MacDonell Seeks School Trustee Role

Experienced communicator seeks to help school board governance

Submitted. Graham Evan MacDonell, a professional genealogist with a dual-track career in education and communications in Ontario, B.C., Japan and Scotland, is seeking election as a trustee for Abbotsford Board of Education on Nov. 15.

With extensive communications and consulting experiences in the educational, community newspaper, energy, multi-national corporate, political and policing fields, he has a very comprehensive knowledge of the history of education in B.C., in teaching, in school district operations, and especially in communicating with teachers, parents and the general public. As a communications specialist, he has provided services to six Fraser Valley school districts, including Abbotsford.

“Getting a good education is fundamental to a happy, successful life,” he stressed. “And as a society, we need to place schooling higher on the list of our priorities.”

His extensive knowledge of our education system began with having been a teacher – from a one-room school in the bush of northern Ontario with 23 Ojibwa children to a 5-7 split grade classroom in a small lumber town in the heart of B.C.’s interior to being a teacher-on-call in a number of school districts in the Fraser Valley while completing his degree in broadcasting / journalism at Western Washington – before moving into the communications component of his 46-year-long career

Realizing how important it was to let people know all about our excellent school system, MacDonell turned his photography and videography skills into becoming a journalist covering school board meetings and activities in the many schools near his home and then being the creator, producer and host of 50 television programs on education.

“I have even been a communications advisor to the B.C. School Trustees Association before turning to the political sphere and becoming a school trustee,” he added.

MacDonell has had years of first-hand insights into the four decades-long struggle for school boards to get adequate funding for capital and operational expenses needed to keep our school system first rate, a driving force behind his desire to seek election as a school trustee with the Abbotsford Board of Education.

His experience in education goes beyond the Fraser Valley as he spent five years teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the multi-national corporate sphere in Hiroshima, Japan as well as to school age children and 80-year-old grandparents.
And with his interests in family history, he has lived in Scotland studying genealogy while working for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency as well as teaching community policing officers at the Scottish Police Service’s college – a castle in the Highlands.

An advocate of “kaizen” or continuous improvement, especially in teaching skills, MacDonell feels that our 140-year-old school system needs changes in order to position our students for the challenges that lie ahead with the job market.

For several years, he has been researching concepts such as year-round schooling, mastery learning, individualized instruction and e-learning to see how to improve what is basically an excellent albeit underfunded and out-dated system.

Having been a full-time carer for five years for a widowed 90-year-old mother before she passed away late last year and for a brother suffering from dementia, now in the Menno Hospital, MacDonell wants to turn his high level of energy to his grand-children’s generation – as he now has seven – and strongly feels that being a school trustee is the best way to do that.

An active member of many community heritage organizations in his past, MacDonell is currently re-plugging into Abbotsford, his home since 1994, except for the interlude studying genealogy at the University of Strathclyde while providing communications services to the Scottish police service.

Besides being a member of the Abbotsford Genealogical Society, he also is on the Board of Directors of the MSA Museum Society and has a deep understanding of governance, the role of a board, and how to promote activities to the people of the City of Abbotsford.

MacDonell is also a local historian, specializing in the railways of the Valley, particularly the old British Columbia Electric Railway that ran to Chilliwack.

He strongly supports the annual Fraser Valley Regional Heritage Fair hoping that more teachers will encourage their students to learn more about Abbotsford’s heritage and history, including that of the Sto:lo Nation, and participate in the competition that saw five Fraser Valley students attend the Provincial Heritage Fair in Kamloops in late June / early July.

A life-long learner, he is currently studying pre-confederation history at UFV to supplement his genealogical expertise and extensive knowledge of Canada’s first and third prime minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald.

As a professional genealogist with Scottish ancestry, MacDonell specializes in Scottish-Canadians and is fiercely proud of his independent nature and spirit.

“It bothers me that Abbotsford is now entering an age of special interest politics at the municipal level,” he said, referring to the AbbotsfordFIRST Electoral Society and the Abbotsford Greens Electoral Organization. “With agenda-driven, special interest groups and with strategic or block voting, Abbotsford’s political scene is changing and we are losing the potential for independently-minded politicians at the council and school board levels reflective of Abbotsford’s demographics.”

“Like any organization, the Abbotsford Board of Education needs new trustees who can contribute their expertise in governing our excellent school system, particularly during these times of chronic underfunding,” MacDonell concluded.
“Boards have been hamstrung by underfunding for far too long and it is time to persuade the provincial government to allocate more money to our schools.”

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