election. My educational career has been varied, from substitute Teacher-on-Call to District Principal. I recently retired from School District 81 after 33 years and am now ready to serve our community in a new capacity as school trustee. I have a clear understanding of the needs of students, parents, and staff, and can offer a balanced, objective perspective to help lead our community’s educational system. I am not in conflict of interest nor do I have any "ax to grind." I am aware of the many challenges facing our school system, from declining student enrolment and the resulting strain on human and financial resources, to the difficulties in recruiting staff. The main role and responsibility of a Trustee is to work with parents and staff to strive for the highest possible quality of education for our children. I recognize that my job as a school trustee will be governance: to ensure that the students’ and community's priorities / public interest are represented within the context of provincial education policy.

My priorities include respecting and providing for the diverse needs of our students by

• setting policy for student academic programs, safety, and wellbeing,

• approving school achievement plans and monitoring student success,

• providing schools and staffs with the support and resources needed to the extent possible, and

• ensuring that schools and the School District operate in a morally and fiscally responsible manner, consistent with their stated visions and values.

My management philosophy can be summed up thus: Hire the best people available, provide them with appropriate resources, support, and supervision, and then let them do their jobs.

I am confident that my varied experience will benefit the Fort Nelson School District, and I look forward to serving the students and parents of our community. If elected, I assure you that I will get right to work and do my very best -- always.

Thank you, Bill.




Ms. Dolen did not submit a separate candidate statement.

1. Why have you decided to run for School District 81 trustee?

Education, especially early literacy and numeracy, is near and dear to myheart, this along with giving our students a sense of belonging and inclusion as a means of providing a social connection for our students is what drives me to run as a school trustee.


2. What would be your top three priorities if elected? Why do you think your school district should focus on those issues now?

Early literacy and numeracy and keeping our students in school tograduation. These have been the focus of this district for a number of years and I fully support the programs that have been introduced through the research that supports these initiatives.

3. What strengths do you have that would assist you in this position?

I am collaborative and I listen well. I believe everyone who offers to lettheir name stand for public office has something to offer. I listen to their ideas, present my own and an informed decision is arrived at.


4. Is there anything that SD 81 should be doing to prepare for a projected increase in population?

We have space in our schools for more students. When in hiring we look forprofessionals who will enjoy the lifestyle Fort Nelson offers so there is continuity for our students.




Hello. As trustee, it is my job to represent the best interests of children, families and the community in ensuring that resources available to us are used to provide maximum benefit to students. I believe that this is best accomplished when our board, staff and parents work as a team, with the welfare of our students as the issue always on the table.

This demands organising people and resources to provide reasonably-sized classes, and specialized support to students requiring it. It is also important that secondary students have access to courses, particularly maths and sciences, essential to their preferred career paths in the trades or other professions.

Gains have been achieved in the face of falling enrollment, and restricted finances. This has demanded advocacy with the province, something I’ve engaged in at the board table, and I’ve part of as a member of the Provincial Council of the BC School Trustees Association.

It is my hope to help build on the gains we’ve made in SD81 over my past 4 terms, but I need your support to do so.

Thanks, Mike

1. Why have you decided to run for School District 81 trustee?

A community doesn’t function well when its members don’t contribute their talents to its welfare in some form, when they are able. This community has been very good to me and my family for 35 years and I’m happy to apply what I’ve learned as an educator for more than 30 years, and do my part to try to make it even better.

That said, given my start in life, it has been education that’s been a ladder up to a better life than I could have enjoyed otherwise, and that made me what I believe to be a net contributor. It only seems prudent and fair that I help make it possible for others to benefit similarly since, as peers to my three sons, their success will benefit my family in the longer run.

2. What would be your top three priorities if elected? Why do you think your school district should focus on those issues now?

Priority 1. I plan to continue to advocate for adequate funding for students in our district, while carefully husbanding those funds we do have access to, so as to permit the maintenance of reasonable class sizes, and adequate levels of service to all students including those requiring special attention.

This is particularly important now, as enrollment declines and the province increases expectations for school districts, while at the same time, the community needs to maintain a strong educational system to help encourage new residents to locate here for work, as and when it becomes available.

Priority 2. I will act to ensure that students at the secondary level have the opportunity to prepare for their chosen career paths by providing access to necessary courses and programs at the secondary level as resources permit.

The demand forecast for workers in a range of fields, including trades, medical personnel, and other professionals indicates that there will be boundless opportunities for those prepared to take advantage of them. Our kids should not be disadvantaged because they come from a small northern community – as I used to tell students in the classroom when I was teaching “just because you come from a small town doesn’t mean you’re small potatoes...”

Priority 3. I will continue to support programs and policies which will contribute to students developing positive attitudes toward self-reliance, personal and social responsibility, their own self-worth, and healthy lifestyles, all of which will allow them to develop into happy, productive individuals. This includes learning in the fine arts, and sports since exposure to both are components of well-rounded lives.

Attending to the attitudinal dimension of development of young people is more important now than ever. The pace of change is accelerating and coming expectations of individuals, economic shifts, and new realities cannot be accurately predicted. Those who do best will be self assured, and motivated will do best as individuals and leaders, and have the ability to navigate the changes to come.

3. What strengths do you have that would assist you in this position?

Specifically, I have a significant background as teacher, administrator, school trustee, curriculum author, educational policy and management consultant, and as a university and college lecturer and instructor in education, the humanities, management, IT, academic and career counseling, and Power Engineering Preparation. With regard to formal education, I have degrees in Arts, Education, and Administrative and Organizational Studies. I have also worked as a custodian, construction worker and labourer in the shipyards to support my education.

All this training and experience would be irrelevant however, were it not associated with learning on the job. I have had the opportunity to draw some significant lessons, some technical, some life lessons during all those activities. It is the judgment, and knowledge of and passion for the ability of learning and education to change lives that I have taken away that I am able to apply to the position of school trustee. My actions as a trustee are informed and guided by the object lessons I’ve picked up on the way, lessons which prompt me to remember that, regardless of the decision at hand, it will affect others, and that they are entitled to expect that I will act fairly and in their best interests.

4. Is there anything that SD 81 should be doing to prepare for a projected increase in population?

At present, SD81 continues to experience a decline in enrollment. It has been the pre-occupation of the board to cope with that reality in most recent years. Because funds have been well managed in the past, we have retained options which other districts in similar circumstances have not.

Having said that, I can foresee a time in the not distant future in which enrollment begins to grow, perhaps rapidly. Trends in the Forest Industry, Gas and Oil, Tourism, and even Agriculture will determine the degree and pace of that growth.

Currently, we best prepare for these eventualities by building a strong foundation of quality programs, and by attracting, retaining, and developing teaching, support and administrative resources. We also prepare ourselves by fashioning policy that will encourage stability while measuring up to the stresses of change.

I believe we are prepared to accommodate any growth we may encounter in the near term, and we monitor for signs that growth requiring additional measures may happen. In my day job as Community Development Officer for the NRRM, I’m well positioned to detect signals of growth at an early stage and, guarding confidentiality as necessary, assist the board in setting an appropriate course.




Looking for a new experience, I came to Fort Nelson eager to begin my teaching practicum in 1969. Upon completing my practicum, I returned to my home in Burnaby, BC where I worked as a substitute teacher for the remainder of the school year.

I returned to Fort Nelson in September to begin my first teaching assignment in a one room school at Summit Lake.

I moved into town the following year, to work at GW Carlson, where I taught for most of my teaching career.

I got married in 1973 and soon realized that I would be making Fort Nelson my home. My three children were born and educated in Fort Nelson. As a family, we became involved in community and recreation activities; my son played hockey and daughters were active in the FINNS swim club.

I retired in 2012, having been involved in the education system for more than 40 years. My teaching experience spans grades from one to seven. I also worked as a resource teacher supporting students with various learning disabilities.

For the last 12 years of my career, I served as the president of the Fort Nelson District Teachers’ Association. This leadership experience was invaluable.

This community has given my family many opportunities and I am proud to call it my home.

1. Why have you decided to run for School District 81 trustee?

I have decided to run for School District 81 trustee because I have a desire to see that all children in this district have the best education possible. I have been involved in education for more than 40 years, as a teacher, president of the Teachers' Association, parent and now a grandparent. I have a knowledge of how the school district operates and I have the time to devote to this position as I am now retired.

2. What would be your top three priorities if elected? Why do you think your school district should focus on those issues now?

My three priorities if elected would be to lobby for improved funding for education, recruiting quality teachers and maintaining building, supplies and resources. I feel that the school district should focus on these priorities now because the funding given to school districts is not adequate to meet the needs of the district. Increased funding is needed to keep up with increased costs; ie, gas, electricity, as well as supplies. It is important to recruit quality teachers so that the children in this district are given the best education possible. Fewer teachers are willing to leave their homes and families to come to Fort Nelson.

The time is coming when we will have to look at incentives to attract good teachers. Maintaining buildings and supplies and resources is a priority as our building are getting older and there is a need to replace them. This district will need to find a way to make this happen.

3. What strengths do you have that would assist you in this position?

Strengths that would assist me in this position are knowledge and experience of how the school district operates, a desire for all students to have a quality education, ability to network with stakeholder groups within the district and provincially and the ability to recognize all points of view.

4. Is there anything that SD 81 should be doing to prepare for a projected increase in population?

The district has been able to accommodate 1200 students in the early 2000s. We have the facilities to do this, however, some of these facilities are being used. It would be necessary to relocate some of these groups to allow for classroom space. The district needs to continue to maintain its facilities, resources and equipment. The districts needs to retain quality teachers as well as quality programs. Advocating for funding for students after the September the enrolment date is crucial. If an enrolment increase does occur, it will most likely not happen all at once, but rather over time. Funding for additional students needs to be in place as these students enroll.




Mr. Tofte did not respond to the candidate questionnaire.


My name is Doug Tofte and I’m seeking re-election for a third term as a School Trustee in School District #81.

I grew up in North Vancouver and attended UBC where I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Forest Management. Upon graduation, my wife and I decided to move north to gain full time employment in our respective professions as a forester and teacher. We have called Fort Nelson home for 30 years where we have brought up our three children Sarah, Mitchell and Craig.

I have volunteered in the community primarily with the kid’s involvement in sports and school activities. I was involved on the executive of the swim club and enjoyed my stints coaching soccer and baseball and hockey trainer. I have been involved as a member on the Forestry Public Advisory Group and the Fort Nelson Forestry Roundtable Committee.

I’ve been employed for the last 4.5 years with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality working as the Community Resource & Planning Officer. Prior to commencing employment with NRRM, I worked for 25 years in the local forestry industry as a professional forester.

I think one of the critical issues facing our district will be the need for a clear commitment to providing certainty in the form of long term funding capacity to the district. Committed government levels would allow the Board to more effectively plan for the future, especially with concerns of declining enrollment in the district.

As a Board we need to complete board policy updates in a timely manner, set measureable trustee goals and objectives, develop a 5 year district operating plan with regular updates and develop a district succession plan.

I’m confident my past experience as a trustee will be an asset to the next Board of Education. I would appreciate your vote on November 15th.

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